Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Weight Debate - Today's Lean Eating Lesson

As many of you know, I am a Lean Eating Coach with Precision Nutrition.

I felt today's Lean Eating Lesson is an important on for all my clients and colleagues. Feel free to spread the message and perhaps generate a movement that being your best and progress with your health, fitness and physique goals has very little to do with what you weigh.

The Ongoing Weight Debate

What does your weight really mean?

We've seen it time and time again. Come "measurement day", clients who have been feeling proud and happy with their progress, suddenly are left feeling defeated. Like they're spinning their wheels.

It can go the other way too. With a single step on the scale, folks suddenly feel like they are doing everything right when in fact they've been doing the right things all along.

It got us thinking. Why do we give so much value to a number on the scale?
Perhaps it's time for a little perspective from Coach Krista Schaus, who weighed in on what it all means during her contest prep for the Arnolds in 2009:

I am in the process of accepting the fact that the weight debate will never die. I have a hard time understanding why we are so attached to this number. I am trying to empathize, but one thing that has been reinforced as I prepare for the Arnolds is that we do not walk around with our weight tattooed on our forehead. On stage, I will not be be judged by my weight. Only by how I look.

I weigh 7 lbs more than I did for my last contest, but at this weight, I look, feel, and perform better. When other people see me, they think I look like I weigh less than I do... not that I care about that either.

My point is this: focus on making the body you want inside and out, and then see where the weight comes in. You may be pleasantly surprised that your best body is not the dream weight you've been envisioning for yourself for years.

Maybe this dream weight is just that... an unrealistic mirage that does not apply to your structure and does not actually bring your "best".

Or maybe you'll find that once you get to your goal weight, you haven't achieved the look you expected to see.

This disconnected focus on the scale, and on a certain number or weight range can largely contribute to not getting the visual progress you want with your body.

Where does endurance training fit in with the scale?

Every coaching group, we get clients who come in with the preconceived notion that performing hours of cardio is a necessary part of the weight loss equation. Some even go as far as setting their sights on marathons or triathlons for the sole purpose of achieving their weight loss goals. We hear from clients taking in 1200 to 1500 calories a day and training 2-3 times a day... and wondering why they have not seen progress on with their body or on the scale.

While using sporting events and competition can be a strong drive for success, there are some problems with this mindset.

1. The action
(endurance event training) does not necessarily lead to the outcome (weight loss / better looking body). Because elite endurance athletes typically have the token "lean and light" look, it's common to assume that they go hand in hand. However it's not generally the case that one leads to the other.

The reality is, most people looking to achieve a lean and fit look would benefit from the complete opposite -- 5 hours a week of resistance training, 1-2 hours a week of a combo of high intensity interval training and steady state cardio, paired with perfectly nutrient-timed and combined nutrition... stricter than you ever imagined. NOT a triathlon when you are not built for it, do not even like it, and are eating basic survival calories.

2. Embracing this strategy can backfire if you are not coming from a healthy place mentally.
If the goal is all about seeing a certain number on the scale, and there is no larger purpose -- balanced intrinsic motivation and JOY in the process -- you won't make progress. Not only will the strategy not work, you will be pushed further back ... into more disordered thinking, more frustration, and a more sluggish metabolism.

For further reading on where cardio fits in with your weight loss goals, check out Clearing Up Cardio Confusion. (Note: link will open in a new browser window).
Weight loss - exactly
Often the most profound insights come from one of our Lean Eating participants themselves:

I can't focus on weight loss - that's not something I can control. What I CAN control is the PROCESS. My choices. And enough good ones built up consistently will lead me to my goals.


Outcome-based goals, like losing 20 pounds of fat, we have no control over. Might as well rub our magic lamp, make a wish and take a nap on the couch.
What we do have control over are those behavior-based goals. You know, the goals that we can set each day that LEAD to the outcome-based goal. That is where true success remains. Working hard and accomplishing the healthy behaviors, while letting the rest fall into place.


Consider how weight is tied into your goals and behaviours.

If you're basing your goals on a number or pursuing the wrong activities for your ideal body, it's time to adjust your attitudes and actions. Do what you enjoy and make sure your goals are coming from a healthy place

Focus on behaviour-based vs outcome-based goals.

Outcomes are beyond your control but you can control the behaviours that lead to a leaner body.

* Ramp up your nutritional habits to eat "cleaner" than you ever imagined possible
* Focus on nutrient quality and density in your food choices. Do not skimp on calories or nutrients
* Consider your overall activity -- exercise frequency, volume and intensity -- and adjust your intake accordingly
* Fuel/feed your workouts. If you enjoy and are pursuing improved performance in endurance sports, will need more than 1/2 or 1 serving of post-workout, low-GI carbs if you want your body to play along

Adjust how you view your weigh-in

If you have all the right behaviours in place, the scale becomes just one more piece of information to help you understand how your body is changing. The number does not reflect how well you're doing, nor does it tell the whole story when it comes to your body composition.

Outside of weekly weigh-ins for your coach to track your progress, if the scale is hampering your results more than helping, weigh yourself only to see "Hey, I look good... I wonder what I weigh in this better looking bod?"

To learn more about Lean Eating program visit:


Miss Tank said...

best bit of advice i've heard - thanks Krista!!!

idv8 said...

Loooove youuuuu!! :-)

My own experience is this:

When I reached my goal weight at Weight Watchers 5 years ago I weighed 134lbs and was very fit. I had run 11 races that year, including a half marathon, and I also did cross-training (a hodge-podge of light weightlifting and core work) several times a week.

Then an IT band injury forced me to stop running and change my focus. I turned it to weightlifting full-time and saw my bodyweight rise and my pants and tops grow tighter. This was tough to deal with, especially having been fat for 20 years prior. For a short time I even quit weightlifting, even though I loved it, because I was scared and upset to see my "target weight" fade away despite the fact that I was as focused on my fitness and nutrition as ever.

The truth is that today I am 10lbs heavier than I was 5 years ago and yet I'm absolutely leaner. While I look at photos from my running days and know (with a twinge of sadness) that I can no longer fit in those jeans, there is no doubt that my increased mass is muscle rather than fat. In fact, it's really eye-opening to see some of those old photos in my underwear where, despite fitting in smaller jeans and shirts, I am quite blubby compared to now.

Still, avoiding the emotional rollercoaster that comes from measuring success and fitness based on a number on the scale takes discipline. Once again I've put the scale away because IF I'M DOING ALL THE RIGHT THINGS I CANNOT FAIL!! It's that simple! So if the scale tries to tell me I had a bad week when I KNOW it was a good one, come on, what's the point? I find it incredibly comforting to notice the weight of women my height who are super fit and muscular (Krista, many Olympic skiers) and to notice that they do not weigh that much less than me. The lesson? Don't be fooled by a number! For me, it's not about being 134lbs but about being FIT, STRONG and HAPPY.

Thanks Krista for a terrific post and for setting the example that you do!