Should Your Bodyweight Indicate Your Level Of Success?

Most of my clients desire weight loss in the form of body fat. Being so, I tend to question if weight loss is even a good goal to have? Let me give you a real-life example of why measuring weight may not indicate success.

I decided in January that I wanted to get shredded for the summer again. Instead of working out without knowing where I was starting from, I had a dexascan to accurately check my body fat and muscle mass percentage, as well as the distribution of each throughout my body.

What the heck is a Dexascan?

A dexascan is a DEXA (duel-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan provides one of the most highly accurate measurements of body composition available, registering fat and lean mass distribution throughout the entire body. In simple terms, it is capable of detailing overall, as well as regional, fat mass, lean mass, and bone mass - all for the relatively inexpensive price of around one hundred dollars.

The first scan gave me my initial numbers: weight, body fat %, lean muscle mass, total mass, as well as how symmetrical my body is. Most people use weight as their sole indicator of success. My first weight was 181.1lbs. I followed my workout program which consisted of:

  • Monday: AM workout - full body lift, achieve over 10,000 steps
  • Tuesday: Sprint on the bike, achieve over 10,000 steps
  • Wednesday: AM workout - full body lift, PM workout - AMRAP workout
  • Thursday: Sprint on the rower, achieve over 10,000 steps
  • Friday: AM workout - full body lift, achieve over 10,000 steps
  • Saturday: Sprint on the bike, achieve over 10,000 steps
  • Sunday: Recovery day, achieve over 10,000 steps

After 4 weeks, I decided to get a weight measurement out of curiosity. I was 185lbs! I had not lost any weight at all. If I was like most Americans, I would have been crushed. I was trying to release fat (refer to release fat not lose it) and I was up 4lbs. As a fitness professional, I was not deterred by this information. I was confident in my lifting and sprinting program design, as well as my nutrition plan. As I tell my clients, "Stay the course." If my only measure of success was weight, I was headed in the wrong direction but again, weight is a poor indicator of success.

At week 6, I had my follow up dexascan appointment to truly see what was happening.

At my second dexascan appointment, I officially weighted 186.1lbs. When I came in to review my numbers, I found out the following:

Within 6 weeks, I had:

Lost 2.3% body fat.

Lost 4 pounds of fat.

Gained over 9 pounds of lean muscle mass for a net GAIN of 4lbs.

If I had solely relied on weight, I not only would have been disappointed, I would have been crushed. Weight is a very unreliable indicator of body composition. Not only did I drop body fat, I gained muscle mass. This will increase my metabolic rate which in turn will burn more fat assisting me to getting leaner at an accelerated pace for the summer.

What are you to do?

When you set a fitness goal, don't rely solely on weight to determine success. Weight is just one unit of measurement. If you have access to a dexascan, utilize it! If you don't, find another way to determine body fat %. That could range from a water buoyancy test to having a Personal Trainer using a caliper to measure your body fat. Always keep in mind, depending what you use to measure your body fat %, accuracy will vary. If you don't have access to any professional equipment to measure your body fat, simply check the circumference around your waistline at your belly button. While I dropped body fat all over, the dexascan showed a 2-pound body fat reduction at the waist. If you are having success with body fat release, that is where you will see progress.


Steven Zahn

ACE Certified Personal Trainer

NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Pre and Post Partum Certified

Dragondoor Publications: HKC Russian Kettlebell Certified