If you're looking for a convenient measuring tool that can give a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity, then weighing scales are a great choice. For all other markers of health, they’re not the most reliable.
If you know me by now, you probably already know where I stand on the weighing scale. Or, more precisely, why I don’t stand on the weighing scale – and why I recommend that you shouldn’t either.
Because, whilst a weighing scale can quantify the combined mass of trillions of cells that create your physical form, there’s a whole lot more it CAN’T tell you. And if you hadn’t already guessed, these things will contribute infinitely more to how you look, feel and perform than a set of weighing scales ever could.
If you still find yourself locked in an endless battle with the number on a scale, it’s time to make a change. For your health, for your sanity, and for your self-worth. Here are 5 things the scale CAN’T tell you about your health; and why you should finally ditch them, once and for all.
5 things the scale can't tell you
#1: Whether you are actually 'overweight'
According to the measurement of BMI (body mass index), we can work out whether we are ‘overweight’ or ‘underweight’ by plotting our height in metres and weight in kilos on a graph. Which would be great, assuming this graph took into account the countless individual factors that contribute to our scale weight – such as bone density, muscle mass, and even hydration levels.
If we were to look at scale weight and BMI alone, some of the world’s top athletes would be considered as overweight or even obese. The likes of Anthony Joshua, Tom Brady, Serena Williams and Lebron James would all be told to embark on a punishing weight loss regimen – despite being some of the most athletically gifted humans on the planet.
The truth is, it is virtually impossible to determine whether someone is overweight simply by looking at a number on a scale. There are so many components that contribute to your scale weight, meaning YOUR healthiest weight could be dramatically different to a healthy weight for Suzie next door. Suzie isn’t ‘winning’ if she’s 2 pounds lighter than you are, because she’s playing a completely different game.
Allowing a scale to determine whether or not you are overweight is about as reliable and cutting edge as my Dad’s fashion advice. Let’s send them both back to 1970 and stop living in the past.
#2 - Your body fat levels
Put two people of exactly the same height and weight side by side, and you’ll soon see they look very different.
For example: you can be 85KG with broad shoulders and visible abs, just as you can be 85KG with zero muscle definition and a beer belly. What the weighing scales do not account for is how much of this 85KG is body fat, how much is muscle, and how much is all the other fun stuff that makes you a fully functional human.
You already know that carrying too much fat increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and early mortality. But on the flip side, carrying too LITTLE fat puts you at risk of low testosterone, decreased thyroid function, deficiencies in fat soluble nutrients and a weakened immune system. None of these can be picked up on a weighing scale, which is why understanding your body fat levels is so important to your overall health.
So what is the ideal body fat, you ask? It’s the one that allows you to feel healthy, strong, confident and energised. And surprise surprise: this is an outfit that looks different on everyone.
YOUR ideal body fat level may come with abs or without abs, with curves or without curves. Find the sweet spot that works best for you, and just watch the magic happen.
#3 - Where you are storing fat
So here’s the thing about body fat. It’s not just how much you are storing – but where you are storing it.
A lot of this comes down to age, gender, and hormones. Men are more likely to store more subcutaneous fat on the trunk and around the waist, whilst women store more glutafemoral fat in the hips, butt and thighs. Upon reaching menopause, women stop producing as much oestrogen and this fat storage starts to shift more to the waist and abdomen.
Contrary to popular belief, body fat doesn’t always equal bad news. Subcutaneous fat is required to protect your organs, provide energy reserves and secrete leptin, the hormone that regulates our appetite and metabolism. And glutafemoral fat in females is required for good metabolic health, which is the reason women shouldn’t stress out about a little butt, thigh and hip fat.
Visceral fat, however, is well known to be the most dangerous kind of body fat. This is the fat that lies that is stored in the abdominal region, surrounding and enveloping your organs and increasing your risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabeties.
There are many modern lifestyle factors that contribute to visceral fat, including high stress levels, lack of sleep, high sugar consumption and a sedentary lifestyle. And whilst high levels of any kind of body fat aren’t desirable, high levels of visceral fat are by far your biggest concern. So keep an eye on how your body is storing fat, as this will tell you much more about your health than any number on a scale!
#4 - Your hormonal health
You see that ultra-lean bikini queen who steps on stage with shredded abs and a thigh gap bigger than Donald Trump’s ego? Yeah, she hasn’t had her period in 6 months.
Regardless of how she looks for her photoshoot or the weight that appears when she steps on the scale, Miss Blackpool 2017 is not healthy. She struggles to wake up in the morning, has no energy to perform even the most basic of tasks, and has the sex drive of a damp dishcloth. She’s burnt out her adrenals, tanked her thyroid function and obliterated her menstrual cycle all in the quest to move a few extra pounds on a scale. So there’s little wonder she feels like shit.
Miss Blackpool 2017 is the perfect example that lower scale weight doesn’t equal greater health. In fact, it often means quite the opposite.
So if YOUR goal is weight loss, ask yourself this. Are those last few extra pounds really worth the cost of your health, your energy levels and your freedom? Or do you need to accept that the airbrushed, photoshopped, cover model physique we see in the magazines isn’t realistic, isn’t attainable, and certainly isn’t healthy?
I don’t have the answers. But you owe it to yourself to ask the questions.
#5 - Your self worth
Before we finish this article and you throw out your scales once and for all, I want you to step on them one last time. See that little number that pops up? Be it in pounds, kilos, grams or ounces; that little number has no reflection on your value as a human being.
Allow yourself to be defined by a scale weight, and you set yourself up for an extremely miserable and unfulfilling existence. Your numerical relationship with gravity does not shape you as a person – your ethics, your actions, and your integrity do.
Confidence, charisma, a free spirit and a sense of adventure are all infinitely more attractive than a number on a scale. And a warm heart, a selfless soul and a dirty sense of humour are infinitely more magnetic. So here’s to being the healthiest, happiest, highest performing version of you. The numbers will take care of themselves.
Until next time,