Thursday, 23 June 2011

15 Tips for Staying on Track: #6 - Understand your body

You will often hear people say that you should only weigh yourself once a week. Or once a month. Or every six weeks. Or not at all. While all of these statements have merit (particularly if you are the kind of person who is likely to become de-motivated by a perceived gain or lack of a loss), in my opinion, one of the keys to successfully getting healthy is to understand your body.

Michelangelo's David

Being of a scientific bent, I need to know how my body reacts to certain things, be it food, exercise, hormones, whether there’s an ‘r’ in the month, etc. So I have been weighing myself every day since I started this journey at the beginning of April.

I record my weight every day on a spreadsheet. I also annotate some of these entries; e.g. what I ate the day before, whether it’s ToM, whether I have increased my exercise, etc. Using this information in conjunction with my food and exercise diaries enables me to see how certain things affect my body.

For example, on May 29th I had halloumi for dinner; as it’s pretty high in sodium (and I’d forgotten to pre-soak it), I made sure I drank plenty of extra water but the next day my scales showed an increase of 4lbs! If I didn't understand my body, I could have been really upset about this; however, I knew it was only water-retention caused by the sodium-bomb I’d had the evening before, so I wasn't bothered by it. I kept on with the extra water, and the next day I’d dropped 3lbs of water weight. The day after, the other pound had gone too.

Increasing exercise will also lead to temporary water retention because muscles need water to repair themselves. Contrary to what a gazillion people will tell you, muscle is not heavier than fat – a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat! Muscle is denser than fat however, so it is correct to say that muscle weighs more than fat by volume; i.e. a pound of fat will take up more space than a pound of muscle, so a 200lb athlete will look far leaner than a 200lb couch potato!

People will also tell you, “Oh, you started exercising two days ago, so that 2lb gain is because you’ve built muscle.” This is also rubbish! Your body cannot repair and build muscle that quickly; that 2lb gain will be water retention – don’t knock it, this is your body working properly! As long as you you’ve stuck to your plan, you have nothing to worry about.

Once you understand how your body works and how it reacts to what you put into it, what you do to it, etc., it’s fine to ditch the scales; however, I find that that ever-decreasing number provides yet more tangible evidence that I am on the right path.

To help me see this even more clearly, I use a graph, which updates itself each time I log a weight entry. At a glance, I can see that while there may be peaks and troughs, there is a general downward trend. This makes me happy!

I also do the same for body fat percentage....partly because I am anally-retentive like that but also because actually, while my goal may be 161lbs, until I get closer to it, I have no way of knowing how realistic it is. It may be that at 161lbs, my body fat could be below 10%, which I don’t want, so by keeping track of it, I’ll better be able to assess my final goal. After all, I am aiming for a lean, fit and healthy body, not to be supermodel-skinny!


lor-artemis said...

Well said Nicole, I love your blog and find it very motivating in my weight loss journey. See you in the Lighten Up thread
Lor x

Nicôle said...

Thank you - I love receiving feedback, and it's always great when people say nice things! I'm really pleased that some of the stuff I write is actually useful to others!