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Health & Food

What Does the Scale Really Reflect?

Back in October, I did a post about weighing yourself, and why I choose not to weigh myself often. In my opinion, it’s not good to focus on a number as a way to gauge your fitness and health (well, at least not the pounds number, other numbers may be helpful, such as blood pressure and cholesterol). Many people tell me that they weigh themselves every day and that it can have a major effect on their mood. But does the number on the scale really reflect what you think?

What does your weight (the number on the scale) reflect? Fat, muscle, fluid, skeletal tissue, and other tissues/organs

What changes when your weight changes? Fat, muscle, and fluid. The others do not change with weight, but they may change with age.

Body Fluid

  • Changes regularly, throughout the day.
  • It is affected by hormones, diet, heat, medications, and exercise.
  • If you weigh yourself in the morning, you may easily weigh 3-4 pounds less than you do later at night! Fluid can fluctuate tremendously throughout the day.
  • Women who are pre-menstrual can experience a 3-8 lb fluctuation in fluid weight.

Muscle

  • When you are losing weight, you will lose muscle. Help combat this loss by including a workout regimen, with weights, that lasts 60-90 minutes, 5 days a week.
  • People who are overweight actually have more muscle than people of normal weight. Why? They need to be able to support their extra weight.
  • When you exercise to lose weight, you may not see the weight loss right away because your energy from fat will be used to power your workouts. Working out will help your muscles grow larger in size (no increase in the number of muscle cells, only muscle cell size). Muscle weighs more than fat, therefore the scale may not show that you have lost weight.

Fat

  • Fat loss is seen when you consume fewer calories than you burn.
  • Fat loss can be measured in multiple ways, but the most common is via bioelectrical impedance. Your local gym’s personal trainers should have a machine to do this, or you can buy a special scale.

Bottom Line: If you want to weigh yourself every day, that’s fine, but keep in mind the number may not accurately represent your efforts to maintain, lose, or even gain weight. If your mood or your diet for the day tends to change depending on the number you see on the scale each day, you may want to consider weighing yourself once every other week, in my opinion.

Healthy Body Fat Percentages

For Health

>55 yrs women: 25-38%

>55 yrs men: 10-25%

For Fitness

>55 yrs women: 20-33%

>55 yrs men: 7-18%

Source: ADA Sports Nutrition; A Practice Manual for Dietitians

Bottom Line: These body fat recommendations may not be as low as you thought, am I right? Fat is important for brain function, insulation, and nerve impulse transmission (to name a few). Don’t ignore the value of fat!

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