"The Scale is a Liar! This has almost become a cliché' because so many people are driven stark-raving mad by lack of weight loss or by wild fluctuations in their daily or weekly weigh-ins.
But what do you do about it? Many people think the answer is throwing away the scale. I sympathize with the frustration, but don't ditch your scale just yet. There's something you should do instead.
Focus on Body Composition . . .
Your ratio of fat to muscle is known as body composition and it's one of the ideal ways to judge your progress. Instead of obsessing over the reading on the scale, shift your focus to body composition.
The scale is not your enemy -- it can be your friend if you know how to use the results as feedback data, not something to get emotional about. Obsessing over what the scale says without considering body composition is where the trouble begins, because body weight alone can deceive you.
How the scale lies to you, part 1: weight and fat are not the same
The only thing the scale can do is measure your total body weight. That includes everything: fat, muscle, bone, organs, blood, water, gut contents and muscle glycogen. The scale lies doesn't tell you how much of that weight is fat and how much is muscle.
Most scale-focused dieters assume that weight loss is good and weight gain is bad. But what if the weight gain is 100% pure muscle?
What if half the weight you lost was muscle (that can happen if you don't use strategies to build and feed muscle while you're losing weight).
Muscle is the weight you want to keep. Fat is the weight you want to shed.
How the scale lies to you, part 2: Water
Your body weight can fluctuate 2-4 pounds a day or more from shifts in water alone. That shift could be even greater over the course of the first week on a diet, especially a reduced-carb diet. The heavier you are to start, the bigger the first week's weight loss (including water) is likely to be.
Losing water weight is easy. When I was in college, I had wrestler friends who would drop up to 15 pounds overnight to make a weight class, using natural diuretics, saunas, sweat suits and other dehydration tricks.
If you're not a weight class athlete, what good is it to lose water weight only to gain it back as quickly as you lost it? That's how diets fool you.
How the scale lies to you part 3: carbs (glycogen)
Carbohydrates are stored in the muscle as glycogen and water is stored along with them. That's why your weight can tick up a few pounds when you eat more carbs. Add sodium and you may gain even more.
For those wanting fat loss, the sudden increase on the scale without knowing about body composition could be cause for freaking out.
For those wanting muscle gain, the increase on the scale without knowing about body composition could be cause for celebration.
But both the panic and the celebration were premature. The scale lied again -- in both directions. The burner didn't gain fat weight and the builder didn't gain muscle weight -- it was just glycogen and the water that came along with it.
How the scale lies to you part 4: (what's in your gut)
Everything in your gastrointestinal tract has weight, so if you've eaten some "heavy" meals recently, you'll weigh more than if you haven't been eating much.
If you don't eat anything for a day, you could lose a lot of weight, literally overnight. But rest assured, the weight you lose is not just body fat. You can't lose that much fat in only one day.
This also explains weight loss seen with colon cleansing. Why people feel the urge to cleanse their colons (unless their gastroenterologist told them to), I'll never understand. Yet this is one of the oldest weight loss scams in the book. The weight lost is not fat.
© Tom Venuto, author of Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle: Transform Your Body Forever Using the Secrets of the Leanest People in the World
Tom Venuto is a fat-loss expert, transformation coach and bestselling author of Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle. Tom holds a degree in exercise science and has worked in the fitness industry since 1989, including fourteen years as a personal trainer. He promotes natural, healthy strategies for burning fat and building muscle, and as a lifetime steroid-free bodybuilder, he's been there and done it himself. Tom blends the latest science with a realistic, commonsense approach to transforming your body and maintaining your perfect weight for life.