Let’s face it: we have a love-hate relationship with the scale. Some of us love the guidance and direction it offers, and some of us hate the control it wields. While newer research purports to change conventional wisdom around daily weigh-ins (plot twist: it’s recommended), most fitness professionals believe in tracking weight loss in ways that don’t rely solely on weight in numbers.
While there is value in knowing your weight on a regular basis, the actual number in pounds is not the best indicator of overall health. A 165-pound woman who is 5’5″, a weightlifter, and has 19% body fat is very different from a 150-pound woman who is 5’10”, relatively sedentary, and has 35% body fat. These women see the same number on the scale, and yet their overall health and goals measure vastly different.
It’s important to know where your body is as you work daily to maintain and/or make changes to it. But there’s no need to chain all your wishes and hopes to a scale. Here, we discuss five ways to track weight loss that a) have nothing to do with a scale and b) have much to do with weight factors that actually affect your health.
Endurance + Strength
Physical endurance is officially defined as “the time span between the beginning of a physical activity and termination because of exhaustion.” In other words, it’s how much physical activity you can take and for how long. Strength is simply a measure of how useful your body weight is in exerting power on something else.
You’ve been working out, toning up, and getting stronger. So of course, the scale would reflect that, right? Not necessarily. Muscles weigh more than fat, yet are exponentially more useful to the body. Muscle actually burns fat. So while you build muscle, you may see numbers stay the same or even bump up a bit. But that sturdy muscle is incinerating fat in your body and lowering your body fat percentage, which is great news for your overall health.
Maybe you’re able to blaze through a strength training workout in 35 minutes that used to take you 60. Or maybe you’re able to run a mile in seven minutes when you started at twelve. These are indicators of improved overall and enhanced cardiac health, regardless of weight.
Body Fat Percentage
Body fat percentage (BFP) is classically defined as “the total mass of fat divided by total body mass.” In laymen’s terms, BFP is the amount of body fat you carry, including both essential body fat (explanatory) and storage body fat (extraneous). Even more simply, BFP is the percentage of your body composition not comprised of water, muscle, bone, and vital organs.
In the scheme of things, BFP is a much better indicator of actual health than your weight. The aforementioned comparative example of our 5’10” inactive woman versus our 5’5″ fitness buff speaks volumes. The bottom line is that scales can obfuscate by highlighting pounds dropped; BFP tells the whole truth by emphasizing useless “storage” body fat loss.
It’s nearly impossible to not notice BFP loss visually. An immediate result of losing body fat is a leaner appearance. Combining fat loss efforts with strength training results in the enhanced prominence of your muscular build. While you can measure your own body fat at home, another recommended option is to be measured by a professional. Checking in with your doctor, a nutritionist, or even a fitness trainer at your local gym occasionally to measure your progress is a great way to track weight loss.
Your measurements are a fantastic indicator of weight loss. While this is the oldest “trick in the book,” it’s also one of the most reliable, particularly considering that most folks see inch loss before weight loss even occurs.
Measurements, much like BFP, tell the true story about what’s happening in your body. While poundage can include the weight of water and muscle, your measurements speak the truth about what’s happening to your body. Because muscle burns fat and offers a leaner appearance, your measurements will reflect that leaning out. Measure your waist, thighs, and chest area weekly to review your weight loss progress. Arguably, greater satisfaction lies in the journey from “45-35-50” to “38-30-45” than the loss of 20 pounds.
This speaks for itself. Clothes tell all kinds of stories, and we often define our weight by what we’re able to wear.
Getting into an old dress or old jeans do more for you than knowing how much you weigh. It is often a visual reminder of your why and a tangible payout for your hard work. For many, the initiative to change their lifestyle begins with the intention of wearing something that doesn’t yet fit. We all recognize the incredible confidence that comes from clothing. Your wardrobe options, old and new, are incredible measurements of your progress that pay off every day.
Range of Motion + Flexibility
The ability to contort into new positions, both for fitness purposes and in life, is an added benefit of weight loss. It is also a measurement of success in weight loss efforts.
For the yogis, the benefit of increased range of is immediate. “Curvy yogis” like IG user @yogawithdavina have spoken of the benefits of weight loss on yoga practice. In fact, less weight on joints is a fitness benefit across the board. Strength training using body weight alone becomes easier both because of enhanced strength and the fact that there’s less body weight to lift.
Conclusively, marriage to the scale can be psychologically expensive. Small, overnight changes in water weight and digestion can reflect on the morning scale and ruin your day. It’s important to know where you stand, and just as important to recognize there are more affirming, positive ways to track changes in your body than stepping a scale.