Why Your Scale Is A Big Fat Liar

A hand adjusting a weight scaleWhen it comes to weight loss, the scale can be a good measure of progress, particularly if you have a lot of weight to lose. But if you place too much emphasis on your weight and not enough on your body composition (the ratio of fat to lean muscle), you’re only getting half the story.

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The scale doesn’t tell you how much fat you have. Your scale does exactly what it’s supposed to—it tells you how much you weigh. When the number on the scale goes up or down, it doesn’t represent only fat loss or muscle gain. In fact, the scale can’t tell if you’ve gained muscle. A pound of muscle is like a brick, small and compact. A pound of fat is like a fluffy feather pillow, bulky and lumpy. When you gain muscle and lose fat, your body gets smaller and tighter. Building muscle also makes it possible to drop clothing sizes without a big change in weight. Perhaps after a 90-day fitness program, the scale says you lost 7 pounds, which may not sound like much. But what if you actually lost 12 pounds of fat and gained 5 pounds of muscle? That’s a remarkable improvement in your body composition, but you wouldn’t know it if you only used your regular bathroom scale to track your progress.

Your body’s water levels are constantly changing. The scale can move up or down depending on how much water you drink, how much salt you consume, how much you sweat, and how many carbohydrates you eat. An average person can see a daily fluctuation in water weight of about 2 pounds, without any changes to diet or exercise habits. These fluctuations do not signify fat loss, and watching the scale move up and down every day can be frustrating for many dieters.