Ignore the Scale and Focus on Training
If you think the bathroom scale is the ultimate judge of progress then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment
By Ken “Skip” Hill
What is it about the scale that scares the crap out of people? How has an inanimate object managed to gain control of our psyches to such an extent that it impacts our attitude, our day, how we view ourselves and how we treat other people? For the love of all that is good, if your scale is controlling you, we need to have a quick chat. And when I say “chat” what I really mean is I talk and you listen.
If you think this is a woman issue, you better think again. Sure, women deplore the scale most of the time and curse it almost daily. However, male bodybuilders are FAR worse. I swear that some of the messages I get from people are typed from a ledge, twenty floors up and if I don’t explain to them what the hell the scale is saying, they are only coming off that ledge at terminal velocity.
The scale is just the messenger, people! Hating the scale would be like hating your car for running a stop sign. You have to get to the point where you read what that number on the scale is SAYING, not what the number actually IS. It’s kind of like when your kid says you are the worst Dad ever, when in reality he is just mad because you didn’t get him new Jordan’s to wear on the first day of school. You aren’t the worst Dad ever. Your son is a spoiled-rotten turd. You’ve got to read between the lines.
When you start a new diet you usually lose a few pounds within the first week and as a result, most people get all excited because life is good. In reality, while you have lost some body fat, a lot of the initial weight loss is water weight from dropping your carbs. So, imagine the reaction after the second week of dieting when the weight loss is minimal relative to the first. Even if they lose a couple pounds on the scale, they aren’t anywhere near as impressed with their progress despite the fact that the total loss from that week could be almost entirely body fat as opposed to half body fat and half water weight. As a trainer, try explaining that to a client and see if they give a shit.
How do I remedy this? It comes to the point that when someone cares that much about the scale, I simply have them throw the damned thing into the trash. And I don’t mean that metaphorically. I am talking about throwing it in the trash and having them take a picture of it IN THE TRASH DUMPSTER. I even had one client have her husband videotape her handing the scale to the garbage man while explaining that he needed to take the scale, throw it in the back of the garbage truck and let her pull the lever to squash it.
What happened after this? It was far easier for her to stay focused on her diet and training without worrying about what her possessed scale was going to say every day. Before you say that sounds a bit over the top and she is nuts, let’s get to the bodybuilder and examine their dysfunctional relationship with the scale.
As most of you who have followed my writing for any length of time know, I dig on my bodybuilding peers whenever I get the chance. Why? Because it is fun. If you are a bodybuilder and don’t like it, get your own column and you can pick on me if you want to. Even if you don’t like me picking on you, you should be able to admit that I speak the truth. At least the large majority of women will listen to me when I explain why the scale shouldn’t dictate their emotional state for the following twenty-four hours and why it shouldn’t be the only tool to gauge progress. They might fight with it, but at least most times they come to understand the rationale behind what I am saying. Bodybuilders? Not so much.
The absolute best situation a bodybuilder or someone who wants to gain muscle without gaining a bunch of fat can be in is to have the scale stay relatively stable in reference to their bodyweight. Why? Because no one wants to gain muscle and a ton of fat at the same time. Ideally, most would prefer to gain muscle while losing fat.
If you are gaining muscle but losing body fat, what do you think the scale is going to do? It’s going to stay pretty much the same. The problem with a bodybuilder’s mind is that if the scale stays the same, they think they are working their butt off and making no progress. More often than not, their reasoning is that if they are trying to gain muscle then the scale must go up and if they are trying to get leaner then the scale must go down.
Do you see how fighting a bodybuilder’s psyche can be an incredibly difficult thing to do? Some just plain argue and won’t come around to the understanding that the scale isn’t the last word. They SWEAR by it. It will make their entire day or it will ruin their entire day and sometimes their entire week if they didn’t meet a weight goal that they set for themselves.
Others come to realize that the scale is only one tool that is used to gauge progress and they understand that other variables play just as an important role in determining how someone is progressing. Teaching this can be a daunting task but when you finally get someone to understand how it all works, the progress you can make is incredible. Not only that, but they come to enjoy the process, as well.
When you don’t get through to someone, they can end up walking away thinking you are an absolute idiot and don’t have any clue as to what you are doing. Always, keep in mind why you are working with someone in the first place. You are enlisting their expertise because they have knowledge that you don’t. Maybe, just maybe, instead of fighting them, you should simply listen and execute.
Ken “Skip” Hill has spent 30 years in the trenches of bodybuilding. He owns TEAM SKIP Nutritional Consulting, where he specializes in conditioning for bodybuilders and high-level athletes. You can reach Skip through his website, TEAMSKIP.net and follow him on Twitter (@IntenseMuscle).