How to Track Your Progress Without the Scales
How many times after weeks of eating well and training hard have you stepped onto the scales only to be majorly disappointed with the number that you see?
We let this one number determine our entire outlook of our progress so far. Not the number of days we’ve managed to train, the weights we’ve managed to lift, the healthy dishes we’ve cooked up or the number of inches we’ve lost. Instead we see this one number and completely diminish all our hard work.
There are so many factors that have an effect on the number you see.
Firstly one cubic inch of muscle weighs more than one cubic inch of fat. So even though 3 pounds of muscle may weigh the same amount as 3 pounds of fat, muscle is more dense than fat is, so the amount of space they take up in the body is very different. This means that although you may not see a huge difference on the scales, your shape can change dramatically.
Water is also a huge factor when it comes to weighing yourself. If your body is holding extra water weight this can affect the number on the scales by up to 4 pounds. That’s a huge difference when you are tracking purely by the number on the scale.
Not forgetting of course ladies, your cycle. Your period can drastically change the number that appears by up to 5 pounds! Shocking I know. As well as this during our cycle most of us tend to have irregular sugar cravings (hello chocolate) due to lower serotonin levels (the body’s feel good chemical) which means we are more likely to overindulge during this time. Realistically the odd chocolate bar is not going to have a major impact, however over indulging consistently during this time may have an impact also.
So instead of being disheartened by a number that has very little reflection on your actual progression why not try out some of these more effective ways to track your progress.
Progress pictures are my personal favourite way to monitor development. Not only are they a much more reliable source when done correctly, they are also a great way to document, almost like a visual diary, the hard work you’ve been putting in.
Most of us don’t acknowledge the progress we’ve been making because we see ourselves daily.
Big changes don’t happen overnight, it takes time and consistency to make a real difference to your physical appearance. So while you may not see the small changes day to day, they are happening. If you record progress pictures once a month however, you will be able to visually see the changes you have made.
The Tone & Sculpt app has this feature built in already, maybe one of my favourite tools from the app. So you can scroll through your saved photos and actually see how far you have come.
So here are my top tips for taking a great progress picture.
Pick clothing that shows off your shape. You ideally would wear a sports bra and shorts or leggings. I know this may not necessarily feel comfortable to you at first, but being able to see your body clearly is going to make it much easier to see how well you are doing and how much you have achieved in the long term. Remember you don’t have to share these images with anybody if you don’t want to. Although I personally find it a great motivator to share them on the Tone & Sculpt community page, but if you would rather keep the images private, you absolutely can.
Choose a space that has good lighting and you are able to use for all of your progress pictures. Now this may seem very minor but lighting can have a massive impact on how you look in pictures. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had those selfie moments where we’ve experienced the effects of good and bad lighting…talk about a glow up! So good lighting and a clean open space is a great start to the perfect progress picture.
Have someone take the pictures for you. Now I know you may be thinking ‘there is no way!’ However, if you are able to have someone else take the picture they are much more likely to get a great image for you. Now this can be a partner, friend, gym buddy, family members, anyone you feel comfortable asking. Bonus, this is also a great way to have someone else hold you accountable also. If this still isn’t an option for you, the self timer on your camera is also a fantastic option to get full body images.
Get images from all points of view. Be sure to get a picture from every angle. Front, both sides and back. You may not necessarily be able to see the difference from one particular angle, however it may be obviously noticeable in another.
Dress to impress:
How your clothes fit can also be a fantastic indicator of how well you are doing. I know in my own wardrobe I have jeans that fit like a glove, but when I’ve over indulged in too many unhealthy days and those bad boys are not doing up no matter how many lunges I do around my room in them.
Now this being said clothing sizes vary so drastically. I personally average a UK size 10 but my sizes vary from an 8 to a 14 depending on the store. So don’t stress about the number on the label and worry more about the actual fit of your clothes.
If you have a particular outfit that you love to wear and know you feel super confident when you put it on but it maybe a little tighter than it once was, consider using that as a guide to how your weight loss journey is going.
Getting those gains:
Ok so say your goal is to actually gain muscle, or to improve your physical strength. Using the tracker on the Tone & Sculpt app is key for overseeing your progress. Even if your goal is to reduce fat I would strongly recommend utilising this tool.
The body adapts to the demands you put on it, so if you are continuously lifting the same amount of weight for the same amount of reps, your body composition will not change.
Like Albert Einstein said, ‘The definition of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting different results’.
Your musculoskeletal system will become accustomed to the weight that you continue to use and therefore has no reason to develop any further. You need to progressively overload the muscles so that they continue to grow.
So by recording your weights and reps with the tracker feature on the Tone & Sculpt app you can always check what you have been lifting so you can challenge yourself further and who knows even smash a new personal best, go you!
Monitor your mood:
Keeping track of how you look is fantastic, we all like to visually see progress. I would say however, that the biggest and most rewarding part of your fitness journey will always be how you feel. We are all human and all have our good and bad days, but living a healthier lifestyle can dramatically change your overall mood.
For me, this was the biggest change of all, not only was I happier in my own skin, I was happier in my day to day life. The sense of achievement and confidence you gain from knowing that you are doing this for you, and you are making positive changes to your life is like no other.
Ever noticed that even on the days you really don’t feel like doing a workout, you always feel better once it’s done? When we exercise the brain produces neurochemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are considered our body's natural pain killer, they have a feel good effect on the body. So when we complete a workout we are almost in a euphoric state thanks to our bodies natural reward system.
I would recommend tracking your mood in the notes section on your phone, or you can try noting it down in a journal.
Make note of any noticeable changes, here are a few questions to refer to as a guide:
1. How are my energy levels in the morning? Am I still hitting the snooze button in the morning?
2. How are my energy levels throughout the day?
3. How confident do I feel in my body right now?
4. How am I feeling about my workouts? Am I excited for each session? How am I feeling after my workouts?
5. How am I feeling about my nutrition? Am I finding it easier to be consistent?
6. What have I achieved this week outside of the gym?
7. What do I love most about my body?
8. How have I been doing this for me this week?
I’m not here to tell you that scales are the worst thing in the world, honestly they can be a very useful tool to see where you are at on your journey. Please if you do decide to use scales, don’t weigh yourself everyday (every 4 weeks around the same time in your menstrual cycle is ideal) and try to use the same scales at the same time of day, ideally first thing in the morning.
However, as you have read there are many ways to track and monitor your progress so if you are continuously feeling disappointed when you step onto the scales, stop doing it!
Find a style of tracking your progress that suits your lifestyle and that makes you feel good.
Whichever way you decide, all of us here at Tone & Sculpt are so proud of you for all the hard work you are putting in. If you want to share your progress with us be sure to use the hashtag #toneandsculpt and tag us in. You can even send us your progress pictures directly for a chance to be featured on the Tone & Sculpt page.
Comment below your favourite way to track your progress?!