Does Weight Watchers Consider Inches Lost or Just Pounds?

It’s come to my attention that Weight Watchers does not track inches lost over the week, but rather focuses squarely on the scale, giving no credit to a gain in muscle. Does weight watchers understand or even promote an active lifestyle? and if they do, they simply MUST understand that a body building muscle is going to drop inches as it burns more fat, which wouldn’t register on the scale.

Imagine the psychological impact of a man or woman who’s been increasing their exercise frequency and intensity, watching what they eat, counting the points and proud of what they’re accomplishing as they get stronger, only to be totally discouraged at a weight gain a week later.

I Question The Weight Watchers Approach

Does Weight Watchers take into account an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in inches as a successful week? or is it just the reading on the scale that counts?

weight watchers inches or pounds

Muscle weighs the same as fat, let me be perfectly clear about that.

1 pounds of muscle is equal to 1 pound of fat, just as 1 pound of hammers is equal to 1 pound of feathers.

A pound is a pound.

However, a pound of muscle is more dense than fat and takes up less space.

As one exercises, he or she begins to stimulate the body to compensate for the work load and it does so by building more muscle. That muscle in turn is metabolically active, and begins to burn more fat, even while sleeping. As the body burns the fat, it becomes smaller in size because a pound of fat takes up more space than a pound of muscle. The body burns the fat as long as the body remains in a calorie deficit each day.

We shrink, yet it’s possible to weight the same, trading 1 pound of fat for 1 pound of muscle.


The scale wouldn’t budge, but your clothes might fit better or you might be able to do up the seat belt a bit easier.

If one was simply using the scale as a way to measure feedback about your exercise and nutrition, one might become discouraged. This is why measuring yourself either with a tape measure or through body composition analysis tests is so important. Body composition analysis’ can be performed at your local gym, either free with your membership or for a small fee. There are even special scales available to measure body composition, but they leave a bit to be desired in accuracy. Anyone can use a tape measure and measure themselves though.

My friend was quite discouraged when she learned that she gained a half a pound.

Her co-workers questioned her about her diet and that strange meal replacement stuff she’s been eating (and getting GREAT results on). The thought that she was the one who had been eating the best and been most active, so questioned her on re-evaluating her nutritional program.

She text msg’d me about the weight gain.

My first question to her was “what did the tape measure say”.

She told me that they do not take measurements, just the scale.

The Tape Measure Told A Different Story

weight loss weight watchersToday I learned that she was indeed down 3.5 inches on her abdominals and an inch on each thigh – she’s thrilled! She did the measurements herself as I’ve been coaching her all along to do. She’s kept track of all her measurements over the past 8 months or more.

After spending a few minutes on the phone with her, she understands now that all the exercise she’s been doing, the one hundred body weight squats she’s been doing every day, the Wii Fit and all the walking is beginning to build muscle on her body like never before.

I’ve NEVER seen her more active than she’s been since the beginning of the new year and she’s getting results. Not on the scale though, and now she’s armed with a response to her friends and the weight watchers representative next week. She now has proof that she’s getting results and will stick to her program.

So I wonder about weight watchers now. I did a poll about weight watchers results and if weight watchers really worked.

I do not have all the facts here to make a statement one way or the other. It may just be the group facilitator who is neglecting to take the measurements, or simply some bad training. Maybe it’s just in the interest of time to weigh this group and not measure, I don’t know. What I HAVE come to realize though is that a lot of people taking on a weight loss program do not understand the relationship between fat loss, muscle gain, and how it impacts the scale. It’s critical to know what you’re losing, because the perfect nutritional and exercise program should have one building muscle while they’re burning fat. For those with only a few fat pounds to lose, the scale may never even budge, but you would get the shape you’re looking for.

So I ask. Does weight watchers take into account that members who are exercising will be gaining muscle, loosing inches and staying the same weight? I posed this question on twitter and have not gotten any responses yet. Maybe you can shed some light on this for me. I welcome comments

12 Comments

  1. Former Fat Guy Blog Does Weight Watchers Consider Inches Lost or Just Pounds? http://tinyurl.com/besqkl

  2. RT @formerfatguy Former Fat Guy Blog Does Weight Watchers Consider Inches Lost or Just Pounds? http://tinyurl.com/besqkl

  3. Weight Watchers does not take your measurements at meetings. However, any good WW Leader will tell you to take your own measurements. They do tell you to get some exercise. There’s a whole “activity points” system for it.

  4. John's Weight Loss Blog January 26, 2009 at 4:25 am

    Isn’t that really more of a problem when you are pretty close to goal weight? I have 100 pounds to lose, adding muscle while I lose weight will be great, but really I’m going to need to see results on the scale. That side, tape measure is key tool. I don’t know about WW but I do know that two of the “Biggest Losers” I know how remarkable success on Weight Watchers so I do think there is something there.

  5. obviously a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat – that is simple logic. what confuses people is amount of weight per mass. Muscle weights 1.06 g/ml and fat weighs 0.9
    g/ml. Thus, muscle does way more than fat because of the amount of space each one takes up (fat taking up more space).

  6. @Akavar what I was trying to impress on people was the lack of logic behind the saying “muscle weights more than fat”, which, of course, it does not

  7. Weight watchers does focus on the scale. It does tend to be somewhat discouraging if you’ve been eating right and exercising a lot and find your weight to have remained the same. For that reason, I have started taking my own measurements. I think it would be great if Weight Watcher’s started emphasizing this…

  8. As has been stated before, WW does not really pay attention to, give you tools to track, or really address the issue of inches lost vs. pounds lost. At weekly meetings, the “OOHs” and “AAHs” during storytelling time happen when a person says they’ve lost _X_ pounds in that week – the other members want to know, “How did you do it!?” I’ve seen members of all sizes enraptured by the story of a person who managed to drop 2, 3, OMG 5?! pounds in one week. Is it water weight? Are they eating right? Who gives a crap!? The scale went down!

    This is one of the reasons I ended up quitting WW – they have a sound nutritional approach by modern medical standards, but in general there’s far too much concentration on that weekly weigh-in. If you end up going up or stagnating? It can tear a person apart, especially if they’re doing everything “right.”

  9. Yep – can be emotionally devastating if not handled properly. When I heard from my friend in the post, I immediately coached her about handling the emotions around her result and got her to do the measurements.

  10. Jason Pattinson July 22, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Weight Watchers online asks you to take your measurements, leaders should also encourage it.

    People tend to jump straight into the weight loss, and forget to take measurements for a while meaning they aren’t sure of the measurements when they first began.

    The number on the scale can be misleading, and a broader look at your body composition will give a better picture.

    I suspect your point occurs for most of the weight loss companies out there.

  11. i’m going to my first meeting tonight, so I’ll ask their view on being measured and whether my records can be altered to have my measurements included. my P.T encouraged me to mainly judge my weight loss, not by the scales but by how my clothes were fitting me.

  12. Weight Watchers in Australia certainly encourages you to measure as well as weigh and every meeting I’ve been to, the leaders will remind members on a regular basis that if you are increasing your exercise, you can weigh the same or even more and still have lost centimetres (inches). They don’t measure you at meetings but their trackers include places to record your measurements. I think there are two reasons for not measuring at meetings: 1. It would take a very long time
    2. If someone else measures you, it’s going to make some people very uncomfortable.

    They also teach about nutrition if you stay for the meetings. Unfortunately, many people just weigh in, collect their handouts and go.

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