THE COMMON ERROR
One of the most common battles my clients face with weight loss for a goal is the fight of body fat versus the scale. Below is an example of how this may look.
Bruce has been working out and improving his eating habits for the past five weeks. His new lifestyle has completely changed his outlook on life. Although he has struggled with his weight for years, he is finally feeling more confident and his clothes fit better. Bruce actually needs to go shopping because his belts are too big to even hold his pants up. His friends, coworkers, and gym buddies tell him every day how much slimmer, more muscular, and happier he looks. He feels proud. Then, one morning, Bruce decides to step on the scale – even though his nutritionist advised against it. The number on the scale has not budged since his first weigh in. He becomes sad, defeated, and decides that this lifestyle just isn’t for him.
Does this story sound familiar? Trust me – this happens more often than not, and if you ever feel this way about your relationship with the scale and your weight loss, you are far from alone.
It’s no secret that societal pressures tell us to look a certain way. Even doctors will call muscular, healthy people “overweight” based off of weight charts and BMI standards. For a very long time in the fitness industry, before measures of body fat percentage became more accessible to the general public, the scale was the most commonly used way to quantify weight loss at home for the average person. There are even certain weight loss challenges that will only give a member’s money back if they lose a certain amount of weight.
This very flawed way of thinking is so deeply ingrained in our society that people above, like Bruce, can be completely blinded from their actual results and only have eyes for the number on the scale.
Although there are many reasons that weight is still used as a measurement in many areas, it can sometimes be a poor gauge of weight loss. BMI, or body mass index, is a number calculated from a person’s body weight and height. For the average person in America, who is sedentary, these numbers have shown to be pretty good predictors of certain chronic conditions and disease. Unfortunately, people who are working out multiple days a week and eating balanced diets are above average and should not rely solely on their BMI as a predictor of disease or health.
Why is this different for “fit” people? BMI does not take into account a person’s amount of body fat compared to their muscle mass (lean tissue). Muscle is 18% more dense than fat, meaning that a pound of fat takes up much more space than a pound of muscle, but they are both contributing the same amount to a person’s total body weight.
As an example, a healthy male (patient A) who has been working out for a few years at Camp Rhino who is very muscular may be 5’11” and 200 lbs, and the BMI chart puts him at overweight, borderline obese. He may be told by a doctor that he has the same risk factors of a sedentary man (patient B) with the same BMI.
That brings us to the idea of Body Fat Percentage (BF%). This is a measure of total mass of fat divided by total body mass. Perhaps patient A from above has a body fat percentage of 7%, while patient B has a body fat percentage of 40%. These men are the same height and weight, but their body composition is completely different and they are on opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of health.
As a person like Bruce, in our story from the beginning of this blog, begins to change his life, his weight may be stubborn to lower. He is putting on muscle for the first time (heavier than fat), and losing fat. His body is losing fat (decrease in BF%), but gaining muscle (same weight). The scale isn’t budging, but everything else is.
RESHAPING THE STORY – WHAT TO PAY ATTENTION TO
This doesn’t change how deeply ingrained it is in our brains that the scale is king, but scientifically, it takes away some of its weight (pun intended). There are a few things to focus on in the future instead of the scale during your weight loss journey that will remind you that you are on the right track:
- Body Fat Percentage
- Measure with the FIT3D by setting up an appointment with a nutritionist
- The way clothes fit
- Progress pictures
- Compare side by side to see any changes
- The things your friends and family notice
- They will not say something unless they notice the changes – believe the compliments!
- A positive change in mindset
- Are you more confident? Excited to wake up in the morning? More eager to go out and show off your results?
These are only a few ways that I most commonly see weight loss. The scale is not the enemy, but it shouldn’t be your best friend either. If stepping on it in the morning is going to ruin your day, even though you’ve been doing all of the right things and seeing results otherwise – don’t step on it. You are so much more than a pesky digital number that populates on a little object you step onto.