Stepping on the scales can be very daunting, especially if the number is bigger than you expected it to be. We see a large number and assume that we must be carrying a lot of extra body fat and immediately plan our next diet, ready to start on Monday morning. What people fail to realise is that the number in front of you is not just your fat, it is made up of a load of components including; body fat, muscle mass, visceral fat, bone mass and even water weight. In this article I will be explaining the reasons that what is on the scales does not matter as much as you thought, and ways for you to measure your progress effectively.
First, let me break down what the overall number on the scales consists of. Body fat is the first obvious number and it is exactly what it says; how much your fat weighs. Muscle mass has a huge factor on the scales, and although it is the weight of how much muscle you have, you would be surprised at how much of the body is taken up by this. A small portion of muscle weighs the same as a large piece of fat as it is dense. Visceral fat is the fat around your organs and a high number could allude to health risks, so you want to make sure that you have a low amount of visceral fat. Water makes up a lot of the body and therefore contributes to the scale number. If you have drank lots and then stood on the scales, the number will be higher and you will record as heavier just from that! Tip: If you are using the scales then ensure that you use them first thing on an empty stomach to get an accurate reading. Finally, your bone has a weight to it and therefore that also adds to the scales overall number.
If you are simply wanting to know how much fat that you have on your body and are not bothered about the rest of the components mentioned above then you want to be measuring your body fat on its own. This can be done via a special set of scales often found at the gym, or via body fat callipers (make sure you find a qualified fitness professional to do this).
Many people judge their BMI (Body Mass Index) as an indicator to whether they are underweight, a healthy weight, overweight or obese. While BMI does have its purposes in working out a general label for the public, especially in a health care setting; it is not accurate when looking at the other components previously mentioned. Take a bodybuilder for example; they will have an extremely low body fat (often as low as 3%) however their BMI will show them as obese. They are not obese at all, but simply put, their muscle mass is very high and therefore the readings show up as obese.
You may love to stand on the scales, and as long as you are aware of all the components that the body makes up then it can be great for progress. If you have lost weight but gained muscle mass due to exercise then the scales may actually say you are heavier than before, however you may have lost a dress size and even look far more toned! If you are looking to shy away from the scales then there are however some other methods to measure how close you are to your goals. Taking images throughout your journey is a fantastic idea and quite often we don’t realise how far we have come until we look back at these. Another amazing way is to use a measuring tape and record in inches each month your measurements. This is another amazing way to work out how far you have come so far in your fitness journey.
Next time you stand on the scales and get disheartened about the number, just remember that this could be because of a number of factors and is not a reflection of your results.
About Leanne Holder
Leanne is an MSc qualified Strength and Conditioning Coach, Personal Trainer and Fitness Blogger. She has a vast amount of experience training professional athletes, the public and freelance writing about fitness and nutrition topics. Her blog and Instagram are full of tips, resources and useful ways to change your lifestyle and improve your health!