I don't know about you, but from a very early age I was taught to be fixated with a number on the scales. From doctors visits, to annual check-ins in gym class, to my own mother corralling me to the fear-inducing device once a week to "keep an eye on my weight," I really began to loathe that thing at a very early age. And according to them, that number said a lot about me.
As I got older and developed a healthier relationship with my body and began to understand my unique needs, I became less afraid of the scales and more curious. What was behind this number? What did it mean for me? And what I realized is that our "weight" overall doesn't really tell us much. So if that's all you're looking at, do me a favor and throw away your scales today.
As a health coach, countless clients have come to me to lose weight. They're upset that they're working out harder but the numbers on the scale doesn't change and in some cases goes the other way. There can be a few reasons that happens, but when it does, you have to ask yourself, what does this overall number mean?
Our weight is a compilation of body fat, muscle mass, water weight and more. So when you see the numbers on the scales increase, it doesn't necessarily mean you got fatter. To dig more into this, let's have a little biology lesson, shall we?
Body Fat percentage & Body Fat Mass: Body Fat Percentage is the proportion of fat to the total body weight. Body Fat Mass is the actual weight of fat in your body.
Visceral Fat: Visceral fat is located deep in the core abdominal area, surrounding and protecting the vital organs. This tends to increase with age and can cause more fat around the abdomen.
Muscle Mass: The predicted weight of muscle in your body. This includes the skeletal muscles, smooth muscles such as cardiac and digestive muscles and the water contained in these muscles. Muscles act as an engine in consuming energy.
Total Body Water: Total Body Water is the total amount of fluid in the body expressed as a percentage of total weight. Over half of our body weight is water and it helps to regulate temperature and eliminate waste. The amount each of us needs varies from day to day depending on climate and amount of physical activity.
So now that we see that the number on the scale is pointing to more than fat, we can better understand our make up and how we need to respond with diet and exercise.
When my clients say they've gained weight, the first thing I ask them to do is get a new scales like the 1byOne Digital Smart Scale. It will show you everything from body fat, to muscle mass to bone mass. If, for example, a client speaks of weight gain but we see their muscle mass has increased and fat has decreased, this is healthy weight gain (as long as fat mass doesn't dip too low). If we see that fat has stayed the same, but water weight has increased, this is a good indication that there could be other issues at play such as hormonal fluctuations, or even food sensitivities.
One of the best ways, in conjunction with a smart scale, to keep accurate tabs on your weight is to measure your waistline with a tape measure (where your natural waistline is—just above your navel). This will give you an indication as to whether or not you are gaining fat mass. This isn't fool proof either as it doesn't account for bloating.
So, the moral of the story is, that the number on the scales is a complex one. It's not as simple as fat or thin. And it's important to know your measurements behind your total weight to ensure that your fat mass and muscle mass are staying within healthy range as is your bone density. They are markers of overall health, but certainly not a measure of self-worth. Use the numbers to learn more about your body and how it reacts to changes in diet and exercise—but never it be your whole story. You're more than just a number.