At any one time, about 50% of people in the U.S. are trying to lose weight. But does having weight loss as a goal help you to achieve the healthier lifestyle and better body?

We can take the number on the scale as an indication of our training success or a sign that we’re not working hard enough. But using weight as a benchmark is not the best way to evaluate your training progress or your health. Here we look at ways focusing on weight could be holding you back, and how to focus on more rewarding goals in your training.

Numbers on the Scale Don’t Reflect Your Health

When you have a weight loss goal, everything can be about the number on the scale. But how much you weigh is not a good indication of how you’re training or your overall health. Multiple studies have shown that positive lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy balanced diet and exercising regularly produce significant health benefits, regardless of whether a person loses weight or not. Focusing on your weight can lead you to give up training or healthy eating, or train excessively, and yo-yo dieting or inactivity can be much more detrimental to your health.

Muscle Is Denser Than Fat

While many people say “muscle weighs more than fat,” what they mean is muscle is more dense than fat. That means that as you train, burning fat and building muscle, the number on the scale may not change or could even increase, while the size of your body is decreasing. That’s why it’s important to take other measurements such as waist, thigh and chest circumference, clothing size, and even weight lifted when training rather than relying on weight alone.

Regular Weight Fluctuations Can Cause Dismay

If you’ve ever watched your weight, you’ll know how much weight can fluctuate, from day to day, week to week, and month to month. The fluctuation can be due to a variety of reasons, and not just how much you’ve eaten or how you’ve trained. Relying on weight as a focus and indicator of progress can be misleading due to normal weight fluctuations, and therefore shouldn’t be solely depended.

Changing Lifestyle Is More Important Than Achieving a Goal

When weight loss is your focus, achieving a particular weight goal can be all that matters. But a goal weight can distract you from more important goals such as achieving better health, improving fitness, building strength and endurance, and boosting feelings of well-being and happiness. A goal weight can be an illusion, as achieving it might not even give you the benefits you wanted, or it may be unachievable. Setting training goals can be more realistic, achievable and satisfying, leaving you more motivated to keep working towards your goals.

You Can Get Benefits Now Without Weight Loss

Weight loss takes time, although it can happen with an effective long-term exercise and healthy eating plan. But the benefits of exercise can kick in much quicker. Within just days to weeks, exercise can improve your mood, increase insulin sensitivity of the muscles, lower blood pressure, improve sleep and boost your energy. With real and noticeable short-term benefits, an exercise program can help you work towards better health, keeping you motivated and on track.

Working with a personal trainer can help you set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) goals, rather than focusing on weight, keeping you motivated towards a healthier lifestyle and greater well-being.