Many people these days get caught up in the media hype that is the perfect image of the perfect body. The truth is, there is no one perfect shape, weight or anything else. I am a personal trainer working in and around Chorleywood not Los Angeles and yet still I've had calls about perfect shapes and magazine copied bodies.
While stats, weights and numbers are a great way to measure progress when in training one of the best indicators of success is how much better you feel in yourself, how confident, healthy and energetic.
The scales are amongst the worst demotivators mainly because few people realise that your weight may actually fluctuate from one day (or hour!) to the next dependant on a variety of things. Here I share facts the scales don't tell you so that you can understand better that the number shown on any one day is not the be all and end all of your health, nutrition and fitness routine.
Temporary Weight Gain Causes
Eating right if you want to lose weight is of course most important and yet did you know that some foods might cause you to temporarily gain weight (water weight)? Refined carbohydrates for example encourages glycogen storage within the body. Typically an adult might have around 5lbs of glycogen in their body however this level will increase and decrease dependant on the types of foods you eat. How maddening it is to know you've had a great week on plan to then stay the same or put weight on at the scales. The key is to remember that some foods will temporarily increase weight.
Salt also increases weight as ingesting salt encourages the body to retain water. If for example your usually low sodium diet is broken one Friday evening with a higher salt meal the scale results on Saturday will have been affected.
Hormones Changes May Increase Your Weight
Cortisol (often referred to as the stress hormone) has been known to tell your body to hold onto fat. If you are particularly stressed either physically or emotional your cortisol levels rise, therefore having a knock-on effect on what the scales show. This type of gain is harder to lose than water weight gain however it can be done.
For women in training the menstrual cycle may play havoc with the scales thanks to bloating and hormone changes often resulting in a craving for salty or sweet foods. While this gain is temporary it again does need to be understood.
Strength Training May Increase Weight
Lean muscle and fat loss often go hand in hand as you burn a higher level of calories during the day with a leaner muscle mass. With that in mind building muscle may sometimes result in a small weight increase for some.
Working out causes tiny tears in your muscles and this in turn has an inflammatory result. While these tears quickly heal and inflammation decreases leaving your muscles strengthened both the inflammation and the water the body retains to help you repair combine may well have a short term affect on the scales.
The Clock May Not Be Your Friend
Throughout the day your weight may fluctuate wildly. Things such as how much you've had to drink and eat, what you've eaten and even whether you've been to the toilet could add pounds. The key is to try and avoid daily weighing (another demotivator) and to weigh weekly and where possible at the same time of day, wearing similar clothing and using the same scales on a flat surface. This will give you a truer reading if that is what you're looking for.
Success when it training may be measured in many ways, not simply on the scales. Many find taking accurate body measurements every few weeks gives a much better picture of how your body is changing and adapting to your new routine.
The point here is to be aware of how changes in your food, your environment and even your mental well-being might result in a scale reading you weren't expecting. Understanding this will help reduce the risk of you becoming demotivated, falling off-track with your nutritional plan and your training.
They are only numbers, they are not a true indication of how you look, how you feel or your overall progress and success to date.