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Health & Fitness: Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss

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By Kim Duke

NETA & AAFA Certified Trainer

Are you setting yourself up for failure? Step away from the body weight scale.

Let’s stop using the term “weight loss” and instead use the phrase “fat loss.” The term “weight loss” causes us to focus on the wrong things. When participating in a “fat loss” program, solely depending on a standard body weight scale to track your progress can cause frustration and may even set you up for failure.

It is very possible that you have been busting your butt in the gym and eating healthy foods, but the scale is displaying your weight as being the same as when you started, even after a few weeks of exercising. Not seeing the numbers change on a scale can create extreme disappointment and ultimately cause you to quit your program – and that just stinks!

I can confidently assume that many of you reading this article know exactly what I am talking about. We have all been there at some point… and it’s a god-awful feeling. It is that all too common sensation of anticipation you experience while you are standing on top of the scale. You are looking down at that hunk of metal, waiting to see what the wonderful magical number will read, anxious for it to be lower than the last time you stood in this very same position. The number flashes in front of your eyes, it reads the same, as if the scale was frozen in time. The number has not shifted, not even a fraction of a pound. It’s heartbreaking!

If you are experiencing this type of despair, I want you to step FAR away from the scale (put the scale out of sight or even out of your house) and shake off the dissatisfaction you are feeling. You must pause and think for a minute. Do these two things:

Take an honest look at what you have done for fitness and nutrition in the past few weeks.

Consider all of the methods you have used and should be using to track your fat loss/lifestyle journey and progress. Have you used other markers to record your progress?

The scale DOES NOT represent everything that is happening within the body.

When the number on the scale does not budge, it is important to remind yourself that the scale only shows you a snippet of what is happening. It is only expressing your total body weight – which includes a lot of things, such as: bones, fat, fluids, hair, muscle, organs and skin.

The scale does not tell you the composition of that weight within your body. Your total body weight represented on the scale may be the same as when you started your weight loss program, BUT if you are building muscle mass and losing fat tissue, your body composition will be much different.

A non-budging scale is NOT always indicative of something bad.

As I mentioned before, because of how muscle and fat is distributed within the body, it is possible to stay the same weight for a bit during a fitness program. If this has happened to you, you may have replaced fat with muscle tissue. I know I keep hammering this concept, but it is an important one to understand – one (or five) pound(s) of muscle weighs the same as one (or five) pound(s) of fat.

Seeing the same number on the scale is not always a terrible thing. Remember, muscle and fat differ in density. One pound of muscle is going to occupy less space or volume within the body than one pound of fat. When you increase muscle and lose fat, the scale number may stay the same or increase, but you will be leaner and stronger. You will most likely lose inches from places such as your waist, hips, buttocks, thighs, abdomen, arms, etc. It’s true, you may be the same weight as when you started, but you may have lost inches – and losing inches is something to be proud of! Don’t let that scale tell you otherwise!

Focus less on the body weight scale readings – use other tracking methods.

When you become less obsessed with scale readings and more focused on what truly matters with your program, success will follow. It is silly to only rely on a body weight scale. Allowing a scale to dictate your progress and how you feel is unhealthy and leads to disordered thinking, eating and habits. The number on a scale conceals the truth of what is happening within the body. This is why it is important to use more than one method to track your progress.

I cannot stress this enough. The most accurate way to assess your health and fitness progress is to use a wide variety of body measurements and health markers. The more, the better.

Five methods for assessing body composition include:

• Body composition testing

• Circumference/girth measurements

• The old-fashioned “how-do-your-clothes-fit-and-feel method”

• Before and after photos

• Progress journal

Other ways to track progress include recording your strength, flexibility, mobility, heart rate, blood pressure, VO2 max, etc. When you put all of these assessment tools together, you will create an accurate picture of what is truly happening within the body. By using multiple sources of data, you can distinguish whether or not you are on the right track with your health and fitness training programs.

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