Whether you’re male or female, the bathroom scales will probably dictate much of your training and nutrition when trying to get in shape.
But research shows they should probably be ignored. This is because the scales don’t measure beauty, talent, strength, fitness; in fact they don’t even do a very good job of measuring fat either.
So before you embark on a fitness regime, read the following research from the Journal of the American Medical Association as well the findings from my own personal extreme weight loss experiment so you know the truth.
To quote researchers from the American Heart Association: ‘Unfortunately, healthcare providers and systems have not done a good job of assessing for excess fat even in its simplest form.’
From BMI (body mass index) charts to formulas and diagrams, none of them have managed to accurately mass educate and help people wanting to assess body fat.
What’s worse is people still pay the most attention to the weighing scales, despite it failing to consider the fact that body weight is proportional to height.
That’s not news. It was first documented in the 19th century by a Belgian mathematician called Adolphe Quetelet. But to put it another way, if you are 70kgs (11stone or 154lbs) you could be anything from slim to toned to overweight.
Secondly, the scales measure ‘body weight’ but they don’t measure ‘body fat’. To prove this point I embarked on an experiment to lose 24lbs (11kgs 1.7stone) in 24 hours and not one ounce of fat.
Now it was horrible, I absolutely do not recommend it and in no way was this a safe, healthy or sustainable method of weight loss. You should not try this yourself. But lying naked, pressed against the marble floor in a bid to cool down after a final torturesome sauna, I did it.
In the left of the below picture I was a happy and healthy 209lbs (95kg 15stone). Then following several saunas, training in a sweat suit, restricting my carbohydrate intake and using diuretics I was able to manipulate my body’s water and muscle glycogen to lose 25lbs and weigh 184lbs (84kg 13stone) in the right picture after only 24 hours.
Thankfully I put all the weight I lost back on within 24 hours after that and I’m happy to report I am back to normal, 209lbs pounds, now.
So, in view of all of the above (and the embarrassing picture of me in my underwear) what’s the best way to measure your progress? Well according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition it’s something called your Waist-to-Hip ratio.
This measures how the fat is distributed around the mid-section and you calculate it by finding the narrowest point of your waist and measuring it in inches, then divide that number by the widest point at your hips. The lower the number the more curves you have and the higher the number the less curves you have.
Experts state this is a better method of assessing fat since it measures how the fat is distributed around the body, regardless of height and weight.
To serve as a reference, it is estimated Jennifer Lopez has a Waist-to-Hip ratio of 0.68 (waist: 26’’ & hips: 38’’), Keira Knightley, 0.78 (waist: 25’’ & hips: 32’’), Adele, 0.95 (waist: 36’’ & hips: 38’’) and ‘men’ generally have very little curves and so have a waist-to-hip ratio between 0.85 and 0.95.
Finally, to quote scientists from the Faculty of Medicine at the Imperial College of London: ‘Increasing Waist-to-Hip ratio was associated with increasing health risks in men and women.’ Therefore it’s not necessarily what the scales are telling you, but rather the tape measure.
High fat accumulation around the stomach is associated with types of cancers, heart disease, diabetes and endocrine problems. But the best way to measure and monitor it by far is the Waist-to-Hip ratio.
And for ‘normal’, healthy men and women my advice would be don’t let the scales govern your diet, your training or more importantly your self-esteem.
Ross Edgley is co-founder of The Protein Works, sports nutrition provider supplying everything from whey protein to creatine.