Body Composition: 4 Reasons to Trash Your Scale

What You Should Know: Most people agonise over the number on the scale. When it drops a quarter of a pound, we jump for joy, and when it blips up a pound, we tend to have a terrible day.

So why do we put so much of our self-worth in that number on the scale?

Is your weight really that important?

Your Scale: Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

Let me ask you this first: how often do you weigh yourself? Be honest, and don’t be embarrassed about your answer. 

You can obsess over anything, and the scale is easy to obsess over. You use it to get what you believe is instantaneous feedback about our body.

You imagine how we will look after you lose 5, 10, 15, or 50 pounds. Should we really give that much power to the scale though? I’ve seen my clients have the best or worst days of their lives based on what the scale says the morning before they come into their sessions with me. That doesn’t seem healthy, and I know that because I’ve been there.

body composition weight scale

My Experience with the Scale

I remember when I had hit my ultimate goal and finally lost the 50 pounds I needed to, in order to get back to a healthy weight. Checking the scale had become such a habit and losing weight had become such a game for me, I would start to check my weight throughout the day.

Just out of sheer curiosity, I was weighing myself three times per day.

  • Once in the morning
  • Once after my workout to see the change
  • And once before bed

I was MASSIVELY into video games, board games, and RPG’s when I was younger, and this was just one way that I would gamify health and fitness in real life. Now, in retrospect, three times per day was way too much. Especially because I was just in my maintenance phase that came after I lost weight. I should have scaled back to checking my weight 1-3 times per week for maintenance, but the scale was like a scoreboard for me. At that point, maintaining my weight was winning the game.

I wouldn’t say that I had an unhealthy image of my body based on what the scale was, but I think that I was way too attached to a number that relatively speaking, means very little in terms of body composition or overall health.

Why? You may be asking. Here are three reasons why weight is a poor indicator of leanness, body composition, and overall health.

1) Weight Doesn’t take Measurements into Account

The first reason that the scale drives me crazy as a misnomered indicator of body composition and overall health is because it doesn’t take any of your measurements into account.

I can’t even begin to count how many male and female clients that I have had (and still have today) that have lost 2-4 inches off of their waists, but are pissed because the scale hasn’t budged in months. What the heck?!

Just to show you how ludicrous this is, let’s flip this example on its head for a second.

Let’s say that you are my client. Over the course of three months of training with me, you lose 10 pounds, but your waist stays the same size. 

Would that make you feel like you are making progress? Probably not. But getting a skinnier waist should make you feel accomplished!

Does that help you see why the number on the scale is ridiculous? If not, take this into account:

Multiple studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between waist size and your risk of

Even if you don’t care about your longevity and your risk of heart disease, (which you should) 99% of people believe that a slimmer waist looks more attractive than a larger one.

What most people really want when they say “I want to lose weight” actually means they want less body fat, more muscle definition, and a smaller waist. 

Which brings me to my next reason why the scale sucks…

2) Your Scale Doesn’t Measure Body Composition

Your scale does not take body composition into account. Unless you have a fancy scale with a bioelectrical impedance analysis feature, you aren’t going to be able to get an idea of what your lean mass to fat mass ratio is. Even with those nicer impedance scales, there is a fair amount of discrepancy in either direction so that you may not get the truest readings. Plus, those readings may vary drastically from day to day.

I’m not saying that you need to go to your doctor, buy a set of calipers, or find a company with a water displacement dunk tank to get the most accurate reading of your body composition, although those would be far-and-away better indicators of your body image and health than the scale.

The other great news is that you don’t need to buy a set of calipers to get an idea of what your body fat percentage or body composition is. Check out this chart and this article from Steve Kamb at Nerd Fitness to see how you can get an idea of what your body fat percentage range is.

Just to give you an idea of how little the scale matters when comparing it to body composition. Here are some pictures using examples of real people who have better body composition at a higher weight.

Check out the results of @ParrFittness. Weighing in at one kilogram MORE in her after photo, she transformed herself from mom-bod in training, to competitive beach body builder.

progress photo

 

Check out how @ActivelyRees went through a similar transformation. At the exact same weight, you can see the

  • Noticeable definition she gained in her midsection
  • The muscle tone in her arm’s, in her after picture
  • That her face even looks skinnier
  • She went from having love handles to a slim waist

progress photo body composition

Hopefully, these two gals give you a better idea of how you can be at a similar weight or the exact same weight, and still radically change your body composition to get…

  • Better abs
  • A slimmer waist
  • More muscle definition and tone

*Want to stop worrying about the scale and lose body fat NOW? Get my Ultimate Fat Loss Checklist for free. 

3) Your Scale is Not a Performance Indicator

Another reason that I don’t like the scale is that it is virtually no indicator of your performance.

The scale isn’t going to tell you if you’re getting stronger, faster, more flexible, more stable, or more powerful. Your numbers and your performance in the gym will.

I’ve seen a lot of skinny guys throw up after trying to run a mile for time.

I’ve also seen guys who are 20-30 pounds overweight who continue to run 5k’s, 10k’s, and half marathons year after year.

Neither one of those are exaggerations. That kind of crap happens every day. I used to think that “skinny” meant “fit” or “healthy.” I was wrong, and if you still think that, so are you.

Just as waist size is an indicator for your risk or resilience against heart disease and diabetes, so is physical strength and cardiovascular health.

People who are stronger, live longer and can retain more physical independence in older age.

People who have better heart health don’t get winded or pass out after walking up a short flight of stairs.

So let me ask you some questions:

Are you squatting more than you were yesterday?

Has your mile time gotten faster?

Can you swing a heavier kettlebell than you did last month?

Do you move safer and more efficiently than you did last week?

Good. What you’re doing is working, and the scale isn’t going to tell you that. Just the numbers and the raw data that you get from the gym.

RELATED: 3 Weight Lifting Programs that Build Muscle and Torch Fat

4) Your Weight Can Make Significant Daily Fluctuations

The last and certainly not least reason that the scale is a sucky indicator for overall health and body composition is that it fluctuates, all the time. I know this from watching the scale change significantly throughout the day depending on what I ate and what kind of activity I was doing.

Weight fluctuations are natural and are happening all the time. Here are just a few things that can cause your weight to temporarily fluctuate.

  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Hydration
  • Dehydration
  • Time of day
  • Supplements you are taking
  • Salty foods
  • Alcohol and soda (even if it is diet)
  • A big cheat meal or cheat day
  • Changes in hormones and PMS
  • Pre or post workout (especially cardiovascular)
  • Pre or post bowel movement (gross I now, but totally true)

Which is exactly why you shouldn’t freak out or celebrate every little movement or budge in the scale. Weight fluctuations happen, and they are okay.

Use the scale as a long term indicator and not a short one. I would say that you should keep your weigh-ins to 1-2 times per week, and record your weight over the long term.

Separating Yourself From the Scale

Now that you know all of the reasons why the scale is a poor indicator of body composition, performance, and how you want to look in your bathing suit, what are some ways that you can separate yourself from the scale?

  • Only weigh yourself 1-2 times per week. Track the progress long term in either a journal, notepad, or fitness application.
  • Monitor your waist size and how your pants, shorts, shirts, and clothes are fitting. This is one of the best and simplest ways to track changes in your body composition.
  • Buy some cheap measuring tape off of Amazon. Here’s how to take measurements.  Take measurements of around your
    • Hips, at the largest point
    • Waist, around your belly button
    • Arm, around the biggest part of your bicep, standing, while your arm is totally relaxed by your side
    • Thighs, measure around the thickest part of the thigh while you are standing
  • Optional: Get a cheap set of calipers off of Amazon with instructions on how to measure your exact body fat percentage.

Changing Your Body Composition and Losing fat

At the end of the day, losing body fat and getting stronger are the best ways to make your body look slimmer, more athletic, and more aesthetic. If you need more help with doing that, You can download my free ebook, The Ultimate Fat Loss Checklist here. 

The ultimate fat loss checklist

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Jack Wilson

Was formerly almost 50 pounds overweight, and now I'm a trainer! I love working out with good people, running, dark coffee and dark beer, surfing, handstands, karaoke, country music, and picking some guitar when I can. Choosing a healthy lifestyle literally turned my life around for the better. I hope it can do the same for you.

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