It’s no secret that I am not a fan of the scale. However, as a personal trainer it has always seemed a necessary part of my job. Clients seem to expect to get weighed as part of their assessment and at regular intervals in their program.

Yet I have always hated starting our initial training relationship by having them step on the scale. It’s like answering the door in a wedding dress on your first date. It creates a lot of pressure and perhaps anxiety for most people who are already anxious enough. That anxiety continues as they wonder, in those first weeks of training, when the scale will be coming again. I tell them during their assessment that we won’t weigh every week or even every month. Despite my efforts at reassurance the “weigh in” can still loom heavy on their minds.

When it is time to check their weight, nothing can ruin a session quicker than a client stepping on the scale and not seeing the number she had in mind. She could have been feeling great up to that very moment and then suddenly she feels like failure. I feel like I have failed her by not letting her just feel strong and enjoy the process. I feel guilty for bringing THAT NUMBER back into the conversation.

So I made a decision to change the conversation. I have decided to stop weighing my clients.

There is enough anxiety in the process without me adding to it. They know how much they weigh. Most of them step on the scale on a regular basis (every morning even, despite my admonishment not to). There is no reason for me to reinforce this unhealthy relationship with the scale by asking them to do it again. If they want to do it, I will oblige. Otherwise we’ll just stay focused on the behaviors needed to reach their goals.

So how do we know if we’re making progress or not? That’s easy enough when you redefine what progress means.

The Goals

There are so many other ways to measure how your body is changing. Start with how your clothes fit. Every one of us has an outfit we want to wear comfortably again. Use that as your goal instead of pounds. Taking a progress picture at regular intervals can also help you see the change that perhaps you can’t see in the mirror. Setting activity goals are another great option to take the focus off weight loss and turn it to living a healthy life. Finishing your first 5K can open the door to a whole new way of looking at yourself. Being able to do a push up for the first time can redefine your limits and help you understand how truly strong you are.

The Behaviors

Real fitness is about consistency. A healthy life is built on healthy habits. I’ve always preferred to focus on what we can do vs. what we can’t do, especially in the beginning. Are you drinking your water every day? Are you eating breakfast? Are you strength training 3 times a week? Are you getting closer to reaching 10k steps a day? These are all behaviors you can control. Mastering them can give you a sense of accomplishment and let you take on a new identity – athlete.

The Milestones

Celebrate conquering your demons – big or small. What bad habits do you need to banish? If you can go 30 days without soda that’s a big win! It may not translate to pounds but I guaranty you will feel better if you do. Maybe 30 days is too much? Try a week without wine, fast food or sugar and you’ll still reap benefits. You might feel so good you’ll decide to do it for another week.

The scale is just a number. It doesn’t define you but it can consume you. If your only goal is to be thinner you will never be satisfied. If your goal is to live a healthy life, every day will be a blessing.

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