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Why Scales Lie

There comes a time when you step on the scales and it is finally showing weight loss. Yes! But, hold on. That’s what the scales do. They show you how much you weigh. But let’s think about it for a second.

What is the difference between fat loss and weight loss?

Our weight is the sum of all our tissue; organs, bones, muscles, body fluids, fat and everything else. But the only one that we want to lose is EXCESS body fat. It’s important to acknowledge that not all weight is created equal — numbers on a scale don’t matter. If a scale indicated health then I would be in trouble, as I am classified as overweight, verging on obese when I actually range between 10 and 12 percent body fat. People always talk about their ideal weight, but in reality that means nothing.

Health risks rise with excess body fat and the chances of falling and injury increase with reduced muscle mass. The composition of weight is the most important factor as well as the location of fat tissue. Men and women have, and need, different ranges of body fat. The American Council of Exercise presents five different classifications of body fat range.


Our weight can fluctuate during the day, week or month. It can fluctuate daily since it’s influenced by your stomach, bowel or bladder content, water loss or retention and more. It can vary through the week or month because of a menstrual cycle for women, hormonal changes, muscle loss or gain, and fat loss or gain. To simply step on the scales and see the numbers, we have no idea what has really happened or is responsible for the change in total weight.

A grain rich diet can be responsible for weight gain. Carbohydrates bind to water. One gram of carbohydrate binds with 4 grams of water. Eating less carbs will make you lose weight. That is why you often hear about ‘water loss’. This is why you lose so much weight on a low carb diet in a first few weeks. Of course, increasing your carb intake will make you gain weight again, but it is not fat, it’s all water.


Muscle Gain & Fat Loss

Resistance training and other physical activities promote muscle gain and fat loss but on the weight scale it will look like you’re not making progress: your body-weight doesn’t change or can even increase while you are actually losing fat.

Muscle is a much denser tissue than fat and takes up less space on the body. In fact, muscle occupies about a third of the space fat does. So when clients — especially women — say to me, “I don’t want to get bulky,” my response is, “the only thing making you ‘bulky’ is fat!”

A lot of diets and exercise programmes make people lose the wrong type of weight, where muscle tissue is the weight that is lost. Muscle gives the body shape. The statement ‘I want a toned/defined body’ really means the ability to see the muscles of the body.

Body shape does not necessarily indicate health or good appearance. Current lifestyle or exercise trends have brought about a new category of body type — ‘Skinny Fat’.

Skinny Fat is when someone is thin and looks great in clothes, but is all flabby underneath. A person who, while they have very low weight on the scales, and may look slim (small in structure), may still have a large amount of body fat compared to muscle, resulting in a flabby appearance. Hence, a skinny (low mass) person, who still looks fat (flabby and untoned).

A Skinny Fat person usually has quite a bit of cellulite since between the bone and the skin they only have fat. The skin can be deformed easily because the skin layer is located on an unstable matter (fat).

Any form of exercise or dieting that causes a loss of muscle is a serious step in the wrong direction. Indeed muscle loss has been shown to effect overall health and can weaken the immune system. Research has proven that 1 pound (0.45kg) of muscle burns over 50cal per day at rest.

When you consider an hour per day of cardiovascular exercise can burn 400 to 500 calories, 4.5kg (10lbs) of muscle can burn over 500 calories a day while you are sitting in front of the TV. Now if that is how much energy you’d burn doing nothing, imagine how many additional calories you would burn when performing the correct amount and intensity of cardiovascular exercise.

Furthermore, because muscle is such a dense lean tissue, most wouldn’t even visually notice a 4.5kg increase in mass. It would be invisible calories and fat burning.

Scales lie to us. Or at least don’t give us the complete picture. Photos, mirrors and old clothes don’t lie. Neither does measuring fat percentage. The scales can become your worst enemy by misleading you and killing your motivation.

Phil is founder and master trainer at Body Expert Systems. Contact him on 0934 782763 or at his website bodyexpertsystems.com or through Star Fitness (starfitnesssaigon.com)

Phil Kelly

Phil is an avid sportsman and loves most things fitness. With the final realisation that he would not be an All Black, he turned his full focus to studying the human body in regard to improving movement and posture, developing strength, function and performance, as well as scrutinising the conventional wisdom of nutrition for fat loss and performance. He loves challenging the 'norm' and is dedicated to the prosperity and health of his clients and the community. He has a mission to educate and empower people to "be all they can be" by providing accurate, research proven and industry leading information. 

Website: bodyexpertsystems.com

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