Steve Pumphrey

Changing Lives Through Fitness Coaching

How to Think About Your Weight

A Typical Fitness Client Initial Interview

“I’ve gotta lose this weight!” says Mike, a 49-year-old prospective client. “Why?” I ask. “I’m gonna be 50 in like nine months. I’m overweight! I weigh 180 pounds!” he responds. “How much do you think you should weigh?” I asked which was met by a long pause and a frustrated look on his face. “I don’t know, but I do know I shouldn’t weigh 180 pounds!” almost shouting and pointing to his stomach. “Tell me more.” I say calmly. Another long pause followed by an exasperated, almost tearful “I’m 5’10” I weigh 180 pounds, I look fat, I feel even worse and I’m not even 50 years old. “Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.” I say in an almost perky tone. Then I give Mike my spiel on what I think about weight.

What is Weight?

Your weight is a metric, a number on a scale. Why do you care what it is? When I push hard enough, most people eventually come around to telling me it’s about how they look and not what the scale says. Why? I think it’s because nobody else, except for maybe your doctor, knows the number on the scale. But everyone can see what you look like, and some people can even pick up on how you’re truly feeling about yourself.

But this article is about weight, so let’s talk about that number on the scale, shall we?

What comprises our weight?

We’ll use me as an example. When I’m writing this, I weigh roughly 180lbs. I say roughly because that number fluctuates drastically over a 24-hour period, and by drastically, I mean by about 10lbs! And so does yours. I promise. Let’s break it down…

Scale Weight

Scale weight is the number you see when you step on the scale. Most modern-day scales are fairly accurate, within a pound or two. But, as with most things, consistency is key when weighing oneself. When and what did you last eat? How about drinking? Exercise? Shower? Sleep? Relieve yourself? All those things play a part in that number you see on the scale.

How to Weigh Yourself

I recommend weighing yourself no more than once a week. Pick a day and time, preferably first thing in the morning, before you’ve eaten or drank anything, and after you’ve, well, you know, emptied yourself. Strip down to that birthday suit and hop on the scale. Note the weight. Do that two more times. Are they all the same? If yes, that’s your weight. If no, find the average. (Add them up and divide by three.) That’s your total body weight. But your body is comprised of many things, right? Let’s continue the breakdown…

Fat Weight

Fat. An ugly word to most people. Does it sound better if we call it by its proper name, adipose tissue? Too many syllables for me, and once you know it means fat, just call it what it is. We all have it. We all need it! Fat is fuel for your body, after all. But we might be storing more fuel than we need. So how do we find out how much fuel we have in our tank? There are a couple of different ways.

Skinfold Calipers

These little gizmos measure the thickness of your skin and the fat under it. I like this set from Amazon. They come with a handy chart to find your fat quotient and a nifty tape measure for taking circumference measurements of body parts. Last time I checked, they were under $10 and when used correctly, fairly accurate, within 3 to 5%. Mine have me at about 12% or roughly 22 pounds of fat.

Body Fat Scales

Some scales do what’s called bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), a fancy term for measuring your body fat through a very weak electrical current. Push a few buttons, step on the scale and voila! It tells you how much fat you’re carrying around. Clever, but not super accurate as some testing has them off by 21 to 34%. Yikes. Mine has me at 17% or 30 pounds of fat.

Smart Watches

Your time ticker on your wrist uses the same BIA technology as the scale to measure your fat, and, sadly, according to some studies, they’re about 50% accurate. At least they keep the time accurately. My Samsung has me at about 16% or 29 pounds of fat.

Muscle Weight

After fat weight, most people are concerned with the amount of muscle they have on them. Muscles, those things that move that body of yours, add weight to your frame but they take up less space per pound than fat. Weight from muscle is not a bad thing at all, in my humble opinion. Remember, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn. When we calculate muscle weight, we call it Lean Body Mass. Basically, we take your Scale Weight and subtract your Fat Weight. For me, depending on which Fat Weight you want to go with, I have a Lean Body Mass between 150 and 158 pounds. But there’s other stuff in that Lean Body Mass, right?

Water Weight

To say we humans are mostly water is an accurate statement. About 60% of the adult human body is water. Water weighs 8.34 lbs. per gallon. Again, using myself and the example, plug my 180-pound body into that equation and I’m about 108 pounds of water. But I’m fairly muscular and well hydrated so that number is probably higher.

Bone, Ligament, Tendon Weight

Strip out the fat, muscle, and water and your left with bones and connective tissue, and even those contain water. Bone is about 31% water. Consider this: the average weight of a cremated human is between 4 and 6 pounds. I guess we’re not so “big boned” after all.

Key Take-Aways

Remember Mike? When I pushed him on the weight question, we eventually got around to the real answer: how he looks and how he feels. Will Mike look better if he sheds some fat and adds some muscle? Absolutely! And, as crazy as it may seem, that number on the scale doesn’t have to change when you do that. Yes, Mike can stay at his 180 pounds when he exchanges fat for muscle. Throw in some good blood test results and he should be feeling great too.

How do you look? How do you feel? What does your lab work say about your health? The answers to those three questions far outweigh the number on the scale.

References

I’m a firm believer in “Trust, but verify” when it comes to my health, so I can certainly understand if you want to see where I get my information. Please don’t take my word for any of this! Check out my references and make up your own mind. Click the link to go to the website. I strive for accuracy, but mistakes and misunderstandings happen. Please let me know if I’ve inadvertently done either.

University of Utah Health – Skinfold Caliper Accuracy

Bodyfat Scale Accuracy

Fitness Tracker Accuracy

The Water in You

Cremated Remains

For Purchase

Yes, I sell some of the products I talk about in my posts. If you’re thinking about buying something I reference, please consider using the links in the text of the post or the ones below to purchase from my Amazon store. The small commission I make helps me put food on my table. And I really like to eat.

Caliper Tape Set

Digital Scale

Samsung Watch

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