I don’t believe in ‘following the crowd’ anymore. By doing just that at the beginning of my fitness journey resulted in so many setbacks. Weight trainers, diet pills, fad diets… you name it, i’ve tried it. Society will hype up so many things and to some of us who don’t know any better can fall into the trap.
Now, fast-forward to years down the line, the only orders I follow are my own and I am learning to trust my instincts. I eat wholesome nutrient dense, yummy food and fuel my body correctly instead of trying to survive on these ridiculous calorie restricting diets. Society creates the picture that the less calories you consume, the more fat you will lose and the ‘skinnier’ you will become- wrong. In order to increase your metabolic rate you need to eat more frequently and fuel your body properly with lots of carbs which is contrary to what we have been taught. I eat more than I ever did before (over 2000 calories a day), workout four times a week and i’m the leanest and happiest i’ve ever been.
Needless to say, one of my biggest set backs when I started out on my fitness journey was my over obsession with the scale. Let’s face it ladies we have all been there; weighing ourselves everyday, treating our self to some ice cream and worrying that we will gain 10 pounds, going on the treadmill for an hour and weighing our self directly after. It’s extremely disheartening when the number on the scale doesn’t change and we tend to be really hard on our self.
The scale can be very misleading and I have learned that it can do more harm than good.
Weight loss vs fat loss
These are two completely different terms however a lot of people do not realise the difference between the two. Generally when people say they want to lose weight, what the really mean is that they want to lose fat. The problem is that these two terms are often used interchangeably which can confuse the two completely separate concepts. Our weight fluctuates all the time and there are constant factors that influence this daily.
Fat loss on the other hand is different. It is a lot harder to achieve and several factors can influence this. When you lose weight you are losing more than just fat and a lot of people fail to realise this. The number on the scale represents your muscle & fat and when you lose weight you can lose a little bit of both. Many women will set unrealistic fat loss goals for themselves. Realistically it is suggested that you should only lose between 1-2 pounds of fat per week at best without being on an unhealthy, extreme diet.
It is important to set realistic goals that are achievable within an appropriate time frame. With summer right around the corner, a lot of women panic and set extreme goals in order to lose fat quickly. Everything takes time. There is no golden key when it comes to fitness and eating healthy.
The scale is a trigger
The scale is a big factor in many eating disorders. Females will see the number on the scale and automatically associate it with them being ‘fat’ and ‘too big’. This has no real representation of their true body composition. The number on the scale can be an emotional trigger and it can mean so much to some people that it allows them to slip back into their old habits even after months of progress.
When I used to weigh myself frequently, I would constantly judge myself and use the number on the scale as a representation of my progress. If it didn’t decrease I would associate it with me not working hard enough.
Glycogen levels can change the number on the scale
Glycogen is stored in muscles & liver and is used as an energy source when our body needs it immediately. Carbohydrate rich foods such as bread can trigger glycogen production more so than other foods. Glycogen is very interesting in the sense that 3-4g of water will bond to each gram of glycogen. This can greatly impact the number that we see on the scale. Understanding the role of glycogen and water is important.
Ever wonder why people lose weight on certain carb-restricting diets i.e. Atkins? Once you have depleted your glycogen levels, there are less molecules of water for the glycogen to bind to. This is why many people that opt for these diets appear to lose weight quickly as initially a lot of it is water.
Ever cheated on a diet and the number on the scale increased? After going on a strict diet for weeks and ‘cheating’ the number will most likely increase. This is usually due to the influx of glucose which contributes to a rise in glycogen levels. Since glycogen is hydrophillic (water loving), the number on the scale can change. When you eat carbs you replenish your glycogen levels which will encourage water molecules to bind to it. So the increase of the number on the scale is most likely associated with water weight. Other molecules such as sodium will bind to water molecules as well.
Everybody carries weight differently. While I was doing a routine check up at the doctor’s the other day I weighed myself. I am exactly the same weight I was three years ago when I started out on my fitness journey. The difference? My fat percentage has decreased significantly and my lean muscle mass has increased. This is why looking at your body composition as a whole is much more effective and informative as opposed to just weighing yourself. Many gyms and fitness centers will offer a complete body composition analysis and you can find out your fat mass, lean body mass, skeletal mass, body fat percentage etc. You can see where everything ties in and how it makes up the number on the scale.
Here is an example of a body fat percentage chart:
For example a woman can weigh 140lbs but have a fat percentage of 19.7% (ideal) and a lean muscle percentage of 37% (high). Whereas another woman can weigh exactly the same but have a fat percentage of 31% (above average) and a lean muscle mass percentage of 20%. Everyone carries weight differently and the number on the scale does not define you.
There are so many things that can impact that number on the scale. You should break yourself out of the habit of weighing yourself daily if you already do so. Instead take progress pictures. This is a great way to see the physical changes that your body is making. Also, go and get a body composition analysis. By seeing the breakdown of all the components that make up your weight, it can be easier to track your progress.
Don’t be tricked by the scales! Your hard work will pay off. I know it can be difficult at times and we all have our off days where we don’t want to go to the gym or eat healthy. Just remember- that is okay! We are all human. Continue to work towards your goals and have fun while doing so. Life is all about creating a balance.