Why the numbers don’t mean a thing & the method to my madness
Numbers. I weigh this much. My body fat is this much. I lost this much weight or this percent body fat in x number of weeks. People get hung up on these numbers like they actually mean something. Women get so obsessed they go on a binge eating downward spiral or a crazy restricted 1200 calorie diet because of a number they see on the scale. We have to stop this nonsense!
The new “Fitspiration” movement is not helping women be any less obsessive. It’s a big pet-peeve when personal trainers and physique competitors talk about their numbers or their clients numbers all the time like they mean something. For the average person we do not need to dwell on the numbers. And they can be triggers for those who have disordered eating patterns or an obsessive nature. It’s important that trainers and coaches steer their clients into how they feel rather than how they look and use other methods to track progress than just the number on the scale. I wish physique competitors would stop telling average people what they do while getting ready for a competition because that isn’t what the average person should be doing.
We’ve talked many times about how the scale is not a good indicator of health and wellness. The photo below brings this to light.
The only thing we know about the women above is that they weigh 154 pounds at this given moment that the photo was taken (because as soon as they eat or exercise that number will change slightly). All these women have different body fat percentages. You can tell that by looking at them, but you can’t tell at all how healthy they are from this photo. You can’t tell if they have heart disease or some other serious health condition or if they even exercise. You can’t tell who is vegan.
A BMI chart will tell each of these women based on their height and weight if they are at a “healthy” weight. But BMI charts don’t tell the whole story. A recent study showed that muscle mass was a better indicator of health and longevity than BMI. This isn’t surprising since we know that resistance training (coupled with a plant-based diet) is the best for bone health. So have you started lifting yet?
If you just want to lose weight on the scale that’s pretty easy and can even be done without exercise (gasp!). Many people experience that when switching over to a plant-based diet. But you will not get the shape that you want, will have loose skin depending on how much weight you want to lose, and you will be unhappy having to restrict calories and you may have been told to do tons of cardio. By lifting weights and building muscle you can literally transform your body, eat more calories, and spend less time in the gym. It’s a total win/win!
Above is my own 1 year progress. Guess what?! I weigh the exact same in both photos but with about 5-7% difference in body fat. That’s because I put on muscle and muscle is more dense and heavier than the body fat. I took 8 months bulking or building muscle mass and when I went to lean out (after putting on 8 lbs) I didn’t have to restrict my calories under maintenance or do tons of cardio. These are the kind of results you want. It’s best to take your time, slow and steady rather than just restricting to lose weight on the scale. When I prepared for my first bikini competition I worked my butt off, literally, to drop body fat fast and it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. After that competition I decided I didn’t want to just be skinny or thin but wanted more muscle. And it was the best decision I ever made for my health and for my physique.
Since I wanted muscle that shows it took time. If you are wanting to look fit and “toned” it might not take as much time (you won’t need to “bulk”) and your program will look different than mine. That is one reason why I don’t share the very specifics of what I’m doing because every single body is different and everyone has different goals. If we work together one-on-one I develop a program just for you that takes out all the guesswork on what you need to do to reach your goals. One of the great things about having a trainer that has worked with different people of all ages and different body types! I don’t work with competitors. I work with everyday people who want to turn their health around. I will always encourage my clients to focus on building muscle over losing weight on the scale. And we can manipulate what that will look like based on your program. So if you don’t want to be as muscular as me that’s totally fine. You still will get resistance training in your program because that will help you reach whatever goal you have!
Many of my clients do not lose weight during their first 16 week program with me (or they lose a lot at first and then it becomes more gradual). There is a method to my madness! We first spend time building muscle and strength. Keep in mind when you start weight lifting your muscles start to build but also retain water. That shows up on the scale. When we leave the scale out of it and focus on building a great foundation it will work for you 24/7. And gaining strength is the most empowering feeling in the world! I know this can be frustrating and they might see other people’s progress and compare it to theirs, but I promise that slow and steady progress is not only better for the body and mind it’s better for long-term maintenance.
Then I have clients who want to put on weight and mass instead of lose weight. This process does require us to look at the numbers a bit more so we are eating enough calories and making progress in the other direction. Aaron, for example, has been kicking ass at the program I designed for him. It was a great challenge for me and him as he has always been the “skinny guy” and has never been able to put on and hold onto muscle even with years of training. In only 8 short weeks he has put on 15 pounds (with very little fat gain), is lifting heavier than he did in college and we are both elated about his progress. He said in previous years it would have taken him at least 6 months to put on that much weight. We got his nutrition on track and that has made all the difference along with a fitness program tailored to him and his needs. Put in the work and get results!
When I build your program I’m thinking about your long-term health and wellness. As we check in each 4 weeks and I watch your transformation, I’m planning what your program will look like as we move forward to get you the results you want. Nothing happens overnight. And as I already explained in this blog, the results you get might not be what you thought they “should” be. Getting in shape takes time and is a journey. Enjoy it every step of the way!
The gist of this post is to move away from a focus on just the numbers. I know it can be difficult but throw away the scale. Love your body. Feel it’s strength. It’s you versus you.