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4 Things You Don't Know About Weight Loss

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Updated June 11, 2014

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The Scale Isn’t the Best Measure of Your Success
4 Things You Don't Know About Weight Loss
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images
Most people go into the weight loss process, well, wanting to lose weight. However, if you're just getting started, the scale may be the worst choice for tracking your progress. In fact, your weight may be the least important thing to keep track of.

It may seem counter intuitive, but the scale is better at helping you maintain your weight than it is at helping you lose it. The reason? There are important changes happening in your body that the scale can’t measure or detect, such as:

  • Changing Body Composition: While your weight is important, what’s even more important is how much muscle you have. Muscle takes up less space than fat, making you look slimmer, and it’s more metabolically active. When you exercise, you gain muscle, raise your metabolism and lose fat, but that fat loss won’t always show up on the scale. Where it will show up is in measurements, how your clothes fit and how your body looks. All that can happen even if the scale isn’t moving.

  • Changes on the Inside: You may not know (or care) about what’s happening inside your cells when you exercise, but what’s going on in there can actually help you lose weight. Exercise teaches your body how to release more fat-burning molecules. The fitter you are, the more fat you burn and that is something the scale can't measure.

  • More Strength and Endurance: If you exercise regularly, you’ll be able to do more and more each time. You may start out exercising for a few minutes at a time or lifting light weights but, after a few workouts, your body adapts, allowing you to lift heavier and go longer. That strength and endurance means you’re making progress, but if the scale isn’t moving, you may not pay attention to how fit you’re getting.

Your weight is just one aspect of your progress and, in many cases, it's not even the most important one. It’s unfortunate but, for most of us, the number on a scale is the determining factor in whether we've succeeded or failed. Using your weight as the only measure of your success is a lot like buying a house based solely on square footage. Sure it's nice to have 3,000 square feet, but what if it’s across from a skunk farm?

Your weight loss is the same way. Having your weight at a certain number might be nice, but the scale can’t tell you how fit you are or how much muscle you have. Your scale isn’t going to cheer when you finish all your workouts for the week. Relying only on the scale may even make those workouts feel like a waste of time, even though each one helped you burn calories, get stronger, protect your body from diseases and made you more fit than you were before.

Beyond the Scale

If weighing yourself motivates you in a positive way, there’s no reason to change what you’re doing. However, if the scale makes you feel like a failure, it may be time to try something new:

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