I was planning on writing this anyway but a recent conversation with one of my clients reminded me to get on with it! She told me how one of her friends was complaining about not losing weight and my client told her not to worry too much about what the scales were saying and promptly told her that since she got a PT (ie. me!) she has put on 5kilos!!! I laughed and told her that the same thing happened to me in the last 12 months when I changed the way I trained. We also discussed how neither of us actually has gotten bigger and our clothes fit just fine. What has in fact happened is that we have both gained muscle mass. Now imagine if either of us were fazed by what we saw on the scales, we would see a 3-5kg increase and be horrified!! But we both feel great and stronger than ever.
While I’m not suggesting that weighing yourself is a bad thing (I weigh myself once a week) obsessing over numbers can be bad and doesn’t always tell the full story.
If you have more than 5 kilos to lose then checking your weight is good motivation that what you are doing is working. And let’s face it, seeing those numbers on the scales decrease is such a good feeling and ups the motivation pretty significantly, releases all those feel-good hormones and life is good! If you are weight training though (and you should be!) the number on the scales will slow down heading downward and if you are a small person it will increase! As you gain muscle mass your body shape will change, you will lose fat and gain muscle. The more muscle you build the more fat you’ll burn. So while you’re losing fat, you may not lose weight in kilograms! This is when the numbers on the scales become irrelevant and the way you look and feel is what matters. A more accurate way to keep tabs on what your body is doing is to have a body scan. This will tell you your total weight but will also break it down into body fat, muscle mass, water etc. It will also give you mostly accurate measurements of your body and create a document for comparison.
Here’s some do’s and don’t’s. This list is created based on my experience both personal and professional.
1. Take a photo of yourself in as little clothing as possible. Do a front shot and a side shot. File them in a safe place and don’t look at them again. 3 months later take the same poses in preferably the same outfit (or lack of!, same spot, same time of day so the light is the same). Put the 2 pics next to each other.
2. If you like weighing yourself, once a week is plenty! Do it on the same day, in the nudie when you first get up. The reason for this is that your weight will fluctuate during the day depending on what you eat, how much water you drink etc. Also, pick a weekday when you’ve least likely had bad food and a couple of drinks the night before. I know, for example, if I weigh myself the morning after I have eaten Turkish food, I will weigh about 1.5kg more than I normally do!
3. If your weight goes up slightly, it’s ok. Don’t give up! See point 2 about weight fluctuating. As long as the general trend is down then all is good!
4. Remember that fitness and weight loss is not a magic wand. I’m a big advocate for slow sustainable weight loss. There’s a reason why fad diets don’t work. They make you eat in a way that cannot be maintained and when you stop you will pile it back on and more. (There’s a more in depth explanation as to why it’s easier to put on weight if you’ve been ‘bigger’ but I’ll save that for another post). Making long lasting sustainable habit changes is the way to do it successfully. 1/2 to 1 kilo a week is more than enough to lose for a long lasting journey.