When we think of making progress, so many of us oversimplify our perception of it. Just as career success is not linear, success in wight loss does not follow a straight line. Some days and weeks you may lose, while during others you may gain a little bit. And there is nothing wrong. Weight loss is a process, and our bodies are not simply machines that can be calibrated to result in a certain number on the scale each day.
It’s important to realize that the number of the scale is not a precise measurement of your weight — at least no more so than your checking account balance is an accurate snapshot of your wealth on any given day. Weight, like your account, is a dynamic entity in constant flux, with deposits flowing in and bill payments flowing out. A glance at it at any moment in time is not a static truth. If you consider your average account balance each week or perhaps for the month, so you should look at your weight loss picture for that same week. While it’s important to notice trends (like maybe you’re spending too much?), think about how long it took you to get to where you are right now weight-wise. It didn’t happen overnight.
Some of my clients can get fixated on the scale’s number, whether it’s at home or when being weighed at my gym. If the number is down, they’re thrilled. If it’s up, they’re bummed. And yet, that number is representative of hundreds of thousands of moments in a week -- times during which time their body is:
· storing fat and burning it
· retaining excess fluid
· recently fed
· relatively empty of waste or close to eliminating it
While the scale measurement may be the most convenient indicator we have about directional trends in body mass, it’s never the precise truth. When I ask my clients about their daily or weekly weight range, a rolling average of those numbers tends to be a more useful indicator of upward or downward trends than any single scale measurement in my office.
The single most important thing to remember about weight loss is that weight is a behavior, not a number and not all the variables affecting it are under your direct control. It can be extremely demoralizing to set a numerical weight as your goal and not be fully equipped to achieve it – and I’m not talking about effort here. I’m referring to dozens of other factors that can serve as roadblocks – such as hereditary factors, health issues such as hormone imbalances, food allergies, etc. Making a commitment to the things you can control is half the battle, however – such as committing to two or three workouts with me and three or four more exercise sessions on your own. In my experience, individuals who make commitments like these and stick to them always lose weight. I can’t think of a single exception.
People love to throw the word “metabolism” around but few know what it actually means. Metabolism refers to the amount of energy (in calories) your body requires to complete all of the physical and chemical processes necessary to life, such as transporting oxygen to cells, removing waste from the body, maintaining adequate body temperature, contracting involuntary muscles and producing proteins and hormones. The “metabolic rate”, then, adjusts dynamically in response to a long list of influencers: your age; body composition; exercise; body temperature; illness and stress; whether you’re chronically well-fed or chronically malnourished; various hormone levels; and possibly even the type of bacteria residing in your gut.
Want to know the truth about your metabolic rate? What makes it adjust is a moving target. I can have clients who eat the same foods day in and day out and still lose weight erratically -- 4 to 5 pounds in one week, followed by a few weeks of plateau, after which time another small chunk of weight comes off. In rare but frustrating cases, a patient’s food journal suggests they’re producing a calorie deficit that should result in a loss… but the scale doesn’t budge. So we’ll make other adjustments that we have control over and experiment with them to get a result. Perhaps that’s more cardio. Perhaps it’s more sleep. Sometimes it’s even increasing the intake of certain types of foods. Hitting a plateau is frustrating, but it’s not a prison sentence – just a setback.
When you do hit one of those periods when no matter what you do, the number on the scale doesn’t budge, instead of kicking your car tire, think of time how your changing body is telling you --- just as your muscles require heavier weights or more reps to challenge them -- that you need to change things up a bit to get to your weight loss goal. I’ll help you with those changes all I can, but as long as your goal is an achievable (and reasonable) one, the important thing is to never lose sight of it.