When I started in the fitness industry, 20 years ago, weighing people was ‘the done thing.’ This was how we measured people’s progress and I never thought anything of it, or questioned it. It’s just the way it was. It’s what I learned from my peers and the courses I went on.
Over the years, as I became much more educated and experienced, I learned that weight was only one measurement of progress – and not a great one at that.
We can also use body measurements, body fat measurements, progress pictures, items of clothing, strength gains, being fitter, being stronger, sleeping better, having more energy, brighter eyes and skin… The list goes on and on.
Yet, the one that most people are interested in is body weight.
They’re interested in the number on the scales.
I personally think slimming clubs and slimming club culture has a lot to do with this. Slimming clubs have been around since the 1960s. Go to any slimming club, and they are interested in how much you weigh. It’s the only thing they really track and, because of this, it’s the only thing that lots of women are interested in. Most women I know have been to a slimming club at some point of their life – myself included – and for a lot of women, it’s the first place they actually realised what their weight was and whether or not it was ‘too much’ based on whatever rules and guidance that particular slimming club was using.
Lots of women decide if they’re ‘doing well’ or not by the number on the scales. The number on the scales dictates their mood for the day, how they perceive themself and how they value themself.
I am constantly reminding my clients that when they weigh themself they are weighing everything – skeleton, muscle, internal organs, fluid, food in their digestive system, hair, teeth and, yes, fat.
But it’s not only fat!
Yet, if that number on the scales goes up they’re convinced it’s because they’ve gotten fatter – sometimes they convince themself that they’ve got fatter overnight.
Weight fluctuates massively throughout the day, from day to day, and from week to week. My clients understand this, but most of them still get upset if the scale goes ‘the wrong way.’ This could be down to so many things that they really have no control over – hormones, carrying more fluid than normal, needing a poo, having undigested food in their digestive system – they know this, but they still get upset if they don’t see that number going down. It’s not their fault. It’s ingrained in them.
I have lost count of the number of conversations I’ve had where ladies have lost inches, are getting slimmer, and can see their clothes getting bigger, but they’re upset because the scales aren’t budging. It’s so upsetting for them and for me, as their Coach.
They can’t see the progress they’re making. We have been conditioned to think that if the scales aren’t moving, we aren’t making any progress.
I constantly tell people that muscle is denser than fat. 1kg of muscle is roughly 20% denser than 1kg of fat. So, if you lost 5kg of fat but gained 5kg of muscle, you’d weigh the same but you’d be 20% smaller! 20%!! But people would, undoubtedly, still be upset about weighing the same.
I realised very recently that I was having this same conversation over and over again with people, yet I was still asking them to weigh in and to track their weight.
I suddenly realised that I was contributing to the problem, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Although I spend an incredible amount of time telling people not to worry about the scales, I was still asking them to report to me with their weight.
My clients aren’t competitive athletes.
They don’t enter competitions where they need to fit a certain weight category.
Most of my clients don’t need to be a certain weight or BMI to access medical treatment (if they do, that’s a different story, of course).
So, why bother putting them through the stress of a weekly weigh-in?
I suddenly realised that I’ve been giving out mixed messages and not being completely true to myself and my values because that’s the way I thought it had to be.
I’ve been placing importance on something I tell people is unimportant.
When I start working with a new client, I do need to know how much they weigh so that I can make recommendations about how much food they should be eating. This is just data, the same as knowing their age or their height.
However, after that, I don’t think it’s important and it certainly isn’t the way I’m going to be tracking progress from now on.
You might be thinking, but how do I know if my diet and exercise plan is ‘working’ if I’m not weighing myself…?
Here are some other ways you can track your progress:
- Are your measurements getting smaller?
- Are your clothes getting bigger?
- Progress picture – do you look different?
- Can you lift heavier weights?
- Can you do more press ups?
- Can you run further and faster?
- Can you run up stairs without getting out of breath?
- Do you feel more energised?
- Are you sleeping better?
- Do your eyes and skin look brighter?
- Are you making better food choices?
- Are you less stressed?
Imagine answering YES to all of these questions, and then being upset because you weigh the same as you weighed last week… It doesn’t make sense, does it? We all do it though. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just what we have learned over time.
So, from now on, I will not be asking clients to ‘weigh in’ (unless they particularly want to) and I will continue to tell people about the other ways of measuring progress.
My 6 Week Slim Down course will still be about learning new healthier habits, becoming fitter, and losing inches – the same as it is now – but I won’t be asking people to weigh in weekly.
My social media feed won’t be about how much weight my clients have lost. It’ll be about how they’re feeling, what they’ve achieved, and I’ll be tracking their measurements and pictures for evidence of physical changes if that’s what they’re interested in.
I’m excited to make this change. It feels like the right thing to do.
I know there are already PTs and Coaches who take this approach with their clients, and I feel really good that I’m being true to myself and what I believe, and I honestly believe that this approach will benefit my clients enormously.