Why You Shouldn’t Be Using The Scales To Judge Progress

The scales – A.K.A – the sad step. These bad boys have the ability to turn your mood upside down in one single step. It’s amazing how obsessive many are when it comes to their overall weight. I regularly hear of people weighing themselves multiple times a day. But fear not team! I am here to put your weight worried minds at ease.


When you step on the scales they take a collective weight of your whole body. It is made up of water (around 60%), muscle, glycogen, bone and yes, fat. It is fat loss that we are really concerned about. That is a real indicator of your health. Not overall weight! Water is the biggest daily fluctuating factor within that list that you’re predominantly made up of.


Weight Fluctuation

Ok, so weight can fluctuate heavily even throughout the day. Let’s take a look at some of the main causes of your unjustified sad faces!




With food and drink comes added weight. So if you weigh yourself in the morning, your body hasn’t been fed or watered for a long period of time. You could see your overall weight increase by up to five pounds if you weigh yourself at the end of a full day of eating and drinking. But remember that it is nearly all going to be water and glycogen weight, not fat gain! 


Weight-based Exercise


Lifting weights promotes muscle. Muscle is slightly denser than fat, meaning it takes up less space. So you could be dropping body fat and increasing muscle mass at the same time, therefore losing one type of weight and replacing it with another. The scales just see your overall weight, not what you’re made up of. This is a very important point as the vast majority of your training should be weight based.


Carbohydrate Intake


Carbohydrates are broken down into glycogen, which needs extra water to be stored (around 3/4 grams per gram of glycogen). Thereby, adding extra water weight to you.. This is why low carb or general low-calorie diets show initial dramatic weight loss on the scales. But you see all that weight pile back on again when you return to eating normally. Both were predominantly water loss and water gain!


Menstrual Cycle


One for the ladies: pre-period water based weight gain can vary from 1/2 pound to 10 pounds!


Other Factors


  • Illness – When we’re ill our bodies go into lockdown. Leading to increased water retention. You can appear heavier on the scales at these times.
  • Weather – On hot days we sweat more, meaning we lose more water, meaning we weigh less on the scales.
  • Exercise – Post workout you will weigh less because you have sweated, meaning water loss.
  • Restroom – Yep, relieving yourself can lead to the scales showing a lower reading.


My Opinion


I only get clients with a BMI of 35 or over to weigh themselves. Even then it is no more than once a month. Ensure you take photos of yourself before starting on your fitness journey if you want to properly judge progress.Three photos; front, side and back, with your hands by your side and totally relaxed, ideally in underwear. We all cringe at the idea of doing this, but my clients are thankful for them further down the line when they want to see how they’ve changed!


If you have an understanding of the calories you should be consuming for your own body and goal, and are eating in a slight calorie deficit, then it is impossible to be gaining body fat. There are around 3500 calories in a pound of fat. So you can rest assured that you will not be gaining body fat as long as you aren’t consuming over that amount. I suggest tracking what you eat via a food tracking app like My Fitness Pal, as this removes the worry of fat gain when you have a daily calorie number to work towards.


Round Up


Your body’s water levels are constantly changing, for many of the reasons mentioned above. This is why weighing yourself daily, or even weekly, will give you no real insight into how much body fat you have lost. From my experience, people who weigh themselves frequently create a bad relationship with not just how they look, but the food they eat as well.


Would you like to be given a daily calorie number to work towards, based on your own body and goals? Then why not become an online (or gym floor) client by signing up on the membership page. Finally, if you found this article of use then please share it!


All the love,


Sam Jones Fitness

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