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Myth Monday: The Scale Never Lies


It’s funny how many fictional stories from throughout the ages closely resemble situations in our own lives. Writers of old and new, from Shakespeare to the writers at Disney, all share the ability to connect with people through their stories of failure, perseverance and triumph. So how do they make these connections? By making a subconscious, yet personal, connection with the audience through emotional and relatable experiences. Allow me to give it a shot:

The Story

There is the main character (you) who has become accustomed to a mediocre, somewhat depressing lifestyle (your current fitness level) or has undergone a tragic event (the 10lbs you gained over the holidays) that forces them to make a life altering change (getting back in shape!).

This character is often thrust into a foreign and uncomfortable environment (the gym) and is forced to adapt and learn new things (from your instructors) in order to turn things around. Things go really well at first, and the character even makes a good friend (the scale) who reassures them that anything is possible (you’re down 5lbs in a week, yippee!).

Suddenly, things begin to change. The main character starts to realize this “friend” is very deceptive. This so-called “friend”, now turned villain, slowly begins to sabotage the main character, keeping them from their goal, their glory, or their return to the throne (how did I gain 2lbs last week?! I didn’t miss a workout!).

At this point in the story, the audience (your trainer) can see all of the deceptive mind games being played by the villain behind the scenes. We yell at the screen saying, “Don’t do it! Those aren’t the real numbers!” But our efforts go unheard, unnoticed, and lead to yet another disappointing realization by our main character…

Ok, so I am no Shakespeare, and I doubt Disney has  room for an amateur like me, but I know most of you can relate to the scenario above.  Every year a new surge of highly motivated individuals pour through the doors in gyms across America. And, like clockwork, every year we witness the demoralizing effect the scale (the villain) can have on those individuals (our main characters). When you are giving 100% of your effort and see zero (or even negative) changes on the scale, it can quickly extinguish the flame that is your “New Year’s resolution”. So why not remove the “villain” from our story before it even begins? All it takes is a little knowledge.

Understanding Your Scale Weight

Our bodies are complex machines and consist of more than simply muscle, fat and bone. This is something that we ALL know, but for some reason when we gain or lose weight, we automatically chalk it up to, “I’m getting fatter,” “I must have gained some muscle,” or “I’ve probably lost some muscle.” This makes no sense. If we know our bodies are SO much more complex than these three things, why do we choose to ignore this fact as soon as we step on the scale?

Allow me to shed some light on why you “gained” 3 lbs last week (even though your diet and exercise was perfect!). Common mechanisms that are associated with your daily weight fluctuation include, but are not limited to:

  • Sodium intake: Our bodies naturally maintain a balance between sodium and water. Increased salt = increased water retention.
  • Carbohydrate intake: Every gram of carbohydrate stored as fuel is bonded to 4g of H2O. Increased carbohydrate storage = increased water retention.
  • Hormonal changes/Menstruation: Some women see weight increases of more than 4-5lbs when they are premenstrual due to fluid retention, not an increase in fat mass.
  • Activity levels/Hydration status: Fluctuations in hydration easily can add (or subtract) up to 5lbs over the course of your day. Some athletes can lose as much as 8-10lbs during intense sporting competitions due to the high amounts of perspiration!
  • Undigested food/Constipation/Bowels: This one is self-explanatory and I doubt anyone wants to read further into it. The point here is that we can easily forget about the excess weight sitting in our digestive systems!

Other Factors to Consider

  • Scales are not universal. They are consistent only with themselves, NOT with each other. You might see a 5lb difference in your weight between two scales. If you are “weighing in”, make sure you use the same scale every time to keep it consistent.
  • Weigh yourself in the morning. Choose one day for a weekly weigh in. Wake up, use the restroom, and step on the scale. Coming off of a 6-8hr fast with minimal activity levels (please hold the jokes ha-ha) is the most accurate way to record your weight each week. But realize that “most accurate” does not mean perfect!
  • DO NOT trust your digital body fat reading. Many modern scales include a body fat percentage reading along with the weight. Although this seems like sophisticated technology, in fact it is not and its accuracy is very questionable. Personally, I wouldn’t trust it as far as I can throw it. The electrical current used to measure your “body fat” is greatly influenced by hydration status. Unless a very strict pre-measurement protocol is followed, you will not get an accurate reading (probably not even close).

The Bottom Line

Your scale cannot differentiate between “good” and “bad” weight. It gives you a number that is measurable, which can be helpful to an extent, but is by no means perfect. As an AFS client you have access to a professional who is educated and trained at body composition analysis through skin fold and circumference measurements. This is undoubtedly more accurate and effective than simply weighing yourself each week. If you  are a current AFS client and have fallen behind on your assessments, I encourage you to get back on track! If you are a new reader interested in setting up a consultation to learn more, contact us.

What Does This Have to  Do With Shakespeare and Disney?

Don’t let the story of your New Year’s resolution end as a Shakespearean tragedy. Just as Prince Hamlet contemplated putting an end to his suffering during his famous, “To be, or not to be?” soliloquy, your question may very well become, “To weight or not to weigh?” Understanding what can contribute to your scale weight is the first step in avoiding the first frustrating weigh in that tends to knock you from the wagon, leaving you hopeless and defeated once more.

Honestly, I’m not really into classical tragedies….far too depressing for my liking. I’ll take the “feel good” Disney movie any day! So, in the voice of a wise old man ( picture the Emperor in Disney’s “Mulan”) I say to you, “A single grain of rice can tip the scale. Do not let one pound be the difference between victory and defeat.”

*Hopefully my silly references kept you reading long enough to understand the big picture.

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