How can you really measure success with a habit based or long-term nutrition program? Well, for starters you can get off the scale. The scale is a cheap tool that measure one tiny part of the equation. Sure you “want to lose weight” but if you ever been through one of our No Sweat Intros or goal setting sessions, you know we don’t stop there. Why do you want to lose weight……and why is that important……….and who does that effect………are just a few of many questions we ask to get to the root of the goal.
What if we didn’t have scales? Imagine a world without the calculation of weight. We would just refer to things as heavier or lighter in comparisons to others. Would this make us not care about our health? Well some do and some don’t, but the “scale” would not be the deciding factor. It is a good tool to continue measuring progress. But the end goal should never be a number on the scale. The end goal should result in other variables that lead to a happy and healthy lifestyle. Things that improve the quality of life.
Being of a certain weight has zero benefits in life. Being within certain health markers such as body fat, activity levels, sleep, and happiness have a direct effect on your life. Now the funny thing is when you focus on the latter, your weight will fall into the range that allows all those things to happen.
Sure it’s ok to check your weight every 3-4 weeks as a tool to make sure your staying on track. But obsessing over it every few days is just silly. I’ll be honest, in my 10 years as a fitness professional i’ve seen the same patterns repeated with almost every client that has been focused on fat loss.
First we start a new program, we take some objective measurements like your weight and bodyfat and then get started often with nutrition and fitness together. This elicits a huge change in their body. Usually when things are new and hot we follow them to the T. So your drinking more water, your exerting yourself more, and you’ve probably eliminated a lot of inflammatory type of foods. 3 days go by and even though we told you not to, you measure your weight again at home this time………5lbs! Awesome this stuff is working! I’ll lose 10 this week and be 60lbs down by the end of 6 weeks and be at my “goal weight” 1st problem being that you switched scales, there all different…….everyone of them. The only way to stay consistent is to use one scale.
Your so happy about your 5lbs down in just a few days, this is going to be great! Truth is, you really didn’t even follow it 100% because you took your kids to a fast food restaurant on saturday. But you ordered the chicken………and had a few fries from their meal……….and finished their milkshake, can’t let it go to waste and it was only a few drinks. Right?
You continue to secretly measure yourself through the next 2 weeks. Your coach is aware, but we can’t keep you from getting on that damn scale everytime you go to the bathroom now. You mention things like “im down 10 lbs” every time we meet for a workout. But the truth is, your not. You didn’t burn 10 lbs of fat in a few workouts just like you didn’t gain a extra 50 overnight. Its a collection of habits over time that make real change. Were gonna say “good job” because we do celebrate success, but underneath we know what’s about to happen in our official weigh in the next week. Your 10lbs is a illusion. Maybe you rounded your first number down and new number up, maybe you used that crappy .25 cent scale at the mall, and maybe just maybe………..you made some of that stuff up because you WANT to see results so bad.
The problem is with most peoples nutrition mindset is that you want to SEE results, but what you need is to FEEL them. The scale is a liar!
Success in fat loss is all about playing the long game. Especially when combined with a fitness program like crossfit. We are lifting heavy weights to get stronger, and moving alot to burn calories. The stronger we are, the muscle we have and the more we can move. The more muscles we have the more calories it takes to move those muscles, the more we move those muscles the more calories we burn. The more we burn the more fat we lose…….It’s science.
If you deplete yourself in nutrition you will lose “weight”, but muscles are weight too. So if your burn all your muscle up by working out and not re-feeding them they will not be able to move as quickly and your food will be stored as bodyfat instead of rebuilding muscle tissue. You’ve just experienced a “metabolic decline” and your on a road to the skinny fat, or “i just can’t lose weight”, or it “must by by thyroid” camps. I’ve wrote many other articles on nutrition you can check out, and of course im always available for nutrition consults, but in today’s article im gonna give you 6 ways to make sure your nutrition program is working without getting on the scale everyday.
1. You feel satisfied after meals
Does it ever feel like you’re hungry all the time? Like, you know you need to “get control”, but you can’t seem to bring yourself to actually close the bag of chips or put the cookie down.
As we digest our food, the gut sends signals to the brain about how much energy we’ve consumed to trigger satiation (the feeling of fullness) so we know when we’ve had enough. The unfortunate things is that calorie dense sugar infused, processed snacks and foods that are abundant and easily accessible can set back 1000’s of years of human evolution. Yes, one bag of cheetos or a cinnamon roll is enough to throw your natural hunger cues. While these foods may have a high energy content, there actual nutrition content and overall volume of consumption is low. These foods fail to tell the brain that were full, causing us to continue eating them and adding a surplus of energy that can only be stored as body fat.
What progress looks like:
With your new nutrition plan, you’re eating slowly. Choosing fresh foods. Leaving less room in your diet for processed foods that rev the appetite and never seem to fill you up.
Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, beans, and legumes are taking up new space in your body, nourishing you, helping you feel satisfied. They signal to your gut and brain that It’s OK. We are OK. We are safe and comfortable and fed. We can stop now.
Imagine, for the first time, feeling “full”. Not stuffed. Just satisfied. Feeling like you’ve had enough.
Your gut and brain are calm. No panic. No restless pacing to the pantry. You’re just… done. Without any worry.
Yep, this is all possible. In fact, this is what you’ll start to experience once your nutrition (and exercise) plan is on track. It’s an early sign of progress you can sense into even before you lose any weight.
2. You have more energy
Do you wake up naturally? Or do you dread the alarm clock every morning, how many snoozes does it take? Maybe you even set your clocks faster because you know your constant tiredness will set you behind (sidenote: this tactic does not work for long) Maybe you can’t remember a time when you didn’t feel exhausted.
Mid-afternoon, you need a energy drink and sugar hit to keep your eyelids propped open. A few times you caught your self drifting off while sitting at a red light! Soccer practice after work with the kids, perfect time to catch a nap. (and miss important moments) and by 7pm you’re crashing on the couch in front of the TV. Your brain feels like mush and your body like molasses.
Maybe your brain and body are getting too much processed food and too much sugar; maybe you’re borrowing energy from the future with stimulants.
Maybe you’re not getting enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Even small deficiencies in certain nutrients can drain your energy and fog up your focus.
What progress looks like:
One day, you wake up one minute before your alarm. Your eyes are actually open. You even feel… kind of… happy?
You don’t need seven shots of espresso throughout the day just to cope with your work inbox. You pay attention, even during the 3pm accounting meeting.
When you take your kids to the playground after dinner, you find yourself clambering up the climbing wall and slithering down the slide along with them. Back at home, your comfy chair feels lonely and your TV abandoned.
A good nutrition plan gives you energy — constant, steady, all-day energy rather than a brief buzz and a crash. If you get it right, you’ll start experiencing this over time. Sometimes even before the scale needle starts to move.
3. You’re sleeping better
You know those nights when you just can’t seem to fall asleep? Or when you toss and turn in a weird, hallucinogenic, sleeping-but-not-sleeping state? Maybe you’ve chalked up your constant restlessness as “normal” or maybe its something you need a pill for. There can be many reasons for poor sleep: stress, aging, hormonal changes, being a new parent, getting too much light late at night, jet lag, and so on. But before you drop a few g’s on a sleep study, sign a 30 year payment plan for the newest mattress, or hit up your local drug store for the newest lucid-dream inducing OTC drug. Lets put some focus on what’s going in your mouth.
Nutrition and exercise can play a role. For instance, if you diet too stringently, over-train (or under-recover), amp yourself up with tough workouts, or over-eat heavy meals late at night, you may not sleep well.
You may drink to much alcohol and caffeine. You may not get enough protein (to make the right neurotransmitters), or enough vitamins and minerals.
You may also have disrupted hormones (such as cortisol, growth hormone, thyroid hormone, and sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone) from stress and poor eating habits, all of which are important for good and restful sleep.
What progress looks like:
Now, with your nutrition plan, you’re getting enough good stuff to make the brain chemicals you need.
You’ve switched to half-glasses of wine with dinner, and — thanks to your newfound energy — laid off the afternoon espresso. Speaking of dinner, it’s a smaller portion that doesn’t leave you breathing in little huffs and give you nightmares about being chased by cheese.
In short, your body is no longer in an always-on-battle-stations-go state of chemical panic.
All of a sudden, you seem to wind down an hour before bedtime without a problem. You follow your sleep ritual and conk out easier than ever.
Recovery and sleep are essential for your health, mental clarity, performance, and weight loss. Prepare your self with the best tools and insure a good nights sleep with a solid nutrition program.
4. Your clothes feel just a little looser (or tighter)
Today’s the day. You reach into your closet, into the back, for that piece of clothing. You know, the one that you wore at that one christmas party 4 years ago……it looked so good back then. You’ve tried to wear it again in the past but unless your sucking it in, puffing up your chest, and maybe even wrapped in saran wrap underneath……you just aint getting it on…….not in a way that looks flattering at least.
And then, Wow. It fits. Not just suck-it-in-and-suffer fits. But, like, really fits. It feels good. It looks good. No pulling fabric, no weird wrinkles, no strangling collars, no bulges of buttons or belts or bra straps.
This is the number one identifier. Better than a scale, a bf measuring device, or a tape measure. What once was snug on our body, no longer isn’t. And it’s because you’ve removed some of that extra layer you were having to squeeze in there.
What progress looks like:
Muscle and bone are denser than body fat. When we build this lean mass, we often get heavier but smaller (at least in certain areas).
If you’re male, you may find your shoulders broadening, chest filling out, and sleeves are tighter…….you may even find out the pants are a little tighter in the ass, but looser in the waist!
If you’re female, you may find that your scale weight goes up but your clothing size goes down.
I won’t apologize for you having to buy a new wardrobe, but unlike that old christmas party outfit, we won’t be going back to the fat clothes………go ahead and get rid of those.
5. You’re stronger and have more endurance
If you’re reading this, chances are high that your doing crossfit or just started it. We know all about performance and tracking. It’s a staple in our program. I often tell people that your nutrition is just as important as the physical training. The problem is that working out hard (especially crossfit) is fun, it’s not hard to convince someone to do something that’s healthy for them when its releasing dopamine giving you a high intensity buzz, while hanging out with friends, and has a immediate and direct result on your health, mood, and performance. Most high inducing social gatherings that include food are not things that contribute to your fitness. Such as going out for drinks, concerts, bbq’s, etc. Not that you can’t do those things and stay healthy, but peer pressure makes it hard.
What progress looks like:
- You’re using the same weight with more range of motion.
- When you started crossfit we were constantly queing you to go lower in the squat. It felt like it wasnt possible, but now your understanding what full range of motion feels like. And it feels amazingly better and more controlled then those choppy reps where you hovered around parallel for 4 seconds watching for a look of satisfaction on the coaches face.
- Your muscles aren’t as sore.
- Intense exercise and new movements create microdamage — tiny tears in muscle fibers — that we must rebuild. This process of repair is good — it’s what helps us get stronger, fitter, and more muscular — but in the early stages, it hurts. Inflammation goes up; you might get stiffness and swelling from fluid rushing in to help heal the damage. As you progress, and give your body lots of nutrients to rebuild, this inflammation decreases and the repair process speeds up.
- You can do more work overall.
- Whether it’s running, swimming, or cycling longer distances; lifting more weight for a longer workout; scrambling up a higher and tougher wall; or playing an extra round of tennis or golf; you’re simply able to do more stuff, more often. Good nutrition has improved your recovery and energy levels.
- You’re fresher and recover better.
- Again, you’re giving your body the stuff it needs to do its job of making you stronger, faster, better, and fitter. Your cells are sucking in oxygen, dumping waste products, making more enzymes, and overall high-fiving each other.
6. It feels like a lifestyle not a diet
restriction diets just don’t work, you have to embrace the lifestyle because…..well, you have to do it the rest of your life. If given the option of living restricted and having a constant carrot dangled for motivation OR living unrestricted and constantly motivated, I hope you would chose the latter. And that’s exactly what a diet does. It dangles the idea of, restrict these foods now and over indulge later. The lifestyle is so busy incorporating healthy foods and eating till your satisfied that you don’t even have the cravings you had before. If a b-day comes up and you want a cupcake, go ahead. Chances are that you won’t finish it, if you’ve been eating healthy for awhile now. Sugar and processed foods will start to lose their control over you. And even though your stressed out at 6 year old pizza party, your lifestyle choices and healthy habits have led you to not even be tempted. In fact you not only not tempted but your actually turned off by the idea of indigestion, inflammation, extra fat, or the way it will make you feel in tomorrow’s workout. You’ve reached full circle, where your current habits and lifestyle is prioritized over the short lived enjoyment of indulging in crappy foods.
And there you have it. I’m not against the scale, it’s a great tool. But like anything else, its used as just a tool and not the single modality of fitness or nutrition. In fact, were in the planning stages of adding a top of the line INBODY weight and bf measuring station at Basin CrossFit as part of our intake and nutrition program right now. But, I can promise we will not be just jumping on this thing daily and making daily decisions based on that. It will help us decide the proper route for individuals and help keep us accountable!
Basin CrossFit is a lifestyle that makes it fun in the gym, but improves your quality of life OUTSIDE the gym!