I think most of us have a love/hate relationship with the scale. I used to, but now I see the scale as a mechanism to tell me whether my nutrition is on track or off track with my goals. The scale is a tool. We should use it as such. We use a mirror to check our hair the same way we should use the scale to check our weight. Unfortunately, the scale doesn’t always tell us what we want and so we get frustrated.
I have a lot of clients and friends who get fixated or stuck on the scale. The scale NEVER moves as rapidly for us women as we want it to. We want fast results because there are all these products on TV at 3 in the morning that promise overnight success if we just buy this great new “AB rocker” or if we drink this shake or do a 7-day juice cleanse we can have abs in a month. Can I tell you how many people have come to me saying they need to loose 10 pounds in a month? It’s just not realistic.
I feel responsible for my clients. I obviously want everyone to be happy with their results. When trying to figure out why the scale isn’t budging for someone I consider causes such as hormones, length of time training, stress, sleep, metabolic involvement, thyroid and age. But sometimes things still just don’t add up. Is there something I am not seeing? I started talking to other people in my field, athletic trainers, dieticians asking them…Why do I have clients who are stuck? What am I missing?
I think the answer is staring us in the face. Maybe it’s not that complicated after all.
When we are getting frustrated at the scale not moving we have to figure out why (this is where most people throw in the towel). I suspect hidden calories have a lot to do with slower results. I have many in my diet and I have discovered them through weighing, measuring and logging my food. There are hidden calories in drinks, creamers, coffees, dressings and condiments. Eating out at restaurants also create obstacles……anything not measured can account for up to an extra few hundred calories daily.
Many people say they are barely eating or eating healthy, but the bottom line is there is no sense wasting time making that claim, if something isn’t working then it isn’t working – end of story. We need to figure out why it isn’t working.
According to Dr. Mike Israetel, PhD
“Calorie balance is THE MOST important variable in body composition diet success for a very simple reason: it has the greatest impact on how much muscle you can gain and how much fat you can lose over any period of time.”
Let’s talk about energy balance…. energy (calories) in vs. energy (calories) out (I am going to break this way down, simple is best)
-If you want to loose weight you need to use more energy than you ingest (caloric deficit)
-If you want to maintain your weight you need to use equal amounts of energy as you ingest (maintenance)
-if you want to gain weight you need to use less energy than you ingest (caloric surplus)
Granted that is very simplified and there are some other factors that can contribute to each of these scenarios being optimal but unless these factors are in place the other stuff doesn’t matter anyway so for the sake of argument we are going to start here.
Let’s talk about the caloric deficit since that’s where most people want to be. When we are referring to a caloric deficit we aren’t talking about a caloric deficit of a few days making a difference. What we are referring to is a pattern. Its really over a week. You need to establish a deficit for an entire week….Use more then you ingest for THE WEEK…THAT is where the bulk of people make a mistake. Many people can blow a deficit that they have maintained from Monday through Friday because they create a calorie surplus over the weekend. A surplus in any amount is still a surplus. That surplus can come from restaurant eating, drinks, condiments…. you know, the hidden calories. I think this is exactly where most people get frustrated. This may be a pattern for them for a long period of time and therefore they truly feel like they are getting nowhere.
In order to determine where you are with regard to your calorie intake you need to measure and log your food. If you’re not sure how to get started read this article.
We can’t guesstimate. There is no other way, there is no shortcut. If you aren’t willing to do this then stop reading this blog, it’s pointless.
Obviously, there are many other progress indicators aside form the scale but for MOST PEOPLE the scale is the #1 indicator of progress. IT IS NOT. It is however quite indicative of whether or not you are in as significant of a caloric deficit as you may believe you are in.
I was reading The Renaissance Diet by Dr. Mike Israetel today…. here’s what he has to say:
“Negative calorie balance is the state in which an individual uses (to produce body maintenance, recovery, and movement) MORE calories than (s)he consumes. Because the calories being used to produce energy for these functions are not sufficiently supplied by food intake, stored calories (in various tissues, such as fat and muscle) must be burned to make up the difference. Because these calories come from the breakdown of body tissues, a negative calorie balance ALWAYS results in weight loss. Even though body water alterations may occasionally mask this loss of tissue, it is always going to occur, with ZERO exceptions so far discovered. The state of negative calorie balance is also known as a hypocaloric diet.”
If you are using the scale as a tool to help determine whether you are in an actual caloric deficit that’s great. However, If you are using it as the sole method for determining whether or not you are making progress you may want to combine the scale along with several other indicators to determine whether or not you are actually making progress. Here are a few tools/indicators that I recommend
-a tape measure to measure the same sites on your body each week
-a pair of jeans that are too snug or wont zipper
-progress photos (taken in the same outfit, same poses and in the same light)
-body composition testing (some methods are more effective than others)
The bottom line is – if you aren’t happy with how you look then you are going to have to make changes to look different. These changes will not happen overnight and success will require focus and dedication. The scale is not the only tool you should be using to determine if you are reaching your goals and if anyone is telling you differently they aren’t telling the truth.