Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Your Scale Doesn't Work!

And When You Step on it, You Won't Be Happy...

As you begin (or continue with) an exercise and healthy eating program in an effort to lose weight your, don't step on the scale for at least a month. In contrast to what we've been conditioned to believe, the scale is a lousy way to measure changes with the body.

And regardless how many times I encourage people to "stay off the scale", they always jump on to see how much progress they've made in the past day, week or month. What's worse, if we aren't happy with what the number reads, we become deflated, and many times give up. Don't do it. Don't weight yourself; the scale will not give you an accurate measurement of the improvement you're making.

Your scale can only tell you how much you weigh in total, but it just simply cannot tell you if you've lost body fat. And on the journey of developing a lean, toned, energized, highly functional and healthy body, you're going to add some necessary things to your body that the scale will record as "gains" in weight.

The following will add to the reading your scale gives you and are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY if you want a body that looks and feels great and functions at optimal capacity:

  1. Connective tissue - specifically, tendons and ligaments. Connective tissue adapts through resistance training to allow you to function at higher levels, and it will not adversely affect your body's appearance in any way.
  2. Muscle tissue - As you add lean muscle tissue to your body, you'll burn more calories and stored body fat during exercise as well as throughout the day doing normal activity. And the additional muscle tissue allows your body to look and feel firm and toned.
  3. Glycogen - when you consume whole grain carbohydrates you're body will store glycogen (the reserve fuel that gets converted into glucose, the body's primary source of energy). And with each gram of additional glycogen, your body stores several grams of water along with it. This is a very beneficial process, but it will add to what your scale reads.
  4. Blood Volume - as we become increasingly fit, we add blood volume.

In addition to these positive gains in weight, your scale can vary as much as 3-6% on any given day based on digestive contents and your hydration level.

Here's how you can determine real progress:

  1. Answer the following questions: Do I have more energy? Are my clothes fitting more loosely? Have others commented that I'm "looking good"? Am I starting to like what I see in the mirror?
  2. Measure your body composition - discover how much of you is made up of body fat versus lean body mass. All the methods of measuring body composition are subject to some error, but if you stick to the same method and tester, you'll find that change over time is reliable.
  3. If you're up for it, take a picture of yourself before you start your fitness and fat loss program. You don't even have to look at the photo (yet). Save it for later. After a few months of exercise, take a look at the difference between the old and new you.

It's ironic that the increases in connective tissue, lean muscle tissue, glycogen and blood volume - the things that are crucial to improving how your body looks, feels and functions - can be the same things that initially make you think you're making no progress.

Toss your scale into the trash can. It's truly useless.

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins
HealthStyle Fitness, Inc.
Cincinnati Fitness Programs

Friday, June 13, 2008

Are The Last 10 Pounds Impossible to Take Off?

June 13, 2008

Hello!

A former client who lost over 100 pounds called me last week frustrated. After changing his eating habits, incorporating exercise, substantially improving his health and energy and in his words, "feeling physically and emotionally better than he had in his entire life", he was stuck.

Most people would be thrilled to have lost so much weight and be feeling so good, so why is he frustrated? Well, he's struggling to take off those last 10-15 pounds, even though he continues to eat healthy and exercises almost every day.

He asked me if somehow it was impossible to lose those last remaining stubborn pounds of excess body fat. He read somewhere that our bodies "cling to fat" and after a certain age we all "add 2 pounds per year, regardless what we do".

There's a lot of inaccurate information on fitness and weight loss today.

The Answer is Simple, But Not Always Easy When we purposely reduce our caloric intake and begin to lose weight, our metabolism has the propensity to slow down (becoming more energy efficient) in order to maintain our body weight at reduced caloric levels.

This is not to imply that we should overeat. We just need to understand how the body responds to long term eating behaviors.

The body has a tendency to hold onto fat much more aggressively in people that are more lean (within 10- 15 pounds of their goal), than in overweight or obese people.

This is good news for those that need to lose a lot of weight, but means that it becomes a little more challenging for those with just a few more pounds to lose.

So What Do We Do?

Remember when you first started exercising? A particular exercise sequence or workout routine was challenging, it may have even felt overwhelming and exhausting to complete. Then after performing that specific regimen for some time your body became accustomed to it and things got easier. Well, now that it's easier, you are actually limiting progress if you aren't creating a new level of challenge and stimulation. Your body no longer has a reason to change.

Don't:

  • Reduce your calories even more aggressively (assuming you already have a small to moderate calorie deficit most days of the week)
  • Increase your exercise duration. It's a common mistake to go longer especially at the cost of intensity
  • Give up

Do:

  • Continue to eat small, balanced meals frequently, combining low fat proteins, whole grains, whole fruits and veggies
  • Create a new level of intensity in your workouts. If you've been working out for awhile, give your body a new stimulation. As soon as your body gets accustomed to a routine, change it up substantially before the body stops changing.
  • Give your new routine some time. It takes a little longer now that you have less weight to lose, but with consistent effort you will get there!

Is This Challenging? You bet! And this is why the myth of the last few stubborn pounds exists. It takes time, intensity, focus and consistent desire. A new level of intensity may not be for everyone. Personally I'm thrilled my client lost over 100 pounds, but he really wanted to go to the level! Only you can decide if the next level is appropriate for you.

Remember, when it comes to fitness and weight loss, change is good, especially in intensity. Stagnancy produces stagnant results.

Okay, now let's get to it!

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins
NSCA-CPT, ACE

HealthStyle Fitness, Inc. 4325 Red Bank Rd Cincinnati, OH 45227 513-407-4665, x-105 http://www.CincinnatiFitness.com/