Accurate Predictors of Fat Loss

February 13th, 2014 by

So one of the changes I made a long time back in how clients submit biweekly progress reports is to have them fill in all the commentary BEFORE taking any measurements or checking bodyweight. I’ve found, and I’m sure this’ll come as no surprise, that the numbers dramatically affect the subjective commentary of progress, so I figured I’d try to remove that influence by suggesting one make their comments on perceived progress and what not, prior to any numerical assessments.

And you know what? It sure has made a difference in the comments that are associated with certain numbers. For example, on numerous occasions I’ve reviewed a biweekly in which the comments are fantastic – perception of progress includes being more muscular, leaner, dropping body fat, clothes fitting better, etc. All good stuff that should not and cannot be discounted because ultimately what are we training for? To be more muscular (in some cases), to be leaner (in pretty much all cases), clothes to fit better (all cases), and so on.

So then said client weighs in and takes their measurements and in the final comments section makes a comment on the numbers. What’s she say? She’s very upset and is disappointed she hasn’t lost any fat.

Hmmm …

Do you see any issue here? An apparent contradiction of sorts?

To rewind a bit again. What is it you train for? To look better or just to weigh less? Do you train so that your body will look a certain way when it’s staring back at you in the mirror? Or just to see a smaller number on the scale?

I’m sure the answer is going to be nearly unanimous, if not completely so.

How does one go from making note of a number of positive observations; positive changes in what they are seeing in their physique when they look at themselves, even other people making note … to being depressed about their lack of progress and upset with themselves based on one number? Did that one number suddenly erase all those positive observations? All of them? Immediately?

You can see why I’ve made the recommendation to write in all the commentary before doing any numbers. Imagine what the commentary might have been had it been done after the numbers? I bet not nearly as positive OR as accurate. So by summarizing what you’re perceiving to be happening in your body before stepping on the Random Number Generator, I’m able to get a more accurate picture of what you think/perceive is happening.

Reminder – you’re training for a look, not a weight. Are we in agreement here? Yeah, I get that many people associate fat loss with weight loss and an end goal number. So what? That’s your problem. Of course you’ll lose weight over time; the trend will be downward … over time. Unless you’re a superhuman freak who can repartition perfectly months on end. (Side note, you’re not.) Focus on behaviours that promote fat loss, observe what’s happening and let the numbers take care of themselves. You can’t quantify everything and trying to quantify every little thing simply serves as an added source of stress to the individual and detracts from the overall experience of the journey.

I’ve said this in a number of prior posts, but what does bodyweight tell you? Does it really tell you if you’re progressing or not progressing? Are we not after body composition improvements? Bodyweight provides information on one thing – what you weigh in that ONE moment in time. Nothing else. It offers you no insight as to what’s happening with body fat, muscle, or changes in body water. It has no context by itself. Your body can be doing 1000 good things in regards to proper adaptation that may not show up on the scale right now, or next week but this is still not a lack of progress.

Does a bodyweight that is dissatisfactory to you instantaneously erase your thoughts and feelings on what you were noticing in your body? It shouldn’t. Yet, of course in some (er, many) cases it does. But this is a case of emotion ruling logic and it’s important to remind yourself of this. Numbers are great, but they’re not the be-all-end-all determinant of progress. No single assessment tool can give an accurate picture of what’s happening. Not bodyweight, not measurements, not even simply observation. It’s every tool used together that allows us to see what’s happening.

We’ve addressed bodyweight, but let’s even take a look at measurements. In our case, we monitor a handful of measurements over the body. But, are you going to lose body fat at JUST these markers? Surely not. It’s only a handful of spots on your body. Fat loss can and will occur everywhere. So perhaps these numbers don’t move, but if you were tracking a spot a few inches higher or lower, there is movement. See? Any one tool in isolation is of little use.

The biggest thing? Fat loss is not a linear process. There are peaks and valleys. It’s rarely a direct beeline from Point A to Point B.

I guess my point is, don’t discount perceived progress simply on the power of a single number. Bodyweight is not ever an accurate indicator of fat-loss progress. Ever!