How do you measure success when it comes to weight loss?
If you’re like a lot of folks, your first inclination is to hop on the scale to see if you’re steadily losing weight. Lower numbers on the scale usually equate to fat loss.
Hell, even most medical doctors use standard weight measurement and BMI to see if you’re at a healthy weight for your age, gender, and height. Doctors can’t be wrong can they?
Well, we’re here to tell you that they are… at least in this regard. While the scale can be a useful tool to measure some aspects of progress, it’s actually a pretty poor indication of overall success. Take BMI for example. BMI, or body mass index, is essentially a measure of body fat based on height and weight. While this can be useful tool in the most general sense possible, it has major flaws, mainly in the form of failing to address body composition (muscle mass and body fat percentage)
Take me for example. I currently stand at 5′ 10 and weigh in at a whopping 173lbs. According to most BMI calculators, I am on the cusp of being overweight!
Now look, I am by no means a medical doctor… but I know for a fact that I am not borderline overweight.
So just based off this, BMI is a severely short sighted measure of overall health and fitness. And to be honest, the scale in your home bathroom isn’t far behind. Your scale is one dimensional when it comes to results. However weight loss… scratch that… proper weight loss is a bit more complex than this.
It is extremely possible for you to exercise your butt off for 6 months and lose a ton of weight… and according to your scale, this would mean success. But what your scale won’t tell you is what kind of weight you lost. Was it all fat? Mostly muscle? A mix of both?
Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, meaning it requires calories to maintain itself. The more muscle you carry on your frame, the higher your basal metabolic rate. This means you burn more calories at rest compared to someone with less muscle. Ask anyone trying to currently lose weight if they’d like to burn more calories while sleeping or simply sitting and reading this post. The answer is a resounding YES.
Not to mention, lean muscle mass helps protect joints, preserves muscular strength and power, and is the sole cause for ‘curves’ and the aesthetics that most people covet.
So losing weight just for the sake of losing weight is a dumb thing to do. Yes, you may feel good about yourself short term because the scale says you’re losing weight, but you’re setting yourself up for failure when it comes to maintaining or seeing even more results.
Here are the things you should be more concerned about when it comes to losing weight and seeing results.
Do Your Clothes Fit The Same?
When compared to fat, muscle takes up less volume on your body. This means that one pound of muscle takes up less space than one pound of fat does. This is another reason why relying on the scale is such a dangerous way to measure success.
Muscle is more dense than fat, so folks who carry more on their frame can appear ‘lighter’ than what the scale says. This is why individuals only focused on the number on the scale can get so frustrated when it never moves. They may burning fat while simultaneously gaining muscle which will likely lead to little to no weight loss. However, they’ll still be losing inches off their waist, arms, and everywhere else. The scale just won’t reflect that.
So if the scale isn’t moving like you’d like it to, ask yourself if your clothes are fitting the same? If they’re looser, keep on doing what you’re doing because you’re on the right track. If not, it’s time to reevaluate things.
Do You Have More Energy?
It’s fairly common to gain energy if you’re doing things correctly with regards to sleep, diet, and exercise. Increased energy levels are often a sign that your body is positively responding to your new habits, diet, and routine. Couple this with an increase in muscle mass and you’re surely seeing results even if it’s not reflected on your bathroom scale.
Are You Experiencing Increases In Performance?
Initially this might sound like we’re referring to athletic performance, but not quite. Increased performance can refer to a number of things, like setting personal bests during workouts, lifting more weight, exercising for longer without getting as fatigued, increased mobility, or any other number of outcomes.
Make it a priority to start chasing performance based goals and your aesthetic or weight loss goals will surely follow. For example, if your goal is to lose 20lbs, swap it with the goal of being able to do a few strict chin-ups. By focusing on increasing your strength to be able to do a chin-up, you will preserve muscle mass, increase strength, all while still dropping fat. These are all extremely beneficial changes your scale can’t measure.
Is Your Body Composition Improving?
Like we mentioned earlier, scales often measure weight and weight only. This is a poor indication of overall success. The true marker of success comes in a change of body composition, or what percentage of fat vs lean muscle you carry on your body. While this is the superior method for measuring success when it comes to weight loss, it may require you to get your hands on some special equipment.
You can measure body composition a couple different ways. The most common and perhaps easiest ways to do this are via skin calipers, handheld body fat analyzers, or specialized scales that measure body fat, such as the InBody.
Handheld devices are often inexpensive and widely available to the public, but their accuracy may not quite be 100%. Skin calipers can be a bit more accurate, but often require the skill and knowledge of qualified professionals to measure properly. Dedicated scales like the InBody are highly accurate, but can usually only be found in fitness studios or facilities as they tend to be pretty pricey (want to use the InBody? Reach out to us!)
If none of these options are available to you, simply measuring the circumference of your waist, chest, and arms on a weekly basis can serve as a fine substitute for all of these methods. If the circumference is shrinking, keep it up!