Have You Lost Weight?
I ran into a good friend yesterday and after our initial greeting she said, “You have lost a lot of weight! Have you lost weight?” The comment took me by surprise because, coincidentally, I had just weighed myself the night before and I had not lost much weight, maybe 3 pounds. I smiled and shook my head. The look on her face was a mixture of surprise and skepticism, “Maybe it’s what you’re wearing.” I pondered on her comment later that day and felt like a bit of a jerk because I think I should have shown more appreciation for her compliment. But the truth is that I had not lost weight. So what happened?
What happened is that I had lost a good part of my gut. Since the last time I had seen her, about 3 months prior, I had been on a weight workout regimen that was very intense. This regimen, which I purchased on line, involved a daily workout with weights lasting between 30-45 minutes (including warm-up and cool-down). In this regimen, a different body group is stressed every day, intensely and, while I can tailor each workout to my level of fitness, I try mightily to keep up with the people on the videos. During the workouts I push myself, hard. Sometimes I feel like I might pass out. Interestingly, this feeling does not happen while I’m performing the movement, but 10 seconds or so after I’ve put the weights down. This response is my body struggling to recover from the extreme oxygen debt incurred during the set. My heartbeat and breathing actually increase during this period and it takes me about 30 to 60 seconds to recover.
The effects of these workouts lasts beyond the 45 minute workout period. This effect, called EPOC for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, can last over 24 hours. This means my body is burning calories at an accelerated rate as much as 38 hours after I’ve done the workout! And this calorie burn is almost 100% from fat stores. This is great news as my goal is to lose fat! However, these workouts also make me hungry – not right away, but 5-6 hours later. If I succumb to my ravenous cravings, I could easily undo the calorie burn by overeating. So, to mitigate this, I take in a veggie smoothie within 30 minutes of my workout. The smoothie includes a good amount of protein – 25-35 grams, and lots of fiber from raw veggies and fruit. I also consume some fat with the smoothie – specifically, linoleic acid, an amino acid that is proven to stimulate the body to burn fat from one specific area – your GUT! To get my smoothie recipe click here.
Fat vs. Weight
So, getting back to my story, my friend’s comment was a reflection of the progress I had made, not in losing weight, but in changing my body’s composition. If my goal had been to lose weight with my weight training program, I would have been frustrated and disappointed. My goal was to lose FAT, which I did. I’m still not where I think I want to be – all ripped up with 6 pack abs – although I am not altogether sure that this would be healthy for me long term (more on that in another post). But I have made noticeable progress, and I feel great all the time. And I don’t weigh myself very often. As a matter of fact, I had not weighed myself in weeks before I ran into my friend. I know that this goes contrary to most of the advice out there. I do believe that to manage something you have to measure it. However, weighing yourself every day can be an exercise in futility. Seriously, if you drink two glasses of water, your scale is going to show you gaining a pound! The focus, I believe, should be in your habits – what you do every day; what you eat; how you exercise, how you manage your routines. Managing your behavior. I’ve said it before – set ambitious goals – that’s OK, but take it one small step at a time. If you’re climbing a mountain and you keep your eyes fixed on the summit, it will appear to you that you’re not moving at all even though your legs and your lungs are burning! Instead look down at the path. See yourself putting one foot in front of the other. Feel yourself rise a little bit more with every step. And occasionally, give yourself permission to look up. Then you will notice your progress and you will take great pleasure in the fact that you are gradually and methodically achieving your goal.