I know, it’s a radical idea.
“You want me to stop using a scale to assess my fitness level?”
In a word, yes.
Last night, I was sitting at home watching the latest episode of the Biggest Loser before bed. I spent 2 hours and 45 minutes of my life watching Dolvette and his denture-like pearly whites, Bob Harper go full-CrossFit (complete with knee socks) and Jillian Michaels scream at the contestants like they were red-headed step children. After all of the training, crying and other drama, it was time for the weigh-in.
Ridiculous theatrics aside (the lights, the music, the bi-polar weight readout jumping all over the place), I have a serious issue with the whole idea of the weigh-in determining the winners and losers of the show. First of all, they are completely neglecting the relevance body composition (the percentages of fat, bone and muscle in human bodies). Secondly, they are encouraging viewers to base their success and failure solely by the number on the scale.
The simplest way to understand body composition is, lean tissue versus fatty tissue. Body comp is a more accurate way to assess a “healthy” body than the weight or BMI (Body Mass Index, don’t even get me started on this). See the table below for recommended body fat percentages.
Unfortunately, testing body composition is either cheap OR good. Calipers (cheap) rely on a skilled and experienced user, accurately calibrated calipers and a host of other factors. The two “gold standard” body comp testing procedures are hydrostatic (dunk tank) and DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) but they have their own set of drawbacks, namely the price.
I propose a different method to monitor your own body fat. It’s can be done solo, it’s easily repeatable and best of all, it’s highly scientific. It’s called PCATHYCF (Pay Close Attention To How Your Clothes Fit). You see, as you lose fat you’ll start to take up less space in the world. In the beginning, your jeans will start fitting slightly looser. You may assume your dryer did something to them because up until this point, they fit fine. However, depending on the level of work you put in, the change will soon be undeniable.
Notice above, the size difference between the two samples. Place them on a scale, one at a time, and “5” would show up for both. However, the muscle takes up much less space. This is basically my entire argument for ignoring the scale, in picture form.
Let’s say, for the last 4 weeks you’ve been busting your ass at Copperhead CrossFit 3-5 times per week. You’ve been eating mostly “paleo” foods and you’ve made sure to get enough rest. Let’s say that you lost that five pound blob of fat and you gained that five pound slab of muscle.
- If you only looked at the scale, you would be severely disappointed, as it would show no change in weight. Your hopes and dreams of making it to the CrossFit Games would be crushed and you would retire to the couch with a few gallons of ice cream to drown your sorrows.
- On the other hand, if you’re following PCATHYCF, the size difference between the fat lost and muscle gained would be clearly evident. You’d continue down your path to wellness and live happily ever after.
At the end of last night’s “Biggest Loser”, one of the hardest working guys was given the boot because he lost 0 pounds during his second week on the show. I understand that they have a show to run, but it’s unacceptable to tell someone that they “lost” solely because the scale said so. I sincerely hope that that fella continues down the road to wellness and doesn’t let that BS weigh-in define him.
Moral of the story: At Copperhead CrossFit, we relentlessly chase increased performance. Whether it’s a few pounds added to a Snatch PR (personal record), or a minute off of your Fran time, we strive to get better in the gym. If you are constantly increasing your performance, you are constantly moving from sickness to fitness. If you are moving away from sickness and moving toward fitness, your body will reflect it.
As Mark Twight (no, not Mark Twain) once said, “Appearance is the consequence of fitness.”