The Scale Lies

Congrats to all the Catacombs athletes that competed in the Mountain Marmot this weekend. Way to take your fitness outside.

Congrats to all the Catacombs athletes that competed in the Mountain Marmot this weekend. Way to take your fitness outside.

At best, it tells half truths.

Many of us determine how we are doing with our health and fitness by what the numbers on our at-home scales say. When the scale indicates we’ve lost some weight, we often tell ourselves, we are doing pretty well or that we are on track without equally weighing the evidence of what we have been putting into our bodies or how we’ve been exercising. Conversely, when that number fails to move after a few weeks of disciplined eating and regular exercise, we conclude that it must not be working.

We have been programmed over the years of our lives to look at the scale to know we are healthy. But the final number on the scale and our actual state of health are not the same.

Many factors beyond the scale tell the better story of your health.

First on the list is your body composition. What’s really going on under the hood? Muscle is a much more dense tissue type than fat and it weighs more than fat.  Fill your favorite pair of jeans with muscled legs and they look and feel great…no matter what the scale says. As you eat right and workout and lift heavy, the scale may not move or it may even inch up, but your body composition has moved toward a profile of health.  And as a nice side effect, your jeans fit better, your muscles become more defined, and that spare tires ever so slowly melts away.

The scale is sensitive to other factors beyond body composition as well. Water weight can fluctuate in your body from about 2-4 pounds a day.  Some days you may weight more or less depending on water weight. And finally, if you eat a heavy meal or a bit more than usual you may weigh more the next morning.  If you don’t eat all day you will weigh less but you have not lost fat nor improved your health status by starving for a day.

So as the Whole Life Challenges comes at everyone, consider putting the scale aside. Health is SO MUCH MORE than a number on the scale. Body composition testing will give you a much better picture of your overall health as it relates to your weight. It will also keep you focused on making the right types of choices for the long term, rather than the ones that might impact the number on the scale in the short term. And we encourage you to consider all of the other factors that impact your health like sleep and stress management. Make good decisions, maybe make some better decisions, think about your goals, and consider the long haul of what you want. And while the scale is one tool of many that can give an indication of your health, remember that it only tells part of the story.