Let's face it: We live in a world where Jennifer Lawrence is Photoshopped and Beyoncé self-imposes a thigh gap on her Instagram pictures. There's really no hope for the rest of us women to meet the impossible physical standards that the media promulgates.
Yet every day, countless women go on crash diets in an effort to lose an extra few pounds or subject themselves to scale torture in the mornings, designating their self-esteem dependent on a pound lost or gained. This kind of behavior absolutely baffles me.
I consider myself a fit person, but I don't even own a scale. Frankly, I find them pretty useless unless you have one of the high-tech ones that measures your body fat. Dramatic general weight loss — loss of muscle, fat and water — is not only unhealthy, but also doesn't yield the physical results that most people want.
Fat loss, on the other hand, concentrates on replacing fat with muscle, which leads to better fitness and a leaner figure in the long run.
There are several myths about muscle versus fat. First, you may have heard that muscle burns more calories than fat. This is true. Muscle can burn up to seven to 10 calories daily per pound, while fat only burns two to three calories per pound.
Next, you may have heard that muscle weighs more than fat. At this point, your resident science enthusiast would weigh in and say, “A pound is a pound no matter what it's made out of,” and that is also true. But, muscle is more dense than fat, so it can weigh more when comparing same-size portions.
Fat weighs 0.9 g/ml, while muscle weighs 1.1 g/ml. This means that a liter of muscle weighs 2.3 pounds compared to 1.98 pounds for a liter of fat.
However, since muscle is denser, it takes up less space than fat. If you begin a weight training regimen, you may not necessarily see results in terms of pounds lost, but you'll watch yourself become more toned and overall slimmer. This is where alternative means of self-measurement come in handy.
Instead of stepping on the scale every morning, try the “work pants test.” Do your work pants fit comfortably both before and after lunch? If so, you're doing something right!
Also, not all fat is bad for you. Omega-3s are great for brain development, heart health and eyesight. Monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocado and nuts, promote greater resting energy expenditure (the burning of calories per pound without physical activity on your part).
Fruits like coconut contain medium-chain fatty acids, which are metabolized by the liver instead of remaining as fatty deposits in the body. It's a matter of making the right food choices, not just cutting out food altogether.
Why bother learning all this, going to the gym and indulging the time-consuming meal preparation? In the long run, you really are what you eat, and having drastic weight fluctuations from going on and off diets is not good for you. It can lead to decreased strength, performance, reduced immunities and accelerated aging.
I don't know about you, but I'm desperately trying to avoid that last one.
So, what can you do instead of focusing on the scale? Focus on overall wellness, instead. Take pilates or yoga classes to help improve your balance and flexibility.
Do more cardio so that you can run a mile without stopping to gasp for air. Try to build more muscle and constantly challenge yourself with heavier weights. Your body will thank you for it in the long run; squats and lunges really are a girl's best friend.
There's no magic number at which we all suddenly look slim. Women are incredibly varied in height, body formation and fat distribution. Stop obsessing over arbitrary pounds!
Focus on living a healthier, more active lifestyle and measuring your success not by what you see on the scale, but with how energized and comfortable you feel within your own body.
Photo via We Heart It