Once you’ve realized the futility of using body weight on a scale to measure progress in an exercise or nutrition program, you may be left feeling at a loss as to how to accurately measure progress. Or, if your goal is not weight loss or you’ve already reached your body composition goals, you may face the same question.
Here is a guide of many ways we can scientifically and meaningfully measure progress besides just looking at weight, which is really no indicator of fitness or body composition at all.
1. Physical Progress – Since this is the one most people are looking at first and foremost, I’ve started with it first on the list. There are more effective and accurate ways to measure physical progress than body weight. They are: a) Inches – measure inches at specific sites on your body that you are trying to re-proportion, such as arm, chest, waist, hips, thigh. Take measurements every month or so. b) Body Fat % – much more effective than weight. It tells you your actual percentage of body weight that is fat. This is the number you want lower, not your weight. Weight encompasses all kinds of other things like water, muscle, bone, and other tissue besides fat, so losing weight does not mean you lost any fat. Conversely, gaining weight does not mean you gained fat. c) Before and After Pictures – very, very effective way of measuring progress without ever playing the mental games of the scale. Take a before picture from the front and side. Take after pictures in the same or very similar outfit every month or so.
2. Performance and Exercise Progress – Sometimes we reach our physical goals and may think, “OK, what now?” The next 2 measures are what you focus on when physical goals are no longer the priority. a) Performance Progress – set performance goals, such as doing a harder version of a particular exercise, mastering a new exercise you couldn’t do before, adding instability or balance work to an exercise, or getting a better time on a race or workout. b) Training Progress – There are several factors that make up what we call total training volume. These include amount of weight or resistance, length of rest periods, number of sets of exercises, and number of reps in each set. Any or all of these variables can and should be adjusted from day to day, week to week, or month to month to create new challenges to your training progress. c) Quality and Speed of Movement – Many times people tell me, “You make that exercise look so easy”, or “Your form is flawless”. This refers to quality and speed of movement and becomes the major focus at advanced levels of training. It is just as important for beginners too. Once you’ve mastered doing an exercise regularly and you are varying your sets, reps, rest period, and resistance regularly, begin to focus on quality of movement. For example, when I do any exercise, if I focus on having the best form I can, the exercise usually becomes more difficult instantly. Also, changing your speed of movement is quite effective, particularly slowing down movements. When working with weights or your own body weight, try doing reps 2 or 3 times slower than usual, and you will be amazed at the whole new workout you create for your body. I often see people rush through reps to “get them over with”. The real reason they do this is that slowing down and using correct form is much more difficult. Don’t be surprised if when you begin to focus on form and speed in this way, you cannot do as many reps or sets as you are used to.
If you break your attachment to the scale and move to the methods of measuring progress I have indicated above, you are guaranteed to greatly increase your physical and training results beyond anything you gain from focusing on the scale alone.
You may be sabotaging your own weight loss and fitness efforts without realizing it. Negative thoughts can keep you from reaching any goal.
Here are 10 common negative thoughts and excuses:
1. “I won’t be able to maintain my weight loss, or all I have to do to get there…”
2. ”I can’t picture being at my goal weight, I have so far to go.”
3. ”It will take too much work.”
4. ”I haven’t been able to do it before, so why now?”
5. ”I’ll feel deprived and like I have to eat foods I don’t want to eat.”
6. ”Even if I lose the weight I still won’t be happy, so maybe it doesn’t matter anyway.”
7. ”I don’t want to have to give up… (you name the food or habit).”
8. ”If I lose weight, others will be jealous or try to sabotage me.”
9. ”I don’t want to eat differently than (my spouse, my colleagues, my friends, my family, etc).”
10. ”I won’t be able to eat out or have a drink.”
Negative thoughts are just that…thoughts. They are stories we tell ourselves for various reasons. Maybe we are afraid of change or we don’t really think we can accomplish our goals. When you have these thoughts and stories come up, reverse each thought and frame it into a new story. For example, “I am doing this for my health, and I am not deprived of anything. I am just fine.” OR “I can picture myself at a healthier weight, and I’m working toward that each day.”
We are getting close to the time when most people will quit whatever resolutions they made at the beginning of January. This happens usually for 2 reasons. Either they don’t take action right away toward the goals they envision, or they try to do too much too soon and burn out after a few weeks of trying to keep an unrealistic pace or routine.
Commit to doing 1 thing that moves you forward each day. It can be big or small. But do 1 thing. It’s up to you. People around you are not likely to provide a great amount of support for your goals. After all, they have their own goals and lives to work on. The successful person takes responsibility for their own goals and takes the actions necessary to reach them, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
This is not to say setbacks won’t occur. They most certainly will. It’s how you respond to a setback, and again, the responsibility you take for correcting it, that determines your ultimate outcome.
Make a deliberate choice of what you’re going to do this year, be true to yourself in deciding how to get there, and take action!
What is Healthwashing? It is a phenomenon practiced more and more by food and product companies as people move their concern and their dollars toward preventative health and away from unhealthy products.
The Healthwashing Wall of Shame provides this definition: Healthwashing is a term used to describe the activities of companies and groups that position themselves as leaders in the crusade forward to good health while engaging in practices that may be contributing to our poor health… A good product, campaign or service stands on their own goodness, not on a claim and offers FULL DISCLOSURE of all ingredients and activity. If it’s a product on shelf, it’s always best to judge something by what’s IN the box, not by what’s promised across the outside in big, fabulous exciting designs. The bigger the claim, usually the more Healthwashed.
I get a lot of questions about juice cleanses. Should we do them? For most people, the answer is no. Here’s why:
1. They are exorbitantly expensive. I’ve seen juice “cleanses” for up to $100 a day. Are you kidding me??? I can buy enough ORGANIC fruits and vegetables to last a MONTH for $100.
2. They are not as nutritious as you think. Most of the nutrition in fruits and vegetables, in fact about 50%, is found in the skin or very close to the skin. Removing the skin removes 50% of the nutrition. Also, there is evidence that juices need to be consumed fresh minutes after juicing for full nutritional and antioxidant benefits. Something that has been pre-packaged and sitting on a shelf somewhere is not “fresh-squeezed”.
3. Where’s the fiber? Most of us are painfully deficient in fiber due to overconsumption of processed foods and not enough consumption of whole fruits and vegetables. Also, sugar is digested slower in the presence of fiber, preventing rapid increases in blood sugar. That’s why we need to eat the whole fruit and not just the juice. Here is the really ironic thing about fiber…your body needs fiber to remove bile produced in the liver after it has traveled and accumulated toxins in the body. When the diet is high in fiber, this fiber binds to the bile and takes it out of the body as waste. Without fiber, the “dirty” bile full of toxins recirculates through the body and back to the liver rather than the liver making new bile. This is the exact OPPOSITE of the effect you are trying to achieve by doing a “cleanse” in the first place. How ironic is that? Take away the fiber and you are taking away one of the most beneficial aspects of eating fruits and vegetables as well as your body’s natural cleansing ability.
4. They don’t result in weight loss. As juice cleanses have become more trendy, it was only a matter of time before they would be promoted for weight loss. There is no science to back up weight loss claims of juice cleanses. It’s 100% marketing hype.
5. If you continue to drink alcohol and eat processed foods, “cleansing” is pointless. The first question I ask someone when I hear they are doing a juice cleanse is….have you given up alcohol? If the answer is no, then why you doing a cleanse when you are still putting toxins in simultaneously? The best favor you can do your body so it will naturally “cleanse” itself for FREE is give up alcohol and processed foods, both of which your body views as direct toxins.
There is one instance in which juicing by a specific method and consumed within minutes of the juicing process and on a completely empty stomach has been shown to deliver maximum nutrition to a population that otherwise can’t absorb enough nutrients. This is in the case of extreme late stage cancer patients who have undergone toxic chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This small segment of the population can actually benefit nutritionally from juicing over eating whole fruits and vegetables, when done correctly.
As is the case often in our society, some of us have been lured by slick marketing, packaging, and the promise of a quick fix that will detox our whole body and restore us to good health, just by drinking so and so’s $100 a day juice and without having to change our own unhealthy behaviors. It doesn’t work that way and never has. Sorry to burst the bubble, but the juice cleanse trend needs to go.
The Paleo Diet. Oh so trendy. It sounds great in theory: we should all eat what our ancestors and cavemen ate 10,000 years ago.
1) If your version of the Paleo Diet basically means eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, great. That’s healthy. However, that is not a “diet”, it’s just a way of life and should be viewed that way. Rather than calling it the Paleo Diet, which is a marketing term, let’s call it healthy eating.
2) There is no way to eat exactly what your ancestors or cavemen ate. The food supply has just been tampered with too much. A tomato today is not the same as eating a tomato even 50 years ago. Plus, do we really know what ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates cavemen ate? It probably just depended on what was available and varied drastically over time and location.
3) There is no single “paleo” diet. 10,000 years ago, if you lived near water you ate fish. If you lived in a tropical forest you ate a lot of fruit. If you lived in Africa you ate more meat. Again, all varied.
4) In the new marketing scheme of the “paleo” diet, we are now seeing paleo bars, paleo cookies, paleo shakes, etc. The ingredients in any packaged food in no way resemble anything our ancestors ate. This is pure marketing.
We cannot possibly eat exactly the way our ancestors ate, and there’s not a whole lot of evidence to suggest exactly how they even ate or that we all should eat like that. We do know what foods in today’s food supply are healthy and good for us: as stated above, abundant consumption of fruits and vegetables, and moderate consumption of whole grains and lean meats and fish. I’m all for healthy eating for life. It needs no label beyond that.
Here are some little known very interesting facts about alcohol that will change the way you think about drinking!
It has 7 calories/gram but the body does not use it for energy because it’s too complicated to break down.
It is made from the fermentation of a carbohydrate (usually grapes or wheat).
It does not require digestion for absorption into the body; it is absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth and stomach.
It is collected and processed by the liver in moderation.
It interferes with sleep at low levels, which increases ghrelin, the “hunger” hormone.
It crosses the blood brain barrier very quickly, killing cells along the way and in the brain.
The average metabolism of alcohol is 1/2 ounce per hour (about 1 drink).
It is absorbed 20% faster on an empty stomach. When fat is present in the stomach, there is a much slower absorption of alcohol.
The more muscle you have, the faster you dilute alcohol.
ADH (alcohol degydrogenase) is an enzyme we make that lowers the amount of alcohol we absorb. Men make more of this enzyme than women do. Fasting lowers this enzyme, as well as age.
Your liver cannot do anything else while processing alcohol. It cannot break up triglycerides, so there is more chance of fat storage when you drink. The liver metabolizes alcohol similar to fat. It converts alcohol to fatty acids and stores them or transports them to blood and cells.
Your body views alcohol as a toxin. As soon as you drink, metabolizing and getting rid of alcohol becomes priority number one for your body, and other processes will take second priority.
Every time you are breaking down alcohol, you are creating an acidic environment in your body, which increases inflammation, which increases the risk of changing a pre-cancerous cell into a cancerous cell.
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