Our culture is obsessed with the idea that “fat” means “unhealthy” and “thin” means “healthy”. We’re also fed the idea that “fat” and “thin” mean the same things for everyone, but the true relationship between weight and health is a lot more complicated than that. Some fat people are perfectly healthy, and some skinny people are that way because of health issues.
Your weight is also an unreliable number for all sorts of reasons, like water weight and the inability to differentiate between fat and muscle. This is a freeing truth for many people: it means you no longer have to subject yourself to humiliating weigh ins.
What it doesn’t mean is that you should stop paying attention to your body. In fact, you should be paying more attention to your body, focusing on several factors that have little to do with the number on the scale.
Here are some of the most important:
1. Percentage of muscle vs. percentage of fat
Weight itself isn’t bad. What actually hurts you is having too much fat, especially belly fat, so your goal should be to lose fat. You definitely don’t want to be losing muscle—and tracking your body fat percentage is the best way to make sure you’re losing the right kind of weight.
How do you figure out your body fat percentage? There are several calculators online that use a combination of other methods to make an educated guess, and you can also buy special body fat scales. These scales use an electromagnetic current to measure your body fat percentage.
How much should you have? It depends largely on your body type, but as a general rule men shouldn’t have more than 22% body fat and women shouldn’t have more than 32%.
Muscle is denser than fat, so it takes up less space. This means you can lose several inches without losing a single pound if you’re working out regularly. Losing those inches is also what helps you fit into smaller clothes.
To effectively track your progress, take your measurements once every two weeks. This gives you time to create a noticeable change, while still maintaining a regular record.
What should you measure? Chest, waist, the widest part of their belly, hips, and thighs. These are the areas where the highest percentage of fat gathers, and they’re also the most important measurements for clothing sizes.
3. Daily energy levels
It’s easy to become so obsessed with losing weight and counting calories that you don’t pay attention to other, more important, signs of health. Many people choose restrictive diets that completely starve their bodies of energy, and so long as the number on the scale grows smaller, they don’t seem to care. In reality, the diet would be much more effective simply by choosing to eat healthier foods from the local health food store.
This is self-sabotage at its finest. It makes maintaining focus and productivity throughout the day difficult, which in turn causes chronic stress because you’re constantly underperforming. It can even lead to depression, as over time you become too tired for social gatherings and other important things.
You can measure this in a couple different ways: by creating a numerical scale from “low energy” to “high energy” and giving each day a rating, or by journaling every night and answering the question “did I maintain good energy levels and focus throughout the day?”
There are many factors that contribute to your health (or lack thereof), and weight is nowhere near the most important. If you want to live a healthy, happy life, focus on the above measurements instead. It may be difficult to pull yourself away from the scale at first, but you’ll lead a much happier life once you cut it out of your life.