DEAR FFG:I decided about a month ago to start exercising and eating healthier so I can lose some weight. This has been my third week, and even though I feel better I haven't lost any weight at all! I'm getting really frustrated because all my efforts are not paying off. Any ideas why? —A Future Former Fat Girl
DEAR FUTURE FFG: I know. It makes no sense! Why wouldn’t you see results? Well, here are a couple of reasons: First, how quickly you see results somewhat depends on how much you need to lose. If you've got 70 pounds to lose (like I did), you're going to lose faster at the beginning than someone who has only 10 pounds to lose. So there's that. Then there are things like hormones — simply being at a certain part of your cycle where you're retaining water could stall the scale. And then there are all the more complicated reasons for your body to hold on to weight — thyroid issues, certain medications (birth control pills, for instance), some chronic medical conditions. It’s always a good idea to get checked out by a doctor before you start a weight-loss program.
You could also be replacing fat with muscle, so that you’re losing fat (good!) and gaining muscle (even better!) but the bottom-line number on the scale is steady. Which means that you are making progress, it’s just that it’s not registering on the scale.
And that’s only one of the reasons why I would suggest that you reassess the scale as your measure of success. You can’t control what's happening on the scale — and trying to is only going to be an exercise in frustration (unfortunately, not a good calorie-burning activity!). But what you can control are all the behaviors that will, in the end, lead to weight loss, and make you a lot healthier, besides. So instead of “lose 10 pounds,” your goal becomes “exercise three days a week,” and that’s what you start thinking of as success. This may not be the answer you want, but the thing is, you are trying to create healthy habits for life. If you're only looking at the scale, it's too easy to either a) give up altogether when you don't see the needle budging; or b) give up altogether when you get to that magic number you've always dreamed of. If your goal is a number, it's too easy to think you can go back to your old ways when you reach it, that it's somehow over. And being a Former Fat Girl means integrating these healthy habits into your life so that they become part of who you are. So, celebrate the success you're experiencing now, every time you finish a workout, every time you resist going back for seconds. You are making progress—the scale just isn’t smart enough to see it.