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Why a Scale Can't Predict Your Fitness Level

By Genevieve Cunningham

When it comes to losing weight and getting fit, most of us are making the same big mistake. Our first move is to step on the scale, and then we continue to step on the scale almost obsessively. While weighing yourself is OK, it’s really not OK for this number to be your only predictor of health and wellness. Take a look at some reasons why the scale can’t accurately predict your health, and a few ways that may do a better job.

Muscle Weighs More Than Fat

This is a misleading statement, though everyone has heard it before. The truth is that a pound of fat and a pound of muscle weight exactly the same … they weigh a pound. But they look very different. A pound of fat takes up much more space than a pound of muscle. Muscle is much more dense, so it takes up a smaller area, and will look smaller on your body. When you first begin to work out, you’ll likely begin to build muscle before you lose fat. What does this mean? It means that your weight may go up, even if you’re actually gaining some ground in the health world. Bottom line? Don’t trust the scale, especially in the beginning. Trust your body to do its thing, and use the scale as a simple check and balance.

Body Fat Percentage and Weight are Not the Same Thing

When we’re trying to lose weight, we really mean that we’re trying to lose fat. So why are we so focused on that number on the scale? If you really want to look at a number, look at your body fat percentage, also known as your BMI. To get your BMI, your height, body composition, and weight are all factored together. You then get a percentage, telling you what percentage of your body is fat. A healthy BMI is generally regarded as between 18 and 25 percent. Men’s tend to be lower (even a little lower than 18) and women’s tend to be higher, which is perfectly normal. This number, if you really need one, is a better indicator of how much fat you’re losing. If you need a number for your goals, find your BMI and use it as a guide.

How Else Can I Judge Success?

Before you begin your journey, take some pictures. After a few weeks, take more. You’ll probably be shocked at how much your body has changed, even if the scale hasn’t budged. You can also use a tape measure to measure your arms, waist, hips, and legs. As you progress toward better fitness, measure again to see where you stand. Lastly, don’t forget that your clothes can be a great indicator. If they were tight before, and now they slide on easily, you’re making progress! Choosing one of these methods can help lift your mood and keep you motivated when the going gets tough.

Though the scale definitely has its place and can serve a purpose in any person’s fitness journey, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Use some of these other methods to track your success. Don’t forget that slow and steady wins the race. Make a plan, stick with it, be patient, and you’ll find your success whether the scale says so or not.

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