Why you should throw your bathroom scale away.

Published on 19 March 2021 at 13:12

We are pushed to believe that ‘number on scale down’ = good and ‘number on scale up’ = bad. When in reality, ‘number on scale’ = 1 piece of the 1000 piece puzzle that is your physical health. And that number absolutely does not define your worth as a person. I would even go as far to say, throw the whole bathroom scale away. In this blog post I will be discussing the reasons for scale fluctuations and alternative ways that you can measure your progress.

First of all, a bathroom scale measurement is a singular means of measurement that does not tell the whole story of what’s going on inside your body. Therefore, it is not necessarily an appropriate means for measuring an individual’s progress. The same can be said for a BMI (body mass index) reading, as the BMI only takes height and weight into account. The BMI chart is also composed from data taken from the general population to create an average. Although it can also be a useful indicator for your general health, it is not designed to measure an individual’s progress.

How do you feel?

Before judging yourself based on the number you see on the scale in front of you ask yourself, how do I feel physically?

  • Notice if you feel more energised recently and don’t get tired as quickly. 
  • Are you feeling stronger in your workouts? 
  • Is your skin maybe a little clearer? 
  • Are you experiencing more regular bowel movements?
  • Are you getting a better quality of sleep?

Although you may not see any difference on the scale, you are making progress. Also remember that progress is not linear and it takes time; it is important to trust the process and keep going!

Scale fluctuations and potential reasons for them

The number you see in front of you on the scale can fluctuate for so many different reasons, including but not limited to:

  • You just ate.
  • You haven’t pooped yet.
  • You treated yourself to some delicious food last night (because whatever your fitness goals, you deserve to enjoy food).
  • You’re bloated or just retaining a lot of water today. 
  • You’re experiencing an imbalance of hormones; for example if you are diagnosed with endometriosis, you’re about to get your period, you’re going through puberty or menopause.
  • You seshed with your friends and drank each other under the table last night.
  • You are losing fat but gaining muscle at the same time. Muscle does not weigh more than fat, it is simply more dense. These compositional changes could well be occurring in your body and a reading on your bathroom scale won’t reflect this.
  • If you are weighing yourself at multiple parts of the day, you are going to see different numbers, and that’s okay. 

Alternative means measurement of progress

There are multiple alternative means to measure your progress, included but not limited to the following bullet points; of which can be a far more appropriate means of measuring progress towards your personal goals than standing on the scale every week. Discuss any of the following techniques with your trainer to find out which could be more suited to measure the progress of your specific goals. And remember, no form of progress measurement dictates your worth as a person. 

  • Fitness tests

Performing an exercise and recording it for future reference is a great way to see the improvements to your health and fitness that you’re making. You can repeat these exercises weekly, monthly, bi-monthly; whatever works best for you. Examples of fitness tests are the step test; bleep test; timed isotonic exercise such as a plank; AMRAP (as many reps as possible). 

  • Measurements

Measuring the circumference of various areas of your body can be a great indicator of progress. For example if your goal is to grow larger quads, taking a monthly measurement at the same point on your upper legs is a great way to measure growth. 

  • Hip to waist ratio

The hip to waist ratio is the circumference of your waist divided by the circumference of your hip. It provides an indicator of fat distribution in the body and ideally the result should be under 1.0. When an individual carries the majority of their fat on their abdomen they are at a much higher risk of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart attack and stroke. Seeing a change in your hip to waist ratio is an excellent indicator of progress.

  • Body fat percentage 

Average body fat percentage reading for women is 25-31% and for men is 18-24%; with a high reading for women being 35%+ and 25%+ for men. There are two ways of measuring your body fat percentage: one is bioelectrical impedance analysis. This is a scale that provides a reading of your overall body weight, the percentage of your body that is composed of muscle and the percentage that is composed of fat. The other means of body fat measurement is manual body fat calipers. This technique can be a little more invasive as a trainer will pinch and measure a few areas of your body in order to calculate your body fat percentage.

If your goal is to lose fat but you are not seeing a difference on the bathroom scale, getting a body fat percentage reading can be very beneficial; as it shows you the compositional changes that are occurring. 

  • Progress photographs 

Photographs are an excellent way for you to physically see a difference. You may think you’ll be able to just see the mirror but often we do not truly see how far we’ve come unless we have point of reference. I would advise taking progress photos no more often than once a month, with a relaxed pose and the same lighting if possible. 

Progress photographs do not need to be shared with anyone, including your trainer. It is important to only share images of yourself if you are comfortable with it. Do not share progress photos with your trainer if you do not want to.


To reiterate: none of these forms of measurement dictate your worth. Moreover, progress is still progress no matter how small it may seem and a little is better than nothing!

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