I typically weigh myself once a year– at my yearly physical. I am not someone who owns a scale and weighs myself in the bathroom every day, as I know that weight is a very arbitrary number that can be affected by a wide number of things, causing it to fluctuate within a matter of hours. Consequently, I have made a point to never connect my personal happiness or self-esteem to my weight, but rather focused on how I look and feel- and lately I’ve been feeling pretty great.
That might be why, when I went for my routine physical and learned my weight, I was shocked. It was a much higher number than I had been expecting, and I couldn’t reconcile that number with how healthy and fit I felt. I immediately texted my parents after the appointment in disbelief, unsure of how to respond to this new information—information that indicated I was overweight. Both of my parents immediately responded with the now cliché statement “muscle weighs more than fat”. But was that really true? Had I gained weight because I gained muscle? What did this all mean? I decided to investigate.
It turns out, much as I had guessed, a pound is a pound- no matter whether it’s muscle or fat. A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat, the difference lies in the fact that muscle takes up less space within our body, under our skin. A pound of fat is approximately the size of a grapefruit under our skin, while a pound of muscle is roughly the size of a tangerine. The result is that, when you gain muscle, you gain weight, but you remain looking the same shape and size regardless since muscle is more compact. This is why I had been so unaware of my “weight gain”.
This fact is just further support for the argument that weight is an almost entirely irrelevant number. Muscular fitness and muscle gain is extremely important for your holistic health. Muscle mass helps promote a strong immune system, regulate blood sugar levels in your body, improve your metabolism, and generally support a healthy and functioning muscular system. In fact, the higher your muscle mass, the more energy your body requires, and the more unhealthy fat you will burn over the course of the day. Muscle mass is beneficial and necessary, no matter the weight gain it is accompanied by.
While building lean muscle, your body will continue to look fit, muscular, and healthy- and you will feel it too! This is why a BMI (Body Mass Index) can often be incredibly misleading. At my height and current weight, my BMI calculator indicates that I am on the verge of being overweight, despite the fact that this is entirely untrue (as was confirmed by my doctor). This misinformation is due to the fact that BMI doesn’t account for your body composition, which accounts for the ratio of muscle to fat in your body mass.
My trip to the doctor provided an important lesson- I was the “heaviest” I have ever been, but looked more fit, healthy and lean than ever before. I knew that this was a result of the healthy diet and regular exercise regime I had been following, and felt confident and positive about these results. Your weight is a number that doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story. Your self-confidence, body image, mental health and level of fitness are far more important, and those are the aspects we should be focusing on.
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