Stop measuring progress with a scale
Why your bodyweight is a terrible indicator of success
Body fat, lean body mass, and bodyweight.
For anyone who has tried to lose weight, get in better shape, or simply live healthier, the term "weight loss" has entered their vocabulary. The reality is, when someone says they want to "lose weight" they really mean they want to lose fat. Don't get me wrong, if someone is pushing 300 pounds, they do need to lose weight, but the majority of that weight is fat and thus the statement "lose fat" is accurate.
Magazines, fitness professionals and even doctors have perpetuated this idea that bodyweight alone is an accurate depiction of health and fitness. There are so many factors that attribute to ones health and fitness levels, it is absurd to think that it can be accurately measured by a single factor. When looking at body composition, there are two measurements that hold most of the importance, Lean Body Mass (LBM) and Body Fat (BF), which are both measured as a percentage of total body weight. Lean Body Mass is the amount of muscle you have, while Body Fat is the amount of fat you have.
Why is this important? Simply put, if you lose 1lb of fat, but put on 1lb of muscle, you have made progress but the scale will say otherwise. This very simple concept is what I wish I could drill into every single one of my clients' heads. A few weeks into a training and nutrition program a client will become disheartened because they got on a scale and didn't see the number they wanted to see. They become so focused on that number that they fail to see that they are leaner, stronger, have more energy, and all together feel better! All too often, I will have a client come in wanting to lose weight with a goal bodyweight in their mind. They believe that if they can simply get their bodyweight down to that number, they will be happy and content with their body. Naturally, the idea of this bodyweight has a certain physique that comes along with it. Their perception of the "ideal body" is usually shaped by instagram fitness models, or the actors/actresses they see on their favorite shows. The issue with this is that the physique they want doesn't always correlate with the bodyweight they want. Having a lean, muscular physique comes with the necessity of Lean Body Mass, and thus more weight.
The mental torture of the scale
Sadly, in today's day and age, people will determine their self worth, self esteem, and physical attractiveness off of their bodyweight. The thought that there are people who start every morning by weighing themselves and judge their value as a person off of a number, tears me apart. An Australian study in 2014 showed that over 50% of 10-11 year old children were unhappy with their body, and had made efforts to lose weight. The children who were happy with their body were shown to have better emotional health as well. These children are going through their developmental years with the perception that their self worth and emotional happiness is based off their physical appearance and bodyweight.
The tie between happiness and bodyweight needs to be severed. As we begin to acknowledge the mental health issue in America, my hope is that people will gain a new perspective on their self worth and happiness. As for health and fitness, it is high time that we do better at measuring and assessing. We continue to use outdated and inaccurate methods, and leave many people discouraged and unhappy in the process. The fitness industry can do better, the medical community can do better, and as a society we can do better.
The right ways to measure progress
Hopefully by now you have realized that bodyweight is a terrible way of indicating progress. The question now becomes: What are the right ways to measure progress?
I hope that you walk away from this article with a better mindset on measuring progress. Your self worth is not dependent on a scale or your physical appearance. Bodyweight is simply how much gravity is pulling you down to earth.
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