Junk your scales now

by Matt Mecham on May 18, 2007

in Health & Fitness

When you mention diet you instantly think of several things, two of which are calorie counting and weighing yourself.

In our goal oriented society the amount of gravitational force acting upon your body (that’ll be your weight) is regarded as the single most important figure when trying to lose weight.

After a weeks hard graft in the gym and eating very clean all week you want to see instant results and those results are usually delivered by your bathroom scales.

However, standing on a set of scales can be totally demoralizing when you don’t see the figure go any lower. You start to question yourself, your work load and whether it’ll be easier to move next door to KFC and give back your gym card.

What you may not realise is that your weight can fluctuate by as much as 5lbs in a single day. If you’re the reading sort, then check out this article for why. Feel free to just believe me on this.

Another factor is body composition. In terms of bulk, a square inch of muscle weights more than a square inch of fat. If you’re eating below your maintenance metabolic rate and you’re exercising well, then it’s quite likely that you’re losing fat but gaining muscle.

A brief case in point: I’m still exercising to lose weight. Ideally, I’d like to get down to around 185-190lbs. I’m currently stuck at around 203lb and I have been for a few weeks. Even though my actual weight hasn’t changed, I’ve gone down a trouser size and added visible definition to my shoulders, arms, legs, chest, et cetera as well as adding a few centimeters to my arms and chest. If I haven’t put weight on, then I must have burned fat and replaced it with muscle.

My recommendation is to use the scales once a month as a guide. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t see the results you expected to see, instead take the following advice:

  • Take monthly pictures of yourself without a shirt on. Don’t be embarrassed, I’m not asking for you to share them. Store them somewhere safe. Be honest, too. Don’t suck your gut in or take ages trying to get your best side. This isn’t your Men’s Health audition picture. You want to relax your muscles to get a natural shot. Cheat on your pictures and you won’t get a real idea of your changes.
  • Purchase a decent measuring tape, like this one. Take measurements of your waist (around your navel), your chest (around your nipples) and your biceps and thighs. Do this once a month. Record the measurements, obviously.
  • Purchase a pair of fat measurement calipers, like this one. Record your monthly body fat percentage.
  • Take the batteries out of your scales or hide your mechanical ones until your monthly weight in.

Your measurements and body fat percentage are far more reliable than your gravitational offset.

One small caveat with measurements: Don’t worry if your chest doesn’t get any smaller. It’s likely you’re turning your man-boobs into man-pecs. You should see a gradual reduction in your waist size although this is almost always the last bit of fat to shift.

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