It’s that all too familiar story; you’re eating healthier and yet the numbers don’t budge, you’re working out but your scale just doesn’t seem to notice, then you notice that your clothes are feeling looser and you step on the scale hoping that today’s the day and finally it says that you’ve….GAINED two pounds! Since yesterday! What!? This is a very common issue for people taking phentermine to lose weight, and it can be the most frustrating of all. Well, let me tell you what you may have suspected for some time – your scale is a big fat liar! Here we get to the bottom of why the scale lies on phentermine and how you can find other ways to measure success!
What the Scale Does and Doesn’t Tell You
The scale is information. It tells you what you weigh the moment you step on it and nothing more. It doesn’t tell you anything about the composition of your weight, if you’ve lost fat, gained muscle, or if your body’s water balance has simply fluctuated since you last stepped on the scale. It gives you information, yes, but without context the information is useless. Gaining two pounds of fat overnight is impossible, as you would have had to eat around an extra 7,000 calories, which is surely something you would have remembered. Even eating an extra 7,000 calories in a week is tough going – so why is the scale telling you that you’re two pounds heavier than last time?
The first factor is water weight; not drinking enough water throughout the day leads your body to assume that water is in short supply so it retains the water it has, meaning excess weight for you. Eating too much sodium also leads your body to retain water, so it’s best to avoid processed foods, and not just the obvious salty snacks like chips and crackers; half a cup of instant pudding actually contains nearly four times as much sodium as an ounce of salted nuts. Other potentially high-sodium foods to watch out for are canned beans, soups, cereals and cookies.
Another factor that can influence the scale is glycogen. This is an energy reserve supply in the body which can fluctuate depending on what you’ve eaten during the day, but it’s normal to experience glycogen and water weight shifts of up to 2 pounds per day, even with no change in your calorie intake or activity level. These fluctuations have nothing to do with fat loss, although they can make for some unnecessarily dramatic weigh-ins if you’re prone to obsessing over the scale.
Losing Weight Doesn’t Mean You’re Losing Fat
Exercise physiologists tell us that in order to store a pound of fat, you need to eat 3,500 calories more than your body is able to burn. So if you’re counting calories, when the scale goes up overnight it’s likely to be water, glycogen and the weight of your dinner. The 3,500 calories rule also works in reverse, so you need to burn that amount to lose a pound of weight. Generally it’s only possible to lose 1-2 pounds of fat per week, and while it’s not uncommon for those starting to take phentermine to report losing around 8 pounds in a week, it’s physically impossible for all of that to be fat – what they’re really losing is water, glycogen and muscle.
Losing muscle is nothing to celebrate since it is metabolically active tissue. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns, even when you’re just sitting around, which is one reason why a fit and active person is able to eat considerably more than the dieter who is unwittingly destroying muscle tissue. Not only is muscle more valuable to your body than fat, it also takes up less room, so losing fat and gaining muscle makes you look slimmer, even if the scale says you weigh the same or more. It’s useful to compare fat and muscle to feathers and gold; a pound of each still weighs a pound but obviously you want to lose the bulky dumpy mass of feathers and keep the visibly smaller, sleek and valuable gold. The problem with the scale, is that it doesn’t differentiate between the two, and therefore its powers of determining the amount of fat you’ve lost are very limited.
Beyond the Scale
Your weight is just one aspect of your progress and, in many cases, it’s not even the most important one. It’s unfortunate but for most of us, the number on the scale is the determining factor in whether we’ve succeeded or failed. Using your weight as the only measure of your success is a lot like buying a house based solely on square footage; sure it’s nice having 3,000 square feet, but what if it’s next to the city dump? It’s the same with weight loss, as the number on the scale can’t tell you about what’s going on inside your body, such as how you’re building muscle and burning fat, or how much fitter and stronger you’re getting, or how much more energetic and motivated you feel. If weighing yourself motivates you in a positive way, there’s no reason to change what you’re doing. However, if the scale makes you feel like a failure, it may be time to try something new.
In fact, one of the best measurement tools of all is you. How do you look? How do you feel? How do your clothes fit? Are your rings looser? Do your muscles feel firmer? These are the true measurements of success. If you’re exercising and eating right, don’t be discouraged by a small gain on the scale – fluctuations are perfectly normal. Expect them to happen and take them in your stride – it’s a matter of mind over scale.
Thinking about the situation in reverse might make you see it clearer; imagine you’ve reached your ideal weight, which would make you feel worse, to step on the scale one day and see that you’ve gained a pound or to find that your clothes are tighter than usual? The clothes, right? So, forget your scale and pay attention to all the other signs that you’re getting healthier and losing weight; focus on your health and how much better your body feels, how you’re sleeping better and less stressed, or on your performance and how much faster and stronger you’re getting. Better yet, focus on how you good you feel after a workout or when you make healthy food choices. Doing more of the things that make you feel good makes it easier to keep doing them day after day.
Do you have a good relationship with your scale or are you tired of its lies and thinking of getting rid of it for good? How do you measure success while you’re losing weight with phentermine? Let us know by leaving a comment below!