Get Off That Scale: Gain Weight & Look Thinner

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 9:22am

By Adam Kessler, CSCS

The scale could be one of the worst inventions ever made. Some people live and breathe by its numbers; I have clients who weigh themselves multiple times daily. For this reason, I strongly encourage my clients to get rid of their scales. The worst part about scales is that they distort your perception of progress. Rather than enabling you to focus on how much body fat and lean mass you have gained, scales cause you to focus on your bodyweight.

What many people don’t realize it that it is possible to actually gain weight and still look thinner. (However, if you are extremely overweight and need to lose 20 pounds or more, then this statement applies less to you.) Firming up, losing inches and gaining a couple pounds is possible.

Muscle weighs more than fat

With these facts in mind, don’t think that you should gain some weight to look thinner. Just remember that if you start following a healthier lifestyle and by chance gain some weight, you can still look thinner. How is this possible? Muscle weighs more than fat because it is denser fiber. Moreover, not only does fat weigh less than muscle, it takes up approximately five times more space than muscle.

Body composition is the percentage of your body that is fat and lean body mass (e.g. muscle, bones, etc.). Although two people can weigh exactly the same and be the same height, it’s entirely possible for one of them to have 30% body fat and for the other to have 15% body fat. The person with less body fat will actually look thinner and shapely because he has more lean muscle, even though he weighs exactly the same as the other person.

Look thinner by gaining muscle

So, now take someone who wants to lose 10 pounds. Chances are he doesn’t really need to lose those 10 pounds, but he thinks he does because he doesn’t like that number on the scale. What he should really do instead is shift his focus to his body composition by lowering his body fat percentage and raising his lean body mass percentage. If he starts eating a healthier diet, it will help to eliminate some body fat. Then he should start doing cardiovascular workouts, which will also help to burn body fat. Because body fat takes up a huge amount of body surface area, he’ll start looking thinner.

Strength training adds muscle tone

To complete his body transformation, he should integrate strength training into his lifestyle, which will increase his muscle tone throughout the body. Since muscle weighs more than fat, he may actually start gaining a little weight. However, because it takes up less surface area than fat, he will still look leaner and healthier.

Now, I know no one wants to gain weight just to look thinner, but it’s important to note this situation is possible. When you’re looking to slim down, the numbers on the scale are not what’s important. If you are eating healthier and strength training, you might gain a pound or two, but you could be looking leaner in the process because you’re shifting your body composition. So don’t get discouraged and stop exercising if the scale goes up. Instead, focus on how your clothes fit and remember that you are probably going to look better than anticipated.