Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Muscle vs Fat, and thoughts on the Weight Loss Journey

It seems every time I turn around, I hear someone saying that muscle weighs more than fat. Where did this come from? I remember thinking it - and being set straight by The World's Greatest Trainer (aka Tabitha), and still I can't figure out where that belief started. It's simply not true. One pound of muscle weighs EXACTLY the same as one pound of fat, it just takes up a whole lot less space. It's weight... weight doesn't change depending on what's being weighed. Muscle, fat, chicken, concrete... one pound is still one pound.

I have this local client, I call her my RockStar. She is incredibly dedicated, a super-hard worker, focused on her goals. And she hates her body. I get it - I really do. I've been there. There's nothing easy about the journey to lose a large amount of weight. NOTHING easy. Anyone who tells you that losing weight is simply about food and exercise is either ignorant or lying. It's a mind game that can and will mess you up more than anything else in  your life can. There is nothing worse, when you're trying to lose weight, than when you give it your all - every bit, leaving nothing on the table - you follow the meal plan, you do the work, the cardio - and... nothing. The scale doesn't budge, or if it does it goes the wrong way. It's disheartening, and infuriating. And it happens. 

We live in a world of instant gratification, where our belief that change should be fast and dramatic is reinforced by television shows like Biggest Loser, or folks we see on the internet who are dropping 180 lbs in a year. It's not realistic. Kudos to the Loser's, but don't think for one minute they're doing this in a healthy way - or that they're successful in keeping the weight off. Look to the track record there. Yes, some do. Most don't. Major kudos to the man who's lost that 180 and is still going. Talk to me in 5 years and let's see where he's at. I'm NOT saying these folks can't or won't keep the weight off, but the odds are stacked against them when the process doesn't take time - time to learn what a healthy lifestyle is, time to adjust from  former habits to 'losing weight' then on to living healthy and fit, time to retrain the brain and not just the body.

I know what it is to feel like nothing is changing, but change is more often slow and subtle.  My RockStar is struggling with that. I see her each week, and each week I see change. She doesn't. She thinks maybe she feels some progress, that clothes are a bit looser, that movement is a tad easier, but overall - there are no bells and whistles. Last week I was ill and couldn't meet with her, so today marked two weeks since I'd seen her, and in that time she was dealt a blow by the scale that she couldn't wrap her mind around. Thinking that something had gone wrong, I headed to our meeting this morning to troubleshoot and redirect. When I saw her I thought, "wait, what?". She looks smaller. Her face has more definition, her shirt was baggier. She has more muscle and less fat. There WAS change, but because of that damn scale, she lost her sense of victory, of progress, her fragile grasp on hope. My soon-to-be-Tiny Dancer is well on her way to reaching her goals, but that stupid piece of household gadgetry is breaking her heart.

She poured out that heart on her own blog, writing a letter to her body. Her words shredded me, as I remember feeling the same during my own journey. Losing weight, transforming a life, it's not about simply watching the scale drop. It's about razing the building and starting fresh. It's brutal, and total. While I wept for her pain, I know - I KNOW that she will succeed. While this weigh in hurt, she's committed to the process. AND... the scale weight is not the betrayal she assumed it to be. Again, she has lost fat, has gained muscle. And NO, muscle does not weigh more than fat, but it DOES take up less space. Maybe the scale didn't show the progress, but it's there - I can SEE it! I wish I could lend her my eyes so that she could look and see, too. Her body is changing. It might be slow and subtle, but it is changing.

We (my RockStar and I) are taking the next four weeks to change up our strategy. Every so often you've just gotta shake things up ;-) and that's what we'll be doing. We've made some diet changes, some exercise changes, talked some things through, and we are loaded for bear. ;-) She's going to own these next four weeks, and while it will be hard and intense, it's worth it. At the end of this phase, she'll be four weeks closer to reaching goal; have four weeks of changes to add up and analyze. Four weeks of proving to herself that she's in it to win it. I already know she'll win. And I'm excited for the day when she knows it, too.

So what's the point in sharing all this? 

A - Muscle does NOT weigh more than fat. Stop saying that. Lol.

B - The scale is not the final word. I've recommended for years that if you're on a weight loss journey, take photos and measurements. Once a month, take a new pic, preferably in the same outfit. You don't have to show them to anyone, you don't even have to look at them (just make sure they're in focus). Take the pic and stick it in a folder. The day will come when you line them up, side by side, and YOU WILL SEE THE CHANGE. To this day, I still pull mine out periodically to remind myself of what I've accomplished (and that I never, ever want to go back). Give yourself that gift, even though right now it seems like a punishment.  I promise you it's not and one day you'll be glad you have those photos.

C - The journey is hard, so very hard. Change is not always bright, shiny and supersonic. It takes time to make lasting changes, but it's time well spent. Don't short-change yourself. Give yourself the time it takes to reach your goals so that you can KEEP your goals.


  1. Chelle, I love reading your thoughts because your experience with weight and body image are similar to mine (minus the contest experience), but you express your ideas so much better. When I am sane and rational I could easily share positive messages and encouragement with my friends as you do.

    But more often I identify with your RockStar client. Those of us who have lost large amounts of weight really struggle. Well, I can only speak for myself. It IS absolutely a mind game and it takes daily focus to fight this battle.

    I love that you seem to have come to a peaceful place in your journey. I hope to get there one day.

    Sorry to ramble, but I just wanted to let you know your posts are very much appreciated! Please keep speaking from your heart :)

    1. Thank you so much, Jacqui!
      The peaceful place in my journey is usually just a rest stop between neurosis' LOL. ;-) You know what I mean. There will always be struggles, but also victories. Prepping for my daughter's wedding, landed me back fighting against body dysmorphia... sometimes that ugly beast still rares its head, but there are more good days than bad. More positive than negative. More learning and less failing. That's the other side of the journey. It doesn't stop when we successfully lose the weight, or even when we successfully keep it off. Life is a series of lessons and how we meet them determines how much "peaceful place" we enjoy. Sharing my own experiences, and sharing in my RockStar's, help me keep hold of that peace. Sharing with others makes the journey more beautiful and I'm so grateful to you for sharing with me. I appreciate you, too!

  2. My daughter is doing great she's 19 works very hard at her weight loss losing 14 lbs in a Month. However, my Nephew is a personal trainer who is very hard on her telling her she should have lost more weight than that in a month. What should she do because his comments tend to discourage her.

    1. Congrats to your daughter!! She's making amazing progress! Realistic weight loss is 1.5 lbs a week... 2 lb a week is considered aggressive. She's blown both away by losing 3.5 lb a week (breaking it down into weeks). Unfortunately, a side effect of shows like Biggest Loser is that people think that they should/need to lose huge amounts of weight... it's both unsustainable and unhealthy. Look at the number of former contestants on that show alone who have not only gained back the weight they lost, but gained more on top of it. While I never like to call out a trainer - there are some truly wonderful ones, but... your nephew needs to congratulate her on her amazing accomplishments and encourage her to be healthy, fit, and happy. She should be applauded and supported, NOT berated! She has done more than "good enough" - she ROCKED it! I'd further mention that big weight loss numbers are rarely consistent. The body adjusts quickly to what we're doing and the female body in particular will FIGHT to hoard body fat. Your daughter should remain positive and consistent in her hard work and clean eating, and use methods other than the scale to help her see the fantastic changes she's bringing into her life. Photos and measurements are great ways to see non-scale victories! I wish her all the best, and encourage her to keep on keeping on! She's doing great!! Anyone saying otherwise should just shhhhh! ;-) Best Wishes!!!

  3. I know what it is to feel like nothing is changing, but change is more often slow and subtle. My RockStar is struggling with that. I see her each week, and each week I see change. She doesn't. She thinks maybe she feels some progress, that clothes are a bit looser Fitness Deals

    1. It's a challenge to help folks see those changes, but it's worth every effort when you see that light go on in their head, and they get a glimpse of how powerful the change is. I love that part ;-) Congrats to your RockStar!

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