Fitness: Don’t be a slave to the scales
By Becky Wright
I have a confession to make: I was once obsessed with my weight.
Every morning without fail, I would wake up, roll out of bed, stumble into the bathroom and before I'd even had a chance to gain proper consciousness, I'd step onto the scales. There I would stand, holding my breathe in anticipation as I waited the brief few seconds before seeing what “news” the digital display below me would deliver that day.
The act of weighing myself wasn't in itself unhealthy or bad, but my attitude and the way I would sometimes react to the results were anything but. If the numbers had gone down I'd feel accomplished, a sense of relief, it was going to be a good day, phew! If the numbers had gone up, it was a different story ... I'd feel like I'd failed or cheated. I'd feel “fat”. I'd glance in the mirror and give myself that look of disappointment. It probably wasn't going to be such a great day.
I can look back on this behaviour now and realise how insane and irrational this thought process was. After years of training, playing sport and an education in physiology, I now understand how our bodies work and that there are many factors that can affect our body weight and the number you see on the scales.
An increase in lean muscle mass is often one reason for “weight gain”, especially if you've been training hard in the gym and lifting weights.
This can seem confusing as, visually, when we look in the mirror, we don't appear to have gained weight, in fact we probably look the opposite — leaner and more toned.
This is because muscle is much more dense than fat, so in terms of volume it occupies far less space in your body, hence the reason we look smaller. So if the scales haven't budged, or perhaps they've gone up a little, yet you're looking tighter and more defined, the likelihood is due to an increase in lean muscle mass.
There are a number of other reasons you could be seeing the scales tip in the “wrong” direction. A sluggish digestion, water retention due to dietary changes or prescription drugs, and hormonal shifts are all frequently to blame for weight gain too.
So you see, the scales don't always tell the whole story. I'm not saying that weighing yourself is a completely pointless act, and I still do occasionally, but there are other measures of health and fitness that should be taken into consideration too.
As a personal trainer, the number one goal the majority of my clients are looking to achieve is “weight loss”. So when I hear this, I try to explain that the scales shouldn't be our only focus. Tape measurements, body fat monitoring, progress photos, how your clothes fit and strength and fitness tests are all excellent measures of physical change and progress.
For me, I don't really know what changed or how I altered my perspective, but I think slowly over time I decided that I wasn't going to let the scales define me, that I was more than a number; that nobody, including me, needed to know my weight. It just wasn't that important. I think I finally realised after years of being a slave to the scales that they can't tell you how fit you are, how strong you've become; they can't tell you how much energy you have, nor how healthy you feel, and they certainly can't tell you how awesome you are!
• Becky Wright is a qualified personal trainer, nutritional therapist and international bikini fitness champion. She has worked with clients worldwide, including royalty. Becky works at Alchemy Fitness. Contact: email@example.com
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