February 7, 2011

Resetting the panic button

This weekend, the scale was not kind to me. I usually don’t weigh myself while I’m on the road, since there isn’t a scale in my hotel room and I like to weigh myself naked, which doesn’t work out so well at the gym. Therefore, I typically only weigh myself when I’m home for a weekend. Weighing myself every two weeks is probably a healthy way to do it anyway, because it decreases dependence on the scale and risks of an eating/exercise disorder.

This weekend, I stepped onto the scale on Friday morning… and it was up a few pounds. No big deal – I had actually indulged in some salty French fries on Thursday night, so I figured I was a bit bloated from a treat I don’t often have. But then on Saturday it was the same. And on Sunday it was even higher. In fact, all weekend, I was now at a weight that typically induces me to “push the panic button” – where I get totally strict about my diet, because to allow my weight to creep any higher would be just completely unacceptable.

But I didn’t panic – yet. I knew I had been totally rocking my strength training workouts (haven’t missed one yet!), and I also know very well that muscle weighs a lot more than fat. When you’re focusing on strength training, like I’m doing, your weight is probably going to rise a bit from the muscle you’re gaining. That’s fine with me – I really don’t care what the number on the scale says as long as I like the way I look and feel. However, the number on the scale should also drop from the fat that you’re losing. The contestants on the Biggest Loser lose weight every week (well, except for the idiot cheaters as of late), and my understanding is that they just have such significant amounts of fat to lose that they can burn off a ton of fat to offset the gains in weight from muscle mass. Perhaps I just didn’t have enough fat to lose where the number on the scale would have to drop? To put my numbers into more objective terms, I’ve gained about 6 pounds since Christmas (when I wasn’t really at a weight I was thrilled with anyway), and I’ve been at least trying to eat healthfully since then. Surely, that 6 pounds was purely a gain in muscle and not fat… right?

Then I got dressed for the Superbowl party I was attending (my contribution: cut veggies and Hungry Girl’s Caramelized Onion Dip). I always root for whichever team my friends are backing, which in this case was the Packers (woo hoo, we won!), so I wanted to wear a green shirt. While I think I look good in green, for whatever reason, I don’t have many green shirts, and there was only one that was really appropriate for the party I was attending. Easy decision! Or so I thought…

When I put on my favorite dark jeans to go with the kelly green shirt, I had a problem. My favorite jeans, which used to be fairly relaxed, were now skin tight – creating a muffin top at my waist line. While the green shirt was loose fitting, it clung to that muffin top and also to the bulky waistband of my jeans, making me look pretty darn unattractive. I tried swapping for another of my favorite jeans, but had the same issue.

Now, you should understand that I’m someone who doesn’t spend hours getting ready for events – I usually take a quick shower, pull something out of my closet, spend 5 minutes drying my hair and 2 minutes applying a bit of makeup, and I can go from gym to event in 30 minutes. So it was appalling to me that I spent over an hour trying to find a suitable outfit for the party. Clearly, that 6 pounds was not all muscle gain. Clearly, I had a problem. Panic button now pressed.

I’m glad that I’ve learned to rely on non-scale measures to clue me in to something like this, but I do love the objectivity of the scale, at least for a final confirmation of “yes, it is time to hit the panic button.” My scale is one of the fancy Tanitas that measures percentage of body fat along with weight, but I know that method of measuring is so unreliable due to its sensitivity to fluctuations in hydration levels. I just don’t think that measure makes the most sense for me. But if I am putting on muscle, how can I adjust my “panic button point” to reflect that? About how much extra muscle have I put on? I have no idea.

Do you have a “panic button point” on the scale? If you’ve ever gone from pure cardio to strength training, how did you find your weight changed in doing so?


5 thoughts on “Resetting the panic button”

  1. I have a panic button for sure! I find I eat healthy all week and completely eff it up on the weekends. During the week I’ll manage to lose 3 lbs and gain it all back on the weekends. Super frustrating. I’m back at my pre peg weight but I want to lose the few lbs I gained when my dad died and get back to my fav weight before I get pregnant again. It’s soooooo tough being a woman I think. P.s. Loved you stalker comment and you’re always welcome to visit!

  2. I weigh myself once a week, but only start to panic if clothes stop fitting, because yeah, that’s not muscles. So, my panic button is the same as yours.

  3. Sorry, girl . . . while the whole “muscle weighing more than fat” thing is true, most people vastly overestimate the amount of muscle they can put on in a short period. Unless you’re lifting body-builder heavy and mainlining creatine, you probably haven’t built six pounds of muscle in the span of a few months. Six pounds of muscles is a LOT, and would make a very visible difference on your body . . . While there are other factors that could cause a spike on the scale (PMS, new workouts creating more liquid retention to repair muscles, etc.), if you’re also seeing a difference in the way your clothes fit (and this has been a constant thing, not just the past few days), I’m guessing it’s real weight. I know that when I’m lifting a lot but not really watching my diet, I have a tendency to build muscles under the fat but not shed any fat, so the muscles just push my fat out. 🙁

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