How to Tell You're Making Progress Without a Scale
“I need to lose weight” or “I want to lose weight” is an ever common statement that we hear from everyone. At meetings, at parties, in the personal training studio. The question really is though, do you want to lose weight or do you want to lose fat?
Your physical weight is a reflection of many things. The water in your body, food, hormones and musculature, among some others. Depending on the time of day, what you’ve eaten, stress, etc., your weight might fluctuate up to 5lbs in one day. While your weight is a good indicator of whether or not your exercise and nutrition is working, it’s not the end-all and definitely doesn’t tell the whole story.
You can lose fat without losing weight.
A pound of fat weighs the same as a pound of muscle of course, however, it’s much less dense and takes up more space. When you lose fat, your fat cells physically shrink inside and you release fat as carbon dioxide through your breathing as well as through water through sweat, urine and other bodily fluids and functions.
When engaging in training programs that incorporate a lot of resistance training, the gain in muscle will sometimes outweigh the fat loss: in layman’s terms, the scale might not change but you’ll still be making progress. Even with lots of cardio, extra inflammation and a variety of other factors can cause that scale to remain a bit static.
How to tell you’re making progress without using a scale:
1. Measurements: Take measurements at the beginning of any new nutrition and training program. Key spots include chest, waist, hips and shoulders. Biceps, thighs and other areas are important but may show less fast change. Retake key measurements every 6-8 weeks to track progress. In addition to measurements, have your body fat calculated. Knowing your body fat percentage and being able to track changes is really important in identifying fat loss/lean muscle gain. Depending on your goal, the scale might not always change but the size of your body should.
2. Clothes: How do your clothes fit? Check the waist, the fit in the legs, etc. Some people like to pick a clothing item as a goal or tester. Jeans that are too tight? Try them on again after 6-8 weeks and see if they fit any differently. This might mean they're too lose, or they fit a little snugger in the butt, Whatever your goal, clothes are a good indicator that something is working. Also important is the way you feel in your clothes. If you like the way you look and feel in your favorite pair of jeans, that's just, if not more, satisfying than seeing numbers go down.
3. Hunger/Satiety/food choices : If you previously felt hungry all of the time, would binge eat chips at night and now eat snack plates of cucumbers and peppers, you’ve made progress that you might not be able to see in the scale. f you feel less hungry and have managed your nutrition, you have made great changes in the way your body responds. Mindful habits are progress in a bit of a different way but just as important. These habits will lead to long-lasting changes that help you sustain your weight and meet your goals. I
4. Your strength/endurance has increased and continues to get better: This goes for fat loss goals as well as strength goals- using heavier weights, changing reps and feeling stronger means your body is making adaptations. If you felt yourself getting winded after 1 minute when you first started and can now make it 5 minutes, you've made strides in your endurance. If you used to huff and puff up the stairs but can now go up them without much effort, you've made changes in the right direction!
5. You feel more confident: Are you wearing shorts for the first time this summer? Shirt off while mowing the lawn? Speaking to people more authentically? These are just some of the ways your confidence may have boosted. When it comes to goals/weight loss, etc., gaining confidence is significant and a sign that you're proud of yourself and how far you come. Confidence can come from a variety of different modalities when it comes to fitness and nutrition, whether it sticking to a plan, liking the way your body looks, feeling better about your food choices--all of these things show positive growth!
Whatever your goal may be, weight/fat loss, strength, endurance, keep on working towards it everyday!