As we venture into a new year I marvel once again at how every single January millions of people join together in one shared pursuit: Weight loss! This global obsession rears its ugly head at the beginning every year, and while brief in its shelf-life, it dominates the thoughts of many for the better part of January, trailing off slightly in February, and then almost disappearing until Summer (and the dreaded “bikini weather”) looms over us in mid-May.
Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, 24-Hour Fitness, and a plethora of DVD-selling infomercials (P90X, Insanity, Zumba, etc.) enjoy huge spikes in sales as people desperately search for new, quick and easy ways to lose weight and get in shape.
For me as a fitness professional, and an individual who spends a lot of my day focused on my own nutrition and exercise, you would think I too would seek to capitalize on all the little lambs who need shepherding into fitness. But this time of year I actually sit back and wait for the fevers to die down (excluding my existing clients who know that I’m going to make them sweat and grunt off that extra piece of holiday apple pie). Once the frantic mentality of “I must lose this weight” has calmed down, I can actually impress upon my future clients that weight loss and more importantly changing the look of your body, is something that is constant, ongoing, and consistent, not temporary, and not a quick fix.
The real devil in the details this time of year is the dreaded SCALE! I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: different body types weigh different amounts. Muscle weighs more than fat. Internal fitness is different than external fitness (there are skinny bodies out there who are ticking time bombs internally because of their bad nutrition).
So if we removed all scales from this urgent January surge for weight loss, what would happen? How would you know if you lost weight? What does it mean to lose weight anyway? Weight is simply a measurement – a combined assessment of your muscles, bones, fat, tissues, organs, etc. When your weight changes, how do you really know what part of your body changed?
Here’s an example of two women who look very similar in physical appearance, but weigh very different amounts:
Woman 1: 5’7″ tall, 52 years old, resistance trains with heavy weights 5x week, cardio 3x week for 20 mins, very strong toned muscles, eats lean and healthy, but enjoys a few sweets and glasses of wine during the week, has moderate activity job – weighs: 113 lbs.
Woman 2: 5’7″ tall, 37 years old, runs and/or bikes 4-5x week for several miles, eats very lean and healthy, no wine, no sugar, has moderate activity job – weighs 125 lbs.
What makes them weigh different amounts? Woman 2 eats fewer calories each day than woman 1, runs but does not lift weights, and is younger, yu would think she would weigh less. (Typically the older we get the more we weigh.) But here’s where the other body components come into play. Though they are same height, and both appear lean and thin in body type, Woman 1 has much narrower bones, and a slightly longer leg length than Woman 2. Hence Woman 2 has slightly shorter legs, which when combined with being a runner, make for more solid and muscular legs which weigh more than Woman 1’s more solid arm muscles.
I know… I’m losing you with the science of the scale, but I’m simply trying to illustrate a point. The scale is irrelevant to your weight loss. It’s all about the toning of your muscles, the increase in muscle tissue which will burn calories and fat, and the overall health of your systems and organs.
So step off the scale, stop stressing over the need to lose weight. If January serves as a positive motivator for you to finally get into shape, then use the month to start a lifestyle change – and don’t stop.
Of course, if you need help learning/focusing I am at your service for customized workout routines, personal training, and nutritional advice and menu planning.