Often when we discuss losing weight, we are really discussing fat. The problem is that they are not a one-to-one thing but we emotionally think they are.
Too often we are dictated by the tyranny of what the scale says, we think it’s telling us exactly how “fat” we are in a given moment. It goes up, it goes down, and at times it seems to have a mind of its own.
It can really mess with your mind when you’ve been working out, are feeling good, and visually look better, but STILL, the scale weight either stays the same, barely changes, or even (God forbid) goes up! Many times as a trainer, I have to talk folks off the ledge when this happens. What gives!
Unfortunately, the scale is often the ONLY tool folks use in order to track whether or not they are losing body fat and the scale number comes to define whether they are being successful or not.
What does the number on the scale really mean?
Truthfully, for a fat loss goal, the scale by itself is a fairly crappy measuring tool. It will tell you your weight but it can’t differentiate WHAT that weight is composed of. Items such as fat, muscle, water, waste and so on. Your scale weight is simply your current relationship to gravity. That’s it. We all (me included) attach too much emotion to what that number sometimes signifies.
Our body weight is constantly changing a little bit up and down every day. The scale can’t tell us what percentage of our weight is water at a given moment (more or less dehydrated), whether we have gained muscle from training, lost some body fat, what one’s current hormonal state (ie. where someone could be in their menstrual cycle), what current waste is being held in our bowels or bladder, or whether we have been having more (or less) carbohydrates in our diet.
For example, for every 1g of carb you take in, your body also holds onto about 3g of water. So if you consume say an extra 200g of carbs on a given day, that’s an extra 600g of water right there. 1lb = approx 454g so that 200 grams of carbs you just ate represents almost 2 more lbs right there between food and water in your system.
Losing fat and losing weight are NOT the same thing.
They have a relationship but they are not one and the same. It’s important to try and emotionally understand that, as hard as it is sometimes. What you SHOULD focus on most when thinking about losing WEIGHT is actually losing body fat, gaining muscle, and in-turn changing the SHAPE of your body.
Really, in the end that is what we mean by losing weight. We really want to feel a certain way or look a certain way. 1lb of fat takes up a lot more space in the body then 1lb of muscle.
For example, if you lost 5lbs of body fat BUT also GAINED 5lbs of muscle you would weigh exactly the same on the scale but would look much different and your body would have a different shape.
Here are 4 tips for measuring your progress:
First things first. If you are trying to lose body fat, focus on making a plan, following a reasonable, balanced nutrition and fitness plan and stick to it. When you track anything, scale weight or not, it should be measured against how your plan is working out or not.
1) Reduce your frequency of getting on the scale
If you are a chronic weight scale checker I encourage you to reduce the frequency you get on it and torture yourself. I have absolutely no problem with checking body weight but anything more than 1x a week or every other week is plenty. Remember that the scale weight doesn’t give you the whole story, it won’t take into account other factors such as fat, muscle, water weight, waste, food, bloat, etc.
2) Take circumference measurements
In addition to checking your body weight, another tool you should be using is a tape measure to take circumference measurements. You can buy a very inexpensive tape measure for under $4 and take them at home. Remember that when your goal is to change your waistline or body shape, a tape measure is going to be a much better tool to use than a scale to measure and track change in your body.
3) Measure with a piece of clothing
One of our favorite measuring tools with clients in our programs besides photos and circumference measurements is using a piece of clothing to measure progress. usually, a pair of tighter pants or jeans works well. You can check progress every 2-4 weeks and see if they start to become loser on you.
4) Take pictures to track your progress
It can be very easy to forget what your body looked like before you started on your fat loss journey. Even if you are noticing changes, they most likely are subtle changes over days, weeks, months and you are not going to really remember precisely where you started. As much as we all hate taking pictures of our body when we are not in our best shape, just DO IT! We have had clients tell us that they don’t think they’ve made much progress with the way their body looks, only to find out later that they actually made HUGE progress in their body composition when looking at their before and after photos side-by-side. It’s easy to forget where you started once you’ve already made progress and only see the way your new body looks.
Once you take your “before” photos just set them aside and forget about them for the moment. Don’t sit there and judge them. If you are making changes you WILL look differently as you go and really what the end product looks like is much more important than where you started. We recommend taking updated progress photos every 2-4 weeks and throwing them into that same folder to look at down the road when you are ready or entering the photos into a fitness app that will allow you to see your progress shots side-by-side. When taking your photos, try taking them at the same time of day, morning is usually best and if possible, in the same outfit or swimsuit. Again, If you are serious about making a healthy lifestyle change, and stay consistent with your workout and nutrition plan, you WILL see major changes in your body!
Whatever you choose to do to track your progress, just remember, body weight and body fat are not the same thing and that the scale is mostly just telling you your relationship to gravity in a given moment. Change doesn’t happen overnight so just keep focusing on making positive changes for your body through good nutrition and fitness habits. Your hard work WILL pay off in the end!
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We are Chris and Amber, a husband and wife team dedicated to helping you improve your nutritional and personal fitness habits for a better lifestyle. If you have issues with bloating, inability to lose fat, brain fog, or are in need of a proven nutrition and fitness plan to get you out of a rut, then sign up for our 28-Day Beat Belly Bloat Program today!