- Your Scale Doesn't Tell the Whole Story
- FREE Jump Rope!
- Introducing RevAbs™!
- Test Your Military Fitness IQ!
Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people.
So overweight people are now average.
Which means you've met your New Year's resolution.
Your Scale Doesn't Tell the Whole StoryBy Whitney Provost
When 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. Plus, dreading your weigh-in or obsessing over the number on the scale is unproductive and can lead to unhealthy behaviors such as bingeing or starving yourself. Losing pounds doesn't always mean losing fat. Here's why the scale can be misleading.
- 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. But in addition to measuring your weight, the scale weighs bone, water, muscle, organs, and undigested food. When the number on the scale goes up or down, it doesn't represent only fat loss or muscle gain. It measures fluctuations in glycogen (stored carbohydrates) and water, and it even measures how much that breakfast you ate weighs.
You may wonder about scales that claim to measure your body fat. These send small electrical currents up one leg, through your pelvis, and down the other leg to determine your body's density. Then a formula is used to estimate your body fat. The problem with these scales is that they're notoriously inaccurate. However, they are usually consistent in their readings, so they can be helpful as a measuring tool. Even though the body fat reading might be off by as much as 5 or 10 percent, if the number trends downward over time, you know you're on the right track.
- 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.
- You didn't really gain 5 pounds of fat overnight. You may step on the scale one morning and shriek in disbelief because the number is five digits higher than it was the day before. Stop panicking. Unless you ate an extra 17,500 calories the previous day, you didn't gain fat (a pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories). Your scale is registering water, stored carbohydrates, and food. Also, cheap bathroom scales may have measurement errors, giving slightly different readings even when you're at exactly the same weight.
- 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.
If you're trying to achieve a healthy weight and improve the way you look, you should focus less on what the scale says and more on developing the good habits that will produce results. To get lean and strong, with low body fat and nice muscle tone, there are three things you should do:
- Cardio plus weight lifting (or other resistance training). Cardio workouts raise your heart rate to help you improve your fitness level, burn calories, and shed fat. Resistance training builds muscle, which boosts your metabolism and helps you burn even more calories. Fitness programs like P90X®, ChaLEAN Extreme®, and RevAbs™ all use cardio plus resistance training to improve muscle mass and burn fat.
- Healthy diet. No matter how much you exercise, you'll never reach your fat-loss goals if you don't follow a healthy diet consisting of protein, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. The right foods in controlled portions will fuel your body as it shrinks.
- Track your progress. If you don't use the scale, you need to do something else to check your progress.
- One of the best ways to keep track of your changing body is to use a tape measure. Record your chest, waist, hip, thigh, arm, and wrist measurements in a journal or the guidebook that comes with your workout program. Update the measurements every 30 days to see how your body changes.
- Pictures are also good indicators of progress. Have someone take front, side, and back photos of you every 30 days and keep these with your body measurements.
- Body fat testers can also be used regularly to track your fat loss. Monitoring your progress with tools other than the scale will give you a more realistic assessment of your weight loss success.
- Hydrostatic (underwater) testing and DEXA (X-ray) scans use advanced technology to measure your body fat with a high degree of accuracy. An Internet search can help you find testing centers in your area.
- Notice how your clothes fit. This is a foolproof way to prove that you're losing weight. If your clothes are getting looser, your body is shrinking, even if you don't see a big change in the mirror yet.
Too many people are slaves to the scale. They can't resist weighing themselves, only to feel guilty, angry, or demoralized when the numbers don't move down quickly enough. If you're one of those people whose weigh-ins lead to loss of motivation or a feeling of helplessness, then you need to reconsider using the scale for your progress checks. Success is more than just a number.
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Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, October 19th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!
Test Your Military Fitness IQ!
As a Quality Assurance Specialist here at Beachbody, I have read a great number of success stories, and many of them were from men and women serving in or retired from the armed services. The military is one of the few careers where being in top physical shape can mean life or death, and the fact that so many soldiers use our programs to round out their training is a source of great pride for us. However, Uncle Sam has his own ideas about whom he considers fit. The following is a list of questions concerning the physical fitness test for soldiers in the U.S. Army Rangers. Let's see if you can earn some stars and stripes for your military fitness knowledge.
- What is the minimum number of push-ups a Ranger should be able to do in 2 minutes? The Rangers require a soldier to do at least 57 push-ups in 2 minutes. However, as is the case for all Special Forces, they look for people to go well above the minimum. In fact, they look for someone to do at least 80 push-ups in that time. As research for this quiz, I tried to see how many push-ups I could do in 2 minutes, and the answer is that I'm no Army Ranger. To borrow a line from a favorite comedian: "In the event of a war, I'm a hostage."
- What is the recommended number of sit-ups a Ranger should be able to do in 2 minutes? As with push-ups, the recommended number is at least 80. The minimum is 66. My cousin is an officer in the army, and I asked him about the army employing Shaun T's "Tilt, Tuck & Tighten" technique for getting some ripped military abs, and he told me they'd get on it immediately. He also said they're going to replace "Reveille" with some Lil Wayne.
- What is the maximum acceptable time for a Ranger to make a 2-mile run? The soldier must complete the run in less than 15 minutes and 30 seconds, but the recommended time is sub-13 minutes. That's an average of a little more than 6 minutes per mile, which is a difficult pace to maintain over that distance. I did it once, but it was only to escape an extremely awkward social situation.
- What is the recommended time in which a soldier should make a 12-mile road march carrying a 35-pound pack? The Rangers look for an applicant to make this difficult trek in a little more than 2 hours, with a maximum time of 3 hours. The training in the military is so intense that it can make you hallucinatory. My cousin told me a story about a long hike he had to endure (much longer than 12 miles) during his training. He came across a fellow soldier who was pounding his fists on a tree. My cousin asked him what was wrong, and the guy replied, "I'm not going anywhere until this machine gives me my Mountain Dew!"
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