Why You Should Ditch the Scale and What You Should Do Instead

You know the feeling all too well. You did great last week. You worked out hard. Really hard. You worked out even when you didn't feel like it. Your food diary was glowing with good choices. You meal prepped like a boss. You skipped the lunch out with coworkers at the burger joint, packed a salad every day and ate a balanced healthy dinner every night. You skipped the candy jar and passed on the birthday cake. You killed it! But then you stepped on the scale and the number flashing up at you seemingly wasn't reflecting all your hard work from the week. Your heart sinks. What gives? 



A healthy weight loss goal is 1-2 pounds per week on average over time. Any more than two pounds per week and you are likely losing muscle along with fat which can be detrimental to your metabolism. 

A 1-2 pound per week goal doesn’t mean that you should expect to lose two pounds every single week. Weight loss rarely happens in a straight line. With exercise and a small reduction in calorie intake you can probably expect to lose between 12-20 pounds in 12 week period as an average. That doesn’t mean there won’t be weeks when you don’t lose any weight or even gain a pound on the scale. The important thing is to watch the downward trend over time rather than obsessing over the number week to week. 

Practice patience and consistency. Life is not a 12 week challenge. This isn’t the Biggest Loser, this is your life. (News stories were reporting that most of those contestants put the weight back on anyway due to the unhealthy way they lost it.)


You focus too much on the number on the scale from week to week.


Be consistent with your healthy habits and lifestyle changes. Focus on the process. Give it time.



The problem with focusing too much on a goal weight is that the scale only tells one small piece of the story. A mistake that a lot of people make is that they focus on weight loss rather than fat loss. Muscle and fat weigh exactly the same, of course. One pound of fat = one pound of muscle. However, muscle is much more dense and takes up a lot less space in your body. If you are losing fat but gaining muscle, the number on the scale may stay the same, but you may wear a smaller pant size. Focus on fat loss and lean muscle gains. Alter your body compensation by exercising and eating healthful foods. 

If you lose too much weight too quickly, you are almost certainly losing lean muscle along with fat. Someone who is too focused on scale weight may be thrilled to see a lower number but the truth is that it could be a bad thing if they are also losing muscle. 


You are more worried about weight loss than fat loss.


Forget weight loss and focus on fat loss. Track your fat loss progress by measuring your body fat percentage and taking body measurements. Perform weight bearing exercises to build and preserve lean muscle and do a mixture of moderate and high intensity cardiovascular exercises to burn fat.



Some people decide on an arbitrary number they want to reach on the scale and won’t be satisfied until they reach it, but you can’t bully your body into cooperating with your unrealistic goals. If we focus on fat loss and other non-scale victories then we can find success regardless of the number on the scale. How do you feel? How well are you sleeping? How do your clothes fit? How are your energy levels? How has your athletic performance improved in sports and in life? Can you carry the groceries from the car to the house without trouble? Can you chase the kids (or dogs) around the back yard or climb the stairs without getting winded? These are all non-scale victories that deserve to be celebrated. What if you had positive responses to all the above questions but your scale weight stayed the same? That would be great because it would prove that your hard work is paying off. You are now healthier, more athletic with improved body composition. 


You can’t see past the scale to appreciate the successes in non-scale victories.


Keep track of non-scale improvements as diligently as you are watching your scale weight.

In the end the number doesn’t matter. It’s great to have fat loss goals and fitness goals, but picking a number that you think you should weigh and then going after it by any means necessary is unhealthy. A healthier alternative is to learn to love movement, healthy foods and find joy in the process and see where it takes you.

People who have a healthy relationship with the scale should continue to use it as one of the many tools they use to track progress. However, if you struggle with scale or become obsessed or discouraged with your scale weight, then I recommend you ditch the scale and never look back. 

Any of this sound familiar? Any questions? Let me know in the comments. 

Like this post? It helps me when you share!


Would you like help losing fat and building muscle? Check out my personal training services page. 

Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.