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Less weight. Less fat. Smaller waist, smaller arms, smaller legs, smaller hips… smaller everything? it’s very easy to get sucked in by the idea that less is inherently better. That less is always a good thing - but it’s not. Now don’t mistake that for saying that wanting to lose weight, reduce body fat percentage or slim down is a bad thing - but what I am saying that it should not always be the goal, nor should it be a failure if we don’t always achieve this goal.

I’ve seen it many times before, and am sure I will see it again in the future (though hopefully less and less) - the disappointment when one of our members’ weight goes up one month, or when their circumference measurements (taken at points all over the body) don’t show decreases across the board. Could weight increasing be a setback? Maybe. Could circumference measurements going up be a sign of regression? Possibly. Though more often than not, these are merely fluctuations.

The problem is, we often take acute measurements way out of context, and lose perspective when looking at them. Your scale weight on one individual day does not decide whether you have succeeded or failed. One set of circumference measurements doesn’t tell us anything useful, either - it’s just a list of numbers.

Alongside the measurements we take, we also need to factor in the following:

  • stress levels

  • dietary changes

  • exercise changes

  • life changes

  • current life circumstances

  • length of dieting phase (if applicable)

  • concurrent goals

For example, if your goal is to get stronger and tone up (develop more lean muscle mass), should it be a bad thing if your arms or legs get slightly bigger over the course of a couple of months? Or is it indicative of hypertrophy (muscle growth)? If you have gone through a stressful month, where your exercise and diet have not been consistent, should you be disappointed if your weight increases slightly? The point is, we should not expect to progress linearly (losing weight / size at a consistent rate from month to mont) over the long term. That’s simply not how it works on a physiological level, nor in a practical sense: we are human - shit happens, life gets in the way sometimes!

So, next time you experience a disappointing weigh-in, or haven’t slimmed down as much as you had hoped, I want you to look back to 6 months ago, or when you started on your health and fitness journey.

Has your weight gone up this past week/month, but is still significantly lower than when you started? Have your leg measurements increased but your clothes fit better and your progress pictures show far more muscle tone now than at the start of the year? Have you lost a lot of cms overall this year, but may have gone up slightly this past month?

If the answer is yes to any of these (and it usually is), then you honestly have nothing to worry about. We cannot lose weight every month for eternity, our arms and legs can’t always get smaller and smaller - and nor should we want this. The goal should never be to as small, as light or as ‘skinny’ as possible, but to be fitter, healthier and stronger. If you want to get stronger, you need to accept that sometimes, your weight might go up, sometimes your circumference measurements might increase - that’s just the way it is.

Finally, I want to ask you this - is it worth the constant restriction and limitation to keep ‘losing’ (weight or cms). I’d say no - instead try and focus on that 80/20 balance. If we are on track and consistent with our exercise 80% of the time, we can afford to enjoy ourselves the other 20% of the time. This may mean gaining weight or cms sometimes - but that shouldn’t be the end of the world!

Our happiness, self worth and even our assessment of progress should not be so closely tied to our appearance and weight - and if it is, it is something you need to address. If you can’t cope with your weight or circumference measurements increasing - don’t track them. If you can’t look at them with a sense of objectivity, don’t look at them at all.

Less doesn’t mean better. Building muscle can lead to both weight and size gains - but that could be better for you!