Do you often feel like you're totally on point with your exercise and eating, then step on the scale and lose all hope and encouragement? Yeah…I'm talking to you…you, who may have just thought — 5 minutes before weighing — “dang I look pretty darn good! Then a number on the scale rocked your world, ruined your day, and you suddenly noticed how “fat” you were. This is the difference in weight loss vs fat loss.
Human beings (especially us, ladies!) tend to seek perfection in imperfect objects, so it's easy to form an unhealthy relationship with the scale. Whether we befriended our first scale as young girls or later in life, it’s no secret that it’s a love/hate relationship. We get so caught up in pursuing perfect, linear progress from the little digital god, that we lose sight of the big picture.
For many of us, our journey may even take a nosedive due to a number that we didn’t like popping up on the screen of a scale. (We see the number, decide it's not worth it, because nothing will “ever” work, and we quit – mentally or physically.)
Well, it’s time to relinquish the power this piece of equipment has harnessed on the “dieting” community (women AND men) for far too long.
By weighing ourselves, we tend to think we can gauge the progress we have made – true, to an extent. Weight fluctuates on a very regular basis due to a variety of things: hormonal changes (menstrual cycles), a big meal, water retention, sodium intake, etc. Because of this, using a scale isn’t necessarily the truest way to define progress. So what are some ways you can be sure you are moving in the right direction despite what your scale says?
Clothes Test: Have a favorite pair of pants or a dress that you just love but have to squeeze into? Try it on once a month and notice the difference in the fit! (Caution here: if the jeans are low rise and seem to fit worse, take note of whether it's just because your bootay simply needs a higher rise for a similar look — see below)
Inches, Not Pounds: If you’re a numbers person and must have a measurement of some sort to track, start measuring inches (waist, chest, etc.). Oftentimes we gain muscle and lose fat (aka inches) and as a result, the scale says “no” but the measuring tape says “yes!” Take that lower measure on the tape with as much/more certainty as you would it's digital (evil) cousin.
Pictures: You should be taking pics every 4-6 weeks anyway, and here's when it matters. If your fave pants suddenly seem harder to zip, or measurements seem askew, snap a few pics in your fitted yoga pants or workout capris. Using a collage app, compare side-by-side shots both showing the tighter-clothes-fitting area. If the most recent shot proves that things have shifted (in the awesome way that they tend to with weight lifting), then you're doing great! Go out and celebrate by buying yourself an amazing new pair of mid-rise jeans in your usual size — don't worry, they won't be “mom jeans” because your higher butt will give them the same low-look. Or, grab a pair of the exact same jeans in a size up — again, no worries, you'll still LOOK smaller (rather than like a stuffed sausage – which only makes you look BIGGER). Fit is everything!
Increased Strength: Are you able to do sets of leg extensions at a weight you never touched before? How about a higher weight for dumbbell bicep curls? Pushups on your toes? Hello, this is great progress!!
There are obviously tons more NSVs (non-scale victories) that you could use to judge progress, and we highly recommend searching for and recognizing them as diligently as you do “weight” loss. It’s important to understand why the scale sometimes goes up when in fact we are becoming healthier and losing body fat (progressing!). Our bodies are composed of fat and muscle. Chances are you’ve heard the saying that muscle weighs more than fat. This is in fact not true. Five pounds of muscle weighs as much as five pounds of fat, but it just takes up less space! When you’re lifting weights and building muscle, you’ll notice your body becoming tight or “toned.” This is the result of increased muscle mass as part of your body composition.
The more muscle our bodies have, the more calories we burn at rest. The more muscle mass, the tighter the physique (think lean and toned!). Take it from this 5'2, 140 lb woman who once thought the world would crumble at any weight over 112lbs! A 140 lb strong, weightlifting woman looks much different than a 140 lb woman who doesn’t lift at all! If you were to look at both of these women, throw out scales, and guess their weights, you would have no clue they weighed the same. This is a prime example of why the scale isn’t a be-all and end-all for progress!
If you’re gaining muscle, the scale may say you’re gaining “weight.” But appreciate that it’s good weight! By recognizing the way your body changes as you exercise, strength train, and eat healthily and mindfully, you'll slowly be able to break the chains the scale once bound you by!
(SN: If you know that you can't mentally take seeing the various fluctuations, go on a scale fast! Do what you need to do to save your sanity, and keep it moving)
How do you judge progress? What are some of the best NSVs you've experienced along this journey?