It’s a common routine for many people wanting to get fitter and healthier!
They crawl out of bed, jump on the scales and see a number staring back at them!
That number is the same as yesterday, and the day before…….and the day before that!
Or, SHOCK HORROR, it has even gone up!!!
PANIC STATIONS! Your mind goes into overdrive thinking of the reason, what you’ve done wrong, “have I been sleep eating?” or you just loudly scream out “WHY THE HELL ME!”.
If you honestly look back over the last week and find that you have missed training sessions, gorged on junk and cheated on your cheat meals, you may accept the scale reading, move on and vow to put it right starting from now!
However, if you have trained hard, eaten right and stuck to your plan like clockwork you may feel despondent, disillusioned and ready to give up! DON’T – really, DON’T!
In actual fact, this is a very commonplace, and doesn’t necessarily mean you are off track!
The reason for this is that your scales and body-weight don’t tell the full story! They are one of many useful fitness tools, but most certainly not the ‘be all and end all’!
In fact, going solely off body-weight data can lead you to fail at your fitness goal!
If weight measure is your only method of defining success/failure on your fitness journey it can be very damaging. Common symptoms of paying too much attention to weight can be low self-esteem, yo-yo dieting and even weight gain!
That’s not to say the scales should be ditched, as using the weight measurements in addition to other methods often leads to habit changes that support longer term weight loss.
But, let’s look at some of the main factors and variables our scales are not taking into account, or are just plain ignoring
1) THE WAY IN WHICH YOUR BODY RETAINS WATER:
This is a major reason your weight can fluctuate significantly, particularly between the morning and evening.
There are many factors which affect water retention, from how much water you drink to the amount of high-salt based foods consumed, to gender-based factors such as a women being on her period.
Your scales just don’t understand these things – they don’t care!
2) BONE DENSITY:
Our bones are numerous and take up a large proportion of our inner body. They also have a significant weight attributed to them. In fact, our bones usually equate to between 12-18% of our overall body weight!
So, let’s think about bone density. Whilst this is affected and changes with factors such as age, it is also altered by training.
For example, if we went from doing solid cardio to intense weight training our bone density would most likely increase. This means the weight of our bones will increase, and in turn this is seen in our overall body weight.
3) MUSCLE MASS:
This often causes confusion with many people! 1 kilo of muscle is the same weight as 1 kilo of fat, and also 1 kilo of feathers…obviously, the ‘1’ gives it away!
However, due to the density of muscle, the kilo of fat will take up much more space than the kilo of muscle!
So, say you lose a kilo of fat and gain a kilo of lean muscle the scales may remain the same. But how do you think you will look? The answer is leaner, more toned and even more awesome!
4) BODY FAT:
Your scale doesn’t differentiate between fat and muscle.
WAIT… – you have one of those fancy body fat weighing scales – right? These are OK to give you a rough estimate, but they are not very accurate and can sometimes lead to more confusion!
There are very accurate pieces of equipment for measuring body fat, but these are not found in many household’s (they usually involve a form of x-ray…..not Ray’s Ex, she knows nothing!!)
5) ‘YOU GOT THE LOOK’?
Your scales aren’t interested in how you look or feel! For example, you can feel amazing at 80kgs or you can feel awful at 80kgs!
A good way to determine how your body composition change is going is to evaluate how your clothes fit. Are those trousers now baggy at the waist? Is that shirt now tight on the bicep? Is the dress now lose at the stomach? Is that mankini slipping off…sorry, I’m getting a bit carried away!!!
Looking at your clothes is a great indicator you’re making progress that your scales will ignore!
RIGHT – so we’ve determined that body-weight is not ‘everything’, but how should we measure our progress? Here are some options:
a) Progress Photos: Spread over a long enough period and you should really see a change. Take photos daily and you won’t! Ideally have photos taken from the front, back and side, and the same or similar environment, lighting. Once a fortnight might be to often, but once a month is great!
b) Body Measurements: Most commonly taken measurement is waist size, but you could also track and record chest, hips, thighs, bicep, calves, forearms, bust and knees. This is very simple and only requires a tape measure.
c) Fitness Journal: Recording how you feel, the workouts you’ve done, energy levels etc is a great way to determine your progress.
d) Focus On Performance Goals: Rather than just aiming towards a set weight-loss goal, have some directly controllable goals. Examples of these could be:
– drink 4 litres of water a day
– prepare breakfast and lunch in advance
– only having one cheat meal per week
– completing 4 workouts each and every week
The scales are a welcome addition to any bathroom, but don’t solely base your progress success or failure on your body weight!
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