How much do you weigh? Who cares! Weight is one of the most meaningless measures of your fitness. Here’s why and what you should be measuring instead.
The Scale Does Not Differentiate Between Weight and Fat
The scale measures weight, which is the total weight of all your body mass. This includes muscle, water, tendons, ligaments, organs, and water. All this tells you is how heavy you are. It tells you nothing about your body composition.
Someone who weighs 150lbs with 40% body fat is going to look a lot different than someone who is 150lbs and 15% body fat. One person is going to be obese, while the other is going to have great muscle definition. You would never know this when you step on a scale.
Weight Fluctuates Drastically Throughout the Day
I don’t know about you, but my weight can fluctuate 5-10 pounds during a single day. I usually lose 3-5lbs overnight. Do you really think I lost 5lbs of fat while I slept? I wish.
Your weight is very closely tied to your water retention. Since your body is over 60% made up of water, you can imagine how much your body fluids fluctuate throughout the day.
How much you drink, what you eat, the amount you sweat, hormone fluctuations, female cycles, and the time of day you weigh yourself all drastically influence the number on the scale. The scale is really just measuring these short-term fluctuations in water retention.
It Creates an Unhealthy Obsession With Weight
How many times a day do you weigh yourself? I’d venture to say that most people weigh themselves on a daily basis. There are plenty of people who don’t, but the majority step on the scale one or more times throughout the day.
All that does is make you happy when you see it go down and then stress out when you see it go up. Your mood throughout the day is tied to the number on the scale. That’s right, the scale and its measure of water retention and total body mass are telling you how to feel.
A Low Weight Does Not Automatically Equal a Healthy Body
I can’t emphasize this enough. Being skinny does not automatically mean you’re healthy. There are people walking around weighing close to nothing that still carry around a high percentage of body fat. That means they have next to no muscle.
They likely do very little exercise and eat close to nothing, which means they consume very little vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A healthy body comes from the combination of physical activity and healthy food. Your resulting body composition is a side effect of this kind of lifestyle.
It’s a Motivation Killer
How many times have you spent hours in the gym literally working your butt off while also eating healthy only to see the scale not budge or even go up? It happens all the time, and do you know what usually happens? People think “what’s the point in torturing myself if I’m not going to lose any weight?”
Again, the scale is only measuring total body mass. It doesn’t tell you how much of that mass is muscle and how much is fat. You could have gained 2lbs of muscle and lost 2lbs of fat, but the scale wouldn’t have told you that.
You could have improved several measures of your health, such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and triglycerides, and even improved your mental well-being, but the scale won’t show you that either. Instead, it stops your motivation and drive dead in its tracks. You were mere days or weeks away from transforming your life, but you put your trust in the scale instead of in the weight loss process.
How Should You Be Monitoring Your Progress
Now, I don’t want to completely bash scales, because they do have their place as long as you fully understand their purpose. While I do weigh myself daily, I take the average of 7 daily measurements. This smooths out the daily fluctuations in water weight. I can then compare the averages week to week and see the trend.
Scales work in conjunction with other progress measurement tools to give you a complete picture. Alone, the scale is misleading, but combined with other measurement tools, it will give you a clearer picture of your body composition, fitness, and health.
Start measuring your body fat with calipers. Measure the circumference of your body parts with a tape measure. Take progress pictures every week. Listen to comments people are making about your body and the way you look. Pay attention to the way you feel. Get blood work done to see what’s happening inside of your body.
All of these methods offer true piece of mind that what you’re doing is working. Placing all your faith into a single progress measurement tool such as your scale will put you on the straight and narrow to betrayal, confusion, and frustration. Enlist the help of other measurement tools and experience numbers that are a factual representation of your body.