Let me start out this post by explicitly stating that I’m not actually suggesting that anyone stick a bullet in their bathroom scale, at least not within city limits. It might ricochet off and kill the neighbor’s barking dog or something (just terrible). The “Kills You” portion of the title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the damning affects that a simple bathroom scale can have on a person’s fitness journey. Boredom is one of the most common killers of people’s commitment to fitness, but right up there with boredom is people’s perception that they’re achieving little or no results. How do most people measure results when they first begin a fitness journey? The scale, Mr. (Evil) Scale!
Popular culture, fueled by programs like “The Biggest Loser”, has effectively skewed a great deal of the population’s perspectives on fitness into associating fitness success with dropping “X” number of pounds as quickly as humanly possible. Rapid weight loss has its own share of undesirable consequences including muscle loss, bone loss, and increased potential for dehydration. Furthermore contestants of the show frequently employ risky and even dangerous measures to accomplish one goal and one goal only, which is solely to lose as much weight as possible and win that darn $250,000.00. It doesn’t matter in their minds where the weight comes from, or how they feel afterward, just as long as they win the big bucks. If the goal is simply to be able to say that you’ve lost “X” pounds, then fine perhaps they’ve succeeded. However, if the goal is to change your life and embark on a new and wonderful real world fitness journey to an ever improving healthier you, then it’s probably time to find a more appropriate device for gauging your fitness success.
So many people I’ve talked with recount stories of finally reaching a point where they’re just sick and tired of being overweight, or obese. They begin sweating their asses off at the gym after work, denying themselves dessert and that second helping at mealtime, only to completely derailed when Mr. Scale glares back at them with the exact same weight they started with weeks or even months prior! Baaam! Goodbye fitness journey, hello self-indulgent and fix my feelings triple-fudge sundae. Your innocent enough looking bathroom scale has just killed your fitness journey in its infancy and damned you right back to the couch. I’m going to let you in on a little factoid that I’ve learned through my own fitness journey. SCALES ARE ONE OF THE BIGGET DECEIVERS ON THE PLANET, especially during the early stages of your journey! The hitch is that as you begin losing fat weight, through cardio and weight training, you’re simultaneously gaining lean weight in the form of muscle. If you are constantly focusing on what your scale is telling you, you’re more likely to quit and throw away real progress simply due to the fact that you’ve allowed your true fitness goals to be skewed and tainted by your chosen measuring device.
• Muscle is about 18% more dense than fat. Which means if you exchange 5 lbs. of fat for 5 lbs of lean muscle you’ll weigh exactly the same, but actually be much thinner.
• 1 lb of additional lean muscle will burn approximately an additional 50 calories per day.
o So if you add a mere 5 lbs of muscle to your body, you will burn approximately an additional 250 calories/day (FYI – Fat burns NONE)
o This equates to an additional 91,250 calories/year, which indicates that by adding a mere 5 lbs of lean mass you would lose 26 lbs over the course of 1 year (determined by using 3,500 calories/pound)
Based on the above figures it’s clear to see that building lean muscle mass should be an integral part of every fitness journey. Losing fat is great, but it’s the added lean muscle that’s going to help increase your body’s capacity to burn calories, and in turn give you a better chance of keeping the weight off long term. The fact that muscle is metabolically active tissue is a big part of why an active person who strength trains is able to eat considerably more than a scale junkie who is focusing only on losing weight, and is also losing muscle as a result.
Get rid of your bathroom scale now! Put it away in some storage closet somewhere so that it’s not sitting there every time you’re getting ready in the morning, taunting you, glaring at you with its haunting evil little numbers. If you know, or even think that you’re unable to resist the temptation of attempting to validate your fitness efforts with Mr. Scale, then throw him away or give him to one of your friends as an evil little foster child. The most significant fruits of your commitment to your fitness journey will be noticing your clothes fitting looser, daily tasks such as gardening becoming easier, and workouts gradually increasing in intensity, even if you’re the exact same weight as before.
Instead of using a bathroom scale to gauge your progress on your fitness journey, I recommend using a hand-held fat loss monitor / body fat analyzer, or a skin fold caliper to track your improving body composition. The Omron HBF-306C Fat Loss Monitor has a very high customer rating and can be purchased for around $27.00, while the Accu Measure Fitness 2000 skin fold caliper can be purchased for as little as $6.00. One of the primary benefits of using a hand-held monitor is that you won’t have to bother with interpreting the results like you do with the skin fold calipers. Please keep in mind that even the electronic body fat monitors are not %100 accurate, but they do help to paint a much more complete picture of your internal transformation than simply using a bathroom scale. The true fruits of your labor and perspiration are experienced as your excess fat is gradually replaced by lean, mean, calorie burning muscle! This muscle will enhance your ability to burn calories throughout the day, turning into you to a fat burning machine.
Below is a table showing the various body fat ranges. Which range are you in now? Which range do you want to be in?