Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Scale Weight, Weighing, and Measurements

Your weight on your scale isn't a truly useful number. Not when it comes to fitness.

Your scale weight is the sum total of:

- your muscle mass
- your organ mass
- your bone mass
- your fat mass
- water, in all of the systems above
- food that you ate and didn't eliminate yet
- your hair
- whatever clothes you happen to have on
- in my case, plus my glasses because it's hard to read a floor-level-readout scale without them.

. . . all totaled up, with a margin of error based on the scale, possibly the floor (ever move a scale and have it change?), and other factors.

So it's a number that represents all the things you want, plus all of the things you don't want.

But people will put that number up as a goal - "lose 5 pounds." "Drop 10 kilos by Fall." "Pack on 15 pounds by September 1st for the beginning of team practices."

Yet that number isn't so useful.

On top of that, it can be tough on yourself - it's a result goal, not a process goal. And it's tough on trainers, too.

If you're a trainer tracking a client's weight, you get one of three responses:

1) The client is okay with getting weighed, regardless of the results.

2) The client is not okay with getting weighed, regardless of the results.

3) The client only wants to get weighed when he or she is certain the results are positive.

Two out of three of them aren't useful ways to track weight as a metric. #1 is. #2, you don't get the scale weight metric anyway. #3 only gives you sporadic data points, and only when those data points are going in the right direction. #3 types generally are the ones struggling, too, and weighing gets less and less frequent. And if they just happen to hit a high day (saltier foods the day before, say, causing more water retention, or food that hasn't passed yet) it comes on the rare times they're ready to give it a go . . . and it's crushing.

So it ends up being only those clients who'd probably track the metric themselves who get the benefit of a daily data point.

So I only use it with clients who pretty much self-select into the #1 category.

All of that said, I also weigh myself every day. But I also take measurements - body fat (using an electrical impedance scale, which isn't terribly accurate) and waist and hips. I take measurements and photos several times a year to check my appearance and posture.

So it's not like I think weight per se is valueless. But I don't like dealing with pure weight loss goals.

If your scale weight is clearly high, by all means get it down. You can tell if it is - your waist is hanging over your belt. Your old clothes don't fit because they're too small - and they didn't shrink.

Those things could more easily be tracked my other measurements.

Belly getting bigger and you don't fit 36s but need 38s now? Medium shirts are too tight and it's not because you got bigger shoulders? Dress size went up? Those are more relevant numbers.

But keep in mind it's worth knowing other measurements. I like these:

Waist circumference (at the belly button)
Hip circumference (widest part of the hips)
Arm circumference (widest part of the biceps, flexed)
Thigh circumference (mid-thigh, flexed)
Calf circumference (widest part of the calf)
Resting Heart Rate

If you do choose to weigh yourself, here are my tips: Use the same body fat scale the same time every day, and monitor the trend up or down. Use the same scale and weigh yourself regularly. Keep all of the parameters the same and write it all down. But don't do just that.

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