Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Completely Trust The Scale | The Girl Who Hates Working Out

If you could measure my current rage on a scale from 1-10, I’d say it’s like 9.9. I could punch somebody. Maybe not punch somebody, but you get what I mean.

‘Why is she so angry?’ I hear you wondering. Well.

When I first started working at Lifesum, I’d been eating a lot of cake, and exercising very very little. I weighed 159 lbs (72 kg / 11 st), and at 5’7″, this meant my BMI put me just below overweight (BMI doesn’t account for muscle mass, so it isn’t 100% reliable but that’s another blog post). I also knew I’d gained weight. Pants were a little tighter, my boobs were way bigger, which is always an indication, and my thighs had started rubbing together uncomfortably.

So I added a little more discipline into my diet. I stopped eating so much cake, ate home-cooked meals as often as possible, and swapped a carb-heavy diet for a more ketogenic one. I also walked everywhere all the time.

I lost weight. I could fit into smaller jeans, my boobs returned to normal size, my thighs stopped rubbing together. The scale told me I was 152 lbs. Safely in the normal weight category according to my BMI.

Fast forward to 2016.

I ate more candy at the start of the year and then cut it out, but otherwise I’ve eaten pretty much the same. Healthy home-cooked meals, walking a lot, less cake.

I also started actually working out, which of course you guys know all about. At first it was a gym class or crossfit session here or there, then it was working out 2-3 times a week at home, and since June I’ve been running three times a week.

I’m definitely slimmer. Not only have other people commented, but I have a pair of jeans that I have washed several times (and everyone knows those shrink in the wash) that are now way too big for me.

All of this is good Femi, why are you so mad about it? Well. Here’s why.

I weighed myself today.

Go on, go ahead and guess what I weigh now.


Whatever it is you’ve guessed, you’ve guessed wrong.

I’m now 165 lbs. 165. I am 6 lbs heavier than my fatter self. And according to my BMI, overweight.


Now I know that I am slimmer. I know that I am fitter. I know that I am healthier, but the scale says that I am heavier. And I know that it shouldn’t bug me, but it REALLY does.

Because the scale is lying. (Technically not, but it’s giving me the wrong impression). If I am fitter and slimmer HOW can I be heavier? Fitter and slimmer are the opposite of heavier right?

Not always.

Muscle is denser than fat. Put simply, a pound of fat takes up more space in the body than a pound of muscle. If you want to talk specifics, fat takes up around four times the space muscle does. So if you start eating healthily and exercising regularly, you could look slimmer but weigh the same as muscle starts to replace fat. Or like me, you could actually end up a few pounds heavier but look slimmer.

The scale isn’t lying, but it isn’t giving you the full picture either.

So how can you get the full picture? How can you tell if what you’re doing to your body is helping or hindering your progress?

DO weigh yourself
I know I just went on a full-blown rant on why the scale is the devil and BMI categories aren’t 100% accurate, but both are good indicators of where you’re at. Here’s how: If your BMI categorises you as obese and you’re not a pro-bodybuilder, like Schwarzenegger (who had a BMI of 32 at one point!) then you’re probably obese. And if your BMI categorizes you as underweight, you likely are under-eating or over-exercising. The scale is a good place to start.

DON’T let the numbers on the scale bug you
The scale is only part of the picture, remember? So at no point do you cry over the scale. At no point do you judge yourself and your self-worth based on the numbers on the scale (or any numbers for that matter – including pant size, shoe size and height!). A number is a number is a number and that’s all it is. Don’t read it and weep, read it and move on.

DO measure yourself
I do not, by any means want to encourage unhealthy, obsessive measuring, so if that’s going to be something you get stuck on, please skip this one. I think the best thing to do is to measure yourself once a week. Check your arms, waist, and thighs. The inches really do fall off, and it’s good way to see it in real time.

DO take pictures
Take a picture before you start, then take a picture a month later. It’s extremely difficult to see your progress day-by-day and week-by-week, but monthly before and after pictures are a great way to keep yourself motivated, and see your success in black and white (or color!).

DO measure your body fat percentage
Ever heard of body fat calipers? I hadn’t either until I worked at Lifesum. Body builders use them a lot to gauge how much fat is on their bodies. They’re kind of a pain in the butt to use, but worth it if you’re trying to measure your fat-loss/muscle gain. You pull at fat on your body, pinch it with the caliper, take the measurement, and then check the chart to see your percentage.

DO check your stamina and energy levels
This is my favorite way to measure my progress, because it’s the truest indicator that you’re healthier and stronger. If you’re managing one more rep than you could two weeks ago, can run longer and further than you did in the beginning, and notice yourself feeling more energised, you’re probably doing something right.

DO keep old clothes around for comparison
My ‘too-big’ jeans are my proof that I’m slimmer. Even if the scale says I’m heavier, my jeans are my witness. Keep some old clothes around so you can do the time-old comparison – it won’t let you down!

/Femi, The Girl Who Hates Working Out

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Femi A-Williams is a health and fitness convert trying to reconcile a healthy lifestyle and a happy food life. She is 80% whole grain and 20% donut.

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