- As a personal trainer I can assure you, weighing yourself certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s a case of finding what motivates (or demotivates) you.
- The benefits of weighing are in spotting long-term trends and providing objectivity to guide your progress.
- When using weight to track progress, ensure consistency in the time of day, regular frequency (preferably, daily) and track averages, ignoring daily highs and lows.
I couldn’t write a personal training article on “how to optimise use of your bathroom scales” without first premising a word of caution.
Weighing yourself regularly is not for everyone. In fact, many find weighing themselves hugely demotivating. I have worked with numerous personal training clients over the years whom I’ve insisted didn’t weigh themselves. Sometimes any/all measurements I’ve taken (as their personal trainer) are kept from the client. Some need only know that progress is being made! An exact numerical value may not be anymore motivating.
In October 2017, Women’s Health Mag published a great article titled: “Why You Shouldn’t Weigh Yourself Everyday” (click to read) offering alternative means of tracking progress for those who feel demotivated by the scales.
However, there are a great many benefits of weight on the scales, if used properly. For those who do find motivation in objectivity, read on…
Total Body Mass.
It’s essential to remember that your weight on the scale is your “total body mass” (TBM). You are measuring fat, muscle, bone, organs, water, stomach/bowel content etc. Change in your TBM is a result of change in far more than just your fat stores and muscle density.
Here are a few important points to consider about just one of the factors above, water:
– Water accounts for 50-60% of the average adult’s TBM. Weight is therefore highly influenced by hydration level.
– For each gram of carbohydrate you consume and store as energy (muscle glycogen), 3-4g of water is also stored inside muscle tissue.
– Stress and sex hormone change (e.g. your menstrual cycle) often causes notable changes in water retention.
Let’s pretend that you typically weigh 60kg. It’s likely that your weight will fluctuate daily between 58-62kgs, purely through changes in water! At the very least, the above demonstrates that short-term, non-standardized weighing brings obvious challenges to understanding true progress. We must optimise.
Using Your Scale Properly.
As short-term changes in weight are so easily influenced by factors other than fat lost and muscle added, it’s tempting throw your scales out of the bathroom window and give up! However, long-term trends in TBM do provide valuable insight to your progress.
Tracking for long-term progress:
Always measure your weight under the same conditions. My preference for our personal training clients is first thing in the morning, naked as the day you were born and just after visiting the bathroom.
Your measuring frequency should be as consistent as possible. My preference, if seeking improvement (rather than maintenance) in body composition, is to note your weight every morning. Greater frequency provides greater insight and makes it easier to spot trends in fluctuations (over the weekend, for example).
Weekly averages are a far better indicator of actual progress. Far more important than looking for singular highs and lows in your weight (as tempting as it is to get excited when a new high or low is achieved).
For females, average weight allows insight to progress even during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle (when significant water retention is common). You will find your average morning weight will be reduced when compared to average measurements during previous menstrual cycles.
Key Points to Action.
1) The primary issues with using our weight as a measure of progress is routed in psychology. If tracking your weight demotivates you, no problem! There are lots of other measurements that can be used (circumferences, for example) and the principles outlined in this article (consistency, long-term trends etc.) apply to most other measurements.
2) Optimizing use of the bathroom scales is key to their value. Weighing at the same time of day and at a regular frequency facilitates accuracy.
3) Remember that short-term changes in weight are highly variable! Your morning weight is used to establish long-term progress only and preferably as one of several metrics you are using to ensure your progress.
Thank you for reading.
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