I’m sure you’ve seen this title before in an article somewhere on the web but perhaps you didn’t read it. To be fair, it’s a bit of a misleading statement, as the scales themselves are obviously not causing you to gain weight or even prevent you from losing weight directly, however, they absolutely can play a role in reducing the efficiency of your weight loss.
The scales are by no means your enemy but they can certainly be a hindrance.
But first, let's look at why the scale can be a good tool to use when implemented appropriately.
What do the scales tell us?
- They give direct feedback on the absolute weight of the client
- They give direct feedback on the effects of potential daily hydration change
- They give direct feedback on potential changes to expect during a female's monthly cycle
- They give direct feedback on the percentage of weight loss relative to the clients absolute weight
- They give us indirect feedback on potential fat loss - It is indirect as the change on the scale is only a direct indicator of weight loss, not fat loss.
So as you can see, using the scales to measure weight on a regular basis can, in fact, provide a lot of useful information to both the client and their coach/trainer. However, while the feedback above can be useful, it is important to recognise that the data taken from a scale is somewhat unidirectional in its feedback and not all that comprehensive when compared to some other measurement systems, such as a DEXA.
Scale weight feedback should merely be used as a tool to reference trends in weight, not necessarily specific results.
Let me put it this way…
For my clients, my preference is for them to weigh in on 3 consecutive days a week leading into their feedback day and I do this for 3 main reasons:
- 3 consecutive days gives me a better average weigh in reference - It also shows me daily variability, which is a great reference for when a diet is not adhered to.
- It gives me direct feedback on their metabolic health in response to higher calorie or carb days - Traditionally what I find are clients who are in a true caloric deficit either gain very little weight or in some cases lose weight in the days after a refeed (eating more calories).
- It allows me to cross-reference their absolute weight change against their photo check-ins, skinfolds and DEXA scan data - The more feedback I have the more accurate my changes can be.
Personally, I am a fan of using the scale as a point of data checking for my online clients and I find the feedback it provides me extremely insightful.
Despite all of this, however, I do in some instances remove the scale completely from clients check-ins and instead rely more on photos, the feeling of how their clothes fit, their opinion on how they look in the mirror and skinfolds on a less regular basis as well.
And the reason why is this -
Single handily, the primary determinant on whether you should or shouldn’t use the scales for weight loss feedback is the mindset and psychology of the client.
So while the physical feedback of the scale may be positive for me as the coach, at times the mental hardship it can cause the client can actually start to skew the feedback the scales are providing.
What I mean by this is -
If the scales make you nervous – don’t use them
If the scales make you uneasy – don’t use them
If the scales make you anxious – don’t use them
If the scales make you upset - don't use them
If you do not have the ability to recognise the scales are just a tool and associate them with being a piece of equipment for feedback on an arbitrary number, but instead let them manipulate your mindset, emotions and psychology, they will not be a good tool for you use.
The goal of fat loss, in my opinion, should always be 3-fold in its approach.
- Ensure you are eating in a caloric deficit with the correct macronutrients - Choose the foods you love so you can adhere to the program
- Train to be stronger, fitter or faster each week - Eating less food is not an excuse to perform worse
- Stress less - The more you stress the harder it is to achieve results
And therein lies the sole problem with scales and the use of them during a fat loss phase…
If the scales make you nervous, cause a cascade of negative emotion and have you micromanaging your journey by constantly jumping on and off the scale again, get rid of them.
Losing body fat, albeit a tough thing to do, should be about enhancing your lifestyle, not punishing yourself physically, mentally and emotionally.
So while the scales themselves are not a detriment to your weight loss, they can certainly create a negative environment that is.
Focus more on how you feel, how well you train and less about the number and I am sure your success will come to you a lot faster.