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    Measuring Fat-Loss Progress

    There it sits.  Mocking.  Foreboding.  Daring me to step on and check on my "progress".

    Some years ago, however, I discovered that the scale is really a poor indicator of progress when it comes to losing weight.  There are a million variables that come into play when it comes to physical weight that make any significant day-by-day information all but impossible to obtain.  Certainly I can step on the scale right now (something I actually did before sitting down to write this), but what am I going to learn.  According to the scale I weigh 199.5 right now.  Since my scale saves my current weight against my previous weight, I have learned that I gained 2.5 pounds in the last few days.


    You mean all of those decisions to drink water and not soda, eat greens and lean meats instead of fast food - those decisions actually gained me 2.5 pounds?  I'm actually going backwards?  Screw that!  I'm quitting now!

    Well, maybe not.  Let's analyze the facts here.  The last time I weighed in there were a couple of things that were different.  For instance, when I weighed myself a few days ago I was wearing nothing but my skivvies.  Tonight I had on pants, and socks (in addition to my knickers).  That in itself might be good for a half pound or so.  So what about the other 2 pounds?  Well, the last time I weighed myself, I did it first thing in the morning after a shower.  After an 8-hour fast, my stomach was empty.  The same cannot be said of my weigh-in a few minutes ago, since I've been eating my (clean) meals and drinking water all day.  All of that intake hasn't been consumed by my body, so I weigh more now than I did a few days ago.  If I weigh myself tomorrow morning (which I will do for comparison sake), chances are the 2.5 pounds will have gone their way (in addition to a little more weight).


    As I get further into this weight loss adventure, other variables will come into play.  For example, in time I will appear to stop losing weight as I begin developing lean muscle mass while losing fat.  The scale will tell me that I am losing marginal amounts of weight, making me want to tighten my diet even more.  That would be counter-productive if the actual process is one of muscle gain and fat loss occurring at the same time.  Another example - once a low body fat percentage has been achieved, I could actually gain weight from month to month as I develop muscle mass without losing much fat.  If I use the scale as the sole determiner of progress, I will be nothing more than frustrated by my "lack" of progress.

    In order to gauge progress, I will draw from a number of different pieces of information.  A good starting point is the change in the way I feel.  While this is not the best indicator of progress at first (mainly because my body feels a little sluggish due to caffeine withdrawal and the significant reduction in caloric intake), it will become a very good indicator of progress as my body grows in strength.

    Another good progress test can be the clothing test.  Do my clothes fit better?  Are they loose compared to a week or two ago?  Does a 36" waist pant feel better than a 38" waist pair?  Can I actually wear the pair of pants I bought a year ago but never wore because my butt was too fat?  Does my belt need to be tightened to 4 holes instead of just 3?  These are definite, tangible indicators of progress.

    One of my all-time favorite measures of progress is the third-party assessment.  This check of progress occurs whenever you see someone after a month or two of working out and their first comment after greeting you is, "have you lost weight?"  Oh, yeah.  That's the feeling.  Right there.

    There are higher-tech methods of measuring progress - body fat percentage via caliper measurements or hydrostatic immersion - but nothing hits home like fitting into your high school drum major uniform or having someone look at you with a bit of a squint as they say, "you look different."


    Be well.

    ** Update - I weighed in this morning at 195.5, 4 pounds lighter than I weighed last night.  The only change between then an now is 8 hours of sleep and a couple trips to the bathroom.  I plan on sticking to a once-a-week plan for weighing myself.  I'll weigh in on Monday mornings, keeping the crazy day-to-day fluctuations from causing frustration.