Forget the scale…learn to love the tape measure. - September 12th, 2011

In the quest of trying to “improve” our physical appearance, it is important to focus on a form of measurement that shows success.  We focus entirely too much on body weight.  “I need to lose 40 lbs” or “If I could just get those last 10 lbs off, everything would be ok.”  Weight, by itself, is an unreliable tool to determine if you are successful on your journey towards health.  With my clients, I try to do three different forms of measurements on their first appointment.  This includes:  body weight, circumference measurements (chest, waist, ab, hips, thigh, arm and lower leg), and body fat.  I do this for MANY reasons.  Let me share a few:

1.  Muscle ways more and is smaller in size than its equal in fat.  A good way to visualize this:  5 lbs of fat is similar to a loaf of bread.  But 5lbs of muscle is more like 2 lbs of ground beef.  Muscles takes up much less space in your body than fat.  Circumference measurements help me know if you are are actually changing in size.  MANY times clients are frustrated because they haven’t lost much weight, but when we get the tape measure out, it shows they have lost multiple inches.  That is AWESOME!  It really helps keep motivational levels high when the scale tells you all your work isn’t paying off.

2.  Body fat calipers of all kinds help us determine your general body fat percentage.  This is a great tool because it helps determine how much of your body is fat vs. muscle, bone, tissue.  The latter is what we refer to as Lean Tissue.  The former is Fat tissue.  Based on height, weight, age, and activity level, there are recommended body fat percentages for each person.  Let’s say a client comes in and they are excited that they have lost 15 lbs.  After being happy for them, I say, “let do a body fat test.”  If what I find is that they have indeed lost 15 lbs, they have lost 10 inches, but that their body fat percentage is the same (if not higher), this is BAD NEWS.  This means that they have either not been eating enough food or the types of foods they have been eating are not enough to support their muscular system.  This person would have been using their muscles (that they worked so hard to get during their workouts) for fuel.  By losing that muscle tissue, the body’s metabolism also drops.  So even though there was a weigh loss (society says “yeah!”), it was in a very inefficient and undesirable way (I say “OH NO!).  This person now has to work at raising their metabolism through appropriate eating and resistance training so they don’t battle with this problem long term.

3.  Along the lines of body fat, I also do tape measurements to help me determine if a client has been eating too many carbohydrates or high sugar foods.  How can you tell?  When someone is working towards improving their appearance and lowering their fat mass, they should be eating an appropriate balance of carbs, proteins and fats.   Sugars tend to be carried at the waistline and abdomen (belly button line).  If someones waistline/abdomen tape measurements are not changing much, then I know we need to look at their nutrition logs and figure out some changes to be made.

Either way you look at it, measurements are ALWAYS a good idea.  Don’t worry about the scale.  If your clothes are fitting  better, than that is a great way to know you are likely moving  in a positive direction.  The scale is not ridiculous, but it needs to be used together with other tools such as the tape measure and a body fat caliper.

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