Home / Health and Fitness / Diets / Using weighing scales properly

Health and Fitness

Using weighing scales properly

Sarah Horrocks
by Sarah Horrocks Published on 12 August 2008
A-
A+

Some people weigh themselves to keep an eye on their weight and help themselves stay trim, while others see the scales as an instrument of torture to be avoided! Here’s our advice on keeping an eye on your weight, choosing and using scales.

Some people weigh themselves to keep an eye on their weight and help themselves stay trim, while others see the scales as an instrument of torture to be avoided! Here’s our advice on keeping an eye on your weight, choosing and using scales.

Why weigh yourself?

Getting on the scales regularly is important for several reasons:
- To check that your weight is acceptable for your height and age, and that it doesn't pose a risk to your health. Weighing yourself helps you calculate your BMI (body mass index). BMI = weight/height squared (for example, 55/ (1.65 x 1.65) = 20.2 if you weigh 55kg and are 1.65m tall).
- To chart weight loss or gain. If you're on any kind of diet, it allows you, among other things, to readjust your food intake if you're not getting the right results.
- To watch your weight. When you're at a healthy weight, losing or putting on weight can create an imbalance that needs to be corrected immediately.

Problems with weighing yourself

There's no point in obsessing about what the scales tell you on a daily basis, for several reasons:
- A person's weight can vary by 2 or 3 kilos depending on how well hydrated they are, what they have eaten, how much exercise they have had, whether they are hot or cold, stressed or relaxed, and depending on women's menstrual cycles.
- There is no 'ideal' target weight. Experts prefer instead to talk about a balanced weight, but this weight will vary during adulthood according to the individual's growth, weight history and health, as well as their genes. Your weight can change throughout life, but a balanced weight is usually the weight you return to regularly after fluctuations depending on the factors just mentioned.
- A person's weight says nothing about their figure. Because muscle is heavier than fat, you can be thin and weigh more than someone who is fatter than you.

Choosing scales

If you'rve investing in a pair of weighing scales, consider the following and choose according to what you want, your needs and budget:
- Mechanical or electronic? With or without body fat calculator?
- The maximum weight capacity. Generally up to 180 kilos.
- Big or small, needle (mechanical) or digital (electronic) model?
- Mechanic, battery or mains powered?
- Functions. You can get electronic scales with a memory function that charts your weight change.

User’s guide to weighing yourself

- If you want to control your weight accurately, invest in a pair of scales with a body fat monitor to calculate your exact body composition fast and precisely. Body fat monitors work by recording how fat mass reacts when an electric current is passed through it (fat is different from other liquids contained in muscle tissue). The weak intensity current is used to record fat content (the greater the resistance to the bioelectric current, the higher the level of fat in the body). Electrodes are fitted in the scales and the current is diffused through the arches of the feet. The device can tell you almost instantly not only your weight but also fat, and sometimes even muscle, water and bone content.

- Always weigh yourself at the same time in the day, preferably naked. Once a week is enough. Don't count the points and decimals: chart your weight over several weeks to gauge how it fluctuates and watch for patterns.

- There’s no use in knowing your weight if you don’t know the ‘norm’ for you.


What's normal?

In adults, a normal BMI according to standard guidelines is between 18.5 and 25. Below this is considered to be underweight, above 25 is overweight and 30+ is obese. To find out if you are overweight, you need to compare your data with the table for your age and body fat percentage to get a reliable indicator:

Women aged 18 to 39 = 21-32% body fat; aged 40 to 59 = 23-33% body fat; aged 60 to 79 = 24-35% body fat.

Men: aged 18 to 39 = 8-19% body fat; 40 to 59 = 11-21% body fat; aged 60 to 79 =14-24% body fat.

by Sarah Horrocks

You might also like