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Ditch the Scales

Fat Loss - Why It’s Time to Ditch the Scales for Good

Toss the Scales

Picture this…


You’ve recently been on a bit of a health kick with the goal of losing a few pounds.


You’ve put in the work in the gym and your nutrition is so en pointe even Reacher’s Alan Ritchson would be impressed (if you’ve seen his Instagram posts about what and how he eats, you’ll get why this is a huge deal!)


You feel great, healthy, excited to see the results of weeks of hard graft and eating like an athlete. Maybe you even have a dream figure you wish to see flash up on your scales – “proof” that all that work and sacrifice has paid off.


So, you roll out of bed – because every good fitness fan knows that the morning before you eat anything will give you the most accurate figures – pad your way into the bathroom and take a step of faith onto a cool square of glass.


Nerves getting the better of you, you exhale and look down at the tiny digital figures, and then… a wave of disappointment crashes over you, those pesky numbers have barely moved a point. And, because of that, you might think to yourself, “what’s the point,” and consider giving up entirely.


Feel familiar? You’re not alone, for this is the exact situation hundreds, if not thousands, of us experience on a daily basis.


The thing is, when it comes to making a change to your body and lifestyle, reliance on those numbers may not always provide an accurate representation of the true changes and adaptations your body is making.


Unfortunately, the concept of weight as a “good” indicator of health has become so engrained in modern day society that inciting people to ditch the scales for good can seem a bit, well, taboo.


But here at MuscleFood , that’s exactly what we’re encouraging you to do because we believe that “Newton’s laws as mass times gravitational acceleration. That is, an object’s weight is determined by the pull of gravity on it,” should not, and cannot be, a true indicator of health.


There is, of course, a time and a place for using the scale, but it really isn’t the best judge of progress, so read on to unpick this concept in more detail and hopefully, you won’t find yourself quite so hung up on it.

Scale Weight – What Does It Mean?

Standing on Scales

This one is easy – when you weigh yourself, the scale is measuring your total body weight. That’s it. It’s measuring how much mass your body has on the earth at the time you choose to weigh yourself.


What it’s NOT measuring is your body composition – that’s how much muscle you have, how much fat you have, what your bone density is etc. all of which are contributing factors to those numbers you see flashing on your scales.


This is a HUGE problem because for many people embarking on a fitness journey, or who have maybe just started to workout, they will actually gain muscle whilst losing fat.


This doesn’t mean “converting fat to muscle” – that is physiologically impossible – but rather you will be altering your body’s composition which means you might find those scale numbers stay the same.


In fact, they may even go up especially if you’ve been following a strength training programme!

Things That Can Affect Scale Weight

Water Retention

There are many factors that can impact your scale weight which can in turn give you a skewed perspective on your progress, for example:


  • Water retention
    If you’ve eaten a very salty meal the day before, prepare yourself for some extra water weight to show up as an increase in pounds. Likewise, if you’ve been keeping your carb intake low then enjoy a slap up pasta dish , you are going to gain a few pounds as all those carbs will bring in extra water.

  • Inflammation
    Did you know that working out can cause you to “gain” weight. It’s a strange paradox, but it’s true.

    You see, when you exercise hard, microtears occur in your muscle tissue. These tiny tears lead to inflammation which, you guessed it, can increase your scale weight.

  • Periods
    This one is specifically for women and people who menstruate as hormonal fluctuations throughout your cycle can contribute to weight gain and is often characterised by bloating. These variations, whilst frustrating, are natural and, again, are not a true representation of your body fat percentage.

Even the amount you eat, and drink can make your weight change daily by up to 3kg! In essence, your scale weight is entirely dependent on circumstances and not a true reflection of how much fat you carry.

BMI: A Flawed Health Indicator

Source: Ben Carpenter, www.youtube.com/@BenCarpenter

For years medical professionals have used The Body Mass Index to determine how much body fat an individual is carrying based on their height to scale weight ratio.


However, this system has been widely criticised and has been proven to be “flawed, crude, archaic and [an] overrated proxy for health.”

Experts have also pointed out that BMI fails to take into account factors such as how much fat versus muscle a patient has, the distribution of fat in their body (typically, fat around the waist increases disease risk more than fat in other places), and their metabolic health.

Harvard School of Public Health

But why does this matter when talking about scales as a measurement of progress?


Well, the BMI divides your weight by the square of your height, and then, based on a range of numbers, puts you into one of four categories – underweight, healthy, overweight and obese.


The biggest flaw in using BMI as a health indicator is that, as we’ve learned above, your scale weight is not an accurate representation of how much body fat you have, rather it just shows how much overall mass you have. It also cannot show the true status of a person’s overall health.


This is how we end up with elite level athletes with 7% body fat being told to “lose weight” because they’re technically “obese” according to their height to weight ratio on the BMI.


Pretty messed up – right?

What Should You Track Instead?

If you choose to ditch the scales here are some fantastic alternatives to use when tracking your fat loss progress:


  • Body Measurements

Get your hands on a tape measurer and take note of your waist, hips, thighs and biceps – soon you’ll see those inches and cms going down showcasing your fat loss.


  • Take Pictures

This one is probably the easiest and thoughtless to do so grab that camera and take pictures straight on, to the side and from the back. By doing this you will be able to see the changes in your physique even if you don’t feel them.


It’s best to track with these methods weekly so you can see your constant progress and keep up that motivation.

I Can’t Bear to Toss My Scales

Male Fat Loss

Finally, if you just can’t bear to part with your scales, it’s important to keep in mind all of the above and use them wisely. You’re more likely to get an accurate picture of your true weight by looking at your weekly averages rather than relying on the daily figures.


If you’re trending down, then you can be assured you’re making progress, although we would recommend you only do this accompanied by another method of tracking like taking body measurements and pictures.


After all, fat loss doesn’t just happen overnight, so it’s vital you keep the bigger picture in mind.


By embracing alternative methods for tracking progress will lead to a more holistic approach to weight loss that prioritises health over a number on a scale. Remember, your journey is unique, and progress is not always reflected in numbers – focus on feeling strong, healthy, and happy in your body.

Ashleigh Tosh

The Author: Ashleigh Tosh

Ashleigh is the Lead Copywriter for MuscleFood with a love for all things food and fitness. With a foundation in broadcast journalism, she has dedicated the past decade to writing for the health and wellness sector. When not writing away, you can catch her with her nose in a good book, in the gym or summiting Scottish Munros.

References

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