Progress tracking is a powerful way to keep clients motivated. It also demonstrates that your training techniques are helping them get results.
Using scales to measure body weight is a common way to do it, but as we know, this approach has its flaws. Weight fluctuations can be particularly demotivating, so what’s the best way of explaining it to clients?
In this article – Ali Martinez, a Vancouver-based health and wellness coach, explains why scales aren’t always the best tracking tool and how to explain this to clients.
Time to face the facts: the scale is not our friend. It’s temperamental, unreliable, and rarely tells us good news.
Why do we as a society place so much weight (pun intended) on the results of the scale? The scale is inherently deceptive; after putting in hours of hard work, diligent dieting, and positive affirmations, we expect to see results on what is supposed to be a reliable indicator of progress.
In the beginning, our clients see the number on the scale dropping, but after a few weeks, the number refuses to budge. This is detrimental to their progression because nothing holts progress like the feeling of defeat.
BUT WAIT! There’s good news. There is a multitude of reasons that the number on the scale isn’t moving, and some have NOTHING to do with progress. If this is something your PT clients experience, then here’s how to explain it to them…
1 – Weight Fluctuates A LOT!
Many factors dictate your day-to-day weight. What you eat or drink in a day, whether you exercise, or your hormones, which all impact your overall weight.
It is also safe to assume that often when people think about “losing weight,” they’re really after “fat loss.” Our bodies are made up mainly of bone, muscle, and water.
Bone is bone, that’s consistent. How much we lose muscle vs. how much water usually depends on how much fat we start with. Losing weight can be relatively easy, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you are losing fat. Thus, stepping on a generic scale can be misleading.
Manage your clients’ expectations. Explain that they shouldn’t expect to lose more than 1-2lb of fat per week. Communicate why they shouldn’t starve the body or burn muscle unnecessarily; it’s not good for their health. Preserving as much muscle as possible is better for fat loss results.
2 – Glycogen Highs Vs. Glycogen Lows
Ever wonder how one cheat meal can make you feel like you’ve lost all your progress?
Glycogen is a short-term energy source that our bodies tap into when we need immediate energy. It is produced from many types of foods. Foods rich in carbohydrates like bread or pasta trigger Glycogen production more than any other food source.
You might also know this diet manipulation by another term: carb-loading. However, an intriguing fact about glycogen is that for every gram of glycogen produced in our body, 3 to 4 grams of water will bond to it.
Everyone knows that diet plays a significant role in fat and weight loss, but once clients understand the association between glycogen and water, many things will make sense to them.
For example, managing a healthy dose of carbohydrates for a person’s body type and goals is the best way to reduce significant fluctuations in weight.
If clients find themselves carrying a few extra pounds after a big weekend, or vacation, encourage them not to fly off the deep end. Explain that they haven’t ruined anything and some of it is likely water weight. Once they are back to their healthy, balanced diet and workout routine, all will be back to normal.
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3 – Salty Scale
I like salt; you like salt, we all love salt. Sodium is hard to avoid, and we often far exceed our daily recommended dose of 2400mg a day. Now that may seem like a lot right, how can we possibly exceed that? The reality is the average person consumes closer to 3500mg a day, if not more.
Sodium is directly linked with water retention, and it’s our kidney’s job to expel unneeded sodium out of our bodies. But until our kidneys do that, we will temporarily be holding onto extra water. If your daily water and sodium intake habits change from day to day, this can contribute to water retention, which will cause fluctuations in your daily weight.
So, if your client’s been killing themself at the gym, but can’t seem to drop the kangaroo baby pouch, it doesn’t mean their hard work has been a total waste. It could mean they need to start monitoring their sodium intake. Encourage them to check their food labels!
4 – Gains On Gains On Gains
If you’re helping clients to lose excess fat, then it’s likely you’ve started incorporating some form of resistance or strength training into their regime. But clients are often tempted to skip strength training when exercising along, as many perceive cardio to be the best for fat-burning.
Talk them through why strength training is more effective than just steady-state cardio. Discuss how it helps them to preserve and build lean, healthy muscle. Explain why this will result in greater fat loss, stating that it requires more energy and thus burns more calories daily, supporting lean muscle.
However, if your client is new to weightlifting and pushing themself hard, they’re may see the number on the scale go up or, at the very least, stay relatively the same! Prepare them for this ahead of time by explaining why. Talk them through the fact that they are losing fat and are replacing that weight with muscle. Their weight may not go down, but their body fat percentage will.
5 – Self-Worth Sabotage
Measuring success by the number on the scale is self-sabotage. It doesn’t dictate whether someone is healthy. When clients make checking their weight a daily habit, it will deflate and discourage them from pushing forward.
There are simply too many variables affecting the number on the scales. It isn’t the be-all of your weight loss journey.
Focusing on the scale is like focusing only on the negative. Clients think only of everything they need to cut out or give up. Instead, they should be concentrating on all the positive changes that living a healthier lifestyle has done for them.
Encourage them to find other means of measuring their progress, like photos, measurements, or body composition charts. Set small tangible goals to work towards, like running a mile in under six minutes, completing a rowing machine workout, or doing ten full-body push-ups.
If they still aren’t seeing weight changes in a set period, then take another look at their diet and exercise plans. You can potentially help them to make some necessary adjustments. Above all, remind them that eating healthily and exercising properly, with enough patience and consistency, will inevitably mean they reach their goals.
My name is Ali Martinez, I am a health and wellness coach, originally from El Salvador, now living in Vancouver. I specialize in personal training and nutrition with an emphasis on creating a healthy mentality towards fitness. Visit my website or follow me on Instagram.