For those of you that know me, you have heard me say until I’m blue in the face, “your fitness level is more important than how much you weigh.”
The idea of constantly weighing yourself and obsessing about how much you weigh is something that has been deeply ingrained into our mindsets. You probably have at least once dedicated a large chunk of your life to your bathroom scale. Everything was about that number. Some glorious day in the morning you’d hop on your scale and it would tell you that you have lost a pound over your previous day. Ecstatic, you would then go about your day! However, the next day you’d clock into your daily morning ritual again, and this time you’d have gained a whopping five pounds.” How the heck could I have gained five pounds yesterday??” you would ask yourself, frustrated, ready to shoot yourself or anyone that looks at you the wrong way. Well, let me tell you a little secret … your scale SUCKS!
The way that you look is based on the composition of how much muscle you have in relation to how much fat you are carrying in your body. I wish that more people would listen to me and throw their scales in the trash, because, first off … I’m right. And, secondly, the number on the scale is almost always completely irrelevant. By trying to lose “weight,” all you are doing is stressing yourself out; and that alone causes weight gain! So, with that being said, I will now take you to church as to why the scale is the worst tool to measure success!
FACT # 1: WATER RETENTION AND DIGESTION AFFECT THE SCALE:
Listen people, your weight is going to fluctuate more than the stock market. The human body is an incredibly complex piece of machinery. There are things going in, coming out, transforming, and dissolving all the time. As a result, your weight can fluctuate wildly over the course of a 24-48-hour period. Depending on what you ate today, how much water you drank, if there was sodium in your food, what kind of clothing you were wearing, what time of day you weigh yourself, your weight WILL be different. Did you work out the day before? Feeling sore? Well, your muscles retain up to five pounds of water when repairing themselves. Drank a little bit more water because it was a hot day yesterday? Well, those extra two glasses of water easily translate to one pound of extra weight. That large dinner yesterday — it’s probably still being digested and guess what? It will add to your weight. Had a few glasses of wine with that dinner? Well, that makes you retain extra water as well!
Let me break the news to you: worrying about your weight on a daily basis will jeopardize your efforts. In fact, it takes over 3,500 calories to gain a pound of fat. So, if you wanted to gain five pounds, you’d need to consume over 17,500 calories, or nearly 32 Big Macs, in a single day. You may think that at least by continuously weighing yourself day in and day out, you’ll be able to identify a trend in weight loss or gain. You are right — but also a little wrong.
A lot of my weight loss came in during the first few weeks simply from exercise. Likely due to water loss. Yet, my physique had barely changed. Then a few weeks in, suddenly much of my largest changes in my physique occurred, but, for whatever reason, had barely reflected in my measured weight at all. My weight was bouncing around like a yo-yo, leaving me second-guessing whether I made any progress whatsoever. That is because I had added on quite a bit of muscle which turns out to weigh as much as fat when in equal amounts.
FACT # 2: MUSCLE WEIGHS JUST AS MUCH AS FAT:
What? Dede that can’t be, fat has to weight more than muscle. Or, my favorite, “I heard that muscle actually weighs more than fat.” Well sorry to break it to you, that is a total myth! Fat and muscle weight EXACTLY the same. Think about it … if you drop five pounds of fat but replace it with five pounds of muscle, are you going to see the reflection on the scale? Umm that will be a big fat NO! If you drop five pounds of fat, but replace it with five pounds of muscle, then the numbers on the scale won’t change at all. However, because muscle is dense and takes up much less space than fat, you will see the loss in inches — and that is what you really need to be keeping track of. Let’s face it, focusing on a certain weight loss number can be a painful and completely inaccurate experience … period!
So, what’s a better way to measure your progress? A fat caliper, measure tape, DEXA scan, Shape Scan, or even a bio-impedance measurement will give you a better picture. Or I will say it one more time for "PO" people like me ... measuring tape! " Yes, "PO" is a word and for those single parents or low-income families out there you will know exactly what I am talking about.
HOW TO KEEP TRACK OF YOUR SUCCESS:
I will admit that the scale can have its uses. If you’re just getting started, a few big changes in the first few weeks can really help you see progress and build momentum. Also, over long periods of time, it’s a good way to tell if you’re headed in the right direction or not. However, as I have proven, a scale can also cause all kinds of mental and emotional stresses and inaccuracies that bring you down quickly, and it becomes less and less important as you get closer to your goals.
Here’s how you can stay strong and motivated without stepping on a scale regularly:
Remember that your journey to a healthier life is a marathon, not a sprint. Changes from day to day are practically meaningless and incredibly difficult to quantify, so go with changes over a longer period of time. Weigh yourself once a month or every other week to make sure you’re trending in the right direction. If it’s weekly, make sure you weigh yourself at the same time of the day, wearing the same type of clothing. Remove as many of the variables as possible to make your reading accurate. And even then, don’t put too much stock into it. Look at your body composition rather than your weight (measurements).
I try to take a picture of myself every month or so, giving me the chance to compare how I look. You can also buy a body fat caliper or tape measure (I use the latter) to keep track of how your body is adjusting. Just make sure you’re taking your measurements in the same places on your body at the same time of day. If you’re taking photos, take a straight-on photo and a profile photo.
SET GOALS THAT ARE NOT WEIGHT-ORIENTED: Say you want to do 15 pushups, run a half marathon, and/or do a pull-up. With your mind focused on a strength building or endurance goal, you won’t have to worry so much about a dumb scale. If you can only do five pushups now, but next month you can do 15, you definitely got stronger, and you probably also lost some fat.
KEEP A JOURNAL:
Keep a written record of your weight, measurements, goals, what you eat, and your daily exercise. Keep track and be accountable to yourself every step of the way. I know plenty of 170-pound people who are out of shape and 250-pound folks who are incredibly healthy. How do you feel this month compared to last month? Maybe you can now run around the track without stopping, you don’t get winded going up and down stairs, and you can give your kids a piggy back ride without being out of commission for days afterward. Keep track of your energy levels, your conditioning, and your overall well-being. What are your measurements today as opposed to two weeks ago? I mean it … screw the scale!
Look, all I am trying to do is free you from the crap that stresses you out and doesn’t mean a thing and trying to help you focus on what really does matter. I have been through this whole weight-loss journey TWICE in my forty-four years, and have helped many people do the same. I am not here to blow smoke up where the sun doesn’t shine — I am here to be real with you and to let you know that you CAN achieve your goals if you work for it. Just don’t waste precious energy on what doesn’t matter and focus on the ‘real meat.’
Are you stronger, more conditioned, and is your pant size dropping? If so, then you are on the right track!