Do you feel like your pants feel looser but your weight stays the same even after exercising? For too many of us, weight isn’t just a number but something that can actually change how we feel about ourselves. But what does your weight really mean and how useful is it when it comes to tracking weight loss progress? Learning the answers to these questions may just have you tossing out your scale forever.
The temporary weight gain explained
When an individual starts a new exercise program, they often experience muscle soreness. The more intense and unfamiliar the program, the more sore the muscles get. This soreness is most prevalent in the 24-48 hours after a workout. In the first few weeks of a new program, soreness is the body trying to protect and defend the effected or targeted tissue.
This type of soreness is thought to be caused by a breakdown or microscopic tears in muscle tissue. The muscle becomes inflamed and slightly swollen due to fluid retention. This temporary fluid retention can result in a 1-2 kg of weight gain within a few weeks of a new program.
Focus on fat loss, not weight loss
When you talk about losing weight, you usually mean slimming down. But slimming down doesn’t always mean losing weight. It may sound odd, but its possible to get thinner without actually seeing a reduction in our weight. This happens when you lose body fat and gain muscle mass. Your weight may stay the same, even as you lose the inches, a sign that you’re moving in the right direction. But if the scale doesn’t change, you may not even be aware that you’re getting real results. Knowing the difference between losing weight and losing body fat can change how you get results and may even change how you look at your own body.
The truth about your weight
What does your weight say about you? If you think about it, that number doesn’t tell you a lot. The scale shows your weight, but does it tell you how much of that weight is muscle and how much is fat? Or how much that weight is water, bones or organs? A bodybuilder’s weight could be off the chart, but does that mean he’s overweight? The answer to these questions is no, because weight doesn’t tell the whole story.
Knowing your body composition is crucial information if you really want to get results and unfortunately the scale doesn’t tell you that. Another reason scale weight isn’t reliable is that it changes. All of us experience weight changes throughout the day, sometimes by as much as 2 kg depending on when and how much we eat. You could gain weight right now by putting on a pair of heavy boots, but does that mean you’ve gained fat? No. Just as taking those boots off doesn’t mean you’ve lost fat.
While the scale isn’t completely useless, it may not be the best tool for someone that is just starting a weight loss program. If it doesn’t help you stay on track and reach your goals, it may be time to throw out your scale.
Should you throw out the scale?
You now know that focusing on fat loss is much more important than focusing on your weight. When you lose body fat, you’re making permanent changes in your body, shifting your body composition so that you have less fat and more muscle. When you lose weight, you could be losing water or even muscle. Its impossible to know if your seeing real results or just the by product of your daily habits, hormonal shifts and changing hydration levels.
When you first start a program, you may need extra encouragement to keep going, proof that what your doing is working and the scale doesn’t show you that. Other ways the scale can work against you are:
- It measures everything – The number on the scale includes everything; muscle, fat, bones, organs, food and water. For that reason your scale can be a deceptive number.
- It doesn’t reflect the changes happening in your body – If you’re doing cardio and strength training, you may build lean muscle mass and at the same time you’re losing fat. In that case, the scale may not change even though you’re getting leaner and slimmer.
- It doesn’t reflect your health – As mentioned above, the scale can’t tell the difference between fat and muscle. That means a person can have low body weight, but still have unhealthy levels of fat.
- It isn’t always a positive motivator – If you step on the scale and your unhappy with what you see, how does that make you feel? You may question everything you’re doing, wondering why you even bother at all. Focusing on weight may overshadow the positive results you’re getting such as fat loss, higher endurance and more energy.
If the scale is making you crazy, taking a break from weighing yourself may just open your eyes to other possibilities. Your weight isn’t the only measure of your success. Put away the scale and you may just see how far you’ve really come.