If they work properly, the scales never lie. It’s true, you stand on them and they tell you how much you weigh. That’s called scale weight. And it’s easy. If you were 105kg two weeks ago, and now you’re 102kg, your nutrition plan is working, right? Well maybe, or maybe not, because that is only a small part of your weight loss story.
You know, scale weight is a bit like my four-year-old son. He often tells me part of a story, and then I’m supposed to magically figure out the rest. The reality is you can lose weight by burning fat, churning through muscle, getting dehydrated, taking a dump or slicing off a finger in the kitchen. That last way is a little extreme, but you get my drift. Burning fat and taking a dump are good, churning through muscle and getting dehydrated, not so much.
We all want to see those scale weight numbers coming down, but there are better ways to tell if your nutrition plan is working.
No more after-meal hunger pains
Junk food is highly processed, calorie-dense rubbish. Food companies have become pretty good at creating foods that taste amazing, and are highly addictive. Ever wondered why you can eat tin after tin of Pringles, but you’d be hard pressed to eat any more than a couple of hard-boiled eggs? As soon as you start eating this kind of food your brain goes, “I’ll have as much of that as you can get thanks”! Why? Well, it’s partly to do with the brain wanting the body to stock up on calorie-dense foods in case of famine. This is not good news for your scale weight or any other markers of success. Of course, there’s just one problem…there is no famine! And we’ve always got junk food in the cupboards. So, you just keep eating, and eating, and eating. And because it’s almost always made from high GI carbs, your body has to either use it as energy or stores it as fat straight away. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t see too many people doing high-intensity shuttle runs in the local park after they’ve smashed a bag of Skittles and a packet of chocolate biscuits. So, there’s usually more ‘storing’ than ‘using’ going on.
But, as you transition from processed foods to fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs and fish, you’ll find yourself getting full sooner, and staying full for longer. Your brain will say, “this food is awesome, and I’ve had enough for now to keep our body healthy and nourished thanks”. This feeling of being satisfied is what you’re aiming for, and the great thing is it’s a feeling you’ll experience almost immediately.
Bingo! You’ve struck the energy jackpot
Highly processed foods don’t give you the nutrients you need to boost your energy levels for long periods of time. Sure you might get a sugar hit that keeps you going for an hour or so. But as the saying goes, what goes up must come down, and the mid-morning or mid-afternoon crash usually coincides with you reaching for the muffin in your bag, or heading to the vending machine for a chocolate bar or can of soda (or both).
Imagine feeling energised all the time. No more waking up feeling as though you’ve just gone to bed. No more snacking on rubbish between meals to get you through the day. No more feeling like a zombie in front of the TV every night. No more telling your kids you don’t feel like playing with them, or telling your wife you’re ‘not in the mood’!
When you eat nutritious whole foods, you’ll experience an incredible change in your energy levels. You’ll get a great night of sleep and bounce out of bed in the morning. You’ll get from breakfast to lunch and lunch to dinner without feeling like you need a sugar hit to get you through. You’ll turn the tables and ask your kids what games they’d like to play before bed. And once they hit the hay, you’ll be ready to spend some quality time with the better half. Good food provides you with a steady stream of energy from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed. And that’s got to be better than the highs and lows of a processed food diet, right?
Sleep never felt so good
Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night is crucial to our health. It’s a vital tool in our fight against weight gain, and if you’re not getting enough quality sleep, you’re doing yourself a massive disservice.
Poor sleep can be the result of a huge number of factors.
- Maybe you’ve got too much stress in your life
- You drink too much alcohol or coffee of a night time
- There’s a newly born baby crying in the next room
- Hormones are changing as you age or recover from illness
- You’ve pushed yourself too hard at the gym and you can hardly move
What you eat plays a huge role in how well you are going to sleep. If you don’t eat nutritious foods full of quality proteins, fats, carbs, vitamins and minerals, your body will be working overtime instead of resting while you sleep. If you do eat well you’ll find yourself falling asleep easier, enjoying a longer and deeper sleep, and waking up feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead. And believe it or not, your scale weight will come down automatically.
Time for a new wardrobe!
There will come a time, often quite quickly, when that pair of ‘inspiration jeans’ you’ve been saving now fit properly. You’ve been keeping them as some sort motivational tool to ‘get fit one day’. Well, that day has arrived and you feel as proud as ever. And so you should, it’s a wonderful achievement.
When you lift weights, you gain muscle and burn fat. Now, one kilogram of fat takes up more space than one kilogram of muscle, which is why you may be getting smaller, but your weight may be staying the same, or even increasing. Of course, scale weight won’t tell you that. This is why your size and shape are far better indicators of progress than a number on the scales.
The pity party is over!
It’s hard to be in a good mood when you’re hungry. It takes a special person to be all smiles when their stomach is doing cartwheels. If you’re eating highly processed foods, you’ll go through the cycle of feeling full then hungry many times every day. That means there are going to be times when you’re happy, and times when you’re going to be grumpy.
Wouldn’t it just be better to feel satisfied all day and not go through that hungry/grumpy cycle? Eating nutritious foods will keep you feeling fuller for longer, and nourish your body to keep those chemical reactions going on in your brain running smoothly and efficiently.
You’ll recover from exercise much better
Now that we’ve got you working out several times a week, you’re going to feel some aches and pains in your body. This is natural and shouldn’t be used as an excuse to quit. When you lift heavy weights, you’ll experience micro tears in your muscles. This is a good thing because it helps to grow your muscles and make them stronger. But there’s a cost involved. There will be inflammation and as these tears repair, you’ll feel some pain and stiffness. As your body gets used to the increased workload, this pain will subside as the muscles repair quicker and the inflammation decreases.
Nutritious food helps to speed up recovery. Getting the right mix of proteins, carbs and fats to the muscles will help the repairing process and increase energy levels sooner. This means you’ll be able to exercise again sooner and push yourself harder. Depending on your body composition at the time, this may mean your scale weight stays the same, or even increases because you’ll be losing fat while gaining muscle at the same time. That’s a good thing.
You stop thinking about your food
There will come a point where eating healthy food is just a natural way of life. With restrictive diets, you have to constantly think about what food you have to prepare, and when you’re going to eat it. The food you eat isn’t enjoyable anymore, and the thought of preparing the meals you’ve been told to eat fills you with dread. This leads to a yo-yo effect of stopping and starting diets on a regular basis, your scale weight going up and down accordingly, and your desire to get healthy and stay slim is all over the place because of the short term success and rebounding weight gain cycle.
Eating nutritious whole foods is all about making smart choices. For me, I love chocolate brownies and caramel slices. And I never go to the movies without enjoying an ice-cream of some sort. But I do it knowing that most of the time I eat healthy food, so I have no guilt about the occasional treat. When you get to the point of not feeling guilty about enjoying your favourite treats occasionally, that’s when you know you’ve got your diet under control.
Don’t stress out about scale weight numbers
If you concentrate on the process, the result will take care of itself. By that I mean if you follow an exercise plan and eat nutritious foods, the body you want will take care of itself. No need to count calories, weigh your food or balance your macros, just eat whole foods and you’ll be well on your way to the body you want.
Over to you…