Fat Loss vs. Weight Loss
You did everything right all week…ate right…worked out…got lots of sleep. Then, you stepped on the scale, preparing yourself for a big weight loss celebration, only to see you’d only lost a whopping 1/2 POUND! I’d venture to guess we’ve all been there! BUT, did you actually gain? Truth…the number on the scale can actually fluctuate from day to day!
While weighing yourself is a typical part of trying to lose weight, your weight isn’t just a number. Understandably, that number can actually change how you feel about yourself. If the number on the scale first thing in the morning is lower than it was before, you may feel better about yourself. If it’s higher, your day may start on a downward slide.
But what does your weight really mean, and how useful is it when it comes to tracking our true weight loss progress? If you are on a weight loss plan and want to use the scale as a gauge to monitor just be aware, gains and losses of your weight can be reflective of something less impactful, like simple fluctuations in your daily life.
Here are some of the biggest factors broken down:
- Physical weight of food and drinks – Food and drink have mass which is completely unrelated to calorie count which can influence your body weight in the short term. If you drink two cups of water, then step on the scale, you will be a pound heavier. But, that doesn’t mean you’ve gained a pound of fat. For this reason, it’s best to weigh yourself first thing in the morning.
- Carbs and sodium – Sweat and dehydration can create losses, but water retention from carbohydrates and sodium causes temporary weight gain. Each gram of carbohydrates stored requires 2-3 grams of water to go with tit. This water will be lost as the carbs are burned off, which is why the gain is only temporary.
- Sweat – Water loss is a big factor in quick weight fluctuations. Dehydration that isn’t replenished before weighing in results in a weight loss.
- Day of the week – Eating habits often change throughout the week. Typically the week starts off with healthy expectations and sometimes declines as the week goes on. Best way to avoid this fluctuation is to aim and maintain a consistent eating schedule throughout the week.
- Hormones – The stress hormone, cortisol, can be elevated after workouts or stress. Cortisol can cause inflammation in the body, mess with digestion, fluid retention, hunger and metabolism. Females are also more prone to weight fluctuations due to menstrual cycles.
- Bowel movements (I got all the glamorous details) – If you are a bit backed up, that can add up when you step on the scale. Proper hydration and a fibrous diet high in plant foods will help move food waste through the intestines.
Not Losing Weight but Clothes are Looser?
When you talk about losing weight usually you want to lose weight around the hips, thighs, belly, and arms. But the thing about losing inches is that it doesn’t always mean losing actual weight off the scale.
It’s possible to lose inches without actually seeing a major change in your weight. This happens when you lose body fat while and gain muscle simultaneously. Your weight may stay the same, even as you lose inches, a sign that you’re moving in the right direction. This is a good thing! Knowing the difference between losing weight and losing body fat can change how you see yourself and your progress.
A typical scale shows your weight, but it doesn’t tell you how much of that weight is muscle, fat, water, bones, or organs. Someone that strength trains with heavy weights regularly could be off the charts because of extra muscle, but it doesn’t mean they are overweight or fat. Unfortunately, the typical scale doesn’t tell you that.
Why Fat Loss is Better Than Weight Loss
Although the scale can be useful in keeping yourself in line with potential weight gain, it may not be the best tool for people just starting a fat loss program.
Focusing on fat loss is much more important than focusing on your weight. When you lose body fat, you’re making permanent changes in your body, shifting your body composition so that you have less fat and more muscle. When you lose weight, you could be losing water or even muscle. It’s impossible to know if you’re seeing real results or just the product of your daily habits, hormonal shifts, and changing hydration levels.
Find a New Way to Measure Success
When you first start a weight-loss program, you may need extra encouragement to keep going. You want to see concrete proof that what you’re doing is working. The scale may not always give you that. Let’s take a look at some other ways to measure progress.
Consider other methods to measure success, beyond the scale.
- Take note of how your clothes fit. If they fit more loosely, you know you’re making positive changes. Try them on once a month and make notes on how they fit. Clothes don’t lie.
- Take your measurements to see if you’re losing inches. Measuring your body at different points helps you figure out if you are, in fact, losing body fat and inches.
- Use a free scanning app like MeThreeSixty. This 3D body scanning app gives you a three-dimensional scan of your body and produces measurement and body fat results. You can save your results within the app and compare to your future scans to track your progress.
- Set performance goals. Instead of worrying about weight loss, add some fun to the mix! Focus on completing a certain number of workouts each week or competing in a race. Challenge yourself to reaching a certain push-up or pull-up goal. These are tangible, reachable goals that give you more of that instant gratification the scale doesn’t.