By Matt O'Neill, MSc(Nut&Diet), APD
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It's motivating to see your body is changing when you are getting into shape. But stepping on the bathroom scales can be a risky way to measure progress. Here are five reasons why you shouldn't weigh your success.
1. Scales show weight, not body composition
Muscle weighs more than fat. So, the number on the scales can stay the same or even increase as you gain muscle and lose body fat. Scales don't measure these positive metabolic changes unless they measure body fat percentage as well. And you need to pay a lot for body fat scales that are more accurate or get a DEXA scan (more below).
2. Scales show daily fluctuations
Your weight can vary by 1-3kg each day, depending on what you eat, hydration level, fluid retention and bowel movements. Daily weight changes are unlikely to reflect real changes in muscle or fat.
3. Scales distract you from better habits
Obsessing about kilos takes your mind away from celebrating positive habits, like eating two fruits today or achieving three workouts this week. Ensure you cheer for all your small changes.
4. Scales shouldn't dictate your mood
So the scales didn't change today. It doesn't mean you have to feel down. Don't let your bathroom scales set your mood for the day.
5. Scales show a number, not how you look
If your clothes fit better, you look leaner in the mirror and people comment that you look healthy, why weigh yourself? You've got enough proof it's working!
How to measure success?
Weigh yourself once when you start getting into shape as a reference point. Then use tape measurements (waist, hips, etc), the mirror and how your clothes fit to see changes. Check for changes once a week or less often - not every day! You can weigh yourself after four weeks if you need to, but I'm hoping you'll see and feel your success without it.
What about a DEXA scan?
A dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA or DXA) scan can give you a highly accurate picture of your body composition. It can be a good educational experience and rewarding to see DEXA changes in body fat and muscle that results from your diet and exercise efforts. It's best to leave it a few months to see changes, so DEXA is not a daily or weekly replacement for other measures. For a DEXA scan, Google "Measure Up" (no kick-back to me).
Now that you've finished reading, you may want to consider chucking out your bathroom scales. I'm serious, if you feel like you have become a slave to the scales then take a new approach and liberate yourself. It will feel like you've just got rid of a bad friend. You don't need them.
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