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August 12, 2018 3 min read

Starting a new strength-building or weight loss program is exciting, and we always want to see results right away. After all, building a new habit is hard. Seeing steady improvements can fuel us to keep going, but sometimes it’s not as simple as that. There’s plenty of ways to measure your progress, but the two most common are stepping on the scale and tracking how your clothes fit. There’s pros and cons to each, which we explore below. Read on to find out which method is right for you and your goals: when it comes to getting fit, there’s no easy answer.

1. Weight Loss

If your goal is simply weight loss, the scale can be a huge help. Stepping on the scale regularly (but not too regularly: find out why here) can be a serious motivator for your long game. In fact, studies show that stepping on the scale regularly keeps you more accountable than those who don’t step on the scale. Plus, it helps you track your progress in a tangible way. Using your clothing to measure weight loss takes a lot more patience and understanding of weight loss in general: for example, if you’re retaining water, your clothes are going to feel tighter than usual and that can derail your mental game. You also need to keep in mind that the size on the tag often has nothing to do with your actual size, so focusing on how the clothes actually fit is way more indicative of your progress. Plus, feeling better and better in your clothes (and maybe even having to buy a size smaller) can push you way further than a random scale goal.

2. Strength

When it comes to getting fitter and gaining lean muscle mass, the number on the scale can really start to confuse you. Your body composition is going to change as you get stronger, and that’s a great thing. When you start to gain muscle, you’re going to burn fat faster, but that fat loss won’t necessarily be reflected in the scale. After all, muscle is denser than fat, so you could start to see the number on the scale going up – but don’t panic. Muscle takes up less space than fat, so you will start to notice these changes in your clothes, like the waistband on your pants fitting better, the shoulders of your shirts sitting better, and more depending on your exercise goals.

3. Inches Lost

If you were to visit a doctor or dietitian, they’d likely take more measurements than just your weight. Measuring the circumference of your waist, hips, chest, thighs and more can often be a better indicator of your progress than just the number on the scale. This is where your clothing might be a better indicator of your success: while it’s not as accurate as a measurement, you’ll definitely start to notice when your clothes feel a bit looser, especially around the waist (oh hey there, skinny jeans!). However, if your goal is to gain muscle mass, this can be a bit trickier. You’ll still see improvement in how your clothes fit, but it could take longer and the difference might not be as noticeable; for example, you might actually fill out your jeans better than just seeing them get looser.

4. Overall Health

When you first starting exercising and eating right, it can take a while to see the results. After all, the progress being made is deep inside your body: your body is learning to pump blood more efficiently, it’s starting to build muscles and burn fat. These subtle, but important, changes won’t show up on a scale right away. Most people need a few weeks of steady diet and exercise to see noticeable improvements. In terms of improving your overall health and lowering your risk of diseases, both the scale and the way your clothes fit aren’t good indicators of your progress, but it’s crucial that you continue anyway.  

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