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The Truth About The Scale

January 25th, 2021 | 3 min. read

The Truth About The Scale

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By Heather Deffenbaugh - Personal Fitness Trainer

How come the scale isn’t moving but my clothes are looser?


You have been showing up to your fitness classes, pushing yourself, leaving your sweat on the floor and your muscles happily aching, and then when you gleefully go to track those results on the scale, you are far from pleased. The numbers haven’t budged much and you are left feeling perplexed and frustrated. 

When it comes to measuring our progress in fitness, most people often use the scale as an indicator for success. The scale, however, doesn’t always tell the whole story and can be deceiving. While there is a place for the scale (some would say the trash can!) it is not the best judge to measure progress, as there are some facts you should know.

Muscle Gain: Muscle gains can often tip the scale in a positive way. The scale usually just measures the body weight as a whole, not accounting for lean muscle mass vs fat mass. It just measures total mass (water weight, fat, muscle, organs, bones, etc). 

Notice how in the picture below, fat (on the left) and muscle (on the right) are drastically different in size and density. Both weigh in at 5 pounds, but look at how much more space fat takes up. Two people may be the same height and weight, but the person with a higher body fat percentage will wear a larger clothing size. In other words, one woman can be 135 lbs and be chiseled with muscle and wear a size 4, and the other woman can be 135lbs and with not much muscle definition exposed, and wear a size 8. The scale does not reflect this and is not a great indicator of body composition. 

No rest or recovery: Overdoing it in your workouts and not letting your body have adequate recovery can alter the scale numbers. The body can become inflamed and the scale can go up a couple of pounds. The body retains more fluid to help heal microtears in the muscle. While this is a good thing for muscle development, you should always be mindful of balance, and getting adequate recovery and sleep along with your workouts.  

Your monthly gift: Ah yes, the gift that keeps on giving each month until… well.. you hit menopause.. and that’s another blog for another time! There are certain points during your 28 day cycle that your body weight can shoot up a few pounds and you notice you’re a bit fuller in the chest and belly region. It is probably best to avoid stepping on the scale until a couple of days after your cycle is complete. 

Your weekend shenanigans- A few cocktails and some salty foods with a side of sugar can definitely impact the scale on a Monday morning. Hellooo inflammation! This is almost guaranteed to up the scale numbers a bit.

While the scale can be a decent measuring tool, it should be used in a realistic and healthy manner, and should not be the only means of measurement. Take measurements with a tape measure, use a body fat scan, and go by how your clothes are fitting. If you can’t separate from your scale entirely, then try using a smart scale that measures than just body weight. Many smart scales include BMI, Body Fat%, Water %, Skeletal Muscle, Fat-free Body Weight, Muscle Mass, Bone Mass, Protein, BMR, Subcutaneous Fat, Visceral Fat and Metabolic Age. 

Also, be sure to step on it just once a week, not daily. And remember, healthful eating combined with exercise that includes both Strength and Cardio such as the small group training and group exercise sessions will help you achieve the goal of a lean, strong physique. Check out the group exercise classes on the schedule like Cycle Fusion, Total Body, Pilates Mat, and Cardio Strength. Or join one of our programs to help keep you accountable and strong like our Tribe Fitness or Greatest Results Programs. 


We are in this together and are here to help you succeed in your fitness goals!