Fitness columnist Emmet Rushe proves that the number on the scales is not the be-all and end-all of weight loss.

If there is one thing that I have learned from training hundreds of people over the last few years, it is this:

The scale is a great tool for measuring a client’s progress, but it is not the only tool when measuring for progress. It shouldn’t be taken at face value.

No movement on the scale does not mean that there have not been changes.

I have the weight and measurements of every client and every member of my ‘Fit in 42’ classes from the last few years and one thing stands out from the weigh-ins.

The scale weight of the clients didn’t always match the inches lost by them.

That is not to say that they didn’t lose any weight on the scale, but it didn’t always match into the amount of inches lost from their waists, hips or thighs, or the changes in their body shape.

But for most clients, especially the female ones, the scale will always be the ultimate decider of whether their plan was successful or not.
I have had clients lose 4 inches from their waist and drop a dress size over a 6 week period, but because the scale weight ‘only’ dropped 2kg (4.4lbs), they deemed this as a failure.

When asked if their clothes fitted better and if they were happy with the changes in their bodies, the answer is always ‘yes’, but this is always followed with a ‘but’ and this ‘but’ is usually in reference to the scale weight.

You are not to blame, however. 

Females have been hardwired, through the media, to think that the scales are the be-all and end-all of weight loss, and anything except rapid drops in scale weight is seen as a complete failure. – This couldn’t be further from the truth.

You have to first understand the different variations in ‘weight’:

Remember that the goal isn’t ‘weight loss’, it is ‘fat loss’.
‘Weight’ can be made up of several things, including hydration, carb stores and fluid retention around the time of your cycle.
These will all have an effect on ‘weight’.
This doesn’t mean that you are not losing body fat though.

There are a few things that go into the ‘weight’ fluctuations that you may see on the scales.

Glycogen stores

This amount of glycogen stored in your muscles depends on how much carbohydrates are currently in your diet.
For every gram of carbohydrate that your body stores via glycogen, it also stores 3 grams of water.
If you are on a low carb diet and are carbohydrate-depleted,(not storing much carbs in your muscles) you will you will also be lower in the amount of fluid that you store.
The same is true if you consume a tonne of carbohydrates, you will store more fluid due to your muscle store being full of glycogen and water.
This ‘weight’ is not fat and shouldn’t be viewed as such.

Menstrual Cycle bloat

Women will retain water during their menstrual cycle.
It is unusual if this didn’t happen and it probably has been happening since your cycle started.
Yet, for some reason, women don’t seem to realise this when dieting.
More often than not, if I am doing a check in with a client and there is a sudden fluctuation in their weight and measurements, I ask if they are around the time of their monthly cycle, or have had a large carb based meal the night before.

Usually, they answer “yes” to one of these, but because the scale is up, they will be disappointed, and again you shouldn’t be.
This is a natural process and the fluid you are retaining is not fat.
For this reason, it’s best for women to only compare weight on a monthly average, as this will show true progress.

Below is a typical example of what I have seen through the years. 

So let’s say that you are doing well on a diet plan, you have been sticking to it for a few weeks and then you end up out at the weekend and have a ‘bad night’ nutritionally and go on a binge.

You eat whatever you like and have a few drinks along with it.

You get up the next morning, and feeling guilty, you step on the scales.

Your weight is up and you look visibly ‘bigger’ in the mirror.

Congratulations, you have just messed up the last few weeks of your diet.

You may give up now and just go back to your old habits and never diet again.

Woah, woah, woah….. hold on there Missy.

Let’s look at what we said about carbs and fluid retention up above.

Firstly; you were on a low carb diet and eating pretty ‘clean’, so we are going to assume that your glycogens and fluid levels are slightly lower than normal.

Your binge was all the foods that you haven’t been eating over the last few weeks, possibly a take away like a pizza or a Chinese.

What you are more than likely experiencing, (along with the guilt), is what happens when people go on a binge. They will retain a lot more glycogen afterwards and will have more fluid and therefore will see an increase in the scale and possible a slight bit of bloating.

Does this mean that you have messed up your diet and all the weight is fat?

No, not at all, in fact if you got back at your diet after the slip up, the extra ‘weight’ will dissipate and you will be back to normal in a few days.

This is only water weight.

Remember that for every gram of glycogen (carbs) that you ate, your body also stored 3 grams of water.
Too often, I’ll see people defeated because they “gained all of the weight back.”
You haven’t, so don’t get upset or give up.

Just take the slip up as part of the process and get back on track.

Also, please never weigh yourself after a binge, you will always weigh heavier. This means nothing.
It will only make you feel bad about yourself and this serves no purpose at all.

Should you weigh yourself at all then, or should you just go by how you look in the mirror and how your clothes fit and feel?

The best answer is this:

When you weigh yourself, does what the scales say determine your mood for the rest of that day?
Does it determine how you will eat for the rest of that day?
Does it determine how you view yourself for the rest of that day?

If the answer is yes, then you SHOULD NOT weigh yourself and you SHOULD throw your scales away.

When you have a better relationship with them and you are more comfortable in how you look and feel, then maybe, you can start using them again, but if you don’t, please don’t use them.

Scale weight shouldn’t be exclusively used as the be all and end all of your goals.
I’d rather my client feel better in their own skin, rather than worry about what an arbitrary number tells them.
You should too.