There once was a popular refrigerator magnet of a sheep inscribed “Ewe’s not fat. Ewe’s fluffy.” Close to the mark: fluffy=fat.
The first month or so after I started CrossFit, I said, in effect, “Don’t freak out because you aren’t seeing any results on the scale.” The gist was:
- Muscles weigh more than fat because they’re denser, so as your body works at losing fat and gaining muscle*, the weight may stay the same (or even temporarily increase).
- You may retain water during workouts because of the chemical processes involved.
- Your clothes will be the first place you will see a change (for some reason, that seems to happen before my measurements change — can’t explain why).
Now I’m a case study in the reverse process. As I noted when the downhill slide started last September, I have gained some weight due to emotional eating, but I still weigh less than when I started: from 242 to 237. I’d lost almost 12 lbs and regained 7 lbs. But my lower density is more significant than the weight gain — and it bothers me more.
I think I’ve already made the observation that if I was looked like Halle Berry, I wouldn’t care if I weighed over 200 lbs (even though I should, because I’d probably still be playing hell with my health). It’s the look of the thing that reminds you, day after day, that you’re a fattie. You can avoid the scale, but it’s a little harder to avoid the mirror. Even so, you still never think you’re as fat as you are until you see a friggin’ photo.
As I went through recomposing my body to an increased fat to muscle ratio, I would obsessively rub my upper left arm, feeling the little definition my tricep had gained.
Yep, that bit right where the line points at the muscle. I was so pleased when it became discernible. I was really bummed the day I could no longer feel a noticeable bump there. Now it just feels like flab.
I was, of course, avoiding the scale. But the first symptom that I was gaining weight and becoming more fatty was that my clothes started getting tighter. They had been about to drop off of me, but whenever I went shopping I was just a little shy of going down a size without feeling like the clothes were too snug.
Other people didn’t notice that I’d lost weight, and didn’t notice I gained it back. At least, not for the most part. The fatter you are, the harder it is to see a 10 lb weight loss. Think of it as a ball of string: When you pull the first yard off the ball, it doesn’t look much difference, but the closer you get to the end, the more you see the diameter shrinking by the yard. That’s why the clothes thing is a really good indicator for weight loss, as you feel where clothes bind less. And as you gain weight (or lose density), they bind here and there.
So now I got back on the scale and compared the first set of stats I’d posted (good place to keep them; God only knows where I’d scribbled them on paper). Oh, and I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it, but I’m 5’5″.
- Weight: Then — 230.8 (this is the only stat from my July posting); Now — 237.2 (started at 242, so still a net gain…Loss?)
- Fat: Then — 49.4%; Now — 48.9% ( the fat percentage wanders a bit, so I’m calling it a draw)
- Bust: Then — 46″; Now — 48″ (so, yeah, that doesn’t bum me out so much, since that’s one of the few places women actually like having fat…up to a point)
- Hips: Then — 53″; Now — 51.5″
- Thigh: Then — 30″; Now — 29″ (this one hurts; my waist was smaller than this at one point in my life)
- Upper arm: Then — 16″; Now —15.75″ (again, I’m calling this a draw, as that could be a measurer error)
Fluffier than when I stopped working out (last stats are here), but still ahead of where I was when I very first started. As I get back on track, I expect to go through a period of little-to-no change on the scales, but my clothes loosening, before the scale reflects progress.
Daunting, but doable.
*Note I did not say the fat turns into muscle. That’s not how it works.