I’m a bundle of contradictions (aren’t we all?), who soo doesn’t have it all figured out yet (does anyone?). But when it comes to weighing myself I’m a firm believer in ‘just do(n’t) do it!’ Why, you may well ask, especially if one of your goals is to actually weigh less!? Well the answer, just like me, is complicated.
I spent the whole of 2011 training six days a week, three hours a day and lost 40 kilos (88lbs/6.2 stones) as a result. However, I had become obsessed with the number that stared back at me, as I stood naked and vulnerable on the scales (always in the morning, before eating and after a you know what. TMI? Come on you know what I’m talking about). That number held the power to affect my day and the way I ate. If it was less than the day before (yes sometimes I would weigh myself daily), it would spur me on to train harder, eat less and made me feel an odd sense of enjoyment at restricting myself. If, however, the number went up my mood would go down, I wondered what the point of working-out was and on occasion I’d feel so upset I would binge. Either way whatever the scale said, disordered eating ensued.
At the start of my weight-loss journey, I followed a meal replacement shake plan – I’m not even going to say which one, because I don’t recommend trying any of them (it took a good four years to get my digestive system back on track!). Why did I go for that option? Well a friend was doing it and she basically told me I’d got really fat and needed to sort myself out – thanks friend! I couldn’t train at the time as I was recovering from a hit and run, I was hit and someone did a runner; and for months’ post accident I’d been eating whatever I wanted. Hazelnut hot chocolates and cheese and tomato croissants for breakfast every day, pizza for one too many dinners and sour Haribo sweets at snack time. Why? Because I think subconsciously I felt like I deserved it, I could have died, I should enjoy my life right?!
I’d got to the biggest I’d ever been and I knew I should probably do something about it so I agreed to the shakes even though I knew they were bad for you. Surprisingly, I didn’t find it too difficult, I basically drank chocolate shakes all day (I added water to them and would drink them over the course of a few hours so I didn’t go hungry). I lost weight steadily, and after a couple of months I had recovered enough to exercise. That’s when I reduced the amount of shakes I had a day and began eating real food and counting calories instead. It worked for me, but at the time I was freelancing so I didn’t have a conventional 9-5, which made daily three-hour gym sessions easy to do. My real issues arose once I’d reached my goal weight; I had no idea how to maintain my new body. I started working in an office and cut down on training, relaxed my diet and slowly put the weight back on. As every extra kilo appeared on my scale I felt more and more out of control.
One day I pitched an emotional eating feature, it had just been officially recognised as an eating disorder (discover how to work out if you are an emotional eater here) but my Editor at Psychologies Magazine had other ideas. She asked me to start an emotional eating column where I would deal with my demons, ditch dieting and see a therapist for a whole year. It was a challenge; part of me understood that my relationship with food and my body needed attention, but the other part couldn’t reconcile with the fact that I could lose weight by not actually being on a diet! The founders of the UK’s largest no diet community, Beyond Chocolate, were amazing at helping me put the dots together.
Step one was to ditch the scales. They stressed that weighing oneself can have a significant emotional impact. It can often mean the difference between feeling happy or sad, beautiful or ugly, or questioning whether you’re good or bad. If the number on the scales is not the one you hoped for, this erodes self-esteem and self-confidence, leading to a lack of self-worth and feelings of disempowerment. I felt like bambi on ice, out of control and helpless. Yes, I wasn’t dieting but in the long run the aim was to gain a healthy relationship with food, majorly reduce my emotional eating binges and lose weight as a by-product. But how do I know that it’s working if I didn’t have the scales to ‘keep me in check’?! It was a long process but I soon discovered there are other ways of measuring progress….
I thought long and hard about what I enjoyed doing during the happiest times in my life. Sports ranked high on my list; there is something about pushing yourself mentally and physically and being a stronger, more self-aware person as a result that appeals to me. So I decided with the help of my personal trainer at the time, Sam Burrows, to stop approaching workouts with weight loss in mind, and start approaching them like an athlete. I signed up for my first ever 10k run. It’s no marathon, but for someone like me who only ever ran for the bus, it was a ‘SMART’ goal. Burrows believes, ‘fitness goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and with a time-frame. This way, you’re not reaching for the unattainable, which will only result in negative feelings of failure or resorting to unhealthy behaviours to achieve your goal.’ It’s good for the psyche too says, Psychiatrist Dr Barbara Mariposa, as ‘setting goals, and overcoming barriers to achieve them, strengthens our internal muscles of resilience, determination, self-confidence, focus and mental stamina.’
So instead of measuring your achievement on the scales, try setting fitness goals instead.
Fat and Muscle Measurements
The other day someone asked me why I do so much weight training if I want to lose weight. Her argument was that weight training doesn’t seem to result in a huge change on the scales while cardio does. That comment alone just goes to show how fixated we get with a number and not how we fit into our clothes or more importantly how we feel about our bodies. Muscle weighs more than fat and the more muscle mass you have the more calories you burn. Yes, it is wise to consider what exactly you are eating if you want to lose fat (not weight) but either way weight training is the ideal fat loss option (more to come on this soon). If you can’t go completely cold turkey – measuring fat and muscle percentage is the way forward. It’s far more accurate then calculating your BMI – most of the super fit people at my gym are apparently obese even though they have around 10-12 per cent body fat – that’s the heavy muscle mass at play.
When I found out my total fat was 29 per cent (up to 33 is deemed normal), and that I’d lost 14 per cent in about 6 months I could have cried. I’m working on accepting myself whatever I look like but to know that I’m in the healthy bracket was a relief. My muscle mass percentage currently stands at 31 per cent which is pretty decent too. My trainer and founder of Lomax Nutrition, Jonathan Lomax has set me some goals regarding these figures, so I’m aiming to up my muscle mass by an extra five per cent and lower my fat by nine per cent. However, for my sanity I won’t check again for at least three months. There are a couple ways you can measure your fat and muscle percentage; get your trainer to do it with calipers, buy special bioelectric impedance analysis scales, or visit a gym, clinic, medi-spa, doctor who have these specific scales or seek out a Dexa scan – it’s pricey but more accurate. I had a bioelectric impedance analysis done at Verdura Resort in Sicily and then redone recently at Omniya in Knightsbridge while seeing Dr Sohere Roked.