It’s Not All About Weight – How the Scale Lies

Here’s a fun fact for you – Arnold Schwarzenegger is obese. Yes, that’s right: the former Mr. Universe and seven time Mr. Olympia champion has a Body Mass Index that puts him in the “obese” category. How? At just over six feet tall and weighing in at about 235 pounds, his BMI is 31 (with 18.5-24.0 being considered “normal.”)

Is Arnold Schwarzenegger unhealthy? With all those muscles it’s hard to say, but it is certain that any health problems he has definitely don’t come from being obese.

The issue here is that relying too much on measurements like the Body Mass Index doesn’t always give you an accurate picture of your health. Here’s why it’s important to consider more than just the number on the scale.

How Your Scale Can Lie

 Generally speaking, if you weigh more, you have a higher BMI. Many people do weigh more because they are carrying an unhealthy amount of fat. But that’s not the only reason. In some cases, such as what you see when you look at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s statistics, a person weighs more because they are muscular.

Muscle is much more dense than fat. This means it takes up less space. For example, five pounds of fat takes up as much space as three grapefruits. Five pounds of muscle takes up as much space as three tangerines. If you want to slim down, muscle is the way to go. 

If your goal is to build muscle as you lose fat (and we hope it is), this illustration shows that the scale can’t always be trusted to tell you how you’re doing. Instead, pay attention to things like your body fat percentage, your blood work results, and how your clothes fit. If you’re staying at the same weight but your jeans are getting looser, that’s a great sign that you’re losing fat and gaining muscle.

But that’s not the only way the scale lies. Have you ever weighed yourself in the morning, and then again in the evening? You may have noticed some very different results. Weight can fluctuate rapidly in 24 hours. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • Water weight: A gallon of water weighs about eight pounds! Even a few glasses can impact your weight.
  • Salt: High sodium intake encourages the body to hold on to water.
  • Hormones: Water retention is a normal physiologic change that women experience regularly.
  • Carbohydrates: For every gram of carbohydrate stored in muscle, your body will store 2.7 grams of water.

It’s easy to rely on the scale to track your progress. After all, it gives you such a quantifiable number. But as you can see, there are many ways in which this number isn’t so accurate. It’s time to start thinking about other ways to track your success.

Your Next Steps

Continue to weigh yourself as your coach recommends, but don’t let that be the only or the most important way you track changes in your body. Start asking yourself questions like these:

  • How are my energy levels?
  • Am I sleeping better?
  • Am I getting stronger?
  • Am I able to do things now that I couldn’t before?
  • How do I feel overall?

Remember: the scale is just one of many ways to measure health. It isn’t giving you the full story, so pay attention to all the ways you’re succeeding. Stop caring about the scale and start caring about what’s more important – you!

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