Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Weight Loss

With the New Year comes the resolutions.  With the resolutions comes the desire to “lose weight” and “get into shape”. These are both very arbitrary goals which allow them to easily be forgotten, changed or given up on. The problem is many people are looking at the wrong things when it comes to weight loss.

When we say we want to lose weight, most people mean they want to tone up or cut down on the amount of fat on their body.  In reality, the number on the scale shouldn’t mean that much at all.  How we look, how we feel, and how healthy we are should trump the scale.  But the scale is far more measurable.  Weigh 127 today when you weighed 129 yesterday?  Hooray!  In a perfect world, it would be great if we all had easy access to a device that actually kept track of the fat content on our body. Even better would be a monitor which instantly allowed us to know that what we are doing in our diet and our exercise was beneficial to us and in what way. For the most part, the plain old scale is neither of those things.

Here’s an example: I weigh myself pretty much every day when I am home. I always do it after a workout (so if I am dehydrated or at my thinnest, at least I am always dehydrated and at my thinnest) and I try to remember to keep everything the same as possible. I don't weigh myself for any real benchmark but rather laugh at anomalies like this:

Friday: 10.1 mile run; weight = 176 lbs
Saturday: 15.8 mile run; weight =178 lbs
Sunday: 5.6 mile run; weight = 180 lbs
Monday: 12 mile run; weight =180.8 lbs

If I had not been weighing myself for quite some time, I would either be freaking out thinking I had a tumor or would want to give up eating or exercising or both because obviously something is askew.  But I know that weight alone means oh so little.  There is no doubt in my mind that within a day or two of my continued normal exercise and diet, I will drop back into the 170s. But if I don’t I won’t lose my mind.  In fact, as I am ramping up my miles this year for a couple of longer distance events, I would not be surprised if, even though my clothes are more loose, the scale doesn’t register much change at all.  The scale doesn’t know my waist is thinning a bit while my quads are growing a touch.

Sure it is helpful to have a scale in the house but if one does not use it correctly, or relies too heavily on the little number readout then it is probably better to not care at all.  What really matters much more than a scale is to make a food diary.  Sure they are annoying and tedious but if you, yes, YOU (me included) make note of what you eat in a day, you will probably be more than surprised at how many calories you take in. Think you eat just 2000? If you are lucky.  Chances are it is much higher.

So as January turns into February and beyond, don’t worry too much about weight loss per se.  Worry about exercising and eating right.  The weight will probably take care of itself as long as you are smart about the other two things.

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