Measuring Success; Why the Scales are Only One Means of Progress*

Monday, 13 March 2017, By Alex Campbell

"Well that's disappointing, I thought I'd lose more."

"Why didn't I drop a kilo this week, I've been so good!"

"This isn't working; I've been doing everything right for the last two weeks and it hasn't moved! What's the point?"


...ever found yourself saying one of these (or something similar) after a weigh-in? When pursuing a body change goal, it can be disheartening to not see the number on the scales move as far as you want, or sometimes even at all. But what does this mean? And why do we attach so much of our self-worth to it?


I've seen this scenario play out many times, and even gone through the experience myself as I prepared for a bodybuilding competition. I worked out how much weight I should lose each week based off my body fat percentage in order to be ready for my show, and began weighing in each week. Sometimes I had big losses, sometimes I had small losses. Sometimes I had no losses.


 Every time I stepped on the scales and the numbers weren't what I wanted them to be, I'd beat myself up about it.

"Dammit, I knew I should've worked harder! I'll train twice as hard next week!"


Or I'd lose faith in the process.

"I've been perfect this week, why didn't I lose any weight? This isn't working!"


Either way, I'd be emotionally worse off than before I stepped on the scales. I then carried that emotional pain into my everyday life, where it affected everything. Relationships suffered. My mood and attitude in the studio took a hit. I no longer enjoyed my training, and just saw it as a means to an end. How did this happen?


I began to see my weight as the only measure of success.


The reality is, weight is merely a measure of your total body mass, nothing more. There are many physical data points the scales don't measure, such as:

  • Your body fat percentage
  • The muscle you've gained from training
  • The amount of water your body holds and uses as it responds to training and eating well
  • The food that is still moving through your digestive system from the night before

From an emotional and mental health viewpoint, the scales also don't measure:

  • Your happiness
  • Your love from family and friends
  • Your self-worth

There are also a host of other things that, yet again, the scales fail to measure:

  • The nutrition knowledge you've gained from pursuing your goals
  • The strength you've gained from regular resistance training
  • The movement your body is capable of that it wasn't before (anyone that's gone from lying on the couch to running 5km can attest to this!)


The picture above is from that first bodybuilding competition, where I placed second. I was so happy with what I achieved, and the thousand watt smile around the fake tan shows it. However, if I had a chance to go back and see my younger (and browner) self, I'd tell him a few things.

I'd tell him to use the scales as a single measure, one of many, that can be used to track success.

I'd tell him to trust the process, as the next big win is sometimes just around the corner.

I'd tell him to look at the big picture, and how being obsessed with the number on the scales is affecting not only him, but those close to him.

I'd tell him that you may not be where you want right now, but you will be in time.


Yours in Health and Fitness,

Alex Campbell

Senior Trainer at Vision Personal Training Neutral Bay

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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