Simply put a scale is a horribly inaccurate way of judging your fitness level.
Example: According to the scale I weigh 7 lbs less that I did 9 months ago.
Yet, I went from a size 16 to a size 10-12. Huh?
This is why I rely on 5 different tools to determine if I'm moving toward my fitness goals. Each has it's flaws and benefits, but using them all together, I can make a educated decision.
The 5 Best Tools To Determine Fitness Progress
As I've already mentioned, the scale is a poor indicator of fitness progress. It doesn't differentiate between water, fat, and muscle weight. But it's still worth tracking. I weight myself once a week. Weight charts are also deeply flawed, so I use the recommendations as a target, not an absolute.
Height & Weight Charts
BMI Index (Body Mass Index)
Again, this measurement is flawed because it does not account for fat vs. muscle weight, but it's still useful to consider.
WHR (Waist to Hip Ratio)
Studies have shown that having more fat around your waist can increase your likeliness of heart disease. (Repeat this with me: I REFUSE TO GET HEART DISEASE.)
Body Measurements & Clothing Fit
The most basic measurements are: chest, waist and hips. Whip out your measuring tape and track these over time. How are your clothes fitting? If they are starting to get looser, you are progressing.
Sometimes it's hard to do the measurements yourself, the tape slides up, your not quite sure where to put it, etc. Find out if your gym or community center does free measurements/body fat testing and get the most accurate results.
Honesty & Happiness
This one involves zero mathematical calculations. Just some honesty.
1. Have you hit every fitness goal you had for the week? (If not, figure out why and address it.)
2. Do you think you are "working hard" enough? (You need to challenge your body in order to re-shape it.)
3. How do you feel? (If you feel crappy, something needs to be adjusted.)
Once a month, I look through all the measurements I've been tracking. I compare them to my goals, and see if I am progressing. I'm in it for the long haul, so I'm not looking for huge changes quickly. But if I see no change, it's time to make things (things=exercise) harder or re-examine what I've been eating.
Slow and steady wins the race (of life).