ASSESSING WEIGHT LOSS WITHOUT THE SCALE
When it comes to assessing weight loss, there are two main camps when it comes to how to assess progress. Some people live and die with the number on the scale, and some people say “screw the scale”. Here at Strive Fitness and Performance we are in the middle when it comes to assessments. On one hand, we help the majority of our clients change their mindset away from just using the scale to determine everything. On the other hand, we also use the scale as one of our many assessments.
Over the last couple of months, I realized that people only depend on the scale because that is the easiest to assess and that is what the majority of the media showcase as progress. Some people pair that up with dropping pant sizes which is a better indicator of progress. Most people, however, miss out on a huge way of assessing whether or not they are making progress. Most people don’t take into account how healthy their bodies are….And to be honest, if your body is not in a good place, you will certainly not get the desired results you are looking.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- People that have lost weight then regained it (if not more)
- People that feel like crap in their attempts to lose weight
- People that have tried every “diet” under the sun with no results
- People that really don’t even know where to start.
Majority of these people have gotten great results one way or another….Some are even eating clean and can’t seem to understand why their results have stopped.
To be fair, rarely is this the fault of the individual coming to me for help.
Take a moment and open another browser. Google “fat loss diet” and see how many ridiculous $10 eBooks are out there telling you that they can guarantee your results in 8 weeks.
The madness needs to stop. It is in large part why YOU, the person reading this blog, are stuck.
So how should I be assessing weight loss and my progress you may ask????
My goal is to help you understand your body a bit better – and hopefully how to make small adjustments using biofeedback first, and assessing weight loss second.
This approach is counter-culture to what is currently popularized by most articles which will recommend that you only make changes based on the scale.
But screw the scale, that thing will you drive crazy! You can read HERE why the scale fluctuates throughout the week and throughout the day
Let’s get into REAL results, SUSTAINABLE results – RESULTS that you can feel good about!
Biofeedback Marker #1 – Hunger
One of the first questions I ask my clients each week is how they feel….let’s call it the conversation starter
This is quickly followed by questions about hunger.
Let’s be very clear on something – hunger is inevitable in any dietary process. You are eating less calories than before….And hunger is the bodies response.
In fact, losing hunger is one of the SINGLE WORST THINGS you can observe in a dietary process.
You see, hunger is very strongly correlated with a metabolic response. Whether you are looking to lose weight, gain weight, recomp, or simply perform better – you should always be operating with a small degree of hunger.
Please note the use of words there – “small degree of hunger” – this is not an excuse for the BS starvation diets out there that want to rely on the fact that the hunger response is a good thing….that’s just nonsense.
So the question begs – are you HUNGRY? And how has hunger changed since your last assessment?
Let’s start with hunger by itself. If you aren’t hungry then we likely need to fix that. There are a few exceptions (early stages of a keto based diet, early stages of a long term fat loss diet), but for most we would like to create a mild hunger response.
In absence of a hunger response, first look at caloric intake and you will notice one of two things:
1 – calories are too high
2 – calories are dangerously too low
Seems odd that both ends of the spectrum can cause this, huh? I hear ya….
Let’s start with number 1, calories being too high. The fix here is simple, decrease calories (yes, that’s why they pay me the big bucks.) Typically I recommend dropping anywhere from 10-20% of total calorie intake, depending on the current surplus.
Unfortunately, scenario number 1 is rare, and scenario number 2 is all too common – people simply aren’t eating enough. (surprising right)
I’m not sure if this is from fear of food (and potential fat gain), or just simply lack of education – but it is absolutely the current trend.
The fix here is simple, but not easy to implement. First and foremost – more calories are needed – that’s clearly not rocket science, but it needs to be stated.
The real magic is in HOW we increase those calories, which can be done in one of two ways:
1 – increase daily caloric intake by 10-20%. This is the reverse of what we did in scenario number 1, and is very favorable for most people not eating enough. The depth of the current caloric deficit along with a current assessment of other metabolic factors is what will determine the degree of caloric increase.
2 – a strategic, periodic overfeed (refeed). This involves intentionally overfeeding on certain days (at given intervals) to help restore metabolic function while in a caloric deficit. This is usually part of a well controlled plan rather than going nuts one day and calling it a “cheat day”.
As with most things diet related – creating a current assessment is key. Take a look at how many calories you’re consuming, and what your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) is. If the gap seems extreme and you aren’t hungry – it’s probably time to start increasing calories.
Additionally, if you have been hungry in your journey and suddenly lost that hunger response, it is likely time to eat more for a few days (refeed).
Biofeedback Marker #2 – Sleep
Sleep may be the single most important factor to recovery that exists. I don’t care how good your training program is and how detailed you are with your nutrition, if you aren’t sleeping then you aren’t recovering!
But the intent of this is not to tell you to sleep, but rather to look at sleep as a biofeedback indicator.
So the question used in assessment is simple: “How has sleep quality changed?”
Are you someone that normally sleeps well and suddenly can’t?
If so, that is likely a sign of under recovery.
But how do we fix it?
There are 2 ways:
1 – Increase direct recovery protocols (food intake)
2 – decrease direct stressors (training volume/intensity)….Yes, You may have to tone down the amount of workouts (especially cardio)
As is usual, the real solution is usually a combination of both.
Start to pay attention to how your body reacts to what you do to it…It will tell you if it is happy. When you have a poor night’s sleep – note what the workout was that day and what other stressors were present that day. See if similar workouts become problematic moving forward, and if so then it’s clearly time to implement additional nutritional recovery on those days (post workout carbs).
Once again, knowing yourself, your periodization, your goals, and having a consistent assessment of what is going on is ESSENTIAL to making the right adjustments from biofeedback.
Truthfully this article could go on for days in reference to Bio Feed Back Markers but I will conclude with the hope that you understand assessment is far more than the number on the scale.
Real change happens from the inside out, and real coaching is about far more than physical changes.
How are you approaching your nutrition?