Managing weight without the scale

Providence dietitian Christiann Collins answers questions and shares strategies for success

  • Is a scale the only way to measure your success?
  • Does muscle weigh more than fat?
  • How can I set realistic goals?


When you embark on a journey to get to a healthy weight it may take you into unfamiliar territory. We talked to Christiann Collins, RD, CDE, CSOWM, lead dietitian at the Center for Weight Management in Portland, to get her take on some common questions and successful weight management strategies.

Here’s what she shared.

How can I monitor my weight management efforts without relying exclusively on a scale?

You can gauge your progress without basing everything on a daily weigh-in, according to Chris.

“Set specific behavioral goals that support getting to a healthy weight and track how well you follow through,” she said. “Approach your goals from a positive perspective and focus on what you can do versus what you should do. If you consistently make healthy lifestyle choices, a healthy weight will follow.”

Set specific behavioral goals that support getting to a healthy weight and track how well you follow through. Focus on what you can do versus what you should do.

SMART goals

Chris recommends the SMART process, with goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

She gives the following examples:

  • I will eat three cups of vegetables daily
  • I’ll walk the dog for 15 minutes before lunch and 15 minutes after dinner.
  • Every morning this week I’ll substitute whole grain cereal for the sugary version I usually eat.

“Setting clear goals with clear parameters and objectives is one way to improve your chances for success,” Chris said.

Can I lose weight and still build muscle?

The short answer is “yes,” according to Chris.

“Fat doesn’t turn into muscle like many people believe. Muscle and fat are two different tissues,” she said. “Muscle is a metabolic tissue, meaning that the more muscle you have the more calories you expend. That helps promote and maintain weight loss. You can definitely build muscle at the same time you’re losing fat,” Chris added.

“When you lose weight, you are losing a combination of fluid, fat and muscle,” said Chris. “Resistance exercise and weight-bearing exercise will help preserve or build muscle even while you are following a calorie-reduced eating plan.”

Is muscle really heavier than fat? 

“Muscle is denser than fat,” said Chris. “If you had a pound of muscle and a pound of fat, the fat would be the size of a softball and the muscle would be the size of a baseball.”

“If you had a lean build and started resistance training, you could add muscle, which could increase how much you weigh. In contrast, if you’re overweight with more abundant fat, your fat loss will exceed your muscle gain and you’ll lose weight,” she explained.

What are some tips—beyond diet and exercise—to help me manage my weight?

There are two strategies Chris says are a must for successfully getting to a healthy weight.

“Number one is to create an environment that supports your efforts,” says. “Remove foods that are not on your diet plan and replace them with healthier options. The more you can reduce temptation, the easier it will be to adhere to a healthy diet.”

Plan your meals in advance. Online grocery shopping can be a useful tool for preventing unnecessary items from ending up in your cart.

The second is to plan your meals in advance. Make a grocery list based on your menu and shop only for the items on your list. Online grocery shopping can be a useful tool for preventing unnecessary items from ending up in your cart.

“This strategy has lots of advantages,” said Chris. “First, it allows you to thoughtfully consider your meals so they support your weight management goals. Second, it reduces your stress from having to figure out what’s for dinner every night. Your meals are planned, you have the ingredients and you may have even partially prepared your meals in advance. Finally, planning ahead may save you money since pre-prepared foods are more expensive.”


Find a doctor

When you have questions about getting to a healthy weight and how you can achieve your goals, our weight specialists have the answers you’re looking for. Find a doctor using our provider directory. Or you can search for a primary care doctor in your area.






Regional resources

Southern California




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Share your #HealthyWeight successes and strategies with readers at @providence

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions. 

About the Author

We are all about food! The Providence Nutrition Team loves to talk about and share our expertise on how to help you find the right diet, food types and maintenance tactics to help you live life to the fullest...while also enjoying the best foods that mother nature has to offer.

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