Top 3 Ways to Replace your Bathroom Scale

Earlier this week I wrote about breaking up with my bathroom scale. After years of allowing the number that appeared on the scale to take away the joy I should have felt from my healthy choices in the kitchen and hard work in the gym, it was time to part ways.

That said, I think it’s still very important to find ways to remain accountable to a healthy lifestyle. So moving forward these are the three methods that I will use to measure my progress.

You don't need your scale to stay accountable.

You don’t need your scale to stay accountable.

Caloric Tracking

There are a number of free apps available to use to track both calories and exercise. Two of the most popular are LoseIt and MyFitnessPal. Both connect with many other gadgets like FitBits or heart rate monitors for more accurate readings on activity levels.

By entering your caloric intake and keeping up with the exercise log you can easily see if there is an imbalance in the two. For some, tracking this information may reveal that caloric intake far exceeds the amount burned, for others it can be eye-opening how many snacks are consumed during the day.

The reason tracking is important is because we often underestimate the calories we consume and overestimate the calories we burn. Weight gain, loss and maintaining all comes down to calories in, calories out. Consuming more than you are burning will result in weight gain, creating a caloric deficit will allow you to lose, and clearly a good balance will help you maintain.

I’m not suggesting you become obsessed with tracking calories and activities – this can prove to be as harmful as being a slave to a number on the scale – but I do suggest that tracking even just a few days a week will open your eyes to your choices in the kitchen and the results of your workouts in the gym.

I’m not going to dive any deeper into this topic today, but I invite you to visit a blog post I wrote about ‘The Reality of Calories and Portions.’

Tape Measurements

Another method to track progress is using a good old fashioned tape measure. Whether you are trying to lose weight and tone or trying to build muscle this is a great way to measure your changes.

Here are some major areas that you should measure and how to do it properly:

  • Chest: measure right across the nipple line on your chest
  • Bicep: measure half way between the shoulder and elbow
  • Waist: measure about one inch above the navel
  • Hips: measure the largest area around the glutes
  • Thigh: measure half way between the knee and hip bone

I recommend remeasuring about every 4 – 6 weeks and tracking your results.

Clothing

Jeans never lie. We all know the feeling of trying to jump into them or inhaling to get them buttoned. Start to use your clothing as a measurement of your progress. Are you comfortable in your clothes or are they tight? Despite how much we all wish it were true, we can’t always blame the dryer.

Speaking to the point of clothing, it’s certainly okay to have a goal outfit, but be realistic. If you are saving a pair of jeans from 10 years ago, and have since had 3 children, those jeans might not be realistic. Over time our bodies change, so when choosing (or keeping) a ‘goal’ piece of clothing be realistic.

I also suggest that if something is baggy or unflattering, get rid of it! Wear things that show off your best because the better you feel about the way you look, the more motivated you will be to stick to your plan.

So dump that scale, adopt some new ways to measure and celebrate your successes in 2016!

Disappointing Weigh-Ins

I despise the thought of being defined by the number on the scale. That said, regular weigh-ins can be a good reality check. Let’s face it, we all know when our clothes feel a little tighter or when our muffin top becomes more noticeable with certain outfits. But for me, tighter jeans or a ill-fitting top just makes me dig a little deeper in my closet and find something more flattering. Tight clothes aren’t the wake up call I need; seeing a climbing number on the scale is the splash of cold water I need to wake up and examine how my choices are affecting my health.

So in an effort to be accountable and try and shed a few pounds for summer I joined a weight loss challenge at Patriot Boxing. I find that if I am accountable to a team or a challenge I feel empowered to make better choices. 

Last night was the weigh in for week two and I bombed it. I would have been okay with holding steady, but instead I actually gained. Right back to where I started at week one. In that moment I felt like I had let myself down, I let my team down, and oddly I felt the weight of disappointment from my previous clients who looked back and me and asked, ‘How is that possible? I’ve been working so hard.’

The reality is, I too have been working hard. Unfortunately, when it comes to the number on the scale all that hard work can’t overcome some of the other things I haven’t been so great at: 

  • Poor sleeping patterns
  • Skipping weekend workouts
  • Eating too few calories
  • Eating enough calories but not getting the right balance of carbs, proteins and fats
  • Eating dinner late
  • Eating too little for breakfast
  • Eating meals out

See a pattern here? Eating. So what did I do after my terrible weigh in? I ordered a pizza with double pepperoni, ate 3 pieces and attacked the candy drawer for dessert. Clearly not the best of choices but I have to say that pizza tasted good.

So where do I go from here? I can continue to negative self-talk about all the ways I failed, especially with the pizza and candy, or I can take stock of the past week as a whole and be empowered as I work towards my week three weigh in. 

  • Poor sleeping patterns – Yes, I stayed up too late, but I would have missed out on quality time with friends and my husband. For those moments, I’ll gladly give up a little sleep.
  • Skipping weekend workouts – I could have been more intentional about working out over the weekend and that is something I should work on. However, throughout the week I put in some good hard workouts.
  • Eating too few calories – The days I ate too few calories, I simply wasn’t hungry. I try to tune into my body and eat when hungry and stop when I’m full. I know consuming too few calories can slow metabolism, but I’m not going to force feed myself when I’m not hungry.
  • Eating enough calories but not getting the right balance of carbs, proteins and fats – This is a work in progress and some days I am right on the money.
  • Eating dinner late – We live busy lives. I’d rather eat a late dinner and enjoy it with my whole family rather than eating in shifts.
  • Eating too little for breakfast – I’m generally not hungry in the morning and something is better than nothing. It’s time to get back to my green smoothies.
  • Eating meals out – Sometimes this is beyond our control and I at least made healthy choices. I wanted a bacon cheeseburger, instead I ordered a salad with no dressing.

Yes, by the number on the scale I failed. But in looking at the whole picture, I gained in a good way. I embraced time with family and friends and I made healthy choices as often as possible. Sure I have things to work on for the coming week, but I’m not going to let the disappointment of a bad weigh in weigh me down.

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The Scale Isn’t Everything

Does your body image revolve around the number on the scale? Or is your ultimate success in healthy living only determined by how much you weigh?

If so, I would encourage you to broaden your thinking a bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I think weighing yourself is an effective means of keeping tabs on your progress, or in some cases, the slipping back into old habits. But there are a number of other things that you can actively monitor to help you gauge the changes happening in your body.

A great way to see progress is by taking before and after pics. And in the age of digital cameras you don’t even have to worry about printing them or anyone else seeing them (well except the photographer unless you use a tripod). I recommend taking three shots wearing fitting clothing.

  • Head shot: this is the best way to see weight lost in and around your face
  • Straight-on shot: this angle allows you to get a perspective on your arms and legs
  • Profile shot: taking a look at this angle will give you the best perspective on your abdomen and butt

Another way to measure progress is by taking your body fat. There are a number of methods and scales available for this type of measurement.

  • Water submersion: this is the most accurate but also the most expensive and difficult to locate testing facilities
  • Skin fold test: there are 3 and 7 point skin-fold tests (you may remember these from elementary school) that can be performed by most personal trainers and doctor’s offices; keep in mind the margin for human error
  • Hand-held devices and scales: these devices take into consideration your age, weight, height, activity level and gender, when you grip the device or stand on the scale it sends a small, painless current of electricity through your body to measure the subcutaneous fluid (or body fat) under the skin; these types of measurements can have a +/- 2 percentage error depending on the factors surrounding the test

The last type of measurements I will suggest is to get out an old fashioned tape measure and record your results for the following areas:

  • Neck: measure mid-way between chin and clavicle
  • Chest/Bust: measure the area of the largest circumference
  • Biceps: measure mid-way between elbow and shoulder
  • Waist: measure 1 inch above belly button, or at the lowest circumference area near waist
  • Hips: measure the largest circumference area near buttocks
  • Thigh: measure mid-way between knee and bend of hip
  • Calf: measure mid-way between knee and top of ankle

Note: as a rule of thumb when doing measurements, the only area that you want to measure the “smallest” circumference is the waist, every other area you want to measure the largest – this will help you to identify the “mid-way” point

Keep in mind with these types of measurements you aren’t going to see progress on a daily basis. I would recommend taking photographs every couple months, measuring body fat one to two times a month, and taking measurements on a monthly basis.