It’s Monday morning. You are a week into your new diet, and are all excited to see what the scale says. You ate all the right foods and worked out a bunch. Time to see that the fat melted off!
You hop on and… the scale shows you lost half a pound.
Yea, I would be kind of pissed off too.
When we think of weight loss we want to see big numbers. We have those goals of 10, 20, or even 50 pounds cemented in our brains.
But where does this need for extraordinary numbers come from?
Back in 2004 the first episode of The Biggest Loser aired on television. This show focused on obese individuals losing extreme amounts of weight every week. It would be common to see 10-20 pounds lost in just 7 days.
When a contestant would hop on the scale and lose only a pound or two, it was like the world ended. It was dramatic, the coaches showed extreme disappointment, and they played the sad music.
Unfortunately, this is how it feels hopping on our scales at home and seeing similar results.
Then we turn on the tv later that day and there are commercials we see of people promoting fat burners, slimming belts, and prepared foods to lose large amounts of weight. Every single one showing incredible weight loss.
Why can’t you get these results?
Is there something wrong with your diet or your body?
As much as these products and tv shows want you to believe that, it isn’t true.
These methods of weight loss you see on advertisements and TV shows are either just plain lies, and/or not sustainable in the long run.
Losing tons of weight in a little time increases the chances of you gaining that weight right back.
On The Biggest Loser the average weight for contestants after 30 weeks was 199 pounds. The average weight of contestants 6 years after the show was 290 pounds.
It made for great television, but not great long term results.
So what does it take to lose the weight and keep it off?
The key is to lose weight slowly and consistently over time. The name of the game is sustainability. It's not sexy or exciting, but it works!
When you lose weight slower, it is much easier to stick to a diet. Your hunger is not as extreme. You have way more energy. And you can work on building consistent healthy habits that will keep the weight off for good.
A good target for sustainable weight loss would be roughly 1% of your bodyweight a week. So if you weigh 200 pounds, you would be aiming for about 2 pounds a week.
When first starting a diet, you might lose much more than this. It’s normal in the first weeks to have the most weight loss. However, this is usually short lived and eventually your body will slow down the loss to around 1-2 pounds a week.
Sometimes when you start a diet you might not lose any weight. This doesn’t mean you aren’t losing fat though.
Tons of people, when first starting to work out and eat healthy, don’t see a dramatic drop in weight right off the bat.
This could be because you are gaining muscle at the same rate you are losing fat. Even though the scale doesn’t show it, you could be making incredible progress. This is why the scale isn’t always the best thing to measure when trying to lose weight. There is a lot that the scale weight doesn’t show.
So how should you measure progress if the scale sucks?
There are a couple ways that don’t involve the scale that will help you to see positive changes.
1. The T-Shirt Test
One of the best things you can do when first starting a new diet is to find a tight fitting shirt. Try it on, maybe even take some pictures, and then put it away.
A couple weeks or even a month later try it on.
If that shirt is now hanging off of you and waving in the wind, you are probably losing fat! The scale could even be the exact same weight, but you have dropped the weight that really matters which is body fat. Plus you probably gained some muscle that will help you feel stronger and more energized throughout the day.
2. Tape measurements
This method is just like the T-Shirt Test, but a little more precise. Let’s say you put the T-Shirt on but you don’t really notice a difference, and the weight on the scale was about the same as when you started. It’s natural to be pretty pissed at the lack of progress.
However, you, being the diligent person you are, took some tape measurements when you started your diet.
So you think to yourself “Lets just check. Maybe the measurements will show I lost a little something.”
The results come back and it turns out you lost 2 inches in your waist, 1 inch in your thighs, and another inch in your arms. That’s incredible!!
It could have been the day you quit your diet, but now it’s the day that you use for motivation to keep going.
3. Energy Levels
So maybe the scale didn’t move. Maybe the measurements didn’t change. But now all of a sudden you can get through your work day without the mid day crash. Now you can walk up and down the stairs without huffing and puffing. You can also play with your kids and not be completely wrecked the next day.
This is also progress.
Just because the numbers don’t show it, doesn’t mean you aren’t improving. Improved quality of life is one of the best things to come out of working out and eating right.
If you are adding years onto your life, and putting yourself in a position to be there to create memories with those you love, that is a win.
It’s not all about weight loss, as much as we think it is. If we dig deep and try to figure out why we really want to lose weight, it’s usually for a deeper reason than wanting to look better.
Being active and getting in better shape allows