Ever since personal scales made their way into bathrooms people have fixated on the number staring back at them as the key measure of health. I’d like to argue that while the scale has its place, it is not the best measure of success. Below are my top three reasons.
1. Scale weight fluctuates based on time of day, food and water intake, sodium levels, hormone levels and other factors as well. If someone steps on a scale at breakfast then again after dinner, there could be a massive difference. If a scale is going to be used accurately it should be used at the same time of day a couple times a week. Numbers should be recorded as fluctuations will occur. If fat loss is the goal a downward trend should be observed over time.
2. Losing weight on a scale isn’t necessarily fat loss. Perhaps this is just a matter of semantics, but most people don’t actually care about weight, they care about fat loss. Most people just correlate weight loss with fat loss. Dietary supplement companies leverage this misunderstanding to push their fat burning pills to the uneducated public. Fat burning pills are largely just mild diuretics that cause the body to flush water resulting in weight loss. People buy into it because the number on the scale drops, but it’s just water, not fat. By way of example, I regularly cut weight for competitions and it’s not uncommon for me to dehydrate myself by 7-10%, weigh in at the competition and put on 20+ pounds by the time I go to sleep. This is because I have manipulated water. I haven’t lost fat.
3. A number on a scale doesn’t equal a healthy person. A better measure of health is lean body mass and lower body fat percentage. The best way to lose body fat is to combine a healthy diet with resistance exercise. In my opinion, one of the best ways to measure success is by taking progress pictures. Pictures should be taken at the same time, same place, and same lighting. Depending on where you started from you will begin to see results in several weeks. To illustrate my point I’ve included a couple photos where the person in the photo is the same weight in the before and after photo. Clearly, what has happened is an increase in lean muscle and a reduction in fat. If success had been measured by a number alone the results would have been deemed a failure, but the number on the scale is only one piece of the puzzle, and it’s frankly unneeded to complete the picture.