4 Reasons You Don’t Weigh As Much As You Think You Do

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(Photo by Davidd)
We live in a world obsessed with numbers. Sometimes we look at our food as little bundles of statistics–calories, vitamins, daily values. We count our calories, keep track of the kilometres we’ve run, and log our heartrate—more and more numbers. And every day, we might pull out the bathroom scale and step on it, keeping track of another number — our weight.

But I’m not so sure that scale is going to give you such a good representation of your weight. There are a lot of factors involved in learning how much you weigh, and what that number really means. There are a few things you’ll need to take into account, like…

1. That fact that your scale is probably way off

There’s a lot of room for error when stepping on your bathroom scale — you have to take into account water weight, ambient movement, bouyancy– and you have to allow that the software might not be calibrated correctly. Cheap home bathroom scales, for instance, sometimes read your weight lighter than it actually is.

Balance beam scales (upright scales often found in doctor’s offices) tend to be more accurate than bathroom scales. One way to find a scale that’s calibrated closer to reality is to have yourself weighed on one of these scales, and then going and trying out scales until you find one that is close to your weight. But those hospital scales are sometimes inaccurate too, and even electronic body-fat scales are sometimes said to be as much as 8 to 9 percent off . Yikes!

Because scales are often inaccurate, your best bet is to always use the same scale every time, so you’ll get a more accurate representation of your gains and losses, if not an accurate reading of your actual weight.

But that weight reading can still fluctuate wildly, especially if…

2. You’re wearing clothes

Yes, you should be weighing yourself in the buff. This is because clothes have mass and weight, sometimes clocking in upwards of 8 pounds (!) , which will really throw off your scale’s reading. Same with shoes.

So if you’ve just got come from a run, you’ll want to chuck your gear before you step on the scale. But even then, you may want to wait, because that run is probably going to throw off the reading too, since your weight will appear lower if…

3. You’ve just exercised

Water accounts for a good chunk of our weight, and we shed that weight when we’re exercising, sweating it out. But that weight is put back on when we rehydrate, so you’ll be getting two very different readings. Water retention also increases whenever we’re dehydrated, or when we’ve increased our sodium intake, which will make your weight fluctuate as well.

In order to offset this, you can weigh yourself at a bathroom scale before exercising and after to help you to estimate how much water weight you’re losing.
But regardless, the important thing to remember is:

4. You don’t have as much fat (or muscle) as you think you do

To quote Lifehack’s Craig Harper, “Body composition is much more important than bodyweight. Some heavy people are relatively lean (like me) and some light(er) people have a high body-fat percentage – which puts them at greater risk.”

That’s one thing you need to keep in mind—accurate or not, scales are going to register how much you weigh, not how much fat you have.

Remember the old truism that muscle weighs more than fat? That’s actually a myth. Think about it for a second: how would a pound of muscle weigh more than a pound of fat? A pound is a pound is a pound. What is true , however, is that muscle is denser than fat, so when comparing the same volume of muscle and fat, muscle is heavier.

So, if you’re putting on muscle, which you will be if you’re working out regularly, that scale is going to register you as heavier then if you had the same volume of fat in oyur body.

And be careful about BMI readings—while it’s most likely that BMI is an accurate picture of your health, sometimes it’s not. If you’re very athletic, the amount of heavy muscle on you will give you a BMI that says you’re overweight. You’re not.

But the biggest thing to keep in mind is that your weight isn’t the end-all-be-all of your fitness. Body composition is much more important than body weight. Your weight is just a number, and fitness is about much more than numbers. It’s about long-term health and energy, and as long you’re healthy, your actual weight doesn’t matter quite as much as you think it does.
 

 

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