Learn everything there Is to know about fItness, performance, fat loss and lifestyle from Adrian McDonnell.
In most situations, the bathroom scales determines whether or not you’ve hit the milestones along your path to building a fitter, healthier & more athletic body.
The problem with this is we’re putting all our self-worth into the outcome – a number on the scale which can drastically fluctuate on a daily basis.
For instance, your weight may swing depending on your current hydration levels, your sodium intake, when you last ate, when you last went to the bathroom, time of the month etc. There are so many variables which can influence it.
I’m not saying weight on the scale shouldn’t be used as metric of progress, I just don’t advise you to use it as your only metric of success. It certainly can be beneficial (particularly if you do have a lot of weight to lose) but I would recommend you have other measurable forms of success because otherwise, you might be making progress you’re not even aware of.
Below are seven other alternative ways to measure your progress without stepping on a scale.
Improved Body Composition
Your body composition is the ratio of muscle:fat your body has while your weight on the scale is literally just a number showing how heavy you are. I much prefer using your bodyfat percentage (which is an indicator of your body composition) as a measure of your progress. Why?
Your body composition tells you how much of me is useless fat I need I need to get rid of and how much of me is useful muscle I need to keep? This is a much better metric. You could start and finish a training program the exact same weight with two different bodies. Remember, a Kg of muscle and a Kg of fat still weigh the same, they just look very differently. Lean muscle is much denser and smaller in size than bodyfat.
Progress pictures are a non-standardised way of analysing your body composition. If you wanted something more measurable, you can use tape measurements or a calliper to measure your body composition from home (just be sure you measure the EXACT SAME points each time). If you wanted to get it done professionally (and more accurately) a dexa-scan would be optimal.
Clothes Fitting Better
Clothes fitting better might just be the number one “aha” moment most people encounter when they realise they’re on the right track and their making notable progress. For a guy, this might mean being able to fit into shirts which previously you couldn’t close because they were too small for your frame. It may also mean that you’re now able to fill out your t-shirt, a jersey or a nice new jumper because you’ve built muscle and your chest, arms, shoulders and back are all filling out.
For girls, it may mean having the confidence to wear clothes that fit that are true to your size or not feeling like you have to ‘cover up’ any specific areas because you now feel better and more confident in yourself. These moments of realisation make the whole process of training consistently and eating well worthwhile and it’s not something a number on a scale alone can reflect.
You've Gotten Stronger
If you’re initially overhauling your nutrition and doing more workouts, they may feel extra-challenging at first. Push ups start to get humbling after a few reps or the dumbbells start to feel heavy very quickly.
However, over time you’re noticing a big improvement in your strength levels. Maybe now, you’re able to lift more weight than at the start. Or you’re able to do more reps (more push ups for example) than previously. You hit a new PB in a run. You’re not as sore after your workouts than at the start because you’re able to recover better from then. Or maybe you’re just moving better with more range of motion and you’re now pain free.
This all comes down to following a structured training program and having a solid nutrition plan to back it up.
Increased Energy Levels
If you’re currently feeling exhausted all of the time or if you can’t get through the morning without a caffeine and sugar hit, chances are you’re relying too much on stimulants to get you through the day because you’re likely deficient in certain nutrients from your diet. Coffee & sugar will give you a short-term energy burst but relying on them is not a good long-term strategy.
A good measure of progress is when you feel yourself having more energy throughout the day and this often comes from starting the right training and nutrition protocol. It may sound counterproductive – you’re exercising more, moving more yet you have more energy than when you previously would’ve rested more. How can this be?
The right dose of training will increase your work capacity and fitness levels. Your body will become accustomed to being able to do more with these newfound fitness levels and you will feel yourself waking up more alert, moving more and not crashing all the time at 2pm or dosing off to sleep when you get home from work.
This comes from a good nutrition plan which will give you constant, steady state energy backed up with a suitable training program for you. It’s only when your energy levels increase that you realise how much you were leaving on the table prior to not eating right or exercising properly
Nutrition and training can play a big role in improving your sleep quality. You can only perform as good as you can recover and if you couple the right nutrition plan with a specific training program, you will find your sleep will naturally improve.
Why is this?
From a training standpoint, your body will need to rest in order to recover.
From a nutrition point of view, if you’re eating foods with a good combination of protein, fibre, healthy fats and slow digesting carbohydrates, you will find these foods keep you satisfied for longer and help stabilise your blood sugar levels. A good night’s sleep is much more optimal when your blood sugars are stable compared to being excessively elevated from eating too much sugar.
Sleeping better is something the scale does not show yet, coincidentally can have a HUGE impact on your body composition.
You're Happier & In A Better Mood
We all know we’re not our best selves when we’re “hangry.” This is more common when we deprive ourselves of important nutrients and you can literally feel yourself boiling up inside and crashing! Studies have shown that eating too much sugar can make you depressed while having more trans fats (commonly found in takeaways) may worsen our mood.
When you change your nutritional & exercise habits, you’ll notice you feel much better, much more confident and much happier in yourself. What this might look like for some of my clients might be walking taller, feeling more motivated and excited to make more progress, being more positive on a daily basis or even being more open to changes.
When we try and succeed at something, you get more encouragement to keep going (warning, it can become addictive!).
It Feels Like A lifestyle, Not A Diet
I have never liked the word “diet.” It implies being restrictive, rigid and following one is like a chore. We’re either “on the diet” or we “fell of the wagon.”
A lifestyle change is different. There’s no “on” or “off” switch, it’s just your new way of living. The longer you do this, the more you will naturally gravitate towards eating whole foods. You choose the bowl of porridge over the cereal because you enjoy it and you like the way it makes you feel afterwards. You eat the birthday cake or have a couple of drinks and you don’t feel guilty or think that you’ve screwed up because you’ve found a way to enjoy yourself without ruining progress. There’s no “getting back on track” because you were never off it! When a client tells me “It doesn’t feel like a diet,” it’s really rewarding for me to know they have made a lifestyle change which is sustainable for them.
By having these alternative metrics of success rather than just the scales, you will build more small wins and give yourself more credit for your progress than you are rewarding yourself for. These include:
Thank you for reading.
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Adrian McDonnell -
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