The scale is something of great controversy in the weight loss battle. Arguments are made about its importance or its efficacy in determining progress or health. Going through my own fitness evolution I realize that my thoughts about the scale and its use are changing constantly.
Sherri posted a great article from another blogger about the subject of the scale, you can read it here. Essentially the author believes that the use of a scale is an antiquated method in judging personal health or fitness. He states that ultimately body composition is most important, using the example of a woman “Deb”, who at 155 lbs started at a size which obviously is bigger than a woman’s 10 or 12 (they don’t say), and once reaching her fitness goals she still weighs 155 lbs but is a size “0”.
The gist of the article is that body composition and other true health factors are more important than becoming a “slave to the scale”.
While I agree that attaching your entire emotional state to a machine which calibrates mass is insane, it would be like someone trying to marry their toaster. The scale doesn’t give two craps what the number reads when you stand on it, but the end effect on your psyche is still the same. The reality of life and the reality of being human is that the scale gives us an objective stimulus as to whether or not we are making progress during a health evolution.
There have been enough studies which have shown that body weight is a large predictor of life expectancy, a recent Harvard study showed that when comparing people of similar genetic makeup that the person who had less body weight lived longer and suffered from far less health issues. We’ve all seen an overweight dog trying to walk, it’s sad to watch as its tongue drops to the floor trying to cool itself, and the fore paws and hind paws enter into an awkward swaying dance which is supposed to somehow move the animal forward, a motion which is not native to a canine. Dogs are supposed to be able to run, and be agile (with the rare exception of some breeds), they were bread to work and perform some type of functional job.
The human animal too has spent more time along the evolutionary timeline, hunting and gathering than in office buildings and cubicles. I firmly believe that our bodies are supposed to look a certain way, which is why we naturally find the athletic body type appealing and desirable. It’s hard wired into our genes.
I’ve heard the arguments before that muscle weighs more than fat, but fat displaces more area and body volume than muscle. The more weight we carry, and the more volume of mass we have to move just makes life more difficult. It puts more stress on our internal organs, and causes natural movements to become out of line breaking down our natural posture and alignment
Body composition is absolutely important in judging fitness. I saw my brother last night at a family dinner, and he says he weighs 280 lbs, while I last weighed in at 295, if you had taken a poll of people at the table everyone would have said that he was lying about his weight. The reality of it is that I have gained significant amounts of muscle over the last few months, and maintain a more athletic body than he currently does. The truth of the matter is clear, and it’s unmistakable. I look like I’m in better shape than he is, at a weight which is 15 lbs heavier.
As important as body composition maybe, I also believe that body weight is equally as important. Perhaps there is some point of diminishing return where when the body fat % is above 35% that body weight should be the primary focus, and then when it reaches less than 20% that composition is most important. I’m sure I could stay this weight that I’m at and turn it into 295 lbs of muscle, but that’s not what I want.
I have a particular body type in mind, and that type has % composition relative to a specific weight, which is why as time goes on I’m no longer a scale zealot. A month ago the scale was everything. It was crucially important for me to get to 300 lbs, for many reasons, some of which were mental but most of which were functional. Now that I’m below 300 lbs I still pay a great deal of attention to body weight, but I’m not weighing myself every day.
I ultimately think the scale is a functional tool, as is my body fat calibrator, or my glucose monitor. It’s another in a many empirical pieces of data I can use to track my progress, and set a specific goal in mind. I also understand that my body may have a point of equilibrium which is far easier to sustain than the goal weight I have in mind. I’ve read enough to know that our internal clocks, and genes have a say in what our final weight should be, but it’s not the only voice in this equation. I will determine what is sustainable for me in the long term.
I would say for most people who are 10-20 lbs from their “ideal” weight that the focus should be higher on body composition. You will naturally lose a few pounds, but the overall feeling of well being can be found faster and more sustainable in the long term with building more muscle mass. This will also prevent you from cardio-ing yourself to an exhaustive death. I’ve done that before lose weight only through cardio, its unsustainable (unless your natural body type is that of a marathon runner) and you will always feel tired.
For those of us who are more than 30 lbs from body weight, the number has to be the goal. It is not the end goal but it should be the overall big picture goal which all of our efforts should be steered towards. I think a healthy attitude towards body weight is essential to long term success; in this case my idea of healthy attitude includes being focused on an end weight. People in this area should focus on building lean muscle, and doing cardio to burn the fat off of your body.
I know many people will disagree but for me the above two paragraphs say it all, where you are in your weight loss should determine how you look at your scale, and how you should determine the work that you do.
The scale is not my enemy, it is not my friend, it is a tool to help me stay focused and track my progress.
My workout with Ian this morning was brutal; it was a completely new and different way to experience pain. Today was the first time we have worked a specific area of the body, most of the time he chooses to work the entire body, or the large muscle groups, but today’s concentration was on working only the back muscles, which ultimately meant all of his fitness wickedness was brought on one part of my body instead of all it.
He had me start with two 25 lbs dumbbells, when I saw them I thought no problem this is going to be an easy day, I would eat my own thoughts later. The first progression of work went something like this, round 1 with the 25 lbs dumbbells, 10 straight leg dead lifts, 10 bent over rows using both arms simultaneously, and 10 standing upright rows, round 2 straight leg dead lifts using one leg 5 reps per side, then 10 dumbbell rows using the left arm, and 10 dumbbell rows using the right arm, and 10 standing upright rows, Round 3 5 reps per side doing one legged dead lifts, 10 reps per side doing single armed dumbbell rows while holding the alternate arm contracted, finishing with 10 reps of half squat into squat upright row.
This type of progressive building is how the rest of the session was constructed, with each exercise engaging the core or back, the work growing more intensely with each set. One of the core exercises which I don’t ever want to do again involved something which appears to be quite simple, but when you actually have to hold the position is very difficult. In a lunged position you hold in front of you a cable extended from a weight stack with a light weight, and then use your abs to keep your balance while the cable tries to pull you off balance.
See the video below, sorry Kent, Dwayne, and Sherri that’s just how I roll.
By the end of the hour, I was ready for a nap.
I am happy to report that I have stayed on my meal plan for the entire week. I also had a chance to enjoy some more Peking Gourmet duck as it was my father’s birthday. It’s the first meal in quite some time that I didn’t think about portion, or controlling my intake, I basically ate until I didn’t want to eat anymore. It probably caused me to eat a hair more than I would have liked but overall I think I did well considering this was my true first “cheat meal”.
I am getting one step closer to bringing some moderation to my meals, although I do realize that moderation typical leads to mediocre behavior, perhaps I should say temper my fury a bit with a little joy.