You've been sticking to your new eating plan and exercising regularly, and you've improved your overall attitude about staying healthy and getting fit. Good for you! You're feeling great and proud of all the hard work and progress you are making. Then, you step onto the scale and find your motivation deflating. You can't believe it; after all your hard work you've gained two pounds! What's that all about?
Now before you go reaching for the Ben and Jerry’s or skip your next group, consider this: Stepping on the scale may not be the best way for you to assess your progress.
The Scale doesn’t tell the whole picture.
The scale measures weight -- not overall fitness-- and it doesn't differentiate between fat and muscle. Muscle is denser than fat and tends to weigh more. Try to visualize this: Which weighs more, five pounds of feathers or five pounds of lead? Neither -- they both weigh five pounds -- but you're going to be looking at a whole lot of feathers. The same holds true for fat and muscle.
Sometimes, the scale can feel less like a friend and more like a foe, because it often reflects small gains (in muscle mass) before showing substantial losses (in fat). Exercise helps you to burn off plump, fluffy fat cells, while building dense, compact muscle tissue, and you may seem to gain before you lose. So, instead of daily trips to the scale, use other means for judging the progress you are making. Here are some great ways to judge your progress:
Changes in Clothing Size and Fit
Your clothes don't lie! The "clothes test" is a great way for monitoring your weight. Use a consistent pair of jeans to judge your progress. The satisfaction of seeing your clothes become less snug, or shopping for smaller sizes, is far more rewarding than any number on a scale.
Increased Stamina and Strength
How do you feel? Chances are, if you've taken off weight and added muscle, you'll have more energy for your daily activities. And you'll definitely notice changes at the gym, where you'll have more stamina and strength. You might now be using heavier weights or doing more reps or be less winded during strenuous exercise. Take that as proof positive that you're making progress!
Improvements in Your Quality of Life
This is probably the best measure of your progress. When tasks like taking care of the kids or tending to the house no longer leave you winded, or you find you can function without always being tired, you know you're making strides to a healthier you. You don't need a scale to help you measure that!