To weigh or not to weigh?
Updated: Jan 8
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Anyone who has tried or is trying to lose weight has seen or been told that “it’s not healthy to weigh yourself - just go by your clothes size and how you feel” and to an extent I agree. I know I’ve been there when I’ve had ‘ a good week’ then stepped on the scales only to be slapped in the face with disappointment as the scales are reading the same number as the previous week or even showing I’ve gained a few pounds! It’s disheartening and can lead to a downward spiral and even make you give up all together! Which is definitely not a good thing!
For me having a weekly weigh in is a good indicator of how I am doing and monitoring my progress, health and calculating how much fuel my body actually needs. However, I am not hung up on my actual weight any more. Believe me it used to be all I thought about. I would ask my ‘skinny friends’ how much they weighed so I could give myself a target weight to aim for or look up my BMI to see what the government thought my ideal weight should be for my height!
The fact is we are all different and individual and just looking at one indicator, our weight, is not enough to give us the whole picture of our health. It doesn’t tell us what's going on inside. You see, we are all made up of a mix of bones, blood vessels, muscles, body tissues (which includes body fat ) and water in varying amounts. So unless you look past just your body weight you can’t tell how much weight you are carrying is actually fat.
You may or may not have heard of a group of people referred to as ‘skinny fat people’. These are people who on regular bathroom scales weigh the correct weight for their height and do not look overweight or obese, so according to their BMI (Body Mass Index) or the people who look at them, they are healthy. Sadly, in some cases this can be far from the truth as they can’t see the whole picture.
By getting weighed in at a slimming club for the first year on my weight loss and health journey, my physical weight was really the only measure I used. Yes they used accurate, expensive and calibrated scales, but they indicated nothing more than just my weight! They didn’t take into account my body fat percentage or my muscle mass - just my weight!
During that first year I was none the wiser and was happy to see the weight drop off and yes my clothes size change dramatically, but it wasn’t until I stopped going to the slimming club I realised I had to look at more than just my weight - I needed to look at my body composition!
Once I had decided to go out on my own I needed to buy a decent set of bathroom scales as I still needed to weigh in each week to monitor my progress and use the information to work out how much fuel I needed to consume. As a food addict with no cut off switch this was a must so not to over-eat.
In the past, I had used a set of body composition scales. I’ll be honest, I'd probably only brought them because they looked good and stylish in the bathroom, I didn’t really understand what all the extra readings and figures actually meant!
Starting to look into these body composition scales again, there were mixed reviews. People stating they weren’t completely accurate especially if you were elderly (meaning over 81yrs old), had a fever, a body builder or highly trained athlete, undergoing dialysis, had osteoporosis or low bone density, were pregnant or suffered from swelling. Well I was none of those so it all seemed good to me.
The alternative way to measure my body composition (how much of me was body fat and how much lean body mass) was to use body fat callipers. Callipers are said to be more accurate than body composition scales however I’ll be honest they looked like an absolute faff to use! I know what I’m like and if something is going to take me too long to do and I don’t enjoy it, I just won’t do it! After all, I wasn’t, or am I planning to, become a bodybuilder or an athlete where having accurate body fat percentage is a must - I just wanted to know what was going on on the inside of me - for my health!
Also, what the body fat callipers couldn’t do, that the body composition scales could, was to measure my visceral fat! The callipers could only measure subcutaneous fat. So what's the difference I hear you ask, let me explain.
Subcutaneous fat is basically the fat that lies directly under your skin. The fat that makes us look ‘squidgy’ and not ‘ripped’ or ‘toned’. This fat not only makes us not look our best in our swimwear or clothes, it is also thought to increase pressure on our heart health too.
Visceral fat is the fat that we can’t see that surrounds our internal organs. Too much visceral fat is said to be closely linked to common diseases such as hyperlipidemia and diabetes, plus possibly lead to metabolic obesity. Metabolic obesity is when your visceral fat levels are high but your body is at a healthy weight, giving the visual impression you are healthy (‘skinny fat people’) when you are not, making it extremely important to keep your visceral fat levels in check.
In the end I decided to use these body composition scales and after 4 years I still use them because they are so simple to operate! After you have entered and saved your height, age and gender, stepping onto the scales metal plates with bare feet and gripping the handles metal plates a weak electrical current passes through your body (sounds scary - but you don’t feel a thing!) and as these body composition scales have hand plates too it is said to give a more accurate result. After a few seconds your results pop up on the digital screen!
It was a shock when I first stepped on and saw my composition results as it showed I still had high levels of subcutaneous fat, which at the time weighing about 10½stone (147lbs), explained why I didn’t have the more toned body I was expecting at this weight. I was happy to see my visceral fat was in the healthy range without having to spend a fortune going to a special clinic to have this tested, although it would’ve been a more complete accurate result, with these scales at least I had a benchmark figure to work with. The subcutaneous fat wasn’t as deadly as the visceral fat but it showed me how important exercise was to turn that fat into muscle! Muscle! Yes, long lean muscles - the importance of that I’ll cover shortly in another post along with the muscle weighs heavier than fat debate!
So to conclude…..yes I do weigh myself every week but I do so on these body composition scales. Body fat doesn’t change as quickly as physical weight, normally about 1% a month, so it may take a while for changes to show which is why I only measure my body composition once a month as advised. But, stick with it as I believe it's very important to have indicators of not just your physical weight, but your body composition and inner health too.
I do want to reiterate, please don’t get hung up on the actual number on the scale for your weight, use all measurements as indicators and a way to monitor your progression and keep your food fuel intake in check during your health journey.
I try to keep my blog posts short and sweet as I know an overload of information can become mind boggling so be sure to check out my other posts here.