“In the Middle Ages, they had guillotines, stretch racks, whips and chains. Nowadays, we have a much more effective torture device called the bathroom scale. “ -Stephen Phillips

Lately I have been hearing so much about the scale, and I thought it was about time people out there actually became more knowledgeable about its use and how to change their bad bathroom habits.

The following statements will probably mean a whole lot to most of you on an emotional level.
“I gained a kilogram of weight this past week”, or
“I am 500 grams heavier today then I was yesterday”, or
“That bloody scale it’s my best friend and my worst enemy it just depends on the day”.

It’s amazing how dependent we are on the dreaded scale. After every workout I see the guys in the gym change room lining up to weigh themselves after a workout. Ladies don’t you even think of laughing, you are far worse. Most of you love to weigh yourselves at least 2 to 10 times a day. Is this some new addiction taking place?, is this becoming the new nicotine craving of the century?, or are we just plain mad.

I think it is about time the record was set straight because grams, kilograms and pounds is enough to drive anyone insane. Weight is often used as a reflection of general health, the BMI (Body Mass Index) is a quick measure to determine your general health based on your height, whether you are overweight or not. However it is not an accurate reflection of your true health status.

There are various body types, and without going into too much technical detail, every human being is unique, everyone has different skeletal and muscle structures. Some are tall and thin some medium and muscular and some short and stocky, what we call the ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph respectively. Some of us are pure in our classifications, while a large percentage of us have combinations of body type. It is possible to be ectomorphic and with diet and exercise gain some more mesomorhic characteristics.

Basically what I am trying to say is the scale is not useful in determining an accurate picture of what your bodies status really is. Let’s be blunt about it, most of you are trying to achieve weight loss or gain, with no knowledge of your bodies composition. I find the scale is mostly useful for elite athletes or professionals that need to fit into a certain weight category for competition, such as powerlifting, boxing, and others. In cycling, a lot of preparation is geared around power to mass weight ratio, in other words how much power is required to propel a certain amount of weight to achieve maximum performance, and you can understand that for a cyclist in the mountains, this is a key measurement.

The other use of the scale is a more scientific use of how much liquid should be taken in by an athlete during the course of exercise, and this is usually a replacement for the amount of liquid lost. Some serious athletes will weigh themselves before and after exercise in various environments from hot to cold, to get a fairly accurate idea of the amount of liquid they lose and how much they need to take in to sustain themselves from a hydration perspective during an event.

Now I have told you where the scale is most useful and I bet very few of you fit into those categories 🙂
You are probably wondering are you wasting your time weighing yourself ten times a day. Yes! You are.

It really is not a realistic reflection of your true body composition, and the most basic reason is, how much percentage of that weight actually comprises of muscle and fat? You have no clue, and I can tell you that many times I have monitored people who are fatter at a lighter than heavier weight. Simply put a scale cannot differentiate between muscle and fat. In terms of weight and health, I was once deemed to be a health risk, due to my weight being excessive at a particular height. This was however so far from the truth, as I had a higher percentage of lean muscle mass. I was a poor “health statistic” thanks to BMI ratings, but in more than excellent health.

A lot of women often say they don’t want to gain muscle. Well I have news for you ladies, this does not mean you will be muscular and bulky, actually the contrary, toned in shape and healthy. A leaner muscle mass means you burn off more calories to move around as it requires more energy, you use a lot less energy to move fat, as fatty tissue is an already easily tapped energy source.

Thinner does not always mean healthier, either. Extremely thin people often have a lower-than-desired lean muscle mass percentage. When we do not ingest enough calories, not only do we lose a percentage of our fat, we also diminish the percentage of lean mass. Starvation studies have proven that losses of lean mass and fatty tissue leave people with the same percentage of body fat after weeks of starvation. So in truth you are wasting your time and actually harming your health.

Another shocking fact for you readers is that fat takes up more than four times as much space as lean muscle mass, but weighs far less. So if you want to reduce your size, then reduce your percentage of body fat. An obvious indicator is your waistline. If your pants are loosening around the waist and your weight is staying constant then you are definitely heading in the right direction.

So what do I recommend? Straightforward and simple, invest in two simple items, a skin fold caliper to measure body fat and a tape measure to measure body part circumference. If you can afford it, an impedance meter can also be used to measure body fat quite quickly and fairly accurately, but it is an expense.

A skin fold caliper measurement is a good reflection of body fat measurement, and I would use at least a 7 point test for a more accurate measure. Also when measuring, once every 2 weeks should be sufficient to monitor your progress, you won’t notice major difference on a daily basis. The second measuring device I mentioned earlier is the tape measure. You can use this to record your neck size, waistline, biceps, thighs calves and chest. Always measure at the same time of the day and once a week is sufficient to track your results. One more thing we need to know our ideal percentage body fat and the general guidelines are listed in the table below.

Health Rating Male Female
Healthy 10% – 20% 15% – 25%
Moderately High 20% – 25% 25% – 30%
High 25% – 30% 30% – 35%
Obese 30% 35%

People who fall into the Moderately High category definitely risk an increase in health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease

I hope this has set you on the right track, try quitting that adrenaline pumping scale routine for a while, which significantly affects your emotional health. Track your progress in a more beneficial way, and you will start to realize the scale is totally “over-weighted” ;-).

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