Normal household scales can tell you one thing, that is how much the entire of your living being is working in conjunction with Earth’s gravity. They pretty much don’t say anything else. In fact most of the time they’re mean, we just dread getting on them. They mostly just make us unhappy which then creates a horrible unhealthy relationship with our body. For this reason I recommend you find yours, pick them up and throw them far far away.
It’s ok, I’ll wait…
If you have fancy scales where you can add your biometrics like; height, age, sex ect then based on a generalised algorithm they can give you slightly more generalised non specific information. If however you are super super fancy and have body composition scales then you have a much more useful tool! The body composition scales will have hands and feet sensors to send an electrical impulse through your body to detect and report back exactly what you are made up of typically, water, bone, body fat & muscle tone. The thing is, with all of this technology they will never be 100% accurate. So unless you have; a sports lab, a highly skilled team of specialists, an MRI machine and you’re hopeful for Tokyo 2020, it really doesn’t have to be that precise. So how on earth do we track our physical progress?
The reason people mainly use the scales is accountability. Whether it be for weight loss, maintenance or gains they indicate where you’re currently at. But does it? All of the above can have variables that will prevent you getting the best type of result. Depending on the; time of day, what you have recently consumed, your digestive system, what you wear, water retention, if you have recently exercised or yes ladies if it’s that time of the month, can all throw off your results. So now how can you actually track your physical progress and have accountability?
A well known phrase seen all over health conscious communities like MyFitnessPal (no endorsements, it’s a basic free site with great user potential) is NSV, or non scale victories. This is what health and fitness people use when celebrating their achievements without the use of body weight scales. It can be anything from physical measurements, changing clothing sizes, to being able to live a different way because of a change in their body, anything. It’s a positive, reinforced way to acknowledge your own achievements. I am all for this! Creating a positive uplifting relationship with your achievements helps to create new healthy standards in your life. This is what builds long lasting results. Its recognising your own self worth by you deciding and making a choice to the value you put against that.
I’m not going to sit and bash the scales too much because for a lot of people they have been a tool they’ve become quite attached to. They can give you a guideline for your calorie intake, but that’s all I would use them for. I personally use and promote the use of high quality body composition scales. Higher quality ones are more acurate and can scientifically give you important health information such as; hydration levels, bone density volume and visceral fat percentage. This kind of data can completely change your life. The reason for my personal distain of the typical household scales is they never once taught me how to really love myself. When they don’t match what you hope for, you feel bad and when they do, yes it feels great but why oh why do we need the scales to make us feel good about ourselves? Self worth is not measurable! It’s a very unhealthy habit. If you woke up tomorrow and nothing about you had changed physically but the scales said that magic number you’ve always wanted, would you be happy? Nope. There are better ways to track your health and being accountable to unrealistic standard should never come into it. I work with my clients actual biometric make up to make lifestyle improvements based on what they want long term. Some clients rock their curves but would benefit from improved flexibility, or some are fairly lean but carry a lot of dangerous visceral fat, the scales don’t tell me any of that information. The more specific information I have about you, the better the results. But if you don’t use the scales how else can we track progress? What other measurable targets can help keep you focused?
Most people have heard of the BMI scale, or body mass index. The basis of the BMI was created in 1832 by Adolphe Quetelet whilst studying the growth of the average western male. It became more commonly know through a paper published in 1972 edition of the Journal of Chronic Diseases by Ancel Keys. In 1995, following an increase in obesity, the world health organisation adopted the renamed BMI as a method to easily determine a personal level of obesity. Let me repeat it was created in 1832 to study the growth rate of males, so nothing to do with unhealthy body fat. The BMI is a very simple numeric measure of a persons thinness or thickness by calculations using typically height and weight only, that’s it. Again, not to bash this well know method but it’s good to know the facts. It’s not acurate and it’s not specific enough at all to give you any real insight into your own health. It’s a very simplified method that will not tell you what proportions of the body is; lean muscle, essential body fat or even more importantly where the body fat is stored. Yes, where body fat is stored is vial, a person may look like a healthy weight but they may unknowingly store body fat around their vial organs, known as visceral fat. This type of fat is a death sentence and the only way to know you don’t have this type of fat is to eat a varied healthy diet and exercise regularly. You don’t even need any scales to measure it. It’s that’s simple. However the one aspect of the BMI that is essential to know is that it doesn’t take into account lean muscle…I as a Personal Trainer and my own Personal Trainer too are classed as overweight. The BMI does NOT count muscle weight. You may as well step on the scales in an astronaut suit to match this level of stupidity.
For any client who has an unhealthy fixation on totally body mass it’s my role to help them look further into this. Weighing in every day takes great commitment and courage. If weighing in only really has a negative impact on a clients life, it’s pointless but..it’s an effort they’re willing to keep making even if it is for the wrong reasons. So I want to harness this effort and use it for good instead. The techniques and alternatives I use with my weight loss clients ensure their results are accurate, measurable and most importantly, long lasting. I cannot stress enough that anyone on a weight loss journey who wants long lasting results has to exercise their mental demons too. Any self criticism, self hatred, self sabotage or negativity needs to be broken apart and rebuilt back up positively. Without this the hard work can be undone in an instant when we tear ourselves down out of habit. If you’ve ever lost the weight and put it back on then you understand why this self sabotage removal is vital. If I eat my strawberries and cream for pudding I thoroughly enjoy it and the next day I’m filled with nothing more than strawberry goodness. No more food guilt, no more panic about calories. I worked hard, I enjoyed them, end of!
I can list 1000’s of NSV’s but what they mean to me is different to what they mean to you.
- Not breathing in to get through gaps
- Not feeling out of breath at the top of the stairs
- Getting excited about my gym sessions
- Cheering on friends at races
- Looking straight in the mirror and feeling proud
- Using a smaller bath towel
- Finding cute clothes in my size
- Bullies from my past not recognising me
- Not avoiding my reflection
- Seeing my skin look clearer with healthy eating
- Feeling content in myself
- Helping others find their passion in living a healthy active lifestyle
- Feeling more energised after drinking lots of water
- Seeing my best friend learning to run
- Loving photos of myself
- A great nights sleep without pain or waking up
- Wearing my swim suit with pride and splashing down the slides
- Being able to walk home with the shopping
- Waking up feeling excited to start the day
- Catching up with friends at ParkRun
- Hearing my son say he’s proud of me
Love and light x
(Please note absolute and utter photo credit goes to Darlington South Park ParkRun’s beautiful Karen Newton. Without these pictures I wouldn’t recognise how far I’ve come myself. Thank you Karen)