Are you obsessed with what the scale says? Every day we learn some more facts about that the number displayed when you step on that platform isn’t telling the whole story when it comes to your body and your health. Don’t focus on losing weight but on becoming fitter.
A lot of women women decide to start running because they want to lose weight or they think that dropping pounds will make them a faster runner. They want to see to see the scale going down, working toward a magical number, and they start a restricted diet. If you do this, the scale may go down, but at the same time there’s a strong possibility that your muscle will be lost in the process. Having less pounds doesn’t always mean you’ll run faster.
Losing muscle often results in becoming weaker, having less power and being slower. What is more, by focusing on losing weight, you’ll usually end up looking like a smaller version of the same body, instead of achieving a fitter self.
Focus on progress not flaws
When your goal is to get in better shape, looking in the mirror isn’t an effective form of feedback either. Instead of paying attention to progress, most women see a distorted view of themselves, focusing on the areas they don’t like. When it comes to seeing results, many women only rely on the scale. They will let a small, metal, inanimate thing make or break their day. You should never see the scale as your only tracking device. In most cases, it shouldn’t even be considered when you are working toward building a strong, athletic runner’s body.
And here’s why: A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders looked into the long-term effects of a very low-calorie diet. When 27 people observed a very restricted meal plan, they lost an average of 19 pounds in two months, meaning 2.38 pounds a week. But this is what’s most interesting: For every 13 pounds of fat they lost, they lost 6 pounds of muscle! Of the 19 pounds lost, 32% was the stuff that’s great for a strong body. Of course, the scale did show a lower number, but they had withered away lean muscle, becoming weaker and affecting their metabolism.
Losing weight shouldn’t be your goal
An average woman is made up of about:
- 35% muscle,
- 28% fat, and
- 37% bone, organs, fluid and other stuff.
On other words, a 150-pound woman is roughly made up of 52.5 pounds muscle and 42 pounds fat. After a two-month, very-low-calorie diet (similar to the study mentioned), a formerly 150-pound woman would lose 19 pounds and weigh 131 pounds, with 46.5 pounds muscle and 29 pounds fat. When she comes off the low-calorie diet, she would probably gain the weight back as all fat, returning her to where she began at 150 pounds but now with 46.5 pounds muscle and 48 pounds fat.
The same 150-pound number on the scale is now made up of more fat and less muscle. The number on the scale definitely doesn’t tell the whole story. Usually at this point she would go on the diet again, losing another 19 pounds, including another 6 pounds of muscle until over time it becomes harder and harder to drop any more pounds. After just one more low-calorie diet (the majority of women have done more than two in their lifetimes), she would lose 12 pounds of muscle. At this point, she would have to gain 12 pounds of muscle, meaning the scale would have to go up to restore her metabolism back to where it was at the beginning.
Regular exercise is better than low-calorie diet
Let’s take a look at another study. It divided 54 women into 4 groups:
Group 1: diet with weight loss
Group 2: exercise with weight loss
Group 3: exercise without weight loss
Group 4: weight-stable control
The women who exercised and didn’t drop pounds lost the same amount of fat as the diet group that drop pounds.
And what’s the main difference? The group that exercised had gained lean muscle, which means they were also fitter and stronger at the end of the study.
Exercise without losing weight is related with substantial reduction in total and abdominal obesity—another proof that the scale doesn’t have to show a lower number for you to become healthier.
By focusing on building power-generating muscle for running (and not on your weight), you won’t only increase your speed—but you will also lower your risk of injuries. Every step you take running, you’ll have the strength to support your joints for miles.
Consider increasing bone mass
When it comes to watching the scale, one should also consider the fact that women reach peak bone mass around the age of 35. Because women are at a high risk for osteoporosis and osteopenia, increased bone mass is a good thing.
Weight-bearing activities, such as weight training and running, help to increase bone mass—and this is why putting pressure on yourself to weigh what you did in high school makes no sense at all. If you are in your 30s, your body is made up of more bone and more muscle, hopefully, so you won’t weigh the same.
To conclude: Get rid of your scale! Using your weight is outdated when it comes to measuring whether your body is changing and if you are healthy.
As a society, we should start thinking about exercise, diet and body changes differently and take the emphasis off of what we weigh and instead focus on getting fit. This means increasing strength and metabolism and lowering the risk of diseases including obesity-related ones.
How to do this? By building muscle and losing fat, changing the ratio of what your body is made up of.
It’s time to start approaching your fitness and nutrition with the intention of completely reinventing your body to get a healthy body composition and stop looking down for that “perfect” number.