UPDATE 4-13-2014: The below blog has been one of the most popular entries on My Trainer Chris. I’ve expanded on this topic here:
The day arrives where you decide that you want to get in shape, drop the excess body fat and generally try to live a healthier life. You exercise, eat the right foods in the right amounts (OK, most of the time you do) and you do your level best to stay motivated and positive about your new lifestyle choices.
Congratulations! You are awesome. You make each day your own and are taking back your life.
Like every other person starting out on a new fitness plan, you often consult a device that becomes the alpha and omega of your progress.
When I say often, I really mean “Wayyyyyyyy too much.”
The scale only knows one thing: “How much does that thing on top of me weigh?” First, let us presuppose the scale is accurate to the half-pound. It will read ###.50 and you really are ###.50.
What the scale does not take into account is (1) How much is fat mass vs. lean mass? (2) How much is the bone, organ or fluid content contributing? (3) How much is food that hasn’t passed through the digestive system?
So the scale only provides a small glimpse of the overall you. Ideally you have more than one source of data to see your progress. In my current practice I use the following (1) Scale Weight (at my gym for official readings, the clients home scale for unofficial checkups) (2) OMRON Bio-Impedence Bodyfat Reader (not my favorite, but is required by my employer) (3) Girth Measurements (4) Skinfold Calipers and my highly unscientific, yet brutally honest (5) Favorite clothes test.
How can a person somehow lose inches off their body, yet somehow remain near the same body weight? For some people (including some trainers) this seemingly does not compute. The old line ” Bro…a pound of muscle weighs MORE than a pound of fat.” is illogical simply because a pound is a pound. The fact is, a pound of muscle takes up less volume than a pound of fat. Imagine if I filled a garbage bag with a pound of steaks and another with a pound of marshmallow fluff…which bag would appear bigger? (Stop with the “Beefy vs Fluffy” jokes….I just caught the humor in my comparison.)
Now if the above image was too gross for you, allow me to put it this way….
The same lady at 155 lbs? These types of images are used to sell weight loss products and I greet them with skepticism. Note the obvious differences in lighting, posture, the quality and fit of the clothing, the facial expressions and hairstyle, the seeming forced protrusion and inhalation of the stomach. Many before and after images are taken on the same day. In the case of fat loss products using bodybuilders as models, the “after” photo could be an image of the bodybuilder in-season at a single digit body fat while the before could be them off-season when they are bulking themselves up.
Trainers: Yes, this has happened to me….several times as a matter of fact. Your clients work their butt off, you put together a great program, they comply fully in both the diet and exercise components and you still get a low weight loss number. It can be frustrating.
My suggestions are as follows: If your client has lost inches, but not pounds they are, or at least partly have experienced better energy levels, improved kinesthetic awareness and coordination, strength and cardio improvements, new found confidence and in some cases better morale. If enough inches have come off, they are, or will soon be buying new clothes or altering their old clothes for a better fit.
Remind the client that it is the reduction of bodyfat, not body weight nor BMI is the first matter of importance. Bodyfat and circumference of the waistline are both indicators of health risks,
Furthermore remind them that only the client (and trainer if applicable) see what the scale says, EVERYONE see’s what the inches say.