Why you need to ditch the scale
As a personal trainer in Naples, I hear "weight loss" a lot. The term "weight loss" can be a bit misleading. When I ask prospective clients what their training goals are, answers usually range from "I want to lose a few pounds" to "I want to get more toned". I suspect their ideal body type lies somewhere in the middle. After all, who doesn't want to look better in a bathing suit? Muscle and fat both weigh the same (a pound is a pound) but a pound of muscle looks noticeably different than a pound of fat on your body (see above photos). Muscle occupies less space than fat and gives you a "toned" appearance. You probably noticed that during our initial session, we talked about losing body fat and increasing Lean Body Mass (or LBM), not necessarily losing weight. LBM is nothing more than your body weight minus your body fat. Sometimes your weight can stay the same or go up as a result of a corresponding increase in LBM. This is not a bad thing! An increase in LBM means an increase in Basal Metabolic Rate (or BMR), meaning that your body burns more calories at rest without you having to endure a suffer fest with me. Having a greater LBM literally turns your body into a fat burning furnace. You also look better in a bathing suit. Win win.
If you're using a scale as the primary means of determining whether or not you're on track with your fitness goals, I'm sure you've noticed that results can oftentimes be discouraging. Just one large meal or higher than average daily fluid intake can cause your weight to fluctuate by up to 5 lbs in ONE day! Some of you have asked if there's an inexpensive method for checking body composition at home. I'd recommend trying one or both of these once a month (results are a bit less dramatic if you do this with greater frequency), in the middle of the week (as diets are usually thrown off track by weekend social events), and first thing in the morning (before breakfast).
Method 1. Selfies to the rescue! Break out your phone and favorite swimsuit, find a large mirror in your home, and snap away. Take one from the front, one from the side, and one from the back. I promise that the results will astonish you, especially if you've been on point with your diet (caution: should go without saying, but check your phone settings to ensure your photos are private).
Method 2. If for whatever reason you're not comfortable with taking photos of yourself, try to find your best image match with the chart below for comparison. While not as accurate as Method 1, it will still give you a rough idea as to whether or not you're on target for hitting your bodyfat percentage goals.
I've found that having some visual feedback of your own body transforming month to month can be a powerful tool for staying motivated with a diet and workout program. Motivation builds good habits. Good habits build consistency. Eating healthy and working out can seem like an uphill climb, but as you continue to push you'll be able to see the summit a bit clearer every day...