I can tell you from personal experience that by gauging all of your weight loss success by the number of pounds you weigh, you’re selling yourself short. In the beginning, the number of pounds will drop drastically and this will only encourage you to keep getting healthier. That’s great! However, at some point, you may plateau (meaning weight loss rate of change will be almost flat). The number on the scale will remain the same or even go up, despite all of your efforts to make it go down. That is the point in your weight loss journey that you may give up and we don’t want that!
During my first year in college, I met with a personal trainer to get a good solid run down of what my new healthy lifestyle should look like. I had just finished putting on the “freshman 15” and wanted this new healthy lifestyle change to be my jumping off point. I wanted to get into a healthy routine that I could keep for the rest of my life.
After learning all about healthy foods, the importance of hydration and all sorts of cardio and strength training exercises that I could do in the comfort of my own home, I went on a mission to be the healthiest I had ever been...and then maintain it! I could see the numbers falling off the scale as I started my journey. The encouragement I felt every week when I weighed in felt so good! I was on a role.
Fast forward a few months and I’m still maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I worked hard to eat right and exercise and pushing myself every day. However, week after week when I would check my weight, it would either remain the same or even go up! How could that be? I was the healthiest I’ve ever been, doing all the right things, and even feeling better, yet I was gaining weight?!
Okay. It’s time for a health lesson: Muscle weighs more than fat, or so that’s how the saying goes. Yes, pound for pound, they weigh the same (it’s like saying one pound of oranges weighs the same as one pound of chips). However, one pound of fat (an enormous heap of chips) looks a whole lot different than one pound of muscle (just 3 oranges), e.g, the same mass of muscle takes up a smaller volume than fat. So muscle is more dense than fat, which is a more accurate statement. On top of that, muscle acts totally different than fat. When you have muscle in your body instead of fat, the muscle is still burning calories even after you’ve stopped exercising. Fat, on the other hand, just sits there like a couch potato, causing you all sorts of health issues down the road.
With all of that said, you need to approach success in your weight loss journey differently. While looking at the number on the scale is important, especially for momentum at the beginning, it’s not as vital in the long run. Tracking your percent body fat, hydration, and even your percent of muscle mass, will give you a more accurate and in depth look at your progress and give you a much more realistic view of how you’re doing.
Let’s go back to my personal weight loss journey. I was sitting there a year or so into my new healthy lifestyle and the weight had completely plateaued. I can’t tell you how many weeks I went frustrated that I couldn’t get to my goal weight. Looking back, it was silly of me to be frustrated at those last 5 pounds. When I looked in the mirror, I felt amazing. I was the most toned I had ever been and if I looked back at the photos I had taken of my body before this journey, I could really see the difference. However, my obsession over the number was making me unhappy.