Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss: Measure Beyond the Scale
In the pursuit of a leaner body, a bathroom scale is routinely used to measure progress. However, a scale only measures how much weight you have lost; it does not tell you if the lost weight was fat, muscle or water. This is where the problem lies. When changing to a healthy lifestyle, aim to lose fat and not muscle. Unfortunately, many fad diets claiming rapid weight loss are often achieving this at the expense of water and/or muscle loss. Generally speaking, if you are losing greater than two pounds per week you are likely losing muscle as well.
The best way to monitor weight loss progress is to measure lean body mass and body fat percentage. Lean body mass is body weight excluding fat. Lean body mass includes bone, muscle, and other fat-free tissues, with the majority of this being muscle. The simplest way to measure body fat percentage is through a skinfold test. A personal trainer or other fitness professional will likely be able to take these measurements for you. Self skinfold testing is available with the use of the “Accu-Measure”, which can easily be found online. By measuring these two items, you will be able to determine how much fat you are losing and whether or not you are losing muscle.
Once you have determined your body fat percentage, you are ready to calculate your fat weight and lean body mass. To calculate your fat weight, multiply your total weight by your body fat percentage. Once you have calculated your pounds of fat, subtract your pounds of fat from your total weight in pounds, which will give you your lean body mass.
Armed with these simple equations, you will be able to track your weight loss much more accurately than by simply using a scale. You will know exactly where your weight loss is coming from, so you can quickly make adjustments to your caloric intake to maximize your results. For example, if your lean body mass decreases and your body fat decreases, this should tell you there is too much of a calorie deficit and you should increase your daily calorie intake slightly to prevent the loss in lean body mass. Whenever you’re on a calorie restricted ritual, some loss in lean body mass and muscle is to be expected; however, this loss in lean body mass should be limited to a few tenths of a pound per week. Initially, when starting a new program, you will likely notice a larger drop in lean body mass due to water loss.
There is certainly a place for the bathroom scale, but unless you’re also measuring the items above, you will never fully realize the effect your new healthy lifestyle is having on your body.
Sending You Tons of Love and Humongous Hugs,
Tina “Measuring Your Success” McDermott