The Least Accurate Measure of Progress

Why do I call the scale The Least Accurate Measure of Progress, because it is, it’s a simple as that. I highly dislike the scale because we put so much emphasis on numbers. I’ll admit I was never great in math class, so there I have numbers starring me in the face. But that’s where it starts from the very beginning. Some of us grew up using the letter scale (A, B, C, D and F), others used percentages.  So even at a young age numbers were engrained as a scale of success.

Nowadays more people look at how many people are commenting on their social media post, how many friends they have, how many ‘likes’, favourites and or retweets, again letting numbers decide how our post is perceived.

It seems like money is a form of success in our society. Never mind how miserable a person could be by having more riches and financial wealth that most could fathom. If they have nice clothes, a big house and fancy cars they are deemed successful because more than anything they’re perceived to have a stack of cash in their pocket and bank account, again basing success on numbers.

This post is going to be more about why the scale is the least accurate form of measure but I did feel it necessary to offer some background as to why our society looks at number more than anything being the deciding factors as to weather we have found success or not.

Biggest Loser Effect

What I call the biggest loser effect is basically a fabricated Hollywood expectation that because you see contestants losing 10-30lbs in a single week it’s reasonable to expect ourselves to be able to lose that much as well.

First of all, this is a TV show, made for entertainment and entertainment alone. If lasting results had anything to do with the ‘game’ they wouldn’t throw people into an exercise program full tilt the first day at camp.  They also wouldn’t kick them out and let them go it on their own as soon as they are eliminated or as soon as the show is over.  And finally if they really did care about the individual, their health or weight loss, they’d change the game rules so not only would someone have to win but they’d have to keep their results for a minimal amount of time.

The biggest loser show is not realistic. What we don’t consider, the contestants don’t have a job, they are 100% invested full time into losing weight and that’s it. The contestants have full time trainers, they are put in an isolated group for an extended period of time for one goal, to lose weight (without family, friends or other distractions) . And lastly they workout multiple times a day supervised by a doctor to make sure this is ‘healthy’ which is laughable alone, justifying that losing that much weight a week is healthy or sustainable.

If this is you, if you are isolated from your environment, don’t have a job or distractions AND workout multiple times a day with a full time trainer and with doctor supervision, then by all means you should expect to lose 10lbs a week. If this isn’t you, like most of us that don’t live on T.V.  We might want to consider setting different types of goals that increase your success rate.

Ignoring All Progress

My biggest issues with the least accurate for of progress, once again the scale is because we ignore all other forms of progress when all we see is numbers. Let’s take getting in better shape for example:

When you are working out consistently you’re able to get in better shape. When we’re in better shape trivial tasks no longer seem like a chore.  Let’s take playing with the kids for example. This is by far the #1 reason clients come to me and tell me why they want to start a workout program.

The tell me, ‘I want to be able to keep up with my kids‘, but then all of a sudden, a few weeks pass, clearly their cardio vascular ability is improving but here comes the question of ‘why don’t I see results on the scale?’.  So here we are ignoring the better shape we’re in, not knowing we’ve worked hard to get closer to one of our main goals.

How about tying your shoe, getting in and out of the car, walking around the grocery store. Don’t laugh, it may sounds like a stretch to some that we take some of these simple tasks for granted. For some people it’s difficult to get in and out of the car, for some they lose their breath by only walking.

Getting in better shape gives you the ability to do smaller day to day tasks that most take for granted which makes life just a little bit easier.

the least accurate measure of progress

Losing Inches 

9 out of 10 times you will not see the scale go down when you lose inches. It’s simply not how our body works. Most of you know exactly what I’m talking, in fact I’ve actually had people come to me and say, “my pants are fitting looser but I’m still not seeing results on the scale”. Course then I feel like screaming, that’s because the scale is The Least Accurate Form of Progress!

Losing inches gives you a sense of accomplishment, it let’s you know your hard work hasn’t gone for not. It shows you that what you’re doing is working, that results have come and more are on the way.

When you start to get in a little better shape, your clothes start to fit a bit better (you may even find yourself fitting in clothes you haven’t for years), you start to gain energy and confidence (both in which we’ll get into shortly), but then that scale rears it’s ugly head, you have to get on it. You have to see how many lbs you’ve lost and here it comes, we start to ignoring all these good feelings that are happening right now, which in an instant is negated by a few little numbers.

Does muscle weight more than fat?

Yes it does, which is another reason the scale is the least accurate form of progress. Think about your body for a second and what you’re doing once you start to put better food in it. Think about what you’re doing when you start to tone and build muscle. You’re exchanging body fat for muscle (which is rarely big and bulky) that weighs more.

This is a prime example of results, of seeing progress and why you’ll see yourself losing inches before you’ll see those scale numbers go down.

Body Imagine 

We all know there are many different types of bodies out there, we have different body types and we have a different body image but we usually have the same goals no matter what we were given to work with.

You could be tiny, you could be tall, you could be built entirely different than that model we see in a magazine but still we have that goal of a certain weight not considering anything else.  Might want to consider this picture below and realize every single one of them weigh the same thing. Does that change your perspective on what your goal to success is regarding how much you weight?

Screenshot 2015-06-20 19.00.53
Every single one of these ladies weighs the same, 154 lbs

Setting Realistic Goals

Now I’ll be the last one to tell you ‘your goal isn’t realistic’ and I’m certainly not going to walk you through the incredibly played out ‘S.M.A.R.T’ goal list to follow. But I will say, look at the picture above. Now think about how much the scale means to you, what your goals are and if they really have to do with how much you weigh.

Often the things we think we want in our live have absolutely nothing to do with our own happiness. Maybe we heard someone else’s goal, maybe someone once told us ‘what we’re suppose to weight’. Maybe we have a perceived number that we think will make us happy. Or maybe someone told us we’re overweight following that ridiculous BMI scale.

Whatever the case is for you, think deeply about what you think will make you happy because I’d bet if you dig deep, that goal (if it’s weight) may not even be your own.

Increasing Energy 

The very first thing clients tell me when I start working with them is, ‘I can’t believe how much energy I have’. It’s no coincidence that the average persons complaint when it comes to feeling better, living healthier and getting in better shape is, how little energy they have throughout the day.

Make no mistake about it, gaining energy plays a significant factor in our overall well being. Think about all the things you do in a day that requires energy. Now think about trying to do them or get through the day with absolutely no energy at all. Pretty difficult isn’t it.  Don’t let that scale ignore your progress of gained energy. Like most of these tips, gained energy won’t show you tangible results, so forget about those numbers and watch yourself enjoy life just a little but more with all this new found energy.

Gaining Confidence 

We know what it’s like to have such little self esteem it’s hard to look in the mirror. We walk with our heads down, muttering to ourselves how little we think of ourselves, never wanting to put on jeans and afraid to walk into a retail store to buy clothes.

This is all a chain of results, one you have or will experience by avoided that dreaded scale which is of course the least accurate measure of progress.  Once you start to get in better shape, you start to lose inches  then your energy increases just a bit and without knowing it you walk with your head just a little higher.

You not only have new found energy you have new found confidence and don’t even know it! You start to look in the mirror and even enjoy the results of a side view pulling your waist band out looking at your results.

You talk clearer with your head up, buy some new clothes, look forward to working out and getting more results all in which happens without the least accurate measure of progress.

Dear Mr. Scale

I put together this write up called ‘Dear Mr. Scale’ to help you get passed how much power you allow the scale to have over you.

I’d like to let you know you no longer control my emotions; you don’t decide my state, YOU don’t determine my happiness!  You no longer GET to choose what kind of mood I’m in after I spend a short time with you.  I will no longer give you my strength, disempowering myself.

I’ve spend weeks, hours and months now learning and experimenting, going through ups and downs on how to control my emotions, how to be happy for what I have, not what I don’t.  I’ve learned that what I focus on is the most important thing and unfortunately for you, when I weigh myself I won’t let you influence my feelings.

I get up every day and follow a plan all directed towards the goals that actually make me happy in life.  I’m thrilled to say, you have nothing to do with the things that inspire me, the things that motivate me and the things that keep me moving forward.

I’d like to let you know Mr. Scale that I don’t hate you, I don’t fear you, I love you.  Every time I spend time with you I learn something about myself and how my body works with exercise and food.  You teach me so many things, how could I hate you, how could I avoid you.  Because of you, I know exactly what works and what doesn’t and when I find that out, I repeat what works to find success.  I know many dislike you and I’m sorry for that.  Maybe most don’t understand what I do; maybe most don’t realize you’re a blessing in disguise.

What if I didn’t have you Mr. Scale, who would help me stay on track, who would never lie to me, who else isn’t biased in anyway other than you?  Thank you for always being honest with me and telling me the truth.  Thank you for telling me when I need to work harder and when I HAVE worked harder.  I appreciate you being with me on my journey.  I would like to be clear though, I want to make sure we both know……

You no longer control my emotions; you don’t decide my state, YOU don’t determine my happiness!  You no longer GET to choose what kind of mood I’m in after I spend a short time with you.  I will no longer give you my strength, disempowering myself.

I am strong, I am courageous, I am success and you or anything else won’t get in the way of what I’m after.

Use this letter as a template and write your own letter to the scale. Might sound funny, may sounds ridiculous but think about how much power we give the scale. Think about the hold it has over us. Some of us weigh ourselves multiple times a day.

The scale can change our entire mood in an instant if we let it, in that instant all of our progress is negated, all our those feel good thoughts are gone and remember we allow it.

I suggest sitting down and writing a letter to your scale. Put it on your mirror and if you still have a scale in your house after you finish reading this post, tape it to your scale and read the letter every time you want to get on it. If you’d like to print this off and take it with you to read and read often, you can download the pdf file here (Dear Scale).

Is the scale really that inaccurate?

Yes, yes it is. Think about it for a second. Take out the emotional aspect of your scale, try to look from the outside in.  If you have a meal you weigh something different, if you consume large amounts of liquid the scale is different, weigh yourself at different times of the day, you guess it. The scale is different.  Have you thought about the day before, considered how much activity or exercise you’ve done that week? Not likely, when we jump on the scale we seldom think of anything but what those numbers read.

So here we are, we’ve jumped in with two feet not only into an exercise program but nutrition as well. And if I really got my hands on you, you’ve started to change your environment, habits and entire lifestyle knowing that’s the only way to see results that last.

Look at the Progress You’ve Made

Given that you’ve set nutrition goals to improve a little bit each week you can be happy you’ve set and achieved the nutrition goals you set for yourself. Same goes for exercise. You decided to start some resistance training a couple times a week, you also decided to increase your cardio which are attainable and have been reached.

Congratulations! You should be happy with your achievements you should be excited you’re working toward your goals. You’re alive and rejuvenated, you even sleep better. With more energy you get through the day without as much effort, and you even have less stress. So what’s the issue?

You feel like you still need to weight yourself with erases  not only all the hard work but all the progress you’ve made.

The biggest failure is achieving success and not knowing it

-Anthony Robbins

So if not the Scale, what then?

I’ll leave you with ideas that came from my Facebook fans on suggestions on how to measure without using the scale.

My post:

I was wondering if I could ask you all a question this morning. Given that I don’t believe in the scale, in fact I truly believe the scale is the least accurate measure of success or progress…

Here’s what happens, we put so much emphasis on the scale, so even though we’re putting quality foods in our body, we gain confidence, mental clarity, sleep better, feel better about ourselves, have more energy, are creating healthy life habits, even drop inches (which also doesn’t show up on the scale), we still want that tangible result. We still want to see some sort of number drop because it’s been ingrained in us so deeply.

Now I understand this is a difficult question, I’ve been asking it a lot lately and usually get a blank stare. I know for most of us, the only way we’ve ever tangibly measured progress is through a scale.

But if you can think outside of the box and have any suggestions for me I’d very much appreciate it. My question is:

How can you tangibly measure progress without a scale (maybe even without taking measurements)? I’d love to hear from anyone with a creative mind out there.


Dayna Holloway 
I believe progress for me personally physically is when I have more energy, feel more tighter in my clothes, enjoy eating healthier meals I prepare, my posture is better, I can feel and see ton
e in my legs and feel happier overall thru the day and to me that’s progress. This may come from just making more quality meals, running the treadmill a few days a week and some push-ups etc, real simple but……

Whatever your routine, in an obsessive world at the moment, we should try to focus not on the constant way we look all the time and how many hours we logged exercising but on how we walk around feeling good and confident and better than we did yesterday. Baby steps sometimes add up faster then immediate, faster is better plans. At 36, with kids, I have learned the turtle always wins hands down:) children being slow have taught me that lol.

Oh and people I find now a days are so fix sated on the small details of fitness and health. Like just start old school style first, exercise, eat great and move on. The day does not have to revolve around every morsel, gym time or scale weight. Now, people could have careers based on their personal lives on trying to get healthier. It’s crazy! Honestly, everything people do, personally is told to everyone and if people just paid themselves first like saving money or brushing your teeth, and didn’t feel the need to obsess about every detail and tell everyone then maybe people would just naturally become healthier and the latest trend wouldn’t be lets call it, “look what I look like”, maybe it would be a different focus.

How about on quality of our personalities, children and helping out others instead of my life is perfect I’m down on the scale or people choosing to feel bad about themselves because they don’t look like ken and Barbie unless they spend their kids college fund at the doctors. Lol rant rant thanks Drew for the topic.

Christine Ahmad I don’t weigh myself or measure myself much….like maybe once a year!….. but if my clothes feel tight then I know I’ve been over indulging a bit too much!! I also feel sluggish if I don’t maintain some kind of activity and you know how hard it is to make a slug work hard!! That’s what happens in my head….I get the mentality of a slug and I make hundreds of excuses to not go outside for a walk or do a workout…..once I do though, a whole reversal thing happens and I feel more alive and energetic. I just need a clone of Drew standing in my house telling to get to work!!!

Amanda Bowhay I now run to my tape measure, to me inches don’t lie. But I’m not trying to lose inches in all places either, I might even want an increase in some. I also love measuring by accomplishments, it’s really awesome to achieve something you never could before!

Clare Brook For me it’s all in how my clothes fit. It’s a pretty instant way to tell how things are going.

Aaryn Souliere I keep clothing from all different times in my life so I can go back and try them on. It feels good to fit into something that you thought you may not be able to again. I think the scale is more of a derailment for me and healthy living. When I was younger and took dance 4 days a week I weighed more than when I stopped. This was due to muscle loss, not knowing much about good health at that time I was just happy to see the scale go down which was not necessarily a good thing. Now that I am older I try not to go on the scale as it can deter from progress that you are making.

If you go on the scale and see the number unchanged it can stop you from continuing on with healthy lifestyle choices. I think it is better to measure how you are felling day to day. If you need something more “tangible” you could invest in a BMI machine. They are quite inexpensive and a better measure of progress. You need to listen to your body and know what makes you feel good. It doesn’t matter what you weigh if you are feeling lethargic, unmotivated or sick.

Michelle Hanson Rushoway Aaryn said it. The best way to measure progress is how you’re feeling; how much energy you have; how much happier you are.

Numbers like weight, BMI, inches and age…….are just numbers. Perhaps most people need to change how they see themselves.

Vanda Turney For me it would be the definition and sculpting of my collar bone and shoulders. When I’m exercising and treating my body with whole foods I notice a measureable difference in this area weekly. It’s beautiful and sexy and to me way more sexier than any pounds lost on a scale.

Louise Landry I always go by how my clothes fit and how I feel.

Jolene Sanford being able to accomplish things that you could not accomplish before…….lifting heavier weights, running longer periods of time, taking the stairs and not being winded.

If you have any suggestions that were missed or that we haven’t thought of please leave them in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

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