One traditional tool for weight loss is the scale. While this form of measurement can be great for measuring progress, the number on a scale does not paint a full picture of the changes occurring in your body. Instead of relying solely on weight to determine success, use a scale in conjunction with other forms of measurement to gauge whether or not you are progressing towards your goal.

A classic scale measures your total body weight, but fails to determine what that weight is made up of. In other words, determining body fat percentage is a much more accurate measure of health than weight alone.

Think of it this way: You could have two individuals weighing 200 lbs at 5’10’’. One individual is 35% body fat, and the other is 18%. Despite the scale showing the same number, the individual at 35% body fat is much more at risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and other conditions most of us want to avoid. The average body fat percentage for a male is 18-25% and 25-31% for a female.

At SPARC, we have seen multiple clients gain muscle and lose weight at the same time. A 5 lb muscle gain with a 5 lb fat loss will show zero change on the scale. However, massive positive changes to the body have occurred. Instead of relying solely on your weight, consider these other factors to assess whether you are progressing or stagnating in fat loss:

How your clothes fit:

Exercise can cause fat loss and fat redistribution. When you begin a strength training program, it is not uncommon to see a change in where people store fat. Shirts might be a little looser or pants might fit better. Even if there is no change on the scale, how you fit into your clothes is a good sign that fat redistribution is occurring and you may be gaining muscle mass.

Waist Circumference:

Similar to how your clothes fit, the circumference of your waist can be a great indicator of progress and health. In general, a man whose waist circumference is more than 40 inches and a non-pregnant woman whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches are at risk for developing obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. To measure your waist, wrap a tape measure gently around your waist right above the hip bones. Exhale normally before taking the measurement.

DEXA Scan:

The DEXA, or Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry, is the gold standard for measuring body composition. This low-level X-ray is most commonly used in medical settings for measuring bone density, but can also determine muscle mass, fat mass, and body fat percentage with the utmost accuracy. DEXA lets you know exactly what changes have occurred in your body and can be a great tool for seeing the results of your exercise program. For more information on receiving a DEXA Scan, Click Here 


Finally, it is important to pay attention to how you feel. Fitness is a journey with no finish line, so strive for progress rather than perfection. Even if you don’t see the scale change or your clothes fit the same, do you feel better by exercising and taking care of your body? Consistent exercise can treat depression, improve sleep, and increase confidence. An improvement in self-image and mood are excellent measures of progress that can feed back into more concrete results down the road.