One of the first questions I get asked by people, whether they are a client of mine, or just someone I might discuss health and fitness with is “How much weight can I lose in [a certain amount of time]?”. There is almost an unhealthy obsession with the scales and bodyweight among some people, leading them to always comparing themselves and their results to others, and to arbitrary figures they have heard of, or read from somewhere.
“Did I lose enough weight?”
“How much weight do most people lose?”
Setting a weight loss goal, is more often than not, a much harder task to achieve than most people believe or understand. Unfortunately many people have unrealistic expectations for drastic drops on the scales, and if these expectations are then not met, it can lead to disillusion, frustration and even some people giving up on their initial goals.
Essentially “weight loss” and “fat loss” are not the same thing and they are measured & monitored very differently. By losing body fat the scales should in theory also lower, however most people beginning a weight loss / fat loss training and nutrition plan will most likely have to:
- Drastically increase water intake – being super hydrated will result in a higher body weight.
- Eat more frequently – more food in the system, again results in a higher bodyweight.
- Take part in resistance training – preserving, strengthening or even adding muscle will either slow weight loss, or result in a higher bodyweight.
***NOTE*** These 3 steps will lead to a change in body composition with body fat being lost, while muscle is either grown or preserved. ***NOTE***
Now while the person goes through this process, their weight may not drop the drastic amounts they had foreseen. However they will be fitter, stronger, healthier, and also losing inches from key areas such as the waist, legs and arms.
Many fitness companies however, prey on people that are unfortunately not as informed as they could be about the lack of importance of the scales for measuring success in a health and fitness plan. Advertising lines like “Lose A Stone In [a certain amount of time}” are extremely misleading, unfair and most importantly unhealthy.
To create a false sense of achievement and a drastic drop on the scales over a short space of time is extremely easy. One could start by reducing food intake, particularly carbohydrates. This will lead to less food weight in the body and digestive system, but also muscles in the body being flat and depleted of glycogen. (the body stores carbohydrates in the muscles as glycogen as an energy source). Then a simple initial increase of water to super hydrate the body, followed by a day or two of drastically low water intake leading to dehydration. Then maybe add few vigorous workouts focused on solely on increasing perspiration and violá….. a lower body weight on the scales.
But the problem here is where the weight loss has occurred.
- Depletion of intramuscular glycogen (carbohydrates)
- Muscle wastage
- Less food in system
***NOTE*** The scales will almost certainly drop, however body fat levels, will not. ***NOTE***
So what should you look for when monitoring your progress?? I personally use as many variables as possible, and yes I even include the scales as an additional one. However my favourite ways to monitor progress are:
- Body measurements (e.g inches around the waist)
- Skin fold calipers (mm test to check for body fat – works better for leaner people)
- Progress picture (you see yourself every day, so sometimes looking back on pictures gives a better indication of progress)
- Workout records (take notes of 1RM, 10RM of compound lifts)
- Clothes (are you wearing smaller clothes sizes)
- Sleep and general mood (improved sleep and mood elevation are a sign of improvements to health & fitness)
As I write this, I can almost imagine the follow up questions:
- “How many inches should I lose?”
- “How much strength should I gain?”
- “How much body fat should I lose?”
- “What’s the average weight/body fat/ inch loss in a month?”
My only response is this…. do not compare yourself to others, strive instead for any form of progress across any number of the variables, and do not focus on perfection or the results of others. How much will you lose? Exactly how much you deserve for the work and effort you put in. Pick a goal, make a commitment, start on the path towards that goal and stay consistent. Put these factors in place and there is no limit to what you can achieve!!