You'll often hear me saying to my clients that "it's not just about the scales", which may sound strange to anyone who is wanting to lose weight! Of course it's about the scales, you may be thinking! However there is so much more to losing weight than just this, so I thought with that in mind I'd write a blog about it. There are many aspects to getting your body into a better shape, some people (like me!) will find they actually will put on weight - but if I told you that I dropped two dress sizes at the same time would you care?
I often speak to women in the gym who want to "tone up". That's their fitness aim. What does "tone up" actually mean? They want a better body shape basically, without as much fat. But in order to do this you need to reduce the percentage of fat in your body and that will expose the underlying muscle. You can't choose where the fat disappears from however, your body decides that (unfortunately!). This is why no amount of abs will get you toned abs if there is too much body fat covering them. We all have abs, the difference is some people have lower body fat so you can see them! So once you've lost the fat then you need to start building the muscle, you will then see the shape of the underlying muscle and the way you do this is with weights. No amount of cardio alone will get you that toned look! If you really want to change your body shape you need to include weights.
Why you shouldn't rely on weight alone...
Before I became a Personal Trainer I spent quite a lot of time doing lots of cardio - running, spin classes etc but not much else. So my legs and arms looked okay but I still had quite a lot of fat around my middle, which no matter how hard I tried just would not budge! The during my training to become PT I discovered what weights can really do for your body, my body shape changed and that annoying belly finally began to disappear. But in the process I actually put on a stone in weight - why did this happen?
As I experienced personally, when you start lifting weights and building up muscle your weight can increase. This is because muscle is denser than fat, and in effect I lost fat and replaced it with muscle. In the beginning you will use your body's fat storage to burn as energy, as lifting weights and building muscle requires a lot of energy! So you may actually see the scales drop a bit during this process as you lose body fat. As you continue to build muscle the scales may start to creep up the way. But by this point you will normally have noticed your shape is starting to change and you're finally getting those results that you want - in which case who cares about the scales? There are much better ways to track your progress in the gym than scales - your body could have stronger, more defined muscles and less fat but if you just look at the scales you won't notice this.
Other ways to check your progress...
There are several other ways to keep track of how you are getting on that will give you a better indication than just the scales.
1. How are your clothing fitting? Most of my clients actually notice their clothing fits them better before they notice a big change on the scales. This is because their body shape is changing, which often happens first
2. Take measurements - taking measurements of your body parts can help you track your progress more accurately. You don't have to measure every part of your body, just take a few measurement of areas like chest, waist, hips, upper thighs. Record them and every few weeks take them again. After a few weeks you should start to see a difference
3. Take photos - it's a great idea to take some "before" photos, so that in those moments of self-doubt you can check back on those and remind yourself of why you started. You might not like what you see , but it will help to hold you accountable for what you achieve as you move forwards from this image of yourself. Use these as motivation - if you don't like what you see know that you can and will change it! Make sure you take progress shots too every couple of weeks to track how you are doing and how your body is changing. Ideally to take the pictures wearing clothes that you can see your body shape in - gym clothes, swimsuit, underwear etc. Use a well-lit room and take pictures from the front, back and both sides. Remember you don't have to share these with anyone but yourself!
Weight loss (some people call it "fat loss", which is kind of more accurate in many ways) is about so much more than the scales - it can change your body shape, make you physically and mentally stronger and help you feel more capable as an individual. I can still lift my 9 year old son on the odd occasion when I need to (and he weighs half as much as I do - 30kg), and more to the point he can lift me clean off the ground - not bad for a 9 year old!
I hope that has been helpful for you and expanded your views on weight loss. I am perfectly happy to be two dress sizes smaller but a stone heavier, as well as a lot stronger both in mind and body!
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Exercise For Mum's was created by PT mum Susan Flintoff. Susan is a busy working mum of two who specialises in helping other busy mum's fit health and fitness back into their lives, and hopes to inspire them to be the best mum they can be!!