Beyond the Number on the Scale
You're counting calories, exercising like never before, and keeping stress at bay. This all points to weight loss success, but alas weigh-in day comes and you're the same weight you were last week. What gives? Despite "good" behavior you may get frustrated that the numbers on the scale don't reflect your healthy habits. If you look at it from a different perspective you may find a new appreciation for your journey.
Lowering Your Risk
Your weight says nothing about you in and of itself. Sure you want to have a "normal" Body Mass Index (BMI), but what does that really mean? Because obesity raises your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension, all preventable chronic diseases, it's an important public health issue. Some media campaigns lose the real message, but you have to keep that in mind when you're losing weight. It's not about being skinny. Each week you eat right and exercise you are lowering your risk of developing a preventable disease. Even for those who have developed a chronic disease, healthy habits are about staying in optimal health despite the prognosis. Here's some food for thought. After a year-long intervention, middle-aged men who participated in a combined exercise and weight training program had no change in their BMI. Yet, every predictor of their body fat content and distribution was lowered compared to the control group. Consider that a whole year of working out regularly may not budge the scale, but you'll still be healthier than you were without it.
How To Tell If You're 'Winning'
There's no battle of the bulge or war against the scale in reality. The real fight in leading a healthier lifestyle is about living a better life. Studies have shown those who eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and exercise regularly enjoy better mood, better cognitive performance, better mobility and strength, and more energy. If staving off heart disease, the number one killer of women in America, isn't motivation enough, fight for these noticeable rewards. Can you run further than you did last week? Do you feel energized? Do you seem "sharper." These are all triumphs that you must acknowledge. Don't beat yourself up about the scale when there's so much more to celebrate. If you see positive gains in your fitness level, your skin, the way your clothes fit, even in your motivation to do healthy behaviors, you're winning. If this isn't your first time around the weight loss block, reassess your numbers goal and find new rewards that you may not have noticed the first time around.
Go at Your Own Pace
So which pace is best? If you don't get the weight loss you want initially, should you push yourself to lose weight faster with a more extreme plan or take the slow and steady approach? Ultimately that answer is up to you, but you should consider if your plan is challenging enough to create a lifestyle change. A study by University of Florida researchers saw those who lost more weight in the initial month of a weight loss intervention were able to lose more weight overall during the 18-month study. They were not more susceptible to weight regain than slow weight losers. That's not a case for rapid weight loss, more than it's a prescription to stick to your guns. The slower paced group continually lost weight under their goal, yet they still continued to lose. No matter what pace you take, remember you'll have setbacks. Both groups had some weight regain during the study, and all of them had a slower rate of weight loss after their initial month. All in all, it's important to strive to maintain a normal weight, but don't get discouraged if that doesn't seem to be coming quickly. Keep the bigger picture in mind and prioritize good health as a lifelong endeavor instead of a number on the scale.
How do you stay motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle despite the scale not moving some days? If you're in maintenance, what are new ways to reward yourself?
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