The Scale Delusion – the numbers that matter and the numbers that don’t

For too long we have been consumed by the idea that the number on the scales defines our personal worth and level of health and fitness. The scale shows no love, is merciless and gives you a number but no trace of explanation of why you haven’t ‘lost weight’. What if I told you the scales are a rubbish tool and that it’s not your fault you feel terrible getting on them- it’s a cultural problem, one so heavily ingrained in our society it’s hard to fight? Would you believe me, would you see the light?

The reason I hate the scales (they are only useful in baking/cooking) is that they provide nothing more than a number. This number does not state whether you have lost body fat or gained muscle, dropped inches off your waist or most importantly whether you look better! If you lose 3 kgs are you going to be happy if you look the same, are going to be stoked if your belly is still just as round? I’m guessing not… So what numbers do matter?

Body fat %

This number is calculated by using callipers that take skin fold measurements at different sites over the body. Once all the sites are tallied up, we take an average, which is your percentage of total body fat. If we are to track this percentage over time hopefully it will decrease and we will be leaner and look better. Having a solid nutrition and exercise plan will help accelerate the process.

Body Circumference Measurements

Measuring the circumference of certain body parts gives us a base line to set goals from. Retesting every 2 weeks to a month will let us know whether we are getting smaller or not. This type of measurement is really important as muscle is substantially more dense than fat. Potentially we could continue to have the same scale weight but we could have become denser/smaller due to an increase in muscle mass and fat loss. Now if this happen to you and after two weeks, a month and we got on the scales if find we ‘our weight hadn’t changed’ we would be happy or sad, would this information be a reflection of the truth? Of course it wouldn’t and you would become sad and unmotivated, despite actually making good progress.

Progress Pictures

Progress pictures are perhaps the most powerful tool, as they give us a visual representation of our progress. Taking photos of ourselves once a month will help us to slowly see changes and keep us motivated. The secondary benefit is that when you finally achieve your goal, you can look back at where you started and where you are now. It will be worth those embarrassing moments early on when you were camera shy, when you had very little clothes on and your every insecurity exposed.

Chin up test as a de facto measure of body composition

In the absence of using any of the previous tests you can use a chin up test to check whether you’re getting leaner and stronger. First we need to set a baseline measurement, so warm up and do one set of max rep chin ups. It is important like with any fitness/strength test that you have strict protocols, so make sure you go all the way down and make sure you get your chin over the bar at the top with each rep. As you progress each week/month if you can do more chin ups you now know that you are getting stronger, if you are doing less you might be putting on a fat. As we get leaner our power to weight ratio should improve so our ability to pull our own bodyweight will increase. Equally if we are eating all the pies and are getting fat our power to weight ratio will be negatively affected and we will be able to do less pull ups!

So please ditch the scales, let’s slowly change the culture of control these ignorant machines have over us. Lets track our progress in a more evolved way, that allows greater transparency and scope for proper goal setting. If you wish to evolve and change the way you track your progress and want some help getting measureable results email/call/text me I am happy to help.

Sean Neal

(P) 027 461 5108

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