When the number doesn’t move

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT

The decision to make changes in daily habits is a powerful one, difficult at times, but ultimately one that moves you in a positive direction. Once there is evidence of success, even baby steps can seem like giant leaps.  For many of my clients, being able to see the payoff of their hard work in the gym is thrilling, and is reason enough to keep returning for more each and every week.

Several of my clients have entered The Jewish Light / JCC’s “Lighten Up” weight loss challenge. It is very exciting to track their progress, and they have enjoyed a successful first few weeks.  Every once in a while, however, we hit a snag: while they tell me their clothes are definitely feeling looser, the number on the scale hasn’t budged.

How can this be?  The answer lies in the science of body composition.  Weight loss is not the same as “slimming down”. It is indeed possible to get thinner without actually seeing a change on the scale.  For those individuals who have prudently coupled a new meal plan with an exercise regimen, body fat may be lost as lean muscle mass develops.  Lean muscle mass is very dense tissue, and as such will contribute somewhat to that number on the scale.  However, the advantage to additional lean muscle mass on one’s body is that its presence increases daily metabolic levels, rendering the body a virtual “lean burning machine”! Actual weight may stay the same, even as inches are shed, usually observed in clothes fitting differently — either looser where body parts are beginning to respond to dietary changes, or perhaps tighter where muscles are starting to bulge!  This is a sign that progress is being made in the right direction. Acknowledging that there is a difference between losing actual weight and losing body fat might help you interpret your results, and may ultimately affect how you view the changes occurring in your body.

Striking the optimal balance between toning up and eating properly to shed body fat takes time, but it is indeed a worthwhile endeavor.  While on this journey, try paying more attention to how your energy level is higher, your outlook is brighter, and above all, how great you feel, and let the number on the scale take care of itself. The results will be worth the “weight”!