"I am sick and tired of dieting and working out. No matter what I do, my weight fluctuates in a 5 lb. range. I can't even look at the scale any more without getting stressed out."
Ouch. This is a very common problem! This stress-inducing “see-saw” ride is the result of a major fallacy of the measurement tool: your scale.
For most people, the best thing you can do with your scale is throw it out! (Just ignoring it will work as well ...)
Here’s how the rest of the conversation with that patient went:
NHA: “What times of the day were you weighing in?”
Patient: “random times”
NHA: “Were you weight training during this time?”
NHA: “Do you drink a lot of water / stay hydrated?”
NHA: “How long were you on your diet / workout plan and what was your total long term weight change?”
Patient: “4 weeks… I net lost around 2 lbs”
The problem here: there are way too many moving parts to try to measure the effectiveness of your regimen using one number! Here are a few reasons why:
- Water weight is the primary culprit for this frustrating phenomenon. Water is heavy (~8.3 lbs/ gallon), and if you are weighing yourself at different times of the day, you are going to see pretty big intra-day weight swings (I recently weighed in with a 5 lb. gain from morning to night, only to see a 7 lb. loss the next morning (net loss 2 lbs)). If you understand this natural variability, you can reduce your stress-level and your chance of quitting your wellness plan in frustration. Note: In general you will be lighter in the morning due to not consuming fluids for the past 6 - 8 hours.
- Muscle mass gain / loss has a tremendous impact on weight. If you remain at the same weight by gaining lean muscle, while lowering body fat, you have made great progress! Your scale will not disclose this information.
- BodPod – “the safest, most accurate and most subject-friendly of all methods used to assess body composition”. This is the gold standard for measuring the impact of your weight loss efforts. BodyMetrics is an Atlanta-based company that offers the service. This service will tell you your lean muscle mass and body fat, accurately (looking at you calipers). You should get the BodPod done at the beginning of a change in your diet, and then every 3 – 6 months or so. They will chart your progress for you on their reports.
- Tape Measure / Clothes – Measure your waist, chest, upper thighs, hips, arms once per week using a body tape measure like this one from MyoTape. If your scale weight is staying the same but you are losing inches, that’s a great sign. For a proxy you can also just monitor how the fit of your clothes changes over time.
- Visual – Take a picture of yourself once per week in the mirror, full body included. Compare to past pictures to see differences that you don’t notice on a day-to-day basis.
You can see how the BodPod testing fits into our overall plan for helping you achieve your wellness goals in 2014 by visiting this post.