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Fun and Fitness: How important is the scale?

Rick Melo | Interrobang | Sports | October 1st, 2007

While writing last weeks article about the “Freshman 15,” something interesting popped into my head. I thought about how I gained 20 pounds of zero quality weight during my college years and then I thought about my weight from last year. When I stepped on the scale in the Fitness Centre last year, I noticed that I was heavier than I had been for quite some time. I pretty much took that whole summer off from any progressive weight training and ate poorly while enjoying the summer. I knew I had put some excess fat on, but I honestly thought the scale was just being mean. After trying out a few different scales, I was amazed at the realization that the scale was indeed right and I had got back up to the weight I was at when I gained my very own “Freshman 15.” The difference between my freshman 15 phase and my weight from last year was the fact that I had more muscle mass.

As most people know, muscle weighs more than fat and it proved to be a factor in this case. If I were to compare the two physiques side by side, they would be completely different looks at the exact same weight. It got me thinking about how important the scale really is.

We all come in different shapes and sizes; skinny, chubby, obese, thick, short, tall, heavy boned, lengthy, stalky, heavily built and short limbed. You name it, it's out there. Hell, I even have a few skinny fat friends. So many factors come into play when it comes to a person's own weight.

The main factors include height, bone mass, fat mass, muscle mass and water. Being dehydrated or retaining a lot of water can have a big impact on weight considering the fact that the majority of our bodies are made up of water. Even having a big meal or wearing heavy clothing can add a few pounds when you step on the old scale. People often appear heavier or lighter then what they actually are and it all boils down to the factors stated above. For example, an old friend of mine is heavier built then myself and it is quite obvious, yet I'm still heavier then him. Most people think he's heavier, but my slight height advantage and thicker bone mass make me a naturally heavier person. But if you asked me whose build I'd rather have, I'd take his.

A friend of mine is entering an upcoming bodybuilding competition as a light weight. He keeps insisting to me that he has to get up to 160 pounds or he's going to get blown out of the water. If you were to look at him, he appears to be 175 pounds because of his heavy set build. I keep telling him that it doesn't matter how much he weighs, but rather how he looks on stage and believe me, he looks very good.

On the flip side of this scenario, my friend Jill stands at 5'5 and at one point weighed 140 pounds. Most people would assume that she's quite chubby at hearing this because girls are generally light in weight, but that's not the case at all. She looks like she's about 120-125 pounds, but she has a very athletic build with dense muscle mass. If you were to pick her up, you'd be amazed at how heavy she is, although she is quite tiny.

Too many guys get hung up on being a certain weight because they feel it makes them more of a man or that it means they have a better build. Too many girls get hung up on their weight because they feel the scale has to show them a low number or else they're not skinny enough. The only people that should be concerned with what their exact weight is are those people who need to be a certain weight for a certain reason (i.e. weight divisions in sports, doctor's recommendations, etc.).

For the rest of you, this whole weight concept should be treated very similar to the old saying “you're only as old as you feel.” If you're healthy and you like what you see in the mirror, why should a number on a scale make any difference?
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