It seems like fitness goals can be broken down into two major categories: losing weight or gaining weight. For the lucky few who are naturally too skinny, it can be a challenge to bulk up and add some muscle. Some people are even too skinny and need to gain weight to be fully healthy.
The majority of people who go to gyms are trying to lose weight. Whether they’re motivated by vanity, health, or competition, weight loss is one of the most popular fitness goals.
Something that many people don’t consider when they’re trying to lose weight is the difference between scale weight and body fat. It’s possible to lose weight without losing fat and vice versa.
Your body is composed of water, bones, fat, and lean tissue (among other things). Muscle makes up a significant portion of your body. When you lose weight, particularly if you have rapid weight loss, a chunk of weight loss comes from muscle.
For the most part, people want to lose fat but keep or even build muscle. Not only does muscle help with appearance, but muscle also makes you stronger and healthier. It’s really hard to keep muscle as you lose weight, and nearly impossible to gain.
However, if you maintain your body weight, it’s not very hard for your body to build muscle. In fact, you can burn fat and build muscle at the same time. Imagine you gain one pound of muscle and lose one pound of fat per month. Over the course of 5 months, you’ve lost 5 lbs of fat and gained 5 lbs of muscle! That’s an incredible change.
If you’re too concerned with the weight your scale shows, you won’t see this as progress. You’ll probably even see it as a lack of progress, which can be frustrating and cause you to quit or try something else.
Sticking with a plan to maintain weight is mentally tough. The more your weight has fluctuated over the years, the harder it can be to stay at a certain weight. This up-and-down cycle of weight gain and loss is difficult to break but worth the effort. Once you learn how to maintain your weight, you can better understand what you need to change to lose a few pounds.
Instead of using the scale to track progress, use other methods. See if your clothes start to fit differently. Check the mirror every once in a while to see if there’s noticeable progress. Try to avoid body fat measurement tools unless you know they’re accurate because inaccurate readings can cause even more frustration.
You’ll feel like things are moving slowly if you focus on losing body fat, but the more you rush the process the harder it is to achieve your goals. The long, slow road is often the better one.