If you’ve decided to embark on a fitness journey, healthier lifestyle or simply wanting to track your fitness progress, the likelihood is that you would’ve reached for the all too familiar bathroom scales.
It’s a common faux pas for us to start obsessing over the numbers on the scales rather than taking into consideration our body composition.
We are known to adopt some irrational behaviours when it’s time to step on those scales. We allow the numbers to dictate whether we have succeeded or failed and influence how we feel about ourselves. These digits have become intertwined with our perception of body image that can cause re-occurring struggles for some.
Many of us get that cold sweat and dry mouthed anticipation when about to step on the scales. What you need to understand is the scales are biased. They do not tell the full story!
Scales have a restricted view on changes in weight and do not care for its variables. So, let’s not panic! We don’t need to develop an unhealthy relationship with these numbers, instead let’s focus on our body composition.
So yes, I’m calling the scales a liar!
Now, that’s not to say you should completely disregard what the scales say. They can be a useful tool but by no means is it the be all and end all. However, If you’ve indulged in those sweet treats or cheat meals more than you should have and junk food has become more of a staple, you’ll have to roll with the punches and accept the truths behind the numbers.
“But that’s not me! I’ve put in the graft, cut down those enticing calorific meals and yet the scales are still heading in the wrong direction or standing still”
I hear you, and this can be so disheartening. We have become accepting of those numbers, rather than trusting our own eyes! Leaving us discouraged, disillusioned, jumping from one yo-yo diet to the next, or worse giving up - rather than celebrating our successes.
So let’s take a look at the main variables and factors when it comes to body composition:
1. Water Retention
Water makes up 60% of the human body and is the biggest variable we see when talking about weight gain and loss. Did you know your body weight can fluctuate 2 – 4 pounds a day or more in water weight alone? Water retention is not only affected by the water you consume but by the salts in your food. If you eat more salt than your daily recommended amount (6 grams or 1 teaspoon), your body may hold onto the fluid in an attempt to balance out your sodium levels. Ironically, this can happen unintentionally when starting a new nutrition plan.
Additionally, we as women need to be mindful of their menstrual cycle. When the hormones fluctuate it can cause bloating and water retention. Become aware of your cycle and the stage you’re in to avoid unnecessary disappointment when the scales mislead you.
2. Bone Density
Your bones make up 12 – 18% of your body’s total weight. Surprising to some, bone density can be increased when you start weight bearing training. This increases the stress put on your bone structure through a process called ossification (the laying down of new bone material by cells called osteoblasts).
3. Body Fat
As we touched on before, the scales can’t tell the difference between fat and muscle.
“But I have one of those fancy scales that tell me everything!”
Don’t believe everything you read. These scales, although arguably better than your average bathroom type, they can only provide a rough idea of your body composition and in actual fact, they probably cause more confusion than their worth.
4. Muscle Mass
Muscle weighs more and is denser than fat – FACT! 1kg of muscle weighs the same as 1kg of fat. However, since muscle is denser than fat, that 1kg of muscle will take up less space than that 1kg of fat. Smile guys, the scales might not be showing you the results you want but your eyes and your clothes will.
5. Trust your eyes – you look good!
Leading me nicely onto your good old trusted eyes. Your clothes will tell you the real story about what’s going on. The scales couldn’t care less whether you have dropped a dress size or filling your clothes out differently, nor is it interested in how you feel. If you’re buying smaller clothes, you’re losing fat – despite what the scales say.
So, with all of this in mind, there are a few additional things we can do to help measure your progress:
• Take body measurements – a simple measuring tape can help track changes on those targeted areas.
• Take progress photos – everyone loves transformation before and after photos. They are a great form of inspiration especially when those scales are skewing your view.
• Keep a fitness journal – keep track of your weight, exercise and strength gains.
• Focus on your performance goals – instead of solely focusing on your weight loss goal, set small manageable goals such as water intake, nutritional habits and weekly workout targets.
My final thoughts are that scales can be a useful tool and a great addition to any bathroom. However, do not allow those numbers to hypnotise and consume you. Your success and failure should not be exclusively based on your body weight!