It's not all about
Weight can be influenced by a number of factors that can affect your ability to see progress, which is why it's so important to rely on other "check-in" methods to see how far you've come.
Weight is only part of the story on your journey to health. Don't obsess over whether or not the scale has inched downward ('cause let's be real — water weight alone can cause up to a 5-pound weight change in the course of a single day). Start using other methods in addition to the scale to monitor your progress along the way.
One of the greatest predictors of chronic disease is waist circumference. Waist circumference provides a quick glimpse at body fat distribution, and those with a greater proportion of fat around the middle tend to be at higher risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. As a general rule, most women should aim to keep their waist circumference measurement below 35 inches, while Asian women should aim to keep their measurement below 31 inches.
The great thing about monitoring waist circumference and other body measurements as you undertake your weight-loss journey is that you can see changes taking place that the scale might not reflect, particularly if exercise is a big part of your new life.
Tip: Muscle is denser than fat so as you build muscle, you might weigh the same as you've always weighed, but your body becomes physically leaner. Measurements allow you to physically monitor these changes in a way the scale doesn't account for.
Instead of zeroing in on the scale, focus on building your endurance and become more active each day.
Having worked in the health and fitness field for 10 years, I'm convinced most people are less active than they think they are. There are very specific recommended guidelines for physical activity, which actually make it quite easy to monitor your progress.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults perform the following:
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise each week (walking, cycling, gardening, etc.) — the equivalent of just 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, five days per week.
- Strength training at least two times per week, focusing on exercises that target every major muscle group.
- Flexibility exercises at least two times per week to maintain and enhance range of motion.
- Functional fitness training to improve balance, coordination, agility, speed and power at least two days per week.
This sounds overwhelming at first — how the heck are you supposed to make time for 150 minutes of cardio, plus two to three days worth of strength, flexibility and functional fitness training? The good news is that it can be combined in a way to achieve all of the benefits in just 150 minutes of exercise a week. For instance, you can perform circuit strength training or high-intensity interval training a couple days a week to improve strength, cardiovascular fitness and functional fitness. On the other days, take a yoga or Pilates class to improve flexibility and functional fitness.
As you become more active, your endurance will increase. When this happens, paired with a healthy diet plan, other numbers (like how many inches are on your waistline) will start to decrease.
Tip: Keeping a fitness journal is a great way to monitor yourself. You don't have to spend lots of time writing everything down, but jot a note each day about your exercise frequency, intensity, time and type (F.I.T.T.) to monitor your progress.
Your energy level is a direct reflection of how you're treating your body, regardless of what the scale says. Those who eat right, exercise regularly and get enough sleep each night are giving their bodies the exact tools they need to function at an optimum level, which means they end up feeling mentally alert and excited to face the day.
Tip: While not every day is going to be a home run, flagging energy is a quick reminder that you might need to make a few adjustments. Even a 10-minute walk when you're feeling low can help get those feel-good endorphins pumping, putting you back in the right mental space to face the rest of your day.
This one's kind of like monitoring your body measurements, but it's a lot more fun! As you gradually get healthier, your body composition changes, and your body shape starts to shift, often in ways you aren't entirely expecting. Putting on a snug pair of jeans or a tight blazer once a week helps you physically monitor these changes in a motivating way. As that muffin-top begins to melt and your arms start to get leaner, you'll feel and look better in your clothes. That's a truly motivating benefit of your healthy lifestyle!
When I teach classes at a local university, I often hear myself saying, "There's so much more to fitness than one single measurement." Many people become a slave to their weight, fixating on a number that really provides very little information about a person's actual health status. That's why it's incredibly important to check in with your doctor to get a full physical. She'll be able to tell you your blood pressure, cholesterol panel and fasting blood sugar levels, each of which paints a clearer picture about what's going on inside your body, something the scale can never reflect.
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