I used to tell my personal training clients that they shouldn’t step on the scale. I knew that it could be an emotional experience for someone trying to lose weight.
“Don’t worry about the number,” I’d say. “Gauge progress by how you look and how you feel.”
Truth was, I wanted them to focus on making strength gains in the gym and complying with their nutrition plan.
But in the past several months, I’ve done a total 180. When I’m helping clients with weight loss, I now recommend they weigh themselves every single day.
Think about it: If your goal was to save money, would you monitor your bank account? If your goal was to build the tallest building in the world, would you count how many stories had been built? The point is that if you don't track data, you have no idea whether you’re making progress.
The key is to step on the scale at the same time each day, under the same circumstances. Your bodyweight can fluctuate by five or 10 pounds throughout the day, depending on water retention, carb depletion and other factors.
Get out of bed, use the bathroom, then step on the scale. Every day. It will give you a very reliable baseline and daily data point. It will fluctuate a little bit day to day, but when you look at all the numbers over the course of a week or month, trends will be obvious.
This is the biggest value of daily weighing. It leads people to be less reactive and more strategic.
Reactive behavior looks like this: Your favorite pants suddenly feel tight, and immediately you slash calories and chase exhaustion in the gym, only to burn out, get hurt and gain rebound weight.
Reactive is when you step on a scale during a yearly physical, the number breaks your heart, and you decide to go on a cleanse. (Naturally, you gain rebound weight.)
Strategic behavior involves laying out a plan or a timeline to achieve your goal. You break your big goal into little milestone goals, and work on them one at a time, in sequence.
Confronting the thing you’re trying to change can be tough, especially if it’s weight. The first few days of weighing yourself may be difficult, but once you get a daily reality check, you will be much less vulnerable to tailspins on days you “feel” fat.
What does that even mean—feeling fat?
Believe it or not, many clients have reported to me that on days they dreaded stepping on the scale, days they knew they’d somehow put on 10 pounds overnight, the scale actually read that they were right on target to meet their goal.
Thanks to this data point, a sense of relief and accomplishment carried them through the day. They built even more momentum, and made even better progress.
We need to stop making an enemy of the scale, and start seeing it as a helper, sort of like a GPS unit, letting us know we’re on the right track—or starting to veer off course.
Remember, if you don’t get the result you want, it’s not a failure, it’s a data point. It’s information that lets you know you need to change your approach.
Marshall Roy is the owner of RISE gym in King of Prussia, a kettlebell and barbell studio offering personal training and group strength & conditioning classes. He was named “Best Trainer” Philadelphia magazine in the 2014 “Best of Philly” issue. Learn more at www.RISEgym.com.