I Don't Give a Flux
July 16th, 2017
We discussed our relationship with the scale in the last blog post (you can read that HERE if you missed it.) And today I want to explore that a bit more, as it pertains to fluctuation in the number that appears. I can't tell you how many times women will step on the scale in my office and scream, "But I was 2 pounds lighter this morning!!! HOW did this happen?!"
To which my reply is generally, "Did you have a glass of water or eat food today? Have you peed or pooped?" Most of them think I'm joking until I weigh myself in front of them, drink 8 oz of water and then step back on the scale only for it to show a 2 pound increase.
I'll never forget, when I opened our doors almost 3 years ago, I had two young clients that would sneak in my office to weigh themselves before a workout, and then race back out to weigh themselves immediately after. Every time I would just yell down the hallway, "Unless y’all pooped right in those leggings in the last 30 minutes, you're not gonna like what that box has to say!"
We laugh, but we know that's exactly what drives weight loss, right? Healthy digestion. If you aren't pooping, you aren't losing weight. Pounds don't miraculously evaporate through your skin in the form of sweat beads. If it was that easy, America wouldn't have an obesity epidemic and I'd weigh 26 pounds in the summer. But we’re never rational when it comes to that damn box.
As we discussed last week, weight is nothing more than your relationship to gravity at THAT given moment. It can, and will, and does change at different times throughout the exact same day. However, we have this false idea, that linear progress should be happening any time we start a new endeavor be it weight loss, fat loss, muscle gain, etc. And I personally think that THAT false idea is what causes so many of us to throw in the towel early on in our health quest. We see fluctuation happen and we go back to replaying old stories in our heads of, “I’m a failure.” Or, “This always happens, what’s the point?”
So let’s try to understand fluctuation a little more, so we can learn to approach it more rationally and with way less self-loathing.
Things that effect scale weight and body fat: sleep, nutrition, hydration, dehydration, periods, and digestion just to name a few.
Things that don't: your worth, your potential, your talents, your gifts, your influence, your voice, etc. YET, we regularly tie these to that same number that appears on the scale.
Let’s dive into some of these a bit more:
Adequate sleep and recovery is essential when it comes to changing your body composition. Restful sleep can literally make fat loss exponentially easier, or exponentially harder. Lack of sleep makes us more insulin sensitive, which means we store fat more easily. It increases gut permeability which means tougher digestion and higher reactivity to certain foods. It increases inflammation. It impairs immune function. It alters our hormones (more on this below). It causes cravings. And it makes it awfully hard to concentrate. And, all those things – you guessed it, causes that scale to fluctuate.
I tell my clients all the time – what you put in your mouth, and the way your unique body reacts to it, changes the number on the scale. What you DO with your body, changes the shape of your body. For many of us, nutrition is the toughest piece of the body comp puzzle to master.
Here's a tricky one! So, we know hydration is super important for everything from healthy, glowing skin to brain function. The benefits of being properly hydrated go on and on. But it can absolutely increase the number that appears on the scale. At the same time, dehydration stops fat loss in it's tracks. So the thing that you must keep in check for fat loss, may actually make the number on the scale larger. Yep, wrap your head around that one.
Simply put, weight loss and fat loss for women is a constantly moving target. Let’s look at our hormones effect on fat loss monthly, and at specific times in our lives.
We could easily write an entire blog series on the menstrual cycle alone but I'll try to keep it brief. The two main hormones that effect fat loss for women are estrogen and progesterone. Every month most of us get a period and those hormones fluctuate. During our follicular phase (first 2 weeks), estrogen is the dominant hormone. Generally, our appetite decreases and insulin sensitivity increases. During the luteal phase (last 2 weeks), progesterone becomes the dominant hormone. And generally, our metabolic rate increases and more calories are needed to maintain energy levels. The catch is that many of us tend to overdo it in the name of PMS (upwards of 500 extra calories or more). Hello cravings! Insulin resistance increases and we store our indulgences as fat. See also - cramps, exhaustion, dragging during workouts. So, depending on where you are in your cycle, the number you see on the scale can, and will, and does change.
During pregnancy, another big shift in hormones happen. Weight loss and fat loss aren't the goal during this time. You're growing a HUMAN and preparing for labor. However, eating well and training are still extremely important. Training being dangerous during pregnancy, or women lifting no more than 10 pounds is old science. They call it LABOR for a reason, people. What better time to be strong and conditioned to endure a challenge? A few exercises will need to be modified, but safely training during pregnancy is wildly beneficial to continue to build strength and mobility. But let me repeat myself, weight loss and/or fat loss is NOT the focus here.
Hormones are still shifting around when it comes to post-partum bodies. I struggle with the notion of "getting your body back". But again, it's a phrase that I hear on a weekly basis. Real quick, you didn’t lose your body. It just did one of the most incredible things women can do. It just went to war to deliver another human into this world! Labor is trauma, so expecting your body to “bounce back” is absurd. Be gentle with her. Listen to her. Trust her. And when she’s ready, work with a professional to again, modify where needed as you ease back into your training and shift your focus safely to body composition IF that’s a goal for you.
During menopause, we become highly sensitive to both carbs and stress, so recovery and adequate nutrition is key for weight loss/fat loss. During menopause, strength training, occasional high intensity intervals and plenty of restorative activities like walking are optimal. And a diet rich in protein and plenty of veggies is best.
Hormonal issues like PCOS for example, can make weight loss and fat loss even trickier. So, make sure that you're talking to your doctor about monitoring your hormone levels regularly to ensure that all levels stay in balance.
Digestion – Again, if you aren’t pooping, you aren’t losing weight. Make sure you’re regular (once or twice a day) and make sure you’re getting in enough fiber (25 grams a day) and water (half your bodyweight in ounces) to support healthy digestion. Nothing effects the scale quite like proper nutrition and digestion.
If weight loss and or fat loss is your current goal, focus on:
1) Eating well, eating often, and eating in accordance with your hormones - Protein and fiber at every meal, makes losing weight no big deal.
2) Make movement, specifically strength a priority - Muscle is the best kept secret in the weight loss industry – not more, and more, and more cardio! Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat. The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn AT REST (just living your life).
3) Manage Stress – Breathe deep, and get what’s IN your head, OUT. Long walks, my Headspace app, and journaling are three of my favorite ways to manage stress.
4) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate - Set an alarm for every hour. If you haven’t had at least 8 oz. of water in that hour, stop and chug. Get fancy and add some fruit to your water to help you drink more.
5) Find a way to get those z’s– Shoot for 8 hours a night and sneak in naps if you can.
And even if you do ALL of the above perfectly, YOUR results are yours alone. Don't get caught up in comparing your journey to anyone else's. Settle in for the long haul, and keep asking yourself - how do I want to FEEL?
OTHER things that can, and will, and do fluctuate along with the number on the scale:
Motivation – Spoiler alert: NO ONE actually feels like hitting the gym every day.
Strength gains – You won’t feel 100% every day. Just another reason why intelligent programming and modification is key.
Energy levels – Eat and recover in a way that supports your energy levels.
Willpower/Self-discipline – BOTH are finite. This is where community is key.
Relationships – Honeymoon phase, somebody?? Anybody?? There’s an ebb and a flow here too, and its work.
Starting/running a business – HELLO! There will be days when you feel unstoppable and on top of the world. There will be other days where you feel like you may have to live out of your car :)
Linear progress isn’t really a THING, y’all – not in ANY area of our life. There will always be fluctuation, so giving yourself grace and building awareness is key. Self-loathing and self judgement isn’t helpful. Why do we do it? In the name of what? That same linear progression? In the name of a thing that doesn’t exist (like the made-up number we “should” weigh from last week’s blog)?
You’re in control of your reaction to each and every fluctuation that life throws your way. Will you let a box that tells you you’re “up” 2 pounds ruin the rest of your day? Will you let it get in your head and ruin your workout? Eat into your energy levels and productivity for the work you were put on this earth to do? Cause you to snap at a loved one or overthink a compliment? I used to.
Now, I don’t give a flux because I know a number will never and could never define me.
I don't give a flux because I finally know my body inside and out. I know how to listen to her and give her what she needs to feel her best - vital information a scale could never provide.
I don’t give a flux because I have too much to do, to measure my worth in ounces gained or lost depending on the timing of my hydration or menstruation.
Y’all, I don’t give a flux because I have a voice to use that can’t afford to be silenced over an insecurity spawned from a little bloat.
I don’t give a flux because I have a tribe and a movement to keep building that can’t be reached if I’m hiding or shrinking, or wallowing in self-loathing because of a number society handed me.
I just don’t give a flux, not about that number, not anymore... and it feels good. Do you?
Break up with that scale. Start exploring your relationship with muscle. Get rid of clothes that make you feel less than fabulous. And surround yourself with a community that will hold you accountable and help build that consistency that will carry you through the ebb and flow of your unique journey.