Making reference to slot machines in the casinos, someone once said to me “Any machine that has only one arm, backs itself up against the wall, and takes on the world, cannot be beat”. The same goes for your scale, except that it lies to you! It makes you believe that the number you read, says whether you are fit or not!
How did we get here? We still rely on an almost ancient method called the BMI (Body Mass Index). A Belgium mathematician named Aldolphe Quetelet developed the BMI in the 1800’s at a time when statistics were in its infancy. He became interested in social statistics and did research based on height and weight at different ages. In 1833 he wrote a book on the subject. It was revolutionary for that period because they had nothing else to go by. The insurance companies adopted this method of determining your health risks factors and haven’t changed much since then.
Most doctors use the BMI to determine what their patient’s weight should be. Insurance companies use the BMI to determine health risk factors. If your BMI is over 27.8 for men and 27.3 if you are a woman, you are overweight according the BMI. This means an athlete that is 250 lbs with a body fat of 8% is considered over weight or over fat. How ridiculous is that! By the BMI method, most athletes are considered over weight. This is where “that” lie coming from the scale comes into play. The BMI formula takes in consideration, that as we age, we lose muscle mass (about 5 to 7 lbs every 10 years). However, it does not take in consideration the person’s age or gender, if the person strength trains or does physical labor to maintain or increase his muscle mass. Don’t get caught up in the word “mass. I am using the word to describe the increase in muscle fibers, not indicating big huge muscles.
As you age, having strong skeletal muscles are one of the best gifts you can give yourself. It will help you maintain a healthy metabolism, help keep your posture correct, help strengthen your bones, protect your joints, and a host of other benefits.
As you strength train, along with a good meal plan, your body will transition by gaining muscle and burning fat. Muscle weighs 33% more than fat, so it makes sense that you may not always see a difference on the scale. As a matter of fact, you may see an increase of 3 -5 lbs initially. What you will notice is that you will start to lose inches; your clothes will fit looser, even though your weight hasn’t changed much or may have increased.
I have a “fifty plus” year old female client that is a tennis player and has a very physical job in retail. Over the past two years she has strength trained and become strong, she out works her younger co-workers, her agility, and stamina on the tennis court has improved, and her game has never been better. She has lost approximately four sizes. Yet, she has only lost about 2-3 lbs in two years, but looks amazing!
So, instead of looking at your scale, you should pay more attention to your body composition (lean mass to fat ratio) rather than what you weigh. Healthy body fat for men is 15 -18% and 22-25% for women. Women are about 15 to 20 % higher than men to aid in the menstruation process. The minimum percent of body fat that is considered safe for good health is 5% in men and 12% in women. (You can have your body composition done by most health care professionals.)
In a Family Circus cartoon I once saw, there was a kid about to step on a scale. The other kid yelled “No don’t step on that, it will make you cry”. This is so true. For some people if they weigh more than they think they should, they feel like they have failed. If their weight hasn’t changed or dropped as fast as they thought it should, they feel they have failed. Learn to think differently than by the “lie” of the scale. There are many other changes to consider as you are on your journey to become fit, do not allow what you see on the “almighty” scale define what that means. Trust how you feel, your smaller pant or dress size, by what you see in the mirror, not the lie between your toes!