We are routinely showered with plans, tricks and tips to lose weight fast, get a six pack or "shred for summer". Unfortunately, I see very little focus on WHY the actions in the books or pamphlets cause the changes we hope to elicit. While we won't come full circle on all of these items in a single writing, I do want to get a few things ironed out; namely, muscle vs. fat weight and why constantly stepping on the scale may be hindering your results.
First, five pounds of fat next to five pounds of muscle looks dramatically different when we show them side by side. Of course, they don't tend to fall into the shapes you see here, to your left. Muscles do have specific shapes to accomplish their various actions. Fat, meanwhile, exists in a matrix of cells, surrounded by blood vessels and surrounding important organs. However, every body stores and carries the adipose tissue (fat) in different ways. A simple way to think about this is the commonly referenced apple vs. pear shape body types; "apple shaped" bodies tend to carry more adipose tissue in their midsection (around the intestines and other vital organs as well - leading to some potential health issues) while "pear shaped" bodies tend to carry the extra weight in the thighs and buttocks. There can be a considerable amount of variation within these two simple sub-types; furthermore, additional body type models used by professionals throughout the industry are ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph. If you are interested in learning more about these body types and other modeling tools used by the pros, make sure to check in for my next blog drop.
Okay, stay with me now, those very basic models aside, why am I throwing shade at the all powerful scale? Because, if you allow the number that shows up on the scale to be the lone marker of success for your program, things are going to be tough. Even if you're not relying solely on the magic eight ball sitting on your bathroom floor to tell you if you're a successful person, you are likely going to have a stress response to the number. Specifically, I find that individuals that are putting too much stock in the scale tend to have very notable mood changes and are quick to liken all their hard work to the hamster wheel. Unfortunately, these individuals have an extra hurdle to jump - that stress response can lead to some serious havoc in your body, changing the hormone profile, sleep patterns and leading to programming stoppage or failure. There is more information to consider - namely, the need to check your percent body fat, take measurements (at least waist and hip) at regular intervals and snap a few progress photos along the way.
Why does body fat percentage matter?
The more we know about what's going on when you start, the better we will be at creating a plan for your success. More importantly, if you start at 200 lbs with 20% body fat (40 lbs.) and work hard for several weeks only to come back to the scale and see your weight has been stagnant... you could feel as though you have worked for nothing. The situation is much more complicated, though. Your body may be very quick to put on muscle. A closer examination of your results would include a body fat test, showing that you are now 14% body fat. Therefore, while the scale is not showing a direct result, you had actually lost 12 lbs of fat and potentially gained muscle (mitochondria, fat burning, awesome muscle), in its place. That is a success story that may have been missed, without more specific metrics.
Why should measurements be a part of my journey?
Like body fat percentage, measurements give us insight into the specific body type of our clients. Many studies have shown the ratio of the waist and hips to be a reliable predictor of health. Additionally, if your fitness goals include some specific body markers, such as hoping to have bigger or more shredded arms, you better swing some tape around those pythons and make sure you know your starting point!
Do I really have to take photos of myself?
YES! I know this is a tough one... loving your body is not easy (or required, frankly - but it helps to cut yourself some slack). The benefit of photos along your journey is threefold:
You get to see your progress, in real time.
Should progress stall on the scale, you can look back at your photos and clearly see the differences.
When all is said and done, you'll have a great photo journal of your trip to healthy land to look back on and share, if you so choose.
Weigh in at the same time, on the same day, one time per week.
Come in and ask me to take some measurements.
Swallow hard and take the photos; they will be helpful.
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