Episode 022: How To Measure Progress & What’s Wrong with the Scale

What is one of the most common frustrations people experience when they’re trying to lose weight? Getting on the scale and feeling like your progress is not reflected in that number looking back at you. We place way too much emphasis on the number on the scale. In today’s episode we talk about how much daily weight fluctutation is normal, what contributes to it and some strategies for more effective ways to monitor your progress. I also share some of my most valuable non-scale victories.

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The Challenge: Letting the number on the scale influence your emotions. Feeling incredibly proud of your progress and SEEING change in your body but throwing it all away when the number on the scale isn’t what you think it should be.

The Solution: The scale should not be your primary indicator of progress. Your body weight can fluctuate as much as 5-7 lbs each day depending on:

  • Glycogen Storage
  • Bowel movements
  • Water retention
  • Hormonal fluctuations

Beyond that, the scale is not an accurate reflection of what type of weight you’re losing. We want to burn fat. We might gain muscle along the way. That is a GOOD thing. That will make our body look BETTER. So we need to find ways to monitor and measure our progress that indicate our TRUE progress – fat loss.

Practical Implementation:

  • Take pictures of yourself
  • Find a pair of tight pants or a fitted dress and put it on AT LEAST every other week. Every week is fine, too.
  • Take measurements of your waist, hips, bust & thighs at a minimum.
  • Assess your strength and endurance in a standardized way
    • Mile walk or run for time
    • Situps in a minute
    • Pushups in a minute
    • Max on core lifts like squat, bench press, shoulder press, deadlift
  • Celebrate non scale victories
    • Improvements in sleep
    • Stress management
    • Cravings and hunger
    • Energy levels
    • Mood
    • Stamina while playing with your kids
    • Sex drive
    • Flying on an airplane without a seat belt extender
    • Fitting into a smaller pair of pants
    • Improvements in your health

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4 replies
  1. Jesse
    Jesse says:

    Stumbled across your podcast and have enjoyed the couple of episodes I have listened to so far. I’ve struggled with my weight for a long time now, but have found some recent success over the past several months. I actually *have* taken to weighing in every day and have found it helpful, but I get where you’re coming from.

    It took me a long time to sort of “detach” from the number and treat it more scientifically than emotionally or personally if that makes sense. I train for powerlifting and body weight is a big part of that, so having regular measurements of my weight is important but it’s also important to not let the daily swings throw you off too much. I’ve found that over time I’ve become more accepting of the numbers and seeing that I can control them in the long term even if the short term day to day is more unpredictable. Getting a wifi enabled scale with an app the records everything has also made it easier, as the app it syncs with does a nice job of smoothing out the day to day peaks and valleys into a trend-line that does show the steady decline.

    The powerlifting has actually lent itself to another good measurement in the form of the powerlifting belt. This is a 10mm think very very heavy duty leather belt used on certain heavy lifts. This thing has absolutely no stretch or give to it, so I know that if I’m moving down notches on that belt that I’m making progress; it doesn’t lie.

    Anyway really enjoyed the episode.

    • Elizabeth Benton
      Elizabeth Benton says:

      Hi Jesse! I’m glad you enjoyed the episode and thanks for your feedback! I agree that the scale can be a great tool for some people – it was for me for a while, too. If it works for someone, accountability is important so keep doing it. But for many, it does not help and it often hurts so I like to encourage them to find another way! Congrats on your progress and keep up the great work! If you have a second to leave a rating & review of the podcast in iTunes that would mean a lot to me! Thanks again! 🙂

  2. Susanne
    Susanne says:

    Hi Elizabeth,
    I discovered your podcast 2 weeks ago (I know, I’m a bit late to the party … but better late than not participating at all, right? 😉 ) and I’m kind of ‘binge-listening’ through your episodes right now. Thanks for the time and effort you put into this – it’s always interesting, informative and entertaining. 🙂

    I picked this episode to take some time for a comment because this topic is one of my personal ‘fear topics’.
    I started to eat LCHF end of June and lost weight (mostly fat around the belly/hips) which, of course, made me quite happy as all the other diets didn’t work. So I definitely have something to celebrate / be proud of. But I’m still too focused on the scale and the number that appears on it … I know, it’s just a number and I shouldn’t be too focused on it, but I just can’t help it … I even brought a scale with me when we did a long weekend trip to Denmark. *sigh*
    But I’m flying to Sicily this week (so, I can’t bring a scale with me this time) and really hope to forget about the need to use the scale each morning. Luckily I have your suggestions on how to measure things without a scale which I can try during my vacation in order to overcome my routine.

    So thanks a lot for sharing your experience!

    • Elizabeth Benton
      Elizabeth Benton says:

      Hi Susanne! So glad you found me!! Sounds like you’re making some really awesome changes in your life! A couple thoughts: Be careful when you say “I just can’t help it” because that is actually not true. You can, you just aren’t practiced enough yet. To say “I can’t help it” means that it is entirely beyond your control when it is actually 100% exclusively in your control and not anyone else’s. Remember that we aren’t “giving up” accountability when we check weight less often. Your body will give you TONS of feedback – and more accurate feedback than the scale – every day so long as you pay attention!


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