So I was training one of my clients today who got me thinking about this topic. He lost quite a bit of weight before he started training with me and now looking to change his body composition into more lean muscle. He told me that he dropped his calories down to 1500/day and that he hasn’t lost any weight! (He is 6’3” and 207lbs). My advice to him? EAT MORE and stay away from the scale! He just ran a half marathon on Sunday, and is working on learning how to lift heavier weights to help him increase is overall muscle tone and definition. So he’s burning A LOT of calories during the week with his running plus his weight training. Therefore, in order for his body to increase in muscle definition he has to build that muscle. Those muscle fibers need fuel to be built, therefore, he needs calories in the form of balanced proteins/fats/carbs. At only 1500 calories he is barely eating above his BMR (basal or resting metabolic rate) which means his body thinks he is starving and won’t let him use any fat stores for energy. By eating more, (about 2000-2200 kcal) his body can adequately use is food in take as fuel, which allows him to build more muscle and achieve that lean muscle look he wants.
I have had some personal experience with this subject as well. When I was 18 I became obsessive with the scale. Growing up my mom never kept a scale in the house, but after graduating high school I moved in with a friend for 3 months before moving off to college. My friend’s parents had a scale in their bathroom, and out of curiosity I started weighing myself. When I first stepped on the scale and looked down I had this sinking feeling. I didn’t like the number, it was too high. As a competitive gymnast, I had an ideal weight set in my head that I should never be over. That mindset was toxic because the thoughts consuming me were that I was too big for my leotard, too heavy, too fat, and that I needed to eat less to get smaller. Not knowing much about proper nutrition at the time, my solution was simply to eat less, and workout harder. I resorted to only protein bars and fruit for the entire day. I weighed myself every couples days and after 2 weeks I had lost about 11 pounds. When I saw that number, I was happy, now I just had to maintain it. So I kept up with the fruit and protein bars and very small dinner portions. However, even though my weight went down so did my energy levels. I had a hard time getting through my 4 hour practices successfully. I because very short-tempered and easily frustrated, I wasn’t making the progress I wanted to in the gym and I always hungry.
I finally realized that all this obsession about a number was pointless. I wasn’t performing well and it was hurting me more than it was helping me. That’s when I starting trying to focus my nutrition intake more on improving my performance than on changing the number on the scale. As a result, I felt better, my confidence increased, and my performance improved! To this day stepping on the scale still effects me mentally, it creates a negative self-image and I stay away from it. I focus my attention on how I feel, how my clothes fit, and how I’m performing in my workouts, the rest just falls into place.
Remember, muscle weighs more than fat. This means that his numbers on the scale are going to be all skewed as you lose fat and gain muscle. These numbers can mess with your head. During a weight loss journey, everyone wants to keep seeing those numbers on the scale go down because that symbolizes progress. However, as you start to gain more lean muscle mass the numbers may actually go up! Therefore you need a different way to measure your progress. For example, focus on your clothes fitting better, your increased energy levels, and how you feel overall. Unfortunately, because so many of us make the scale a priority we forget about all these positive things and overanalyze the numbers on the scale. This can lead to negative self-talk, an unhealthy decrease in calories, and a loss of self-esteem and confidence.
So, I want you to change your focus. Take your scale and put it away. Hide it from yourself. Now, I want you to focus on your nutrition. Make sure you are eating the proper amount of protein, carbs, and healthy fats. Focus on your exercise. Are you getting enough cardio in during the week? Are you getting stronger with your weight lifting? If not, then are you talking to a fitness professional to help you get on the right track? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you drinking enough water? All of these things are 100% in your control. If you focus on these things instead of what’s on the scale you will start to FEEL progress. You will feel more confident when you get dressed in the morning. You will have more energy throughout the day which will make you more productive. You will feel healthier and happier overall! Doesn’t that sound so much better than those dreaded seconds standing on the scale as you wait for a number to pop up that more times than not will put you in a bad mood?
Stay off the scale, switch your focus, and watch the results happen!!