If You Follow The Scale…..You Will Fail. Yes as hard as it may be to believe, using the scale to track and evaluate your fat loss regime is probably one of the worst things you can do in terms of maximizing your chances of success. Why? Because the scale is not made to monitor fat loss, it is only good for detecting changes in gross weight. Yes your gross weight includes fat, but it also includes water, muscle and connective tissue, bone, blood volume, waste material (urine/feces), all of which can and will fluctuate on a day to day and even on a month to month basis. And it is often because of these potential unidentifiable fluctuations that many dieters either detrimentally modify their exercise/diet programs or even worse ultimately end up quitting all together.
Case in point, below I have included a both a graphical history of my scale weight loss as well as the actual daily morning “weigh ins” during my Fall/Winter 2005 transformation. Now imagine that like most people I was relying mainly on the scale to track my progress.
Looking at the graph you can see that for the first month, despite some minor up and down fluctuations, for the most part the scale reflected the success of my fat loss program. However, according to the scale my second month was an utter failure in terms of actual weight lost.
More specifically, on 8/31 I hit 210 lbs for the first time and on 9/29, almost a whole month later I was still 210lbs! Can you imagine anything more discouraging than weighing yourself at the beginning of the month and then exercising hard and eating well for an entire month, and then getting on the scale a month later and weighing the exact same amount? If that is not the epitome of the recipe for frustration then I do not know what is.
From my years of experience I have found that most people do one of two things when facing this situation. Some blame themselves for not exercising hard enough or not following their diet well enough. So in response they get more aggressive and either cut their food intake further or they start to increase their cardiovascular exercise, or even worse they do both. Unfortunately, although this may temporarily force the scale down, it is actually sabotaging their overall chances of success and maintenance since the majority of the scale weight loss that they are seeing is coming from muscle loss secondary to the increased caloric deficit. Even worse, along with the muscle loss comes a suppression of the metabolic rate. So when they finally cut back on the aggressive cardio and or dieting the weight comes back on…but this time as FAT!!! And of course the other common response is to just give up.
So what was my secret to work through such discouraging feedback that month? Iron willed determination? Nope. A “never say quit” attitude? Nope. In fact, on the contrary, if I think something is clearly not working then I feel it is actually smart to step back from the table and reevaluate the plan of action. So what is the secret then?
Well actually there is no secret other than remembering that initial rule…..If You Follow The Scale…..You Will Probably Fail…. and therefore using the scale only as a secondary or tertiary progress gauge. And what was my primary tracking tool? Some elaborate body fat machine or hydrostatic weighing? Nope. Would you believe a simple piece of string?
See, when I started my transformation at 224.6 lbs. I put a piece of string around the largest circumference of my waistline and I cut it. And I would periodically check it to make sure my waist circumference was going down BEFORE stepping on the scale. If I was losing body fat then the amount of string needed to go around my waist would go down regardless of all those other variables such as water, blood volume, muscle etc. that make the scale such a poor tool. And as long as the string was going down then I knew I was on course….regardless of what the scale said. And would you believe that over the 29 days where my scale weight was 210 on both occasions that string consistently dropped a total an inch and a half (1.5”) which is certainly no plateau at all (see actually Outlook notes below).
In future blogs I will talk more extensively about progress tracking, but for now just remember this……..”If You Follow The Scale…..You Will Probably Fail”.
Hope This Helps,