Losing Inches But Not Weight? Here’s What To Do
You’ve heard about weight loss all your life.
Today’s scientists emphasize that Americans are overweight and discuss the many health ramifications, calling obesity an epidemic.
You weigh-in when you see your doctor but how much do you really learn from the scale?
This could be called unintentional brainwashing, as the real health concern is the need to lose fat. Losing only fat is of particular concern to athletes, who don’t want to lose muscle mass.
Once you understand this principle you’ll see ‘weight loss’ in a very different light.
You might want to stop depending so much on your scale, especially at the beginning of a fitness program.
- Scales don’t reflect fat loss. They can only measure weight loss, which may include muscle wasting.
- Scales can be discouraging. Your fitness plan might be working well even when your weight appears stable, fooling you into thinking that you aren’t making progress.
- Your weight fluctuates throughout the day depending on what you have eaten and when you have used the bathroom. Women may find that their weight fluctuates from week to week.
- That isn’t a reason to throw away your scale, however! Scales are useful for monitoring your weight over time and can signal you if you need to restart your fitness program.
What composes your weight?
Have you heard the term ‘skinny-fat’? This isn’t some kind of healthy food.
Skinny-fat refers to a body that is at normal weight or even underweight but has almost no muscle mass.
Your weight is composed of several different elements that you can control.
Your scale cannot reflect exactly what you are losing when you lose pounds. There is some fairly easy math involved.
A pound of anything weighs a pound. What we’re going to look at is how much a liter of fat, muscle, or water weighs in pounds. If this is confusing, buy a liter bottle and use it for a visual reference.
- Fat: A liter of fat weighs about 1.9 pounds.
- Muscle: A liter of muscle weighs about 2.33 pounds. This varies slightly as some muscles are denser and heavier than others.
- Water: A liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds.
That’s a big difference! When your goal is to get fit with exercise and diet, a daily weigh-in can become your enemy, because it doesn’t take muscle growth from exercise into account.
You already know that fad diets are not good things. Next time you see an ad promising that you can lose 20 pounds in 20 days, ask yourself, “pounds of what?”
How can I measure my fat loss?
At home, your best measuring tool is a cloth tape measure. Some people observe how their clothes fit, which is less specific but gives you a more general idea of your loss, as people don’t all lose fat in the same places at the same rate.
Now that we understand that little bit of math, you understand that if you gain 1/4 pound of muscle and lose 1/2 a pound of fat, your scale may not show any weight loss at all, while your tape measure may measure up to an inch of loss.
How can I find out how much of my weight is fat, muscle, water, or my organs?
It’s critical to understand that there isn’t one perfect tool to measure body mass index. Remember that your bones and organs factor into the calculation, and the weight of these parts varies widely from person to person.
Each measurement system uses mathematical equations which are somewhat generalized.
There is a special, medically applied x-ray called a DEXA scan which can help measure bone mass. For most people, there is no need to have an exact report on every aspect of their weight.
A good understanding of your muscle vs. fat ratio is sufficient.There are specialized scales that measure fat using bio-electrical impedance, available for home use and many gyms.
They work by flowing a little electricity through your body and approximating the make-up of your body mass
- There are specialized scales that measure fat using bio-electrical impedance, available for home use and many gyms. They work by flowing a little electricity through your body and approximating the make-up of your body mass.
- Performed at the gym or at home with a BMI calculator, a rough body mass index test can be helpful but isn’t very accurate. Using calipers, measuring tape, scale, and a BMI calculator, these tests can be effective in measuring subcutaneous fat.
- Hydrostatic weighing involves being immersed in water and is considered one of the most accurate ways to calculate BMI. HW may even help calculate visceral fat, the bad belly fat that we’ve all heard about.
Visceral fat wraps around your organs and is hard to measure without the use of MRI’s, which can only identify it.
Could you explain water weight a little bit?
For a variety of reasons, our bodies may retain varying amounts of water in the cells. This appears very similar to subcutaneous fat and ranges from obvious, as in edema, to almost unnoticeable.
Causes of water retention include menstrual cycles, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and a wide variety of health conditions.
While we understand the mechanism of water retention, the reasons for it are often unclear. Menstrual weight gain may be caused by hormones but scientists aren’t certain why this happens.
Physicians frequently prescribe diuretics, and ‘water pills’, herbal or not, can be found on pharmacy shelves. Many fad diets depend on quick, water weight loss to cause temporary ‘weight loss results’.
Reducing your sodium intake is a fairly sure-fire way to lose water weight and keep it off.
Are there supplements that target fat loss and leave muscle mass alone?
There are a few proven fat burners but they are not substitutes for good diet and exercise.
- Fish Oil is proven to assist fat loss safely. As fish oil, also called Omega 3, moves through your body, it collects ‘bad fats’ and rinses them away.
- Apple cider vinegar has been shown to remove fat when taken in small doses. The mechanism for this is unknown.
- Adaptogens are very specific herbs that attack cortisol, the stress hormone that ‘tells’ our bodies to collect fat. Proven adaptogens include Ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea, and Ginseng.
So let’s get fit!
It’s important to understand the purpose of your scale when you are trying to get slim and fit. Regular measuring can tell you a lot more, and stress you a lot less, than a daily scale check.