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Throw Your Scale Away!

by Gary F. Zeolla

      The following article is excerpted from Chapter 17 of the book Creationist Diet: Nutrition and God-given Foods According to the Bible by Gary F. Zeolla. This book is available from the publisher AuthorHouse and from conventional and online bookstores.


      Dr. David Meinz, in his book Eating by the Book, has a very good suggestion for dieters, "Throw your scale away!" The reason for this is a scale tells you absolutely nothing of importance. This is especially the case if you include exercise as part of your body fat loss program. 

Dr. Meinz explains:

     If you lose ten pounds of fat, but because of physical activity, gain seven pounds of muscle, the liar scale will say you only lost three little pounds! The scale can't tell you what the weight loss is made up of. You're wearing smaller clothes, you're looking great in the mirror, and all your friends want to know your secret—but the scale says you're a failure. And if you believe the scale you will be a failure (pp., 53-54; emphases in original). 

      The reason you'll be "wearing smaller clothes" if you lose fat while gaining muscle is because muscle is more dense than fat. In other words, a pound of muscle is smaller than a pound of fat. So simply looking at how your clothes fit, or even yourself in the mirror, is a better "gauge" of how well your body fat loss program is going than weighing yourself on a scale.

      But if you need to have a more objective way of recording your progress, there are ways to measure how much body fat you have. Body fat is expressed in percentages. “Normal" levels are as follows: men under thirty: 14-20%, men over thirty: 17-23%, women under thirty: 17-24%, women over thirty: 20-27% (Tanita, p.2).

      A simple method to measure body fat percent is with skin-fold calipers. These measure the amount of "pinchable" flab on various parts of the body. The measurements are then compared to a chart that then gives the fat percent. Such calipers are readily available from fitness centers.

      A more sophisticated method is the water tank. Since muscle is denser than fat, then the more muscle a person has the more they will sink. Conversely, the more body fat someone has, then the more they will float. Such measurements can be rather expensive though.

      A newer, and less expensive way is to use a "body fat scale." Such a scale will not only give you your body weight, but also your body fat percent. I have such a scale, and it seems rather reliable.

      Body fat scales work on the principle that fat and muscle hold different amounts of water, hence their electrical conductivity differs. You stand on sensors and they send a small, but unnoticeable electrical charge through your body, and the rate of conductivity is measured, then the fat percent given. Such scales are made by Tanita. This writer has such a scale which he ordered from Body Trends, and it works great. It is accurate and very easy to use, just about as easy as a regular scale.

      So noticing how your clothes fits, looking at yourself in the mirror, or measuring your body fat percent using calipers, a water tank, or a body fat scale, are all preferable methods to gauging your progress than using a traditional scale. Body fat scales are available from various fitness sites.

Bibliography:
Meinz, David L. Eating by the Book. Virginia Beach, VA: Gilbert Press, 1999.  
Tanita
manual for the “TBF-551 Body Fat Monitor/ Scale.” Tanita Corp. Arlington Heights, IL.

Creationist Diet is available from the publisher AuthorHouse and from conventional and online bookstores.

Update

I had been using a Tanita body fat scale for measuring fat percentage. But I never thought it was that accurate as it is too affected by hydration levels and it seems to have me at too high of a fat percent. So I just got a Sequoia Warrior Digital Body Mass Caliper. The scale generally had me at over 15% body fat, which put me into the “normal” category, while the caliper has me at 11.9%. That sounds much better and puts me in the “lean” category, so I will go with that reading.

In addition to the above mentioned book, I discuss the importance of measuring body fat and include charts for the categories in my books God-given Foods Eating Plan, Starting and Progressing in Powerlifting, and Creationist Diet: Second Edition. For me, I wanted a more accurate way to measure body fat so as I try to put weight back on I can be sure it is muscle and not fat. If anyone is interested, such calipers are available at: Amazon.

The above article was posted on this site March 22, 2001.
The update was added September 17, 2009.

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