Muscle vs Fat | The Scale Does Lie
Muscle vs Fat
Dance has always been an integral part of my life. There were many times when I felt it was all encompassing.
Competitive dance began at the age of 5. Although I would never trade any of the time I spent dancing or training for dance, the pressure to be ‘smaller’ or ‘thinner’ so that the dancers in the group looked similar was always in the back of my mind.
As a young girl, I thought this meant I needed to lose weight. The number on the scale needed to go down.
It’s only natural that the scale became my nemesis or adversary . I HAD to be a certain weight to look a certain way.
Even as an adult since dancing is my profession, my appearance is extremely important. Looking good is directly correlated to my financial success.
Notice how I said “looking good” is important.. Weighing a certain amount is NOT important.
The number on the scale no longer means to me now what it once did. However, It took me YEARS to come to this realization.
After college, I began performing as a professional dancer in a dance company practicing seven hours a day five days a week. I quickly lost those extra “Freshman 15 pounds”.
It came off quickly (I know… don’t be mad at me!), because It was such a strenuous rehearsal schedule. I was thrilled with my weight loss, but constantly TERRIFIED that I would end up back to the weight I was in college.
I weighed myself on a daily basis to make sure I stayed at my new “happy weight”, and ultimately became obsessed with the scale.
A few years later I moved to Chicago, with my husband.
I was hired as an aerial dancer for a company here in Chicago and began aerial dance training four days a week.
I continued to weigh myself on a daily basis and I became extremely frustrated and anxious when the number on the scale started and continued to rise.
As an aerialist, it was the first time in my career that upper body strength was extremely important. I was naturally starting to gain muscle from the hours of rehearsal and time I spent in the air training.
I didn’t realize that I was gaining muscle weight. When I would see the number on the scale increasing, I believed I was getting “fatter”.
I spoke with a nutritionist to help me evaluate my situation to determine what I was doing wrong and why I was gaining weight.
He did a 12-point skin fold test to measure my body fat. I had 11% body fat, which to provide a point of reference, the healthy range for women ages 19-29 is on average between 19 and 22%.
I was by no means “getting fatter.” I spent so much time relying on the scale and focusing on the number, I forgot to focus my attention where it really mattered…
How did I look? How did I feel?
I am now at the same weight I was in college (GASP!! My biggest fear), but the difference in appearance is shocking to me. Take a look for yourself…
For reference, I’m 5’5”.
I built so much muscle from aerial dancing, that it quickly added pounds to the scale.
Friends who hadn’t seen me in a while would say “WOW, you are in the best shape right now”. But, I would think, “What are they talking about? I am almost back to my heaviest weight”.
I could not see beyond the number on the scale and that is when I realized that using a scale was a problem for me.
Personally, I stopped weighing myself because it mentally drove me insane and took away from the real progress I was making.
How I look and feel is what’s important. How much I weigh… NOT Important.
The number on the scale is a deterrent and stress factor to my overall health and wellness.
Reducing this stress, which meant getting rid of the scale, helped me develop a more healthy way of approaching wellness. We have an article that delves deeper into how stress affects your health, if you are interested.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t weigh yourself. What I am saying is that you need to do whatever works well for you. For many people it is the easiest way to measure progress and it is a wonderful motivator!
However, If the scale is causing you worry, don’t use it.
Stay mindful of when the scale triggers a negative reaction to your mental state.
Take pictures of yourself. Measure yourself with a tape measure. Notice how your clothes fit. Are they getting looser/tighter? Find other ways to track your progress.
The point I’m trying to make is “ Don’t worry about what the scale says!” Pay attention to how you look and feel. If you have increased your exercise, you are most likely gaining muscle. Muscle mass weighs more than fat, and therefore the scale may reflect this increase.
Pay attention to your body, your mental health, your habits, your stressors, your successes, and your failures. Note what strategies positively propel you forward and what strategies discourage you or hold you back.
All in all… BE MINDFUL!