10 Ways to Measure Weight Loss

Stepping onto a scale is not the best -- or even the most reliable -- means of assessing weight loss. Here are some other methods that may work better for you.
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The Scale

You've been sticking to your new eating plan and exercising regularly, and you've improved your overall attitude about staying healthy. You're feeling great; that is, until you step onto the scale and find your motivation deflating quicker than a balloon left in the sun too long. You can't believe it; after all your hard work you've gained two pounds! What's that all about?

Now before you go reaching for the Haagen-Dazs or sleep in through your morning cardio class, consider this: Stepping on the scale may not be the best way for you to assess your progress.

Why Scales Sometimes Lie

The scale measures weight -- not overall fitness-- and it doesn't differentiate between fat and muscle. Muscle is denser than fat and tends to weigh more.

Try to visualize this: Which weighs more, five pounds of feathers or five pounds of lead? Neither -- they both weigh five pounds -- but you're going to be looking at a whole lot of feathers. The same holds true for fat and muscle.

When exercise is a significant part of a weight-loss program, the scale can feel less like a friend and more like a foe, because it often reflects small gains (in muscle mass) before showing substantial losses (in fat). Exercise helps you to burn off plump, fluffy fat cells, while building dense, compact muscle tissue, and you may seem to gain before you lose. But don't despair: Over time, the scale will become a more faithful indicator of actual weight loss.

As rational as this explanation is, it doesn't lessen the impact of seeing that number on the scale, because a lot of emotions come into play each time we step onto it. "For most women who have dealt with [weight] issues, the scale just isn't a very supportive tool." says Marsha Hudnall, Director of Nutrition at Green Mountain at Fox Run, a weight-loss retreat for women in the mountains of Vermont where the philosophy is less about "How much do I weigh?" and more about "Why do I weigh what I do?"

 
Continued on page 2:  Muscle-Fat Ratio

 

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