Why You Don’t Need a Scale to Lose Weight

A fitness expert explains how to lose weight without using the scale

Justine SanFilippo

Almost anyone who’s ever attempted to lose weight knows that the scale is notorious for toying with your emotions. Each day it reads you a new number and more often than not, you’re left feeling utterly confused about your progress.

“If the scale was up by a few pounds, I felt terrible about myself.  It set the whole tone for the day—what I would eat, how I would dress, if I would exercise or just be lazy, if I even wanted to hang around my friends,” Justine SanFilippo, author of Lose Your Inches Without Losing Your Mind! 10 Simple Weeks to a Slimmer Waistline and a Healthier You, recalls of her struggles with weight loss.

While studying abroad during her junior year of college SanFilippo says she gained 45 pounds and grew four sizes.

“I never had a weight problem before and had always been skinny in high school, so suddenly I was in this foreign body and didn't know what to do,” she said. “At that point I did what many people do, which is to try every diet ever invented.  I even tried diets that weren't diets, I just made up diets!  Nothing worked in the long run, and I felt like I was ‘losing my mind’ in the process.  All I could think about was food, my weight, what I could or couldn't eat and what I didn't like about how I looked.”

After exhausting almost every option she could think of without achieving success, SanFilippo decided to take a hands on approach by studying nutrition and eventually becoming a certified health coach.

“That's when I learned how the body is always talking to us and telling us what it needs—it's our job to listen and figure out what it is saying,” she said.

Later SanFilippo went on to obtain her master’s in nutrition, became a certified personal trainer and then opened a women’s gym. These experiences all came together to teach her an important lesson about weight loss that helped her clients put an end to the crazy rollercoaster of emotions that typically come along with weighing in on the scale.

“I actually got the idea for my book when I owned a women's gym,” she said.  “Each quarter, we would do a challenge where the members had to work out three times a week for three weeks. We took their weight and measurements at the beginning and at the end of the challenge. What I noticed was that every single person lost inches, every single time. However, the number on the scale didn't always change to reflect the shrinking inches. It was truly fascinating. That’s when I discovered that tracking inches was a more encouraging way to show progress than the scale.”

Of course, for many, removing the scale from the picture is much easier said than done. It’s not easy to let go of a tool you’ve relied on for so long, no matter how crazy it may make you feel.

Instead of the scale, SanFilippo highly recommends using body circumference measurements to track weight loss progress and for those who want to “break up with their scale” or simply use it less often, she offers the following tips.

“There are four steps to breaking up with your scale,” she says. “One: reduce your visits; two: hide it; three: appreciate what you see in the mirror; and four: pick out a favorite pair of pants that don't shrink or stretch. The one pair of pants can tell you more than any scale can by how they fit.”

For many, tracking measurements will provide a more reliable way to measure weight loss progress because it will provide more accurate and consistent numbers than when compared with the scale.

“Many factors can affect [the number on the scale],” says SanFilippo. “Did you drink alcohol the night before?  Did you drink water yesterday or just coffee and diet soda?  Did you eat at a restaurant which has foods typically high in sodium?  Did you exercise? A ‘bad’ number on a scale is usually just water weight if it fluctuates from day to day.”

But on the other hand, your measurements are much less likely to fluctuate so erratically.

“When tracking progress though measurements [you] can see more accurate results and know exactly what is going on with your body and how your progress is going,” says SanFilippo. “I have a client that once told me that the scale can change but ‘inches don't lie.’”

In her book, SanFilippo guides readers to record their measurements once per week. Then, all the numbers are added together to create a total.

“That way, they can easily see if the total number is decreasing, which means their body is shrinking,” she says. “They can also look at individual measurements such as the waist, chest, hips, thighs, etc. to see which areas are shrinking and by how much.”

For a full and accurate picture, she advises that you measure your chest, waist, lower abdominal area, hips, thighs, calves and arms using a simple measuring tape, like one you would find in the sewing section of any convenience store.

For the most accurate measurements, make sure to practice consistency. Don’t pull the tape too tight or hold it too loosely either. SanFilippo made note of a video in the “bonuses” section of her website that provides detailed instructions about how to accurately take measurements. (Use the code “loseinchesnow” to unlock the video and other freebies like a downloadable food log, nutrition chart, a welcome video, and a few other free resources.)

“I think the preoccupation with the number on the scale is simply a habit.  We all have habits, and sometimes they are hard to break,” says SanFilippo. “Weighing yourself every day or multiple times a day can really make a person feel nutty. By tracking progress through body measurements instead, it is a more accurate—and sane–way to see exactly how your progress is going.”

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