Scale It Down: The Matter With Weight And Why It Doesn’t Matter

Oh, you're doing everything right, but the scale isn't moving to your satisfaction? You're obviously doing something wrong then, right? Not exactly.


After weeks of turning down normal people food for shit like vegetables (yuck!) and conquering your social anxiety by going to the gym and surrounding yourself with people (double yuck!), the scale isn’t moving at the pace that matches your Herculean efforts. Fuck, it’s even creeping upwards!


Well, are you certain that you’re actually in a caloric deficit, either by taking in less calories, burning more than you take in, or a combination of both?

I mean, are you absolutely positively sure? So sure you’d bet your life on it?

Oh, you are?!


Okay, did you start your diet by severely restricting calories and exercising balls-to-the-wall straight out the gate?

Nah, not you?

Then before you quit on the grounds that you’re one of thooooose people who just can’t lose weight, consider for a second that (a) you don’t know the difference between weight loss and fat loss and (b) that the scale isn’t the barometer of the one of those two that matter.

Shall I explain?

Don’t you dare shake your head no at me!

After weeks of deprivation, I know that fried donut ice cream sandwich has your name written all over it and you’re looking for any excuse to throw in the towel. Unfortunately for you, the scale not moving is one of the worst reasons to live up to your family’s history of bailing (sorry, I know I shouldn’t make light of your father leaving your mother to raise you on her own…but I will because I’m a terrible, terrible person. Don’t worry, he’ll return from going to get cigarettes any day now!).

I. Mass Effect

Body mass, what’s commonly referred to as body weight, is the sum total of your bones, organs, waste, stomach content, fluids, and muscle and fat tissue. The scale measures gravity’s effect on all of these things.

The bones and organs are pretty much fixed variables. However, the amount of undigested food, excrement, and water all vary within any given day and time. For example, someone who ate a heavy pasta dish for lunch is going to weigh more when they weigh themselves before bed than if they had done so with clear bowels and an empty stomach when they had woken up earlier that morning. Besides their being full of shit and what’s inside their gut influencing the scale, the carbs and sodium from the pasta and sauce are helping them to retain more water (as does creatine and hormones). As said, these factors are ever changing. On top of that, they’re easily alterable. Taken as a whole, all you simply have to do is starve, shit your brains out, roll MDMA and sweat balls while dancing to EDM in your finest faux fur hood that matches your spirit animal, whatever, and the scale will reflect weight loss. Fuck, it’ll reflect weight loss without doing a single one of those activities, but where’s the fun in it reflecting that by you doing something like just using slightly less salt than usual?

When you diet or start an exercise program, you don’t want to lose weight. You already do that all throughout the day. What you want to do is lose fat, the other variable in addition to muscle tissue that can change. Fat and muscle, however, don’t change with as much regularity as poop, food, and bodily fluids do, and therein lies the problem for the scale and most people.

It’s to be understood that when pairing exercise — primarily progressive resistance training — with a sound nutrition strategy, fat mass is burned and replaced by calorie-burning muscle. This process occurs over a period of weeks and months. So if you’ve been at a caloric deficit and exercising for a while but the scale hasn’t moved for a few weigh-ins, you might want to consider that over time some muscle has taken the place of fat and because a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat (or feathers, or flesh, or weed, or basically anything that weighs a fucking pound), the scale doesn’t pick up on the difference and instead reads that your body weight is the same.

Shit, the scale might even read that you weigh more.


Ummmmm, let’s see…

One pound of muscle mass weighs more than the same mass of fat because muscle takes up 4x less space than fat.

Yeah, that’s it!

Science, motherfucker!

II. Getting Pantsed

Due to the volume of muscle, you may actually gain weight but be smaller. You won’t know this though if you rely on the scale. This is why the scale isn’t the best measure of weight loss success. It’s as trustworthy as the motherfucker you’re romantically involved with (they had to work overtime last night…and you bought that shit?!).

So what’s a good gauge?

You mean, besides progress photos, circumference measurements, general well-being, and people willing to be seen with you in public more?

Well, how about those “fuck me” jeans you’ve been hanging onto since college! Yes, those whore mementos of your youth gone by!!

Are they fitting looser each time you put them on? Then you’re on the right track, though the scale might be recording little to no change. Before you know it, you’ll be back to bar crawling and having your prime choice of random guys to hookup with in no time!

Or are you still writhing around on the floor and wriggling into your jeans to “fit” into them? Will you still have to wear a top that covers the unbuttoned waist that looks like it was let loose after a Thanksgiving blowout? Still have to MacGyver it? You know, loop an elastic band over the button, through the buttonhole and back over the button?

Or can you still not fit into them at all? No matter how much you contort your body to squeeze into them, you can’t even pull off the encased sausage look?

In either case, then you need to stay on track and (a) give what you’re doing more time to work or (b) make adjustments: take in fewer calories by eating less and/or increase activity in order to burn more calories.

Yes, it’s as simple as that!

III. Didn’t See That Coming!

Your bathroom scale isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, just like the scales of justice.

So just like justice for some members of society, stop placing so much faith in it.

Oooooooh, politics were injected into this out of nowhere.

I bet you weren’t expecting that, now were ya?!

Are you a frequent weigher? How many times a day do you hop on the scale? What’s the largest fluctuation you’ve seen between weigh-ins? How excited were you when you saw that you lost weight? How completely dejected were you when you stepped on the scale later and saw that you gained that weight back (and maybe more)? How much of a psychological wreck were you when you got off the scale and stepped right back on it only for it to read the exact same weight it spat out a few seconds ago?
Please, spare me no details. I want to be able to revel in your emotional roller coaster.

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