Why you should ditch your bathroom scales

A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

Please, for your own life’s happiness and benefit for achieving your goals, whatever they are, ditch your bathroom scales; it could just be the best thing you will ever do.

THE SCALES LIE TO YOU

Some scales are ‘very clever’. I say that because that’s what they’re telling you; but many of them are actually incredibly thick. This machine at my gym, for example, says that it can tell you body fat %, muscle % and water %.

BODY FAT PERCENTAGE – some people reading this may think they need to get these scales as this information would be amazing to have. All I can say is that this morning I stood on the scales and it showed me that at 12 stone and, looking as I do in this unadulterated post-morning-workout photo, that I am 17.5% body fat. This is just a lie.

Post-morning-workout at 9% body fat when the scales say I’m 17.5%

IMAGE BELOW: A ROUGH VISUAL GUIDE TO BODY FAT PERCENTAGES

I have body fat callipers for a more accurate measurement of client and my own body fat percentage. Plus, I have the back-up of studying my trade. With both of these in mind, I know that I am currently at 9% body fat – a level I am happy with. But imagine if I didn’t have this extra information and went on the scale percentage alone I would be rather upset that the body I had and thought was at a good standard was actually 17.5% body fat. Based on this information – not knowing that it’s incredibly inaccurate – and my feelings towards body fat percentage, I would probably do more cardio, I would eat less and get skinnier which would in turn lose my hard-earned muscle and the athletic look I strive for. What I have seen with weighing scales like these is that, when it shows general weight loss, the body fat percentage reading also decreases, no matter what. This machine promotes being skinny over being in good shape and does not recognise a better physique.

Day after day, many people stand on the bathroom scales as soon as they get up to see ‘what the damage is’. The ludicrous thing is – and I know this will ring true in your mind – that there have been many days over your lifetime where the glowing figure that appears beneath you when you stand on those scales has indeed actually shaped your food choices, drinking habits and even your mood for that day.

TAKE BACK CONTROL

What in the world gave this inanimate object the power to reign supreme over these fundamental daily decisions?! Especially when, nine times out of 10, your feelings after reading that number of the scales are of deflation.

Let’s say your goal is to lose weight – not even body fat, just lose weight – and you decide to step on the scales once a week. For the first 2 weeks you stand on the scales and see that you have lost 3lbs each week – excellent news, and you are happy. But the next week you see that you have ‘only’ lost 1lb – you are now unhappy “why haven’t I lost 3lbs or more” you ask. The next week you don’t lose anything – again, you are unhappy, even though you ‘tried even harder this week in the gym’. In total, after 4 weeks you have lost 7lbs (half a stone) which is fantastic and something you should be proud of. But you are unhappy because humans have the annoying trait of wanting to better their previous records in whatever they do and you ‘haven’t bettered your 3lb per week’ weight loss which was where you started.

If the weighing scales are your medium to better a record, you will be sorely miserable for the rest of time because weight loss occurs dramatically at the start of a calorie deficit diet and when increasing your exercise. But most of this weight is actually water loss, not fat.

WHY CUTTING CARBS SHOWS WEIGHT LOSS

Very simply, ingesting carbohydrates makes your body store water in your muscles giving you that full, healthy look to your muscles. When you cut carbohydrate levels, as many people do when dieting, the water stored in your body also cuts. This excess water is flushed out of your body meaning that you lose this water weight. So the majority of the weight you lose at the beginning is not body fat. It will be water. But you think it’s fat, because that’s what you believe it to be.

When you actually start losing noticeable body fat, after a week or two, you can actually lose less weight on the scales. This is when you get demoralised because you see less weight coming off. This is what is wrong with going by the bathroom scales. It gives you information, but it’s incomplete and so you create a link about what you think is happening which 9/10 turns out to be wrong. When you are losing less weight, you may actually be losing more body fat than when you lost more weight on the scales! Plus, after a few weeks of working out, you will be increasing your muscle size and strength – muscle weighs more than fat; thus, as you gain muscle weight and lose less water weight, your actual weight-on-the-scale loss will be smaller than when you started!

GO WITH YOUR EYE

The bottom line is, if I trusted these scales, and not my science, I would be going away from my goals of building muscle and staying shredded in order to get the reading I wanted to see.

Please, take your scales away, go with what is in the mirror, how you feel and what you look like in your clothes. This is what matters, not what the scales say. If you want to weigh yourself for interest, please do, but do it weekly or monthly, never daily. Your daily weight can fluctuate by up to 3-5 lbs depending on how much you drank the days before, how many carbohydrates you have consumed and whether you have been to the toilet or not; and this fluctuation isn’t an accurate reflection of continual dedicated healthy eating and working out.

Once more, give yourself a happier life and throw away the scales.


Chris James MA O.A. Dip

Director – Head of Fitness and Nutrition

Fitness Body Pro

 

Chris James
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