This is an archived article that was published on in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dayton, Ohio • You may already know that using the scale to gauge weight-loss success or failure isn't always a good idea. It is normal for body weight to fluctuate depending on factors such as fluids and food consumed, medications and medical conditions, and levels of physical activity.

Muscle weight is a big part of the number you see when you step on the scale. For this reason, it is important to take your body type into account when deciding on weight-loss goals. For instance, people with a stockier build have a genetic pre-disposition to more muscle mass overall than other body types. No matter what your body type, losing muscle weight is nothing to be happy about.

Because it is metabolically active, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn around the clock.

Crash dieting may cause your weight to drop quickly, but because muscle needs calories to survive, the caloric deprivation leads to muscle loss. To help lose weight in a healthy way and see more loss in body fat than muscle, eat several small meals throughout the day and maintain a regular exercise program.

Body fat levels increase slowly, and it comes off in the same way. In order to store 1 pound of body fat, you would have to consume 3,500 more calories than your body is able to use. If you were to eat the number of calories your body needed to maintain its current weight, it would burn roughly 60 percent to 70 percent of those calories just to keep you alive and another 10 percent or so with digestion. The remaining 20 percent to 30 percent of those calories must be burned off with daily activity or be stored as fat.

Even without exercise, it would take many days for underburning/overeating to cause a 1-pound (3,500 calories) increase in body fat.

Generally speaking, it is only possible to lose or gain about 1 to 2 pounds of fat per week, the equivalent of plus or minus of 500 to 1,000 calories each day. Keep this in mind whenever you hear quick weight-loss promises, and remember that most of those pounds will be water, glycogen and/or muscle.

There is nothing wrong with weighing yourself, but if you do, use it as only one indicator of how well you are doing. The best indicator of progress when it comes to losing weight is to take regular waistline measurements and do a comparison over time. In addition, make note of the way you look and feel.

Last but not least, try to focus on your health rather than your weight. Percentage of body fat, especially around the midsection, quality of sleep, stress levels and the amount of exercise you get are much more important to monitor than scale weight.