Q. Do you think the average person should weigh themselves often (or even own a scale)? I guess I personally think that if you are living healthfully you shouldn’t worry too much about weight, but I also know weight is an indicator of health…
A. Many of you know I’m not a huge advocate of scales – or at least of not allowing your hard work and self-esteem to be determined by the number looking back at you. If you find yourself becoming obsessed with whether that number has gone up or down, I say – throw the scale away! If you do choose to weigh yourself, do so no more than 1x/week and do it on the same day of the week and time of day each weigh-in. Why? Because your body can fluctuate greatly in one day – water weight gain or loss, the food sitting in our stomach, etc. all play a role and do not necessarily reflect actual fat tissue gain or loss. Weighing yourself can serve as a good reference point, and it can be used as a marker of progress. However, I am more concerned with what that number on the scale is representing – are those fat pounds or muscle pounds…because the health consequences of each are vastly different.
For example, Person A could step on the scale and be 150 lbs. After his body composition assessments, I find that he is 30% body fat. This means that of the 150 lbs popping up on the scale, 45 lbs are fat and 105 lbs are bones, organs, water, healthy lean muscle, etc (“everything else”).
However, Person B could also be 150 lbs, but let’s say…18% body fat. This means that of the 150 lbs popping up on the scale, 27 lbs are fat and 123 lbs are bones, organs, water, and healthy lean muscle…MUCH DIFFERENT!!!
Excess body fat (not necessarily excess weight!) is directly correlated with increased health issues: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, increased strain on the heart and other organs, altered brain chemicals, heart attacks, strokes and even cancer. And remember (you may have to sit down for this one): You can be ‘ideal’ or even underweight and still overfat – and therefore at risk for these same health problems.
Why is weight so focused on then? In general, most people do not have access to Body Compostion assessments, so they don’t know what percentage is body fat verses lean muscle tissue. It is assumed that if your weight goes down, so does your amount of body fat. This is what we IDEALLY would like to happen…but remember, your body can only physiologically lose 1-2 lbs of fat a week (perhaps more if you are excessively overweight). If you are losing more than this (think extreme diets, etc) – you are losing precious muscle tissue. This ruins your metabolism and is not healthy.
Fat and muscle are two different tissues and are not interchangable (you cannot turn fat into muscle and muscle does not turn into fat). Your goal should be decreasing body fat and increasing muscle tissue. The way to prevent muscle loss (or even gain some muscle) while losing weight is to eat properly and STRENGTH TRAIN! It takes a focused and consistent strength-training regimen to see these changes happen, but the benefits are well-worth it. You may not see the numbers on the scale go down as much as you would like, but the percentage of fat vs. muscle will be positively altered.
You can have a smaller, tighter, stronger physique – and still weigh the same! Imagine a 1 lb ROCK (representing muscle) and a 1 lb PILLOW (representing fat)…put them on a scale, and they are both one pound. Appearance-wise, however, the rock is much more solid, dense, tighter and smaller than the big fluffy pillow.
With valeo / personal training, I’m into making ROCKS!!!