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Scale doesn't tell whole weight loss story

Are you addicted to the scales? Do you weigh yourself daily and maybe even several times a day? And more importantly, do you know what that sometimes frustrating number really means? "Most people focus only on losing weight, not the fat," Cedric X. Bryant, chief exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise, said.

"Preserving lean tissue and losing body fat — that's what you need to strive for."

Why scales can be misleading

1 Weight changes throughout the day, fluctuating as much as five pounds, depending on how much water you drink and what foods you eat.

2 The scale cannot tell the difference between muscle and fat, which means a person might have a lower body weight, but high levels of fat. Because muscle takes up less space than fat, you may appear slimmer.

3 Quick weight loss that you see on the scales is mostly water, which means it's a temporary weight loss.

4 Through cardio and strength exercises, you will be gaining muscle while losing body fat; weight on the scales may remain the same, but you will notice you are losing inches.

At-home ways to track weight loss

Check measurements: Measure waist (navel level), fullest part of chest, largest part of buttocks and upper thighs. Take measurements at the same time of day once a month.

How your clothes fit: Check out a pair of jeans that felt a little tight before you began personal improvement. When clothes begin to feel a little looser, you know you are improving your ratio of muscle to fat.

• Energy levels increasing: You should begin noticing more endurance and an increase in energy. The more fit you are, the more fat you will burn.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Reach her at