Have you tried to lose weight before, or are you trying to lose weight right now?…
Its highly likely that if you’re reading this, you’ve answered yes to one of the two questions above. I bet that in doing so your reference point for gauging how successful you are, or were, is largely determined by what you see on the scales.
The big problem with this is, unless you have a good 10-15kg+ of fat to lose, your scale weight is NOT the best variable to measure when determining how you look, and even if you DO have more than 10-15kg to lose, by understanding this one concept alone (which I am gong to attempt to explain in this post) you’ll set yourself up for long term success and save yourself a lot of unnecessary mental anguish (which often leads to giving up).
Put your thinking cap on and stay with me here, imagine you’re studying for the most important exam of your life and you simply MUST make the time and effort to understand this concept or you’ll fail miserably. This is your ‘a-ha’ moment where its all going to click…
The human body…we all have one, it is a complicated thing. At the very least, we’ve all read books on the human body at school and everyone has a basic understanding of the fundamentals, 2 arms, 2 legs etc etc.
No doubt you’ve seen an anatomical picture, if you haven’t in a while here’s one to refresh your memory.
What do you see in that picture? What is the red outer layer which covers the body above? (really look at it and answer the question before reading further)
If we strip you down a few layers, take away all your skin and body fat, this is what YOU look like. Everybody (well maybe not the guys)
What exactly are you seeing there?…
That’s right, you’re seeing a body whose outer layer is made entirely of muscle.
Now wrap a layer of skin over the top and you’ve got yourself a person – a very, very lean female comprised entirely of muscle, but a pretty good looking, nicely shaped body.
Muscle is not the evil thing that many females think it is, muscle is NOT big and bulky by nature, muscle is just what gives your body the shape and contours which define the characteristics of a human body, it is when this natural shape and these contours get put ‘out of whack’ when people start to become displeased with their body shape or size.
What interferes with this natural look of the human body? You’ve probably guessed it…
– Too much body fat in the wrong places.
– A lack of muscle tissue defining the natural shape & contours of a human body.
– A distorted ratio of muscle tissue to fat tissue – when this gets ‘out of whack’, that’s when you start having issues with your body.
So take the picture above of the stripped down anatomical human female, now add 15-20% of your weight with a little layer of body fat (you do need some) and depending on your preference you’ll find the ideal body you’re after somewhere along the spectrum…
Ok now picture this…
Take the anatomical human body from above, but now add a reasonably substantial layer of fat covering the entire body, let’s also get rid of some muscle because of inactivity as a result of sitting at a desk all day and spending a few years without any exercise.
Here’s my awesome representation of this using some coloured texta’s…
So this is where most people are at, give or take a bit of the orange stuff. They are made of muscle, with a layer of fat over the top. As you can see the muscle is not the thing creating issues with size or shape here.
So here are some common scenarios and how they can psychologically mislead someone who’s trying to ‘lose weight’.
A person loses 3kg of body fat, and puts on 3kg of much needed muscle spread out over their entire body, this may not be enough to see a dramatic visual change to someone who sees themselves in the mirror everyday, but it’s a great step in the right direction right?
Surely this is a sign that this lifestyle is a much better one than you were leading before, and as a result, over time, your body shape and size will reflect this lifestyle. (not to mention overall health, fitness & strength)
This reminds me of a good quote I read recently…
“Most people need more than just 4 or 8 or 12 weeks to get into shape and stay in shape … it’s a permanent gig and the sweat, heavy breathing and the lifetime commitment of living a fit and healthy life comes with the job description of being a happy, healthy human being… fitness is like brushing your teeth, you wouldn’t just brush your teeth for 4 or 8 or 12 weeks and stop would you?”
So anyway, many people jump on the scales after 4, 8, 0r 12 weeks of training hard and eating right and they might weigh exactly the same and are discouraged. Little do they know that if they kept doing what they were doing, over the next 3, 6 or 12 months (or the rest of their life) they’d see a huge change in how their body looks and feels, and their scale weight is now comprised of vastly different body tissues making up that weight.
Here’s a good example I found… The lady below weighs exactly the same in these 2 photos, sure a bit of lighting and some nicer clothes help but there’s no doubt she’s in better shape with less body fat and more muscle, but literally no ‘weight’ reduction on the scales.…
A person starts training but doesn’t change what or how much they’re eating which led to their weight gain in the first place, or they just don’t change it enough. This person puts on 2 kg of muscle but maintains approximately the same levels of body fat, and as a result, she starts to notice her jeans or top feel a little tighter than usual. She automatically thinks this is due to her new weight training regime, and its getting her muscles too big and now weight training needs to be stopped.
Sure… this person has just put on some muscle tissue underneath a layer of body fat, which CAN increase your size if everything else stays the same, but is the problem with too much muscle? Or is it too much bodyfat?
Its backwards thinking to think that too much muscle is the issue here, when in reality you’re probably still UNDER your ideal levels of muscle tissue but you’re substantially OVER your ideal levels of bodyfat. It’s important not to throw out the baby with the bathwater here…
For best results, you need to combine weight training with a healthy diet conducive to fat loss, not add weight training to a diet already high in calories. If you’re not losing ‘size’, or in rare cases even gaining size, then losing bodyfat should be the strategy. (which will be alot easier with the new muscle)
Besides all the other health and functional benefits you’re getting from strength training, (not just the aesthetics), muscle is actually helping you improve your ability to lose body fat through a higher metabolism, whilst also giving you the defined characteristics of an aesthetically pleasing human body (remember the anatomical pic? just get rid of the orange stuff).
Its actually very hard to build substantial amount of muscle, especially for females, it wont happen by accident. Guys find it hard enough to put on muscle…
And if you do fall into the dangerous trap of thinking that any bodily tissue whether muscle OR fat is making you too big and ‘overweight’ – this is what happens….
The great thing about exercise is as you gradually get stronger, fitter, faster, and more capable, your training has a compounding effect. Over time & with consistency, you’re training your ability to do MUCH more ‘work’ in an hour of exercise, you’ll actually burn MORE energy or calories as you get more capable, making it easier to get a positive training effect.
For example, If you’ve been sedentary for a good portion of your life or have had a bit of time off from exercise, and are lacking in muscle and strength, you start training and can only do a handful of squats sitting back on to a bench for assistance, you’re limited by strength, fitness and co-ordination in terms of how hard you can train, how many calories you burn or energy you expend.
If in 6 months you can now squat with a 25kg weight for 15 reps, you’re in a much better standing to get a whopping benefit from your training time. Do you know how much more energy that takes? How much MORE of a training stimulus this is for your body? Especially if a similar improvement has taken place in all the other lifts. This person would now have a much easier time making big body composition changes, and a much easier time staying in shape. So you get rewarded for consistency and improvement – that’s the compounding effect.
So in wrapping this up, here are the take home points:
– Scale weight is a crappy measurement of progress unless you have ALOT of weight to lose.
– Scale weight is a crappy measurement for determining how you look
– Sometimes weight loss can be a bad/negative thing (If you lose muscle tissue)
– Sometimes weight gain can be good/positive thing (If you increase muscle tissue)
– Muscle is not big & bulky by nature and is not your enemy in losing size & body fat (Remember the anatomical muscle picture is not big & bulky or overweight)
– Weight training does not make females huge
– High intensity weight training is THE BEST exercise to change and maintain your body’s shape & size
– Exercise & fitness is like brushing your teeth, it’s not an 8 week process or ‘event’, it’s a part of a happy, healthy lifestyle
– The longer you train, with consistency, the easier it will be to get lean and stay lean & healthy due to the compounding effect.
– The longer you DON’T train or the later in life you start training, the harder it will be to get results as you’ll have to go through a process of building up lost muscle, fitness, strength, metabolism and co-ordination
– Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Ritchie are idiots and nobody wants to look like them…
If you got anything of value from this post, it would be great if you clicked the ‘Like’ button below