By Dhriti Udeshi,
Nutrition Consultant & Fitness Trainer
Your jeans are looser than ever, you’re hearing compliments about your toned arms and you’re seeing muscles in new places. You are even fitting into a smaller size of apparels, but the scale hasn’t budged and your body mass index, or BMI, suddenly places you in the overweight category. What could be the reason?
Tracking weight and BMI are not great tools to measure progress, because as body composition changes, the scale may not. Both weight and BMI never take into account body composition, often making an active woman seem overweight – but an active woman has more muscle and less body fat than a sedentary woman.
The BMI formula — a simple calculation based on your height and weight — has been around since the mid 1800s,. Anything below 18.5 is considered “underweight”; 18.5 to 24.9 is “normal,” 25 to 30 is ““overweight” and 30.1 or more falls into one of three obesity categories.
In his prime, Arnold Schwarzenegger had a whopping BMI of 30.2 – “obese” according to the calculation. But anyone who’s seen “Arnie” at his best knows that he was all lean muscle, not fat.
When you begin a new fitness program or increase the intensity of your sessions in the gym, chances are you’re losing fat but gaining muscle. And, as you know, muscle beats fat for many reasons. Muscle uses more calories, even at rest, so you gain the potential to boost your resting metabolic rate.
You shouldn’t ditch measurements altogether, however. That’s because women can be “skinny fat,” appearing to be healthy based on weight and height alone, but possessing pockets of fat in targeted areas that puts them at higher risk for certain health conditions.
Abdominal fat, for example, is increasingly linked to metabolic syndrome and heart disease; women whose waists are 35 inches or more have a higher risk of health problems than those with smaller waists, no matter how much they weigh. So it’s important to consider your overall body fat, and where it might be landing. Though there’s no such thing as spot reduction, targeted training can help decrease your body fat and increase your muscle – leading to a leaner looking body. Reducing your overall body fat through methods of resistance training and cardio are the best ways to change your body composition.
Look Beyond the Scale
Get out of the bathroom and track your fit progress with these other more reliable indicators of fat loss and muscle-building success:
- Your jeans: Are your clothes looser? Are they fitting better and more comfortably?
- Your sets and reps in the gym: Has your performance improved? Can you train longer, lift heavier or complete your exercises with more ease?
- Your daily tasks: Are you finding it easier to carry all 10 bags of groceries from the car?
- Your energy levels. Do you find yourself less exhausted and more pumped when you first wake up?
- Your reflection. How do you appear in the mirror – jiggly all over or firm in parts?
5 Essentials for Healthy Fat Loss
Keep your body fat in check with strategies:
- Strength train. Adding weights into your routine not only makes you stronger and leaner, it also increases your metabolism and helps you burn more fat.
- Eat clean foods, such as vegetables, fruits, high-quality meats, beans, and whole grains.
- Don’t forget the cardio. Try adding one-minute intervals into your program to up your energy and blast fat.
- Give it some time. Quick results usually don’t last, so go with the slow-and-steady approach to reach your goals, and stay lean.