Working on shredding and sculpting, but the scale won’t budge? Despite popular belief, “weight loss” and “fat loss” are not always synonymous – so don’t get discouraged!
Even if you’re certain you have some stubborn kgs to lose, sometimes seeing the scales moving can take a while for a variety of reasons. As such, although useful in combination with other factors under certain circumstances, on its own weight is a poor indicator of progress.
Why you shouldn’t rely on the scales
The scales can be helpful – but only if you know how to critically interpret the number you see when you step on! And no, it’s not quite as simple as “gain = bad, loss = good”!
First, your weight fluctuates wildly throughout the day. All you’re capturing by collecting your weight is a tiny snapshot, a moment in time, and it may be very different in an hour or two, depending on how much you eat and drink, as well as your bathroom trips. This is why if you do weigh yourself, it is recommended to do so in the morning, on an empty stomach, roughly at the same time each day. And even then, it can’t account for the entire range of variable factors, unless you live in a metabolic chamber, eat precisely the same foods every day, and are on some hypothetical medications to keep your hormone levels completely stable at all times (none of the above being particularly fun or healthy choices).
For instance, your weight highly depends on how much water you consume, retain and excrete. For instance, if your sodium consumption was particularly high on a given day, this could result in water retention – with every retained mL tipping your scales up by 1 g! Similar (temporary) effects can occur when adjusting to a new nutrition plan – e.g. upping your carb intake can sometimes promote fluid retention and isn’t anything to be worried about.
Hormonal fluctuations can play a role, too. For instance, right before the period, many women experience breast tenderness and considerable bloating.
Also, some medications can cause weight fluctuations (again, through fluid retention), including but not limited to estrogen-containing drugs (e.g. certain types of contraceptives or drugs taken as a part of hormone replacement therapy), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and betta-blockers. If you’ve just started taking any new medications, read the list of side effects to see if this could potentially solve the weight increase mystery – and know that most of such effects are temporary!
And any reasons for non-fluid related weight fluctuations? Well, the sheer weight of food you eat may have noticeable but temporary effects on your weight – especially if you’re a bit constipated.
As you can see, it’s very normal for body weight to fluctuate considerably – but you may be wondering just how much can be expected. Turns out most adults can easily experience 1-3 kg weight fluctuations on a daily basis – so if you do track, weigh yourself weekly or fortnightly, and even then, only pay attention to longer-term trends, not just two consecutive measurements.
So, if weight isn’t the most reliable progress indicator, what should you be paying attention to? Below are some tell-tale signs that you’re making amazing progress despite the number on the scales remaining the same!
Your measurements are going down
…and your clothes fit a little looser. Especially at the start of your health and fitness journey, your body composition is likely to be changing relatively quickly. You may have heard something along the lines of “muscle is heavier than fat” – but that’s not entirely accurate. What people mean by saying that is that muscle tissue is much denser than body fat, meaning that a smaller volume of muscle tissue can weigh as much, or more, as a bigger volume of fat.
By starting a consistent exercise and nutrition program, you are likely to experience lean muscle growth together with fat loss. As a result, by replacing some of your fat tissue with muscles, you can look smaller but weigh the same (due to muscle tissue density) – and it’s completely normal! In this case, you may notice that your measurements are going down, and/or some of your clothes are fitting looser/better.
Your performance is improving
We all have to start somewhere – and if you’re a fitness newbie, it’s completely normal to feel a bit uncoordinated and lost during your workouts, even if you have a plan to follow.
However, as time goes by, you will find yourself more confident and willing to try new things. Your form will improve, and so will your range of motion. And eventually, you’ll be able to utilise heavier weights, or push yourself harder during your cardio sessions!
Building up strength and endurance has amazing effects on your health – so don’t ignore this aspect of your progress and celebrate new achievements!
Your energy levels are increasing
Exercising and fuelling your body with nutrient-dense foods can make all the difference when it comes to mood and energy levels! Physical activity has a variety of beneficial effects, such as increasing the blood flow to all parts of your body. This improves cardiovascular health and allows more oxygen to circulate to every cell, which results in increased energy levels. And of course, a nutritious diet only enhances these amazing effects!
So, don’t be surprised if all of a sudden you start waking up 15 minutes before the alarm, instead of sleeping through it and having to hit the “snooze” button 5 more times.
You are developing good habits
Maybe you’ve been off the wagon for many years. Perhaps you’ve tried strict “dieting” in the past, and unsurprisingly, it never worked. Regardless where you came from, if you’ve been able to stick to a new lifestyle for a few weeks, stay consistent and develop amazing habits along the way – it’s certainly a massive achievement worth celebrating!
It’s all about being honest with yourself and flexible, yet making sure you’re still achieving your goals – finding this delicate balance, or your “sweet spot”, can take quite some time! Set small goals and celebrate small victories, as each of them represents fantastic progress.
Remember, beautiful ladies – what you see on the scales during your journey shouldn’t be the sole determinant of the way you feel about yourself! Trust the process, take progress photos and focus on amazing changes that aren’t related to your physique. Celebrate every win along the way, no matter how big or small, stay consistent, and you will reach your goals, for there is simply no other way!