It’s easy to get hung up on the numbers on the scales.
Let me explain what this really means – standing on the scales gives us an indication of our weight – that is we measure the heaviness of our bodies which includes our bones, our organs, our muscles, the contents of our guts and the fat and water stored within our body.
Weight loss refers to a decrease in your overall body weight which can include all or just some of the above. Losing a limb or an organ will obviously result in weight being lost but when we think about healthy weight loss we only really mean fat.
So how do you know when you are losing weight that it is fat that you are losing when most scales don’t distinguish between fat and other parts of our body?
There are specialised scales which allow you to understand the composition of your body. When you stand on the pads on the scales, a weak electrical current is sent around the body – because fat conducts electricity less well than muscle, the scale detects more resistance to the electrical current and this is a measure of the bio-electrical impedance. The scale collects this data and combines it with your age, gender, weight and height to give an overview of your body composition.
Depending on the sophistication of the body-fat scale, the analysis can provide detailed information on fat and muscle within the body including where this is being stored. Some machines will also calculate your resting metabolic rate which will tell you how many calories your body needs every day just to stay alive.
For these to provide useful information it is best to use the scales at the same time of the day and under the same conditions – ideally first thing in the morning before you have eaten or drank anything – and even better if you have not had alcohol for 24 hours or done any exercise that day.
Tracking your body composition in this way can allow you to monitor changes in your body as well as see how your body responds to changes you make in terms of what you eat and drink and how much you exercise.