Whether it’s the number on the scale, the percentage of macros on MyFitnessPal, or the number of calories on the package, it’s safe to say that the world of health and fitness is somewhat ruled by numbers. Numbers are a natural and easy means of comparison, and can give clear and positive input on progress, but there also comes a point where it’s too much. We strive to reach a certain digit, even when the numbers hardly mean anything anymore. I realized this last week after my latest body composition test, and this was somewhat of an eye opener to say the least.
My Body Composition Test
I spent 13 weeks following a bulking plan all with the intention of gaining muscle, so when I saw a Body Composition machine at a gym, you best believe I got on that real hard. I literally booked a test for 6:30am the following day. Wasn’t gonna losing no time, especially since I hadn’t been weight lifting for the 2 weeks prior (travelling, flying to Singapore, then Australia, moving in etc.), had to get the test in before I lost all my gains.
After my test I sat down and compared it with my last test from January.
First: body fat % increased from 13% to 20% in 6 months, yup fair enough, that’s what happens when you’re on a bulk.
Second: Total weight increased from 47kg to 50kg, mhm no problem, muscle weighs more than fat, still cruisin.
Now for the most important part. Muscle mass increased from 22.5kg to wait ..wut. WTF. MY MUSCLE MASS WENT DOWN? THIS MUST BE A JOKE. Yep there it was. Muscle mass decreased to 22.2kg. Even though these machines are known for being inaccurate part of me was like WHAT DID I DO WRONG?!!? Truth is, I probably didn’t do anything wrong. I had pushed my limits, worked bloody hard, nearly shed tears at the squat rack, trained consistently, increased my PRs. I felt good, healthy, fit and you know what? Goddamn I felt and looked stronger too.
It was at this point where it hit me. I thought; what if a massively high and equally innacruate number was printed on that lousy sheet of paper? I’d probably feel awesome about myself, think “DAMN, yehhh dats right, I am effing strong *bicep emoji x 100”. But seeing this decrease had me thinking “UGH why can’t I build muscle… that explains why those push ups were so tough this morning *crying emoji x 100”. Whether the machine had printed 23kg of muscle mass, 22kg, or even 26kg, in the end, the sheet could have printed anything. It wouldn’t have changed the way my body was actually built but it sure would have changed the way I felt. In the end, it’s all about perception. And when these stupid freakin numbers actually change that perception; that’s when it’s time to move away.
Moving away from numbers
I’m still a sucker for stats, tracking progress and all the rest of it, but I now vow to not let the numbers get the best of me. They will only serve as a tool, and should always come in second. Second to what? Second to how you freakin feel man. It’s as if we count on numbers to tell us how we feel these days, we’ve lost the habit of sitting, listening and understanding what our bodies are trying to tell us. Trying to lose weight or get fitter? The scale can be faulty, the reading can change after drinking a glass of water, and let’s be real, the number showing up when you’re standing alone in your bathroom in your underwear isn’t the ultimate goal. The goal is to look and feel your best right? Well you’ll feel it when you get there. You’ll feel it when it’s easier to get up in the morning, easier to walk up the stairs, and easier to rock those short-shorts (and feel fucking fabulous doing so).
We are complex-ass beings who can hardly be summarized by digits, and until the day where we get metal chips inserted into our bodies (the stats-lover in me is like gaw-damn that’ll be sick), we won’t be able to track everything accurately. So in the mean time, I guess all we can do is learn to listen to what our beautiful, intricate, and wonderfully complex bodies are telling us. They know a whole lot more than we think, and if you give them the chance, they’ll tell you everything and anything.