A frustrated client vented to me this week about her slow results with weight loss. She had been diligent with her workouts, seeing progress in strength and stamina, and even gotten a compliment at the gym. But her bathroom scale told a different story, and her clothes still felt tight. She felt like given the effort she was putting in, she should be losing weight faster. I agreed. She had been working hard, and she should be experiencing faster results. As much as we fitness professionals would love to provide a scientific and logical answer for why this happens, sometimes we’re as stumped as you are. The human body is a tricky thing.
She was in a funk about it for the rest of the day. Suddenly she doubted her progress, as if she had imagined her workouts getting easier or the energy she had never had before. It was remarkable how quickly she had transitioned from celebrating another day of passing on the office snacks to feeling defeated and confused.
I asked if I could issue a challenge, and suggested she take her eyes off the prize for a while, and just enjoy the instant results she was experiencing every day: the endorphins, increased energy, and personal satisfaction for eating healthfully. I wanted her to take her focus away from having the outcome and put it on doing the things.
“Doing the things,” is the foundation of progress. Consistently doing the things – the action steps — that lead to the outcome is an almost guaranteed path to success and happiness. In this case, the things are good old fashioned healthy living: eating the right amount of wholesome foods and getting some exercise. As I wrote last week, the payoff of these simple tasks is immediate and transformative. Enjoy that! Are you ready to take your eyes off the prize and enjoy the ride for a while? Here’s how.
Get off of the scale. I’ve seen many good days ruined by stepping on a scale for validation. Proceed with caution. A scale is one way to measure a change in body composition, but there is a lot more to the story than your weight. You can create a healthier relationship with your scale – or choose to break up with it completely – by taking a look at the whole picture.
The amount that your body weighs changes throughout the day, week, and month depending on many factors. Your level of hydration, hormonal state, sleep quality, stress levels, and what you ate for dinner last night all contribute to what those three numbers are. If you use a scale to maintain your weight, give yourself a range of three to five pounds that you are comfortable with and don't worry about your weight until it is above that threshold for a few days.
Focus on habits, not outcomes. Ideally, the things we do to lose weight and maintain weight loss are the same things: eating sensibly, using moderation, and exercising regularly at a challenging level. These habits are the foundation of both outcomes and only vary in intensity based on how our goals change over time. Sometimes establishing and maintaining these healthy habits can seem like work because they require a certain level of planning and discipline.
But, the rewards are almost instantaneous: the endorphins of exercise, the energy of healthy eating, and sense of personal pride in taking care of ourselves kick in right away! Why wait for the scale to show up to the party when you can feel great now? Focus on what you are doing to live healthier, and you won’t care as much whether that hunk of plastic agrees with you.
Use more than one method of measuring results. The fact that my client felt stronger, more energetic, and that her results were noticed by others was a big indication that she was doing the right things to lose weight even if the scale’s report was underwhelming. Before stepping on the scale, try on a pair of pants that were snug a month ago. How do they fit? If the size of your body is not increasing, then the number on the scale is just an illusion!
I asked my client to commit to a month of focusing on the doing of the things – instead of the having of the outcome – before she stepped on a scale again. I want her to weigh what matters: the consistency and intensity of her workouts, the quality and quantity of the food she eats, and the opportunities she takes to be proactive about changing her habits. I invite you to do the same and enjoy having the outcome right now.