Ditching The Scale And Monitoring Real Progress (Part 2 of 2)

Let me just reiterate one more time: This body is NOT overweight. Stupid BMI.
Part 1 is here.

Here are my real “weightloss” goals that have nothing to do with the number on the scale:

1) Be able to see my muscles in my arms even if I’m not flexing
2) Be comfortable working out in a sports bra
3) Have a lean enough body that I feel like I’m not carrying too much extra weight while I train for my 50-miler. A lighter body is kinder on the joints.

Is it time for me to finally give up on the scale entirely like the rest of the world does? YES. But…but…I put SO MUCH VALUE on what that scale says, I’m not sure I could just give it up. The other reason I depend on the scale is this: I am not a consistent eater. I have good days and bad days. And since I don’t know my metabolism in this body well, I kinda don’t know what to expect on the scale. People talk about “caloric intake to maintain weight” and I don’t even know what that is because my weight has been fluctuating for 2 years. (Yes. I know. That’s unhealthy too.) It might be worth me considering some beta-alanine then, I’ve heard it helps promote a healthier balance and builds muscle and burns fat.

You would think this would show me how ridiculous it is to depend on the scale for anything, but nope. It just makes me attached to it that much more.

But…I think it’s time to give it up. I think, at least for a little while, I need to try something else. I’m so close to where I want to be, I need to find a more dependable way to track my progress than on the scale. I need to track my speed, my strength, and my appearance. So, I’m going to go with other measurements and I’m going to use photos. Then I’ll track them every week until school starts back up. My original goal was to get down to 130lbs by the start of school. My new plan is to monitor my speed, strength, and my appearance all while tracking my eating. Then, on the first day of school, I’ll step on the scale and see where I’m at. Here is my baseline, I’ll check everything again at the end of the summer.

Weight = 143.1
Right Arm – 11.25
Left Arm – 11
Right Calf – 14
Left Calf – 13.75
Right Thigh – 23.5
Left Thigh – 23
Hips – 37.75
Waist – 35
Body Fat – 27% (Just based on wrist, forearm, waist, hips, weight)
John Hunt 3-mile run: 29:39
(This is part of a weekly trail run I do with about 140 other people and they have a real clock so it’s easy to monitor.)

Here’s what else I’d like to do. I’d like a way to monitor my strength but our boot camp doesn’t do the same thing on a schedule ever day/week/month. I’d like to have 5 excercises, all that work on different general muscle areas, and to so how many I can do of those each week without stopping. Or how many I can do in X amount of time. I was thinking: Push ups, Weighted Squats, Side-Arm Raises, Twisty crunches, and Weight One-Leg Leg Raises. (I make up a lot of my exercise names.) I’ll start that next Monday to give me a baseline and post those results as well.

The most important part of this initial assessment – I took a front and size picture this morning in a sports bra. I’ll take the same picture every Monday. I didn’t suck in (WANTED TO!) and this will hopefully help me monitor the real changes in how my body looks instead of what the scale or some arbitrary BMI number says. I’ll spare you those pictures right now.

In order for this to work, however, I really have to monitor everything. Food, drink, and exercise. I need to understand my metabolism. This article talks a lot about building muscle (something I’m still trying to do in some areas) but also talks a lot about caloric intake and metabolism. I’ve been having a hard time figuring out what my caloric intake should be. That great article basically tells me that I should be eating 2200 to maintain my weight and that takes into consideration my “active lifestyle” so, to lose 1lb a week, I should be eating 1700 calories a day. But, here’s the thing, as a runner my daily exercise routine varies greatly so using an “average” caloric intake doesn’t quite work. Let me tell you why: After I run 16 miles on a Saturday, I want to eat a horse. And I should be allowed to eat that horse! I hear that understanding the difference between catabolic and anabolic exercise is really important if you want to lose weight more efficiently. I hear that it is a good idea to avoid catabolism and focus on anabolic exercise to promote weight loss and muscle gain. It might be a good idea for me to add some weight lifting into the mix as well to allow me to eat like a horse!

Apps like “My Fitness Pal” let me start with more of a BMR type calorie intake level (basically calories that would sustain me if I sat on my ass all day) and earn more with exercise. To lose 1lb a week it tells me I should start out with less than 1300 calories. So, on a day when I run and do boot camp, I’ll be able to eat 2200 calories like the previous article says. But, if I want sit on my but and rest, I only get 1300 calories. I decided this was probably the better way to go for someone who burns so many more calories on one day than on others.

I am going to try to stick to this plan simply because, without my daily step on the scale, I need some way to at least feel like I’m taking steps in the right direction. I don’t know if the measurements or photos will show a difference of a pound a week, so I need to hold onto something that will make me feel like I’m doing okay. That I can stick to it. So, if I stay within these guidelines hopefully that will work.

The article talks a lot about eating for building muscle, but it talks about eating in general too. I loved a lot of it:

Sleep… a lot… every night. In an ideal world, everyone working on building muscle would be getting 8-10 hours of sleep every single night. If you can’t, feel free to throw in a nap whenever possible. Really though, just do everything you can to get as much sleep as you can. Your body will definitely need it, and not getting enough of it will definitely hinder your progress. For the most part, I sleep about 7 hours 4 nights a week, and 8-9 hours the other 3 nights.

THIS IS ME. I really try to live by this schedule because I can tell the difference in so many ways. Supposedly this is key for building muscle and for preventing injury on a run. Think about it, if you’re tired, your muscles are tired. If your brain makes dumb mistakes when missing sleep, your muscles will do the same thing too. Not react as quickly. Or even just your own decisions about where to put your foot or how to adjust your stride, those decisions won’t be as strong. To build muscle…to prevent injury…the key is SLEEP. And I really try to put this a top priority. I can’t as often as I’d like, but I do sacrifice tons of domestic responsibilities just for an extra hour in bed.

SO. This is what I’m going to do. Track my food. Not just calories but protein, fat, carbs. Try to get a lot of sleep. Try to drink more water. I’ll log my exercises better so that I can view my net caloric intake a week at a time. So, if I don’t have the scale telling me I’m losing weight, hopefully I can trust I’m creating a leaner body because THE MATH IS ON MY SIDE. Because, let’s face it, I’m a numbers girl. I’m a math geek. I need some way to quantify something. I have no idea if weekly measurements will tell me anything.

Anyone else want to join me? I’d love to be able to check in next week to see if anyone else notices any differences in the photos/measurements. Like – if you stick to your “diet” plan (I hate using that word!) that MyFitnessPal or whatever app you choose gives you – and you don’t notice a change either…Can we go get a bunch of beer together? I just think it would be nice to have someone else say, “Well, I had half an inch drop on my left calf! That’s progress!”


  • Mommyattorney

    This is really fascinating to me. I have been using MyFitnessPal since April (about the time I started running regularly) and I’ve lost 12 pounds. But your blog yesterday made me really think about what my goal weight should actually be. Right now I don’t do any cross-training. I know I should, but I just haven’t quite figured out how to work it into my life yet. I think tracking that many things is beyond what I can handle for the moment, but it totally makes sense. I definitely need to at least do some measurements, because even though the scale shows a 12 pound lost, I couldn’t really tell you where it came from. I’m still in the same size clothes, etc.

    I’d love to get a lean muscle mass evaluation done. Any thoughts on where to do that?

    • zoot

      No, but I’m looking into it. My friend who lives out of state got hers done at a local gym with a deal they were doing. You paid $25 for the analysis but she says they spent the time trying to get her to join the gym and buy into their exercise programs. I was thinking about calling the Wellness Center or something. I’ll let you know what I find out!

  • Dana


    Your plan sounds great, and i would really like to come on this ride with you!

    I’ll report back next week!

    (from Ottawa, Canada – no blog – 2 girls age 2 and 3 – 165 lbs, trying so hard to loose the last 20lbs of the pregnancy weight – training for a half-marathon in the fall)

  • Heather@YSP

    This is awesome. YOU are awesome. Come find me on My Fitness Pal when you get going. It’s not working well for me right now, but if I’m honest I know it’s because I’m pushing it to the maximum. I’m cheating any way I can. I’m under-counting my food, and always eating every allowed calorie and often a bit more. No more of that, as of today! I’ve decided that my goal for the rest of this week (through the weekend) is to simply stay under my calorie goal by 100 calories or so every day, and to be 100% honest about putting my food in – every bite and nibble. I’m also considering reading Diet Rehab and trying to work some of that in as well.

    And now I have a post of my own to write. Thanks for yet another inspiration.

  • birdgal

    I read that same article earlier this week and it definitely had some great information. However, I am WAY too lazy to count calories, determine what my protein to carb ratio should be, etc. The best thing I took away from it was the concept of progressive overload and weight training your entire body (and the sleep thing–but I already love my sleep and get as much as my children will allow!). I know I’m guilty of using the same weight over and over, but this week I’ve tried upping the weight a little and doing fewer reps (I was doing 15 reps, which is a little much–I’ve gone down to 10), while being conscious to work all my muscle groups (not usually in one day, but I’ll switch off every gym visit).

    I’ve never had a goal ‘weight’ and much like you, once I started working out regularly (about 2.5 years ago) my weight actually went UP a little (though I had genetics on my side and didn’t have a whole lot of pregnancy weight to lose in the first place), but I know it’s muscle and I’m proud of it :). I commend you on trying to track your food–I just try to eat ‘healthy’ (ice cream after dinner is healthy!) and not go crazy with my portion sizes and call it a day. I’ve also never ‘measured’ myself like you have and think it’s a great idea to know exactly where you’re starting from. I look forward to keeping up with you on this journey!

    • zoot

      With my boot camp it’s hard to monitor the progressive overload b/c the instructor does a very fluid mix of strength/cardio throughout any given week. BUT, I have increased my dumbbells, started with 5lbs and am now using 10lbs. I’m trying to decide if I should do more focused strength training on the side just so I can work on the progressive overload thing.

  • Courtney Tucker

    Sounds like a plan!

    The LoseIt app does track by the week and gives you and over/under on caloric intake which I love (for the reasons you listed about long runs on Saturdays and eating more those days).

  • StateofKate

    I use MyFitnessPal as well and have great success paying attention to my fat/carb/protein percentages when I’m on it. I’m with you on this summer challenge–I’d like to lose 10-15lbs myself and tracking by athletic ability and measurements instead of the scale is a smarter way to go. Also–thanks for posting all your dirt. It’s interesting to see what other people’s numbers are/and how they look…my measurements are pretty similar to yours, but I’m taller and heavier–and much hippier. I know I’m in pretty decent cardio-vascular shape, but I need to lose some serious body fat. What’s “contained” in that number on the scale is so much more complex than one simple number!

  • Stacey

    I am obese. not just by BMI standards. I was weighed the other day at the doctor and about cried. I have been a consistent bike rider for the past year, tried boot camp, running and well due to knee issues I had to stop. I didn’t lose any weight with either, nor inches, and was really really watching my food intake. It was/is extremely frustrating. Last time I weighed this much I lost 80 lbs. I can do it again, but I was younger. Luckily I won a gym membership at an auction and joined. And luckily a friend works there so after my free three months I get on the friends and family program, which is cheaper. The biggest challenge with going is transportation, I don’t have a car so will have to depend on the bike. It is an hour ride from work (going right after today) and a half hour from the house. There is one section that is really kind of tricky because traffic but I have been doing it. I am hoping by my birthday in August (2 months from now) that I will have dropped at least 10-20 lbs. However I am going to avoid the scale at all costs. except once a week. The last time I lost 80 lbs, I mainly went by measurements, how many inches I lost and not weight. So that is what I am going for. After the birthday goal, I will set a new one. I will let you know how I do, and will for sure keep up with your progress. Nice on the 50 mile run!! good for you!!! I still am hoping to run the 10K here in the spring. Perhaps that will be the next goal.

  • G.G.R

    I would love to! I really messed up my knee (chasing after my cat, hit my knee on the corner of bed) today so I don’t think I’ll be able to go to the gym for at least a few days =( and when I can’t go to the gym, my diet usually goes all the way to hell. Don’t now about the picture part though. GOOD LORD do those make me feel like ass about myself.

  • Lane C.

    I am so in! I ditched the scale about 2 months ago. I have done measurements, set my fitness goals for the summer and started using my fitnesspal. So I am pretty much all the way there-but pictures-Like the idea.

  • Kim M.

    I am in!!! This is a great idea, I actually started this Tuesday after you told me the suggested requirements for the half marathon pace… I figure once I get all the extra poop out of my system, eat better and get lots of sleep I will be thinner and faster!!

  • Stephanie (aka BZMomma)

    I’ve been keeping a notebook of my measurements since March. Now, if I can only be consistent w/working out and eating better, I can actually see those numbers go down more! I never suck in my belly. Actually, I blow it out as far as I can because years ago, I would suck it in, but realized that I would never suck it in consistently on the same level (I don’t know if that makes sense). For example, some days, I would suck it in as much as possible. Some days, I would suck it in just as I normally would if I were wearing a fitted tee…

    Anywho, I think I’ll be joining you on this, but don’t know if I’ll be using any apps…maybe just the measurements (and picture? ugh…yikes) thing. I’m on Couch to 5k Week 5 Day 3 (for the 3rd time). I keep wussing out b/c I don’t think I can run 20 minutes continuously so I start over again to Week 5 Day 1 then Day 2. I’m a goof, I know.