Thursday, June 25, 2009

I can't see my weight loss - and The Paper Towel Theory

So I've seen a lot of rumbling lately from folks who aren't seeing their weight loss. Or, who aren't seeing it where they would like to see it, etc.

I TOTALLY understand this feeling :) Even though my husband told me almost daily that he could tell the difference, even though I was fitting into smaller clothes, for a while there, I couldn't tell I was loosing weight when I looked in the mirror.

But, there is a reason for this (other then body dismorphication). It's called the Paper Towel Theory. I read it on Dr Hussman's website many years ago and thought it might be beneficial to share it here.

The Paper Towel Theory

As it turns out, you can get fairly good estimates of your bodyfat composition simply from a single skinfold, or by passing a tiny electrical current through your foot, ankle or hands. What this really means is that fat is distributed fairly precisely on the body. And while it's true that some people have larger fat deposits on some parts of their body than others, it's also true that percentage-wise, the fat on your body comes off fairly evenly.

That's important to remember when you measure your progress. See, one of the first places you're probably looking for fat loss is on those areas of your body that you think are "too fat." But in fact, that's the last place you should look, because I can guarantee that those areas are still going to look "too fat" for a little while.

Think of it this way. If you have a roll of paper towels (or a cassette tape), and you start to unravel it, you can get a good amount off of the roll before you really see a visible change. But as you get further down that roll, even taking off a little more is very apparent.

The same is true with your body. The first place you're going to see greater definition is at those areas where the fat deposits are relatively thin already. For most people, this is around the shoulders and clavicles (the two long bones that run just under your neck, connecting your two shoulders to the breast plate).

Another reason why this is important is that advertisers often prey on the belief that fat can be "spot-reduced." All the twisty ab-crunchers on the market are perfect examples. Basically, these companies get a fitness model that has followed months or years of weight training, aerobics, and proper nutrition, and have them roll back and forth in one of these things, as if they actually got in shape that way.

Or look at all the books promising to help you lose fat "for your type" - pear shaped, apple shaped, dodecahedron shaped - you name it. It's true, for example, that people who are insulin resistant tend to store more fat in the midsection, and that women tend to store more fat in the thigh area. But so what? If you lose the fat, it comes off EVERYWHERE. If a problem area looks "too fat", training that area with exercise may very well improve the definition of the underlying muscles and the overall form of that area. But it will not accelerate fat loss relative to other parts of your body.

If the body didn't lose fat uniformly, we'd all wobble around like Weebles because our relatively fixed bone and muscle structure wouldn't be able to tolerate the variation. The best way to change the size of your body is through caloric deficits. The best way to change the shape is through resistance training. The one thing you need to achieve a total physique and fitness transformation is to do EVERYTHING - aerobics, intervals, resistance training, cross-training (physiologist Covert Bailey calls these the "four food groups of exercise"), small frequent meals, high-quality protein and carbohydrates, low-glycemic nutrition, proper supplementation, water, and rest. As Shawn Phillips says, "the one thing, is everything."

So again, if you're looking for results in the mirror, look for the first signs of improved definition at those areas where muscle is relatively close to the surface. For most people, this is the upper chest and shoulder area. After two weeks, you probably won't see enormous visible changes elsewhere. But those changes are happening anyway.

You should definitely be keeping track of how your clothes feel. Go to the closet and pick out an outfit that's just a little too tight. Put it aside. You'll want to try it on occasionally. Waist measurements can also capture fat loss that isn't necessarily evident in the mirror.


There you go! :)

Now - if you really want an eye opener - try the Paper Towel experiment. Take a brand new roll and take off one piece (one pound). doesn't really make a visable difference does it? What if the roll is 1/2 gone? Take off a piece... ooo, you can kind of see that can't ya? How about if it's almost gone? Take off a piece - WOW! can you see that!?

Yeah, it can be discouraging in the beginning to think. This one (or three or four) pounds aren't going to make a difference. But they do... That paper towel roll isn't going to unwind itself! You can't grab a sheet out of the middle no matter how much you might want to.

I guess what I'm trying to say is - hang in there folks! Every pound matters weather you 'see' it or not!

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