The most important thing you need to know about the number on the scale

I work with people who want to lose weight - a lot. I always stress that getting healthy is number one, and that the weight will follow. It’s difficult when you are losing weight not to obsess about the number you see on the scale. We can’t live and die by the scale - and here’s why.

Your body weight is a very rudimentary metric of your health and well-being. Even worse is BMI. BMI means body mass index. It’s a measure of your height to weight ratio. And the WHO has long declared it as the determinant of weight standards. It will tell you if you are a healthy weight, overweight or obese. If we took Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, and measured his BMI, he would be considered obese. We clearly know this is not the case. Muscle weighs 6 x more than fat by volume, so you are going to weigh more if you have more muscle. And you are going to have a higher BMI if you have more muscle. 

One of the things that often trips people up at our weekly check-ins is that their weight may stay the same or even go up a little. When I see this happen I always look at the fat percentage and then calculate the actual fat either gained or lost…and usually what has happened is that there has been a gain in muscle and often a loss in fat. If they just go by the scale, the mood drops. They feel disappointment. The scale can also be affected by water weight, either in the space between your cells or your bladder. Whether you’ve had a bowel movement or not. Dehydration can cause an increase in water weight. Carbs can cause an increase in insulin which also causes us to hold on to water. So we really can’t take the number on the scale day to day and make it mean something. We’ve got to use other metrics. 

One of those metrics is called the FFMI – Fat Free Mass Index. It’s measuring your lean body mass. Something we should be way more concerned about than how much fat we’ve got, is our muscle mass. It’s a pretty good indicator of how long we’ll live – our longevity. If you want to see your FFMI you can find many of these calculators online. 

So if you’re actively losing weight, don’t go by weight alone. There are now apps that can do imaging to show how your shape is changing. And scales that have many more metrics than just weight. If your scale just gives you your weight, it might be time to invest in a new one. I like  the Renpho. As you’re going through the process of transforming your shape – because that is really what it is – use these other metrics as determinants of change. Calculating changes in muscle mass and fat loss will go a long way to keeping you sane!