Body composition. We hear a lot about it... but what exactly is it? Well, to be considered "fit," you have to meet minimum standards in 5 different areas, known as the Components of Fitness. Body Composition is one of them (in addition to flexibility, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and aerobic fitness). Body composition itself deals with four areas: weight, fat mass, lean mass, and fat distribution.
Weight measures total body mass. We're all too familiar with this one, in most cases. But weight alone doesn't tell you the whole truth about your progress or fitness level. For example, it doesn't tell you how much fat you carry. People want to lose "weight." You could start lifting weights and actually gain weight...but that doesn't necessarily mean you are tipping the scales towards obesity.
How to use it: Forget your preconceptions about the number on the scale. Knowing your weight is good, but not crucial--you want to lose fat, not necessarily weight. If you must weigh yourself, don't make it a daily habit. Weight tends to fluctuate throughout the day, and from day-to-day, by as much as 5 pounds or so. Most of these regular changes are due to food and water. If weight is an important record to you, then do it under the same circumstances (no clothes or shoes, first thing in the morning before eating, etc) and no more than every 1-2 weeks.
Time Involved: A few seconds, once every couple weeks
Body Benefit: Look for trends in your fitness level
- See results by taking a trip to your very own closet. Take out a pair of pants that fit snugly before you began your new, healthy habits. Are you able to ease into them, when before you had to sit (or lie) down and yank them up your legs? This is a sure sign of progress toward a leaner you! What about an old shirt? Is it now a little loose around your waist or arms? Also look for improved muscle definition when you check out your body in the mirror. There are many everyday indicators that you are firming up your body, from how your clothes fit to sitting more comfortably in a booth or small chair.
- Aside from weight, use other numerical signs of progress. When you first start your program, take measurements of your waist, arms, neck and hips. Even if you are not losing pounds, you very well may be losing inches all over your body as your figure slims down and tones up with muscles. Measuring your body is more reliable than the scale alone. Other numerical indicators include a reduction of blood pressure or cholesterol, BMI, and body fat percentage.
- Monitor how a healthy diet and regular exercise affects your energy levels. Not only will you be able to work out for longer intervals of time, but everyday chores will also become easier. Whether cutting the grass or simply walking up the stairs, these behaviors will come effortlessly. Think of all the daily activities you could use more energy for—grocery shopping, house cleaning, playing with your kids, and more. Pretty soon you’ll be training for your first 5K!
- Lastly, be conscious of how you feel emotionally. You’ve been working hard to reach your goals. Hopefully, the hard work will come with a boost in self-esteem, confidence, and happiness. Are you beginning to feel more comfortable in your own body? Work to build a positive vocabulary to stay motivated.
Just because the scale has stopped moving doesn’t mean that you’ve hit a plateau in reaching your goals. Don’t give up out of frustration—all healthy behaviors are well worth the effort. Whether it’s better sleep at night or more energy throughout the day, start listening to the signs your body gives you that all of your hard work is paying off!