The Best Way To Track And Measure Weight Loss
Do you find yourself jumping on the scales daily, watching the numbers and getting disappointed if that number goes up or doesn't move?
So many people are in this situation and I am sure everybody will admit they have watched that number fluctuate! However, if we take a step back and look at this process and our end goal, there are better ways to track our progress and we should most definitely look to ditch the scales!
Weight loss is not a linear, step by step process. Life gets in the way sometimes, we may start to get more active when we aim to lose weight which can add muscle and we also have the loss of water weight to consider.
Losing weight can help you feel better in yourself, it helps you fit into those clothes you used to wear, which may have got too tight or it could mean the chance to head out and get a whole new wardrobe! Most importantly, losing weight to a healthy range can improve your overall health and reduce your risk of conditions such as cardiovascular heart disease, type 2 diabetes and chances of a stroke.
But what else can weight loss help us with? The list is endless; energy levels increase, you will have more confidence, you may reduce the effects of depression if you had any, you will have more energy to exercise more often, you may be able to reduce your medication, you may sleep better and if you are trying - help increase your chances of having a baby! Such great reasons and include in this any fitness or health goals you may have when thinking about weight loss, not just aiming for the desired aesthetic purposes.
So, back to the scales then. I have listed below a few reasons why I do not think scales are you best buddy!
- Water Weight. When you first start on a diet or 'health kick' you may experience rapid weight loss in the first week. It is great and it is a good boost to keep us committed to the lifestyle change, however the sudden loss of weight is most likely water loss and the weight loss will slow down for the following weeks. The water loss is due to the fact most healthy diets reduce or cut out processed foods which are full of sodium. Sodium if not excreted accumulates in your blood and it means you hold water. As you reduce processed foods in your diet your kidneys start to excrete any excess sodium and the associated water which leads to a loss of weight. In addition to this, a low carbohydrate diet will also initiate a rapid weight loss as water and carbohydrates are stored together.
- Exercise Stressors. When people adopt a healthy lifestyle change, it is most likely to include an increase in physical activity. Whether this is a structured exercise plan or a commitment to move more, when you start exercising weight and muscle mass change due to the stress you put on your muscle fibres, causing micro-tears which are also inflamed (holding water) and in the short term cause additional water weight as your body starts to heal.
- Muscle Mass. You will gain weight from additional lean muscle mass that you have added through exercise. It is important that you recognise these changes as extremely beneficial as the additional lean muscle improves your metabolism (your Resting Metabolic Rate will rise and this is where your body will take more calories to maintain muscle than fat), therefore your ability to burn calories, improve you figure and ensure the health of your muscles and bones. Check out the blog I wrote on strength training and why it is so important.
So, in light of this, the scales, whilst a good measurement for some, may not always be the best choice. Why not try one of the following options instead?
- Pictures - They say pictures paint a thousand words and they could just be the best way to track your health and fitness progress. You will be able to monitor your body changing, losing fat, building muscle and if you follow a healthy and nutritious diet your skin, hair and nails should all look better too!
- Measurement - Taking a measurement of your waist, thighs and arms are a great way to see the transformation of your body when you eat healthily and start to exercise regularly. You may weigh more, or weigh the same but if you have used measurements then you have most likely lost a few cm's off your waist or arms! Give it a go.
- Skin Fold Callipers - This is not the easiest or the most comfortable way to measure weight loss but they are an alternative option to the scales. Skin fold callipers measure your percentage of body fat which is calculated rather than total weight. It is worth getting a professional to help you with this to ensure the measurement is consistent and accurate.
- Body Composition Machine - These can vary in price and reliability! You can grab a cheap one from your local chemist most probably, however for reliability the more expensive body composition machines which you may be able to use at a clinic or some gyms would yield more reliable results (something like a DEXA body scan). Thats not to say that if you used the same one each time under the same conditions that you couldn't use that machine to track progress, I just wouldn't recommend it. Unless you are doing this with a professional I would look at photographs and measurement as a cheaper more precise way to track you weight loss progress!
Some food for thought, give yourself a break and look at the whole picture not just one number which can be influenced by so many factors! Peace out xxx