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One of the most common ways to measure weight loss is the bathroom scale. Though this option is easy to use—just step on the device and record the number—this isn't the best way to keep track of a client's fitness progress.
The main problem with the bathroom scale from a health and fitness perspective is that it only shows total weight. It doesn't break down how much of that weight is muscle, organs, or water, and how much is fat. So, you can have two people weigh the same amount, yet have very different body compositions.
Maybe one has a high amount of lean muscle mass for their height, making it appear as if they're overweight according to the charts. This is very different than someone with the same weight who has a higher level of body fat, potentially putting their health at greater risk.
How do you track weight loss progress without using a scale? Fortunately, there are quite a few options available. These break down into two general categories: those typically used by a personal trainer and at-home options for those who want to record their progress in between exercise sessions.
As a personal trainer, tracking your clients' progress is critical to learning whether their bodies are positively responding to your fitness plans. Three scale-free ways to do this are to take regular physical measurements, suggest they engage in body composition testing, and request that they see their doctors for regular blood tests.
Taking measurements of various parts of the client's body can help them realize that they are getting smaller, even if the scale doesn't say the same. Measurements to take include:
Be sure to place the tape at the same place each time you measure. Also, record these measurements once a month to give the body adequate time to change. Any more often and it might not show the progress.
Even if their bathroom scale doesn't show that they're losing weight, the changes clients make are likely causing positive changes internally. Therefore, another option is to request that they get tests that show changes in body composition.
For instance, a DEXA scan would show how strong their bones have become due to engaging in more cardio. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) would reveal how much muscle mass they've gained from strength training. The key is to get these tests at the beginning of their fitness journey so you have a base point for comparison.
Body composition testing can also help clients who aren't seeing a change on the scale because they're losing weight while gaining muscle at the same time. When this occurs, it's easy for the client to get frustrated because their body weight remains the same. Yet, showing them that their body is responding to your program helps reinforce their confidence in you as a personal trainer. It also helps them realize they are getting healthier, with their internal changes as proof.
Another way to gauge the positive health changes that show clients they are making progress despite what the scale says is to suggest they get regular blood tests. Maybe eating better has helped them lower their cholesterol, which can also lower their risk of heart disease. Or perhaps increasing their physical activity has lowered their stress, which has lowered their blood pressure.
Like body composition tests, blood tests help identify the health benefits the client is receiving, even when it doesn't feel like they're achieving their weight-loss goals. This can keep them motivated to continue with their eating and exercise plans.
There are a few additional ways to measure weight loss that clients can do at home, enabling them to track their progress in between fitness training sessions. Options to suggest are:
Record your own body measurements. Clients can track their body measurements by purchasing a soft vinyl tape measure. They don't have to record all the same measurements you do as a personal trainer. Noting only their waist, hips, and chest can give them an idea of the progress they're making.
Take progress pictures. Progress photos not only show whether a person is making progress, but they also serve as motivation by letting them visually see the changes from losing weight. This is especially important if the weight loss is gradual, making it harder to notice the differences. Ideally, the person should be in the same outfit each time, giving a clearer picture of just how different they look.
Pay attention to how your clothes fit. Many people fail to lose weight only to notice that their clothes feel looser. This type of non-scale victory should be celebrated because it shows that the body is decreasing in size, whether the scale shows it or not.
Use a fitness tracker. Some of the best ways to measure progress are to keep track of how much more you're able to do today compared to what you were able to do yesterday, last week, or a month before. This is where fitness trackers come in. Seeing how much their physical activity has increased over time helps remind them that they are making progress toward creating a healthier life.
What do you do when your client is unable to lose weight but has no idea why? Asking a few critical questions can help you figure out the answer. Questions such as:
What is your weight loss goal? Clients must have reasonable expectations when it comes to their weight loss journey. Though they may want results immediately, there are negative repercussions to losing weight too fast. Plateaus can also occur, which means it may be time to change things up to begin to see progress once again.
Can you tighten up your eating? It's easy to get lax with your diet. In this case, the solution is to suggest they get more strict with their nutrition plan. Other ways to improve diet include practicing intuitive eating, watching portion sizes, and choosing more nutritious foods. Also reinforce that they need protein, carbs, and fats for a well-rounded plan that supports maximum fat loss.
Can you increase your exercise? Is it possible that the client isn't exercising as much as before? Or maybe it's time to ramp up the intensity or increase the weights, moving them into weight loss once again.
How are you sleeping? Sleep helps enhance weight loss in a couple of different ways. If you're tired, your workout may suffer because your energy levels are lower, decreasing your output. Research also shows that too little sleep can increase hunger and reduce the body's ability to lose weight.
If the client seems to provide all the right answers to these questions, you may have to delve a little deeper. For instance, some common reasons clients may not lose weight include poor recovery, their ability to process carbs, and their hormones.
It is also possible that your client is not losing weight because of their genes. Earning your certification as a DNA-Based Fitness Coach will enable you to help this category of patients. In this course, you'll learn how genetics influence fitness. It also teaches you how to create an exercise program that helps clients better reach their fitness goals based on their individual genes. Check it out today!
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