Weighing in on the Scale Debate


Weight loss clients that are weighing themselves on the scale frequently may not only create unnecessary anguish, but will also not receive the full and accurate picture of their progress. 

Many wake up and the first thing they do is step on their scale to see if their efforts from the day before moved the number in the right direction. Daily weigh-ins have the ability to send someone into a negative spiral, emotionally and practically. How should personal trainers guide clients with regard to the frequency and importance of scale measurement while also underscoring the greater significance of body composition changes? 

While your client does have the freedom to weigh in each day, guiding your client to see a bigger picture can shift the importance of the scale. Your client came to you initially for coaching, whether that coaching is motivational, directional, educational, or all of the above, they know you can provide the tools they need to succeed. Here are some ways you as their coach can help them see the bigger picture when it comes to weighing in.

Health First

Upon your first consultation explain to them the various ways becoming a healthier version of themselves can look without the scale being the focus.  Taking the option completely off the table is not the goal but changing the focus is.  Mention how their cravings will change, their skin will look more vibrant, their energy will soar!  These are a few but there is so much more they can focus on.

A Good “Fit”

Choosing an old “favorite” article of clothing is often a win, it brings back the emotion of when they felt their best and sets a tangible, non-scale goal. Getting back that emotion has a positive trickling effect towards the main goal of losing weight or even becoming a healthier version of themselves.

Tracking Hack

Using a fitness tracker that shows progressions is becoming more popular than ever. Many of the trackers out there have weekly and monthly statistics saved so your client can look back and see their progress. Seeing that they are improving key metrics like moving more, staying within caloric needs, or even drinking more water will be a motivating force to keep going. Some devices to recommend are:  Apple Watch, Garmin, Fitbit, Polar, and KORETRAK.

Although the above are examples of ways to change focus, your client may be hardwired to want to know if the number on the scale has gone up or down, no matter how much you provide information that is more valuable. Why shouldn’t they continually weigh in and what does a change in body composition really even mean?  Here is another opportunity to guide your client by educating them on the differences.  

Poundage is just a number

As soon as your client steps on the scale a number will appear with no additional information. Does your client realize that fat loss can happen even if their baseline weight doesn’t move much if at all in the desired direction? Explaining to your client the scope of variables involved in losing weight will allow them to begin to understand why the number in pounds is not a sign of progression or defeat. 

Most scales these days may offer some or all of the following: body fat, water weight, muscle mass, and bone density after providing them the weight in pounds. This is a perfect opportunity to educate them on why loss of poundage especially at the beginning of a weight loss journey is not the most significant variable to track. 

Body Fat

Body fat percentage is the total mass of fat divided by total body mass X 100, to include essential body fat and storage body fat.  Essential is necessary to maintain body systems and reproductive functions.  

Water Weight

As it sounds, total body water is the amount of water in your body in pounds, and can be expressed as a percentage of your total weight. Even though there is plenty of solid, dry material in the body, water makes up some part of almost everything; the brain and heart are 73% water, lungs 83%, bones 31%, and blood 95%!  Water weight can and will fluctuate as your client begins to lose weight and this will often reflect on the scales as a progression (weight loss) but quickly come back as a defeat (weight gain).

When clients have lost or gained water weight due to lack of proper hydration, salty foods, supplementation, or even lack of sleep, the scale can and often does immediately indicate weight loss.

*Normal range of water weight for adult women varies between 45-60% and men 50-65%.  

Dry Lean Mass

Dry lean mass is everything that isn’t fat mass or water. That leaves muscle and bone.

Muscle Mass

Muscle mass is the amount of muscle in your body, including skeletal muscles, smooth muscles, and cardiac muscles. It can be measured as a part of your total body composition, along with fat mass and bone mass. Muscle mass is more dense than body fat and therefore takes up less mass, pound for pound, than fat does.

Explain to your client why muscle growth is key to weight loss by increasing resting metabolism. Also let them know there are additional benefits to muscle growth such as improved bone health, immunity, and even mental health. Although the number on the scale may show little progress in going down the benefits show why that is ok.


Bone weight makes up approximately 15% of your body weight. The muscles in your body allow for those bones to carry your clients while they are on the journey to weight loss. Understanding why they factor in is as important as all the other variables.  They do not carry as much weight but they carry the weight around.

Now that you have explained all the variables that makeup weight in pounds you can help your clients to understand how the change in body composition can be of more importance than weighing in on the conventional scale.  

During the initial consultation measuring body fat should be at the top of the list (if possible) of information you collect. Without this you will be challenged to provide evidence that your client is losing body fat while keeping or adding additional muscle. The words body fat create a negative emotion to most clients so showing improvements in that area can also provide the motivation to keep them on track.  There are ways to track and show tangible evidence of progress with devices such as:  skinfold calipers, body circumference measurements, hydrostatic weighing, bioelectric impedance and of course scales that are designed for weight and body fat loss measuring. Many gyms now have equipment such as InBody tests that measure all of the variables listed above using bio-electrical impedance and generate a printed report that can assist in tracking progress..

While keeping in mind all the elements that go into having a successful lifestyle change, it is important to educate your clients on what weight loss actually is/means and why stepping on the scale every day can only give them a fraction of the success they are (or are not) enjoying. Giving them all the tools to understand the process as they start to see results will keep them headed in the right direction with the success they wanted and recruited you to help them achieve.


Keleigh2Keleigh Hall is an NFPT Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist and holds an additional certificate in Core training. She has over 20 years of experience in the fitness industry to include speciality training as well with Total Gym/Gravity Group and one-on-one, Spartan Instructor training, TRX training and currently working on NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist certification. She has her Associates in Health and Fitness Education at Gulf Coast College/Business Management at University of Phoenix. Keleigh is also Founder/Owner of Hallway Fitness!


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