April 27, 2010

I recently had a client who was convinced that she must be doing something wrong. Each morning, she stepped on the scale and for nearly a week, it hadn't budged. But based on her food journals, I knew she was on a losing track. I encouraged her to dig out some clothes she had "outgrown," preferably jeans or pants, and try them on. About 15 minutes later, she texted me with, "No way, still tight but they ZIP UP!"

I've blogged about the mystery of pounds before. In short, when you step on the scale, you're not just measuring fat. Your total body weight is made up of seven distinct things: 1) muscle 2) bone 3) organs (like your lungs, heart and liver) 4) fluids (including blood) 5) body fat 6) the waste inside your digestive tract you haven't yet eliminated and 7) glycogen (the form of carbohydrate you sock away in your liver and muscles as a back up fuel). In short, it's entirely possible to have lost body fat and see absolutely no difference on the scale because one of the other six components has increased (usually #s 4, 6 or 7, sometimes #1).

Inches are another story. Aside from changes caused by bloating and/or water retention, most parts of your body won't fluctuate much unless a) your fat cells are shrinking or swelling or b) your muscle mass is growing or dwindling. Changes in actual fat and muscle both tend to happen more slowly.

Bottom line: the closer you are to your weight goal, the slower you'll lose body fat. But a quarter pound of fat is the equivalent of a stick of butter, so even if that loss doesn't register on the scale, it can make a big difference in how you look and how your clothes fit!