For many of us, stepping onto the scales can be a reason for anxiety. Our weight (while just a number) can have an overwhelming hold on us. When it comes to our health and fitness pursuits, we can perceive the number on the scales as an indicator of whether we’re slaying our goals or doing not so well at all. However, according to nutritionist and health coach Nik Toth, the scales really don’t offer us a full or accurate picture of our health or our progress. And relying on such a number can be problematic.

“There is nothing like having metrics to keep you on track with your health goals, however I always encourage my clients to ditch the scales when they are under my guidance as I believe that they can become a source of anxiety that may leave you feeling discouraged,” says Toth.

“Back when I was starting out and learning how to get my health on track I used to get anxiety every time I went to hop on the scale. I had to remove it from my life because of the negative effect it was having,” she says.

Toth reminds us of a few facts to keep in mind. Firstly, our body weight can fluctuate on a daily basis alongside our hormone levels and this is especially true for us ladies. Secondly, how much we eat, workout and how much water we drink will also affect the figure on the scale. Thirdly, our weight doesn’t necessarily indicate whether we are making progress, Toth reminds us that muscle weighs more than fat so when we embark on a new fitness endeavour and start doing resistance training, initially the number on the scale might climb.

Finally, we must remember that muscle tone and definition are not things that you can measure on a scale. They are measured by how your clothes fit, how you feel and how you look naked.

With that said, Toth has some better, more reliable and insightful methods for tracking our progress and thankfully, none of these rely on an inconsistent number.

Take a selfie

There is no doubt that we are in the selfie era. There’s a selfie stick for crying out loud! Luckily for us, the selfie isn’t just an opportunity for a duck-face it can actually be really helpful when we are tracking our weight loss goals.

Get into a crop top and shorts, a bikini or underwear, stand in front of your mirror and make sure that you make note of how you snapped the pic. If you snapped it with the phone right in front of your chest and angled directly at the mirror, you will want to make sure you do it the same way next time so you can better see your progress. If you are doing a 12-week program, snap one at the beginning, and every 3 weeks until the end. Make sure you wear the same outfit each time and prepare to be blown away by the subtle (or not-so-subtle) changes you hadn’t noticed.

Get a DEXA scan

If you are someone who really needs those metrics, then try getting a DEXA scan as they measure your fat percentage, muscle mass and bone ratio and density. They are way more accurate than the bathroom scales and these scans will show you exactly where you are hold muscle, giving you a better idea of your overall body composition.

Get one at the beginning of a program and then another one at the end of the program to track your progress.

Use an item of clothing as a marker

The easiest way to see if you are getting results is by seeing how you look and feel in your clothes! If you have recently found that your jeans are starting to feel tight (and it’s not because you accidentally threw them in the dryer) then they can act as a good marker to measure your success.

Try them on at the beginning of your program and take a picture. Then try them mid-way through and at the end.

Use a health tracker

It’s not just weight loss that determines whether you are succeeding. How you are feeling, how you’re sleeping, whether your energy levels have improved, your resting heart rate and your working heart rate are all brilliant indicators of improved health.

There are a number of health tracker apps that you can use on your phone or you can invest in a tracker like Garmin’s Vivofit. This kind of tech can show you the improvement in your health stats and it’s always interesting to see your heart rate lower or your sleeping patterns become more consistent.

Get a health checkup

Another great way of measuring success. Getting a blood test, checking blood pressure, testing for nutritional deficiencies, high cortisol levels and other health indicators with your GP at the start of a program is a good idea. Then once the program is done, check again and see if you have made a difference.

Once you get your hormones and any other health issues balanced again, you should feel better, be more energised and with any luck it should make it easier for you to lose weight and feel more vital if that is your goal.

Nik Toth is a qualified holistic nutritionist, personal trainer, health coach and soon to be yoga instructor. Nik’s program, Lean Body Formula was created from Nik’s own experience, she is passionate about sharing her passion and knowledge with every woman, and helping them create a body they feel confident in and can be proud of.