Back in the early days of my lifestyle evolution, hopping on the scales was a pretty nerve-wracking ritual.
Each Monday morning, I’d psych myself up…. hoping, wishing, praying, that the scales would somehow confirm that I’d been ‘good’…. that all my healthy eating and all my hard hours at the gym had been worth it…. and so too, my own worth would thus be validated.
However the problem with the paradigm I’d established, is that body weight is not simply determined by the sum of your ‘calories in’ minus your ‘calories out’.
Our bodies do not operate like simple machines. Just because you take X amount of calories out of your diet or expend Y amount calories at the gym does not, by any stretch, mean that you will lose Z amount of weight immediately!
Weight loss will NEVER be linear…. in fact, fluctuations are completely NORMAL!!
At any given moment in time, a number of things are contributing to your weight:
- Hydration Levels: When you are well hydrated, your cells are plump and functioning efficiently, your blood volume increases, your brain is heavier, and your skin is more toned…. and all of this adds to an increase in weight.
This weight however, is not the same as body fat!
- Full Stomach/Digestive System: It’s simple…. when your digestive system is full, you weigh more. Food that is still being digested will add quite a bit to your scale.
This weight however, is not the same as body fat either!
- Water Retention: Excess fluids that build up in your body can constitute a LOT of weight. It can typically be the result of a diet high in carbs and sodium, or even as part of the menstrual cycle. If you’re coming off a carb heavy meal, the increased glycogen stores in your liver and muscles will also add to your overall weight.
Again…. this weight is not the same as body fat!
- Inflammatory Responses: If you can imagine every cell in your body, swollen and in crisis-mode…. attempting to protect themselves against a barrage of harmful stimuli (eg: poor diet, smoking etc, etc). This inflammation in every cell adds to the number on your scale.
But same deal… this weight is not the same as body fat! (However dysfunctional cell activity can certainly result in fat gain in the long term).
- Lean Muscle Tissue: If you’ve been exercising, it’s highly likely that you’re also building lean muscle tissue, regardless of whether that’s one of your goals or not (it’s just one of the awesome incidental advantages of working out – woohoo). As we all know, lean muscle tissue weighs more than body fat.
This weight, is definitely not the same as body fat!
Your weight at any given moment is a very poor indication of your total fat loss…. so there’s absolutely no point in beating yourself up or losing any sense of self-worth, just because you’ve experienced a minor weight gain!
Monitoring your weight over a longer period of time is a far more effective way to assess your true picture of health and fat loss. Obviously if you begin to see an upward trend in weigh-in results (over a period of several weeks), it would be good practice to have a closer look at your diet and exercise. If, however, you’ve only measured one or two increases, or it’s only been a couple of days since your last weigh-in, there is unlikely to be any cause for concern!
That chocolate ‘treat’ you had yesterday, or that enjoyable dinner you had out with family two nights ago, or that glass of wine you plan on having with a girlfriend or partner tomorrow night…. is NOT going to be automatically converted to body fat!
It’s ok to do… to have…. & to enjoy those things! It’s completely normal in fact, provided, of course, that it doesn’t become an everyday occurrence! Depriving yourself of the things you enjoy, especially if it’s with the people you love, just because you’re scared that you’ll put on ‘weight’, can do more damage (to your mind & spirit) than any minor ‘weight gain’ will impact your body.
It’s the balance…. it’s the moderation…. and it’s the ability to establish and sustain good habits for the long term that will have the greatest impact on any fat loss (if that’s what you desire), and your entire lifestyle evolution.
Deprivation, self-denial and self-punishment are simply not going to get you to the finish line. Life is a marathon, remember…. not a sprint!
Image Source: Cherie Rivas Women’s Health & Wellness Coaching.