Friday, March 23, 2012

Science, not magic

I read a blog a few days ago that has been nagging at me ever since. The writer said she had been following the P90X plan for six weeks, including the official diet. She was happy with their strength gains, but frustrated at her lack of weight loss. Nothing up to that point bothered me. Many people focus on the scale, rather than how clothes fit, or how they feel.

My problem started when she complained that she jeans were the same size and she still has a muffin top. She elaborated that the P90X trainers were "surprised by her lack of results." That complaint didn't add up for me. If she was truly stronger than when she began, she must have increased her muscle mass. Since her weight remained steady, she must have lost an equal amount of fat mass. Since muscle volume is less than fat, she had to have decreased her volume and measurements should reflect that.

I have been racking my brain to come up to explain her situation without defying scientific fact.
1. She actually does weigh less, but it's not enough for her to consider it a "real" loss.
2. The scale hasn't moved, but she is losing inches, just not enough to make her happy, or in places she considers vital. Maybe her thighs are smaller and she's only considering her waist measurement.
3. She's using a composite measurement like body wrap companies do. Maybe her waist is smaller, but her biceps are larger, offsetting the difference.
4. There were errors in the measurements or scale.
5. She thinks she should be skinny and it should happen immediately and isn't happy that it didn't happen in six weeks.

I see this scenario play out often in how people talk about weight loss. They act as if it's magic and beyond understanding. It's not. It is science. A pound of muscle has a consistent volume from one person to the next. A Calorie is a fixed unit of energy, nothing mysterious. People also get discouraged when the weight comes off a pound a week, not all overnight. The weight didn't show up overnight and it probably was gained more slowly than a pound a week, too.

I am very similar to this blogger. I know that I should be happy that I'm stronger and have visible biceps. I know that I should love that I'm using the smallest notch on my belt. I do love those things. However, they're not enough to get me to stop watching the scale and wishing it would stay below 130 for longer than one day. It's not enough to get me to stop looking at the "baby bumper" and hating that I can't spot burn fat.

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