The Scale Lies… Body Composition Does Not!

by Dr. Karissa Walton, Founder & Medical Director of The Mobile Health Doc
Here’s a healthy new challenge for the new year: Get off the scale and on the weights.

We have all felt the disappointment of getting on the scale after the holidays. This is why losing weight is always at the top of many New Year’s resolution lists.

It can quickly become a frustrating goal after getting on the scale each day expecting change. Of course, weight rarely changes as quickly as we’d like, which makes it difficult to stay on track. In fact, only about 10% of people actually keep up with their New Year’s fitness goals after just three months.

There are many factors that affect weight change, and there isn’t a way a scale can take these into account. Some examples include water or salt intake, hormonal changes and digestive function.

Just because you have a lower body weight does not mean you have a healthier body. “Skinny fat” is a real issue and can be very dangerous. The more visceral fat (fat around internal organs) and less muscle mass, the higher the risk for diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and many other preventable conditions.

Let’s take a moment to reframe our fitness goals. Instead of focusing on losing weight, let’s focus on optimizing our body composition.

Both weight and BMI (body mass index) are outdated, inaccurate measurements of health and fitness levels. Neither of these values take into account the most important indicator of body composition which is lean body mass, the percentage of the body that is not fat (e.g. bone, muscle).

Ways to measure your body composition:

  • Bod Pod (Air Displacement)
  • Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)
  • DEXA/DXA scan (X-Ray)
  • Hydrostatic (underwater) weighing

Ways to optimize your lean body mass:

Proper nutrition

Not all calories are created equally. Maintaining an anti-inflammatory whole foods diet is the foundation for a healthier, leaner body.

Intermittent fasting

Research shows that eating within a 10-hour or less window (14+ hour fast) helps regulate metabolism and blood sugar.

Weight-bearing exercise or resistance training

Cardio is not the answer when it comes to lean body mass. The key to burning excess fat is to build more muscle.

Cold exposure

Cold water immersion and cryotherapy are both great ways to kick start your metabolism and improve overall body composition.

It’s time to start 2022 off right! Remember it’s not about what you have to lose, but all you have to gain. Consult a health care practitioner trained in nutrition and fitness to help you get started with the safest and most effective ways to optimize your health.