PEOPLE ALWAYS TALK about losing weight. What they should do is to forget about weight loss and focus instead on fat loss. The scale is your enemy, and the only things you can really trust are the mirror and your clothes (or an accurate bodyfat measurement system – please note the “accurate”).
As I covered in this blog post, crash diets take weight off but they strip off both muscle and fat. Any weight regained after the diet is usually fat, not muscle, so crash dieters progressively end up fatter even if they weigh the same at the end of the diet process as they did when they started.
So the objective shouldn’t be weight loss. It needs to be fat loss while maintaining or even better, gaining some muscle, but dieters get totally obsessed with the scales, watching them with the intensity of a buzzard circling a dying critter in the desert.
In the ideal world, people looking to lose weight wouldn’t be allowed near a scale more than once a month or so, because the results can be misleading and demotivating. This applies doubly to the fancy bodyfat measuring electronic scales because they’re both inaccurate and inconsistent. Dieters (I hate that word) hit plateaus all the time, periods of time when nothing much is changing, which means that the result of a close encounter with the scale can be something like this: “I put in all that hard work and only lost 100 grams? Flag this! Time to head for the ice cream shop.”
The best ways to measure bodyfat are hydrostatic weighing or DEXA scans but they’re complicated, expensive, not easily repeatable and just can’t be done at the local gym. Skinfold calipers can offer a reasonably accurate and consistent way to measure bodyfat as long as the ongoing measurements are done by the same person and that person is someone who knows what they’re doing.
The easiest way of all to gauge fat loss is to just look in the mirror and to trust your clothes. That pair of jeans that’s too tight? Keep trying them on and when you fit into them, you’ll know that you’re making progress – it’s as easy as that. The mirror is the other hyper-reliable indicator of progress as long as you can be objective about your appearance – what you see there simply doesn’t lie. ASHLEY KRAMER