Why the Scale CAN Lie

November 8, 2014

A little while back I saw someone I knew that I hadn’t seen for about 6 months who had been working with a personal trainer. I complimented her on her weight loss (she appeared to be a lot lighter since the last time I saw her). Shockingly she replied in a sad manner that she had not lost a single pound. It saddens me that people are so often misinformed about weight loss and in turn lowers their motivation and self-esteem.

Many times the phrase “the scale does not lie” gets thrown around too often but does not always hold truth to the situation. The number on the scale isn’t always the best indicator of progress. When your goal is to lose a huge amount of weight it can feel very defeating if the scale refuses to budge despite all of your hard work. However, do not be confused by weight loss and fat loss. The greatest determining factor of how you look and how healthy you are is how low your body fat is rather than how much you weigh.

There is a common misconception that “muscle weighs more than fat.” The fact is that muscle fibers are denser than fat tissues and therefore takes up less space in the body. Ten pounds will still be ten pounds; how that ten pounds is shown aesthetically is the determining factor for many however. For example, if there are two people who weigh the same amount and are the same height the person who has a higher body fat percentage will still look heavier and wear bigger sized clothes. That is why sometimes my weight loss clients will tell me their clothes fit differently even though the number on the scale remains stagnant.

If your goal is to achieve weight loss, with the least chance of gaining it back, then you must retain as much muscle as possible while lowering your body fat percentage. When you lose weight the correct way your body fat percentage will lower as your weight ultimately lowers. If you lose weight in an unhealthy manner it is almost certain that you will be losing muscle mass and your body fat won’t be lowering very much. This means that slow and steady will win the race since you cannot lose weight drastically without losing a lot of muscle during the process. A great goal to have is to lose about a pound per week. This does not seem like much but if you can average about a pound of fat loss per week you will be able to lose about 52 pounds of fat a year!

It is important to realize that if you are completely new to lifting weights that you will initially gain a lot of muscle as you are burning fat which may be a factor as to why the scale stays the same but your body seems to be changing. This may cause you to feel as though you are not making progress if you focus solely on the number on the scale. Instead, better forms of measurements include having your personal trainer keep track of your body fat percentage, taking photos of yourself monthly (since we see ourselves everyday and are less likely to notice gradual changes), paying attention to the inches you’ve lost, how your clothes fit, your newfound physical strengths and abilities, and most importantly how great you feel!

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