I really hate the scale. And yet, there is so much emotion invested into that little machine when you are trying to lose weight and become healthy. We get so fixated on what we want the number to be that we sometimes neglect our health in order to get there. A lot of people will go on unhealthy diets, which restrict their calories and nutrients, in order to get to what they believe the scale should read. Always remember, that a low number doesn’t mean a healthy body.
When we restrict calories, we are restricting important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients our bodies need to thrive. There is so much confusion out there and it is hard for us to understand how to achieve a healthy and ideal body weight. When we look at that number on the scale, and it’s a low number, we think that means we are healthy. The number is low, so what else could it possibly mean?
Achieving a low number in an unhealthy way causes a disruption in your body composition. If the body isn’t being nourished properly, and fed appropriately we begin to mess up our body composition. We will lose weight, and some of that weight will be fat loss, but we are also losing lean muscle mass.
The ideal body weight for any of us, is one that factors in our lean body mass. It’s not just about the number on the scale. I can be at my ideal body weight, but if I’m 35% body fat, I’m still at risk for health concerns related to having excess fat.
The only way to maintain lean body mass (and increase it) is to eat healthy, nourishing meals and move regularly.
Developing this kind of lifestyle, where you are eating properly and moving more can sometimes bring your motivations down. That’s usually where the scale comes in. When I finally decided to get my butt in gear and become more healthy, I was eating right and exercising my heart out. I would be so excited come Sunday because I just knew that number was going to be lower. My efforts were going to pay off! I would step on my scale, look at the number, and my heart would drop. The number didn’t budge, or worse, it went up! This often derailed my motivation for keeping up with the routine. Why work so hard, restrict my eating, and not see any kind of reward? I became discouraged and often would give up.
The reason the motivation went away when I saw that number on the scale not moving or going in the wrong direction, is because I didn’t have a good understanding of body composition.
What is body composition?
It is the components of muscle, fat, and other tissues that make up our body. And when we have a clear understanding of what our body composition is, how to track it, and how it relates to our health, we are able to figure out our ideal body weight. Your ideal body weight is the only number you need to worry about when it comes to becoming healthy.
A lot of people will think I’m talking about BMI when I talk about body composition. BMI is a type of body composition number but I don’t like to use it because it doesn’t factor in the amount of fat and muscle you have. BMI gives an average number based on your height and weight. However, many people with little body fat and a lot of muscle are registered as overweight or obese using the BMI measure. That is because BMI does not factor in the muscle mass involved in the person’s weight.
Unlike the BMI measure, when you calculate your body’s body composition, the fat to muscle ratio, you are getting a better understanding of your health.
Achieving a healthy body, with a healthy body composition, allows us to enjoy life to the fullest. We are better able to engage in meaningful activities, become more active, and enjoy more quality time with our friends and families without limitations.
Our body composition can easily be determined through a few measurements and calculations. And, because I like things to be easy for y’all, I have created a free download to help you determine your own body composition and your ideal weight based on the amount of lean body mass you have.
Now remember, it is healthy to have fat! Women on average should have about 20% – 25% body fat and men about 15%-20% in order to maintain healthy body functions. We need fat for energy, to absorb vitamins, maintain body temperature, and to protect our vital organs. Fats are also essential building blocks for our cells, brain, hormones, hair, and skin. Without good forms of fat, our bodies can’t function properly and we don’t look as good!
Once you have a good understanding of your ideal weight based on your lean body mass, you can track your weight loss goals in a healthy way. Keeping track of your body composition allows you to understand how much lean tissue you are gaining through exercise. Remember, gaining lean tissue and losing fat may not always result in a decrease on the scale. Muscle is more dense than fat, so a smaller amount of tissue can weigh the same as a bigger amount of fat. If you are gaining muscle, losing fat, but not losing weight, you are still on your way to a healthier, and leaner body.
Excess body fat can be damaging to your health and your body. Maintaining the recommended body fat percentage is key to good health that lasts a lifetime.
It’s important to remember when losing weight, in order to reach our ideal body composition, to lose the weight in a healthy manner that includes habits and routines. Like I discussed earlier, if you lose weight in a way that is unhealthy, by restricting your calories and not being active, you can lose lean body mass. This means, you may achieve your ideal weight, but you could still be holding on to the excess fat you were trying to get rid of. When we restrict our calories and don’t move enough, fat is stored and muscle mass is used for the energy we need to survive.
What are your thoughts on body composition? Like I used to do, do you put a lot of focus to the number on the scale? Try keeping track of your body composition along with your weight and let me know if it helps take some of the stress out of creating healthy lifestyle habits.