One way to stay motivated in our fitness routines is to measure fat loss. When we measure any aspect of our performance or progress this helps quantify and visualize the fruits of our labor. Most of us usually just measure our weight and while this is a good habit, it doesn’t always reflect our hard work. We can measure our hard work in calories burned above and beyond those calories that we consume. It’s these “calories” of stored body fat that we will ultimately be burning. And one way to see this progress is to measure fat loss in a way that we can see it.
While body fat has a bad reputation because most of us would like to see less of it…it’s actually a fascinating and quite incredible element. Our bodies can store energy in the form of body fat from any excess calories that we eat. And body fat is a very efficient and clean form of energy for our bodies. The problem with body fat is that when we have too much it can impede our ability to perform other functions, and our health can deteriorate over time by these impacts. When we carry a lot of extra body fat, we place additional strain on our joints, our organs, and our everyday movements. Obesity is having too much body fat, and unfortunately it has become an epidemic that is impacting much of our modern society.
When we lose weight, we are burning more energy than we are consuming. Each of us has a unique metabolism and we burn calories based on our age, weight and gender ( BMR ). We also burn additional calories from exercise . If these calories together (BMR + exercise) exceed what we eat ( food log ), than we’ll lose weight. If we eat more than we burn, than we’ll gain weight. And while the calculators on the preceding links provide approximate values, I’ve found that the hardest challenge is counting the calories that I eat. This is usually the root of the problem. By starting to honestly recording your eating habits, you’ll have a much easier time modifying and improving them. And after you get into a routine of counting calories, it’s time to measure fat loss…
If we want to measure fat loss in a way that we can visualize, we need to do a little scientific background (don’t worry…I’ll keep it short ;-). Body fat has a density that is close to that of water, which means that a glass of water and a glass of body fat would weigh approximately the same amount. That being said, a gallon (16 cups) weighs approximately 9 pounds, so each pound is equivalent to 1.75 cups. A pound of body fat stores 3,500 calories of energy. So for every 500 calories that you burn more than you eat, you’ll lose approximately ¼ cup of body fat!!
So why go through all of this effort?? Motivation! It feels great to measure fat loss and know that you’re getting trimmer. You’ll see short-term results quick and it’ll give you confidence to keep going. Clean out a 2-liter bottle or old milk carton and pour in ¼ cup of water into it for every 500 calories that you burn. The water represents fat that you no longer have to carry around…unsightly bulges…gone!!
When you measure fat loss, it also serves as a motivator not to have days where you have to pour water out of the jug when you eat more than you burn. If you fill up a gallon jug, congratulations…you just lost 9 pounds of body fat!! A full 2-liter bottle (pictured above) represents almost 5 pounds of body fat. Imagine the spring in your step of not having to carry that weight anymore! Imagine the sleeker figure that you’ll gain with that fat gone! It’s worth the hard work…measure it & you’ll see.
So as you go through your fitness plan and track your progress, try to measure fat loss as you go. The first few weeks and even months can be a very tough time to muster up the motivation to keep going. By visualizing the fat that you’re losing, you’ll be motivated to keep up the effort. If you maintain those calorie-burning habits over time, you’ll see the results in the mirror; you’ll get compliments from friends and family members; and you may just have to start buying a whole new wardrobe ;-). All of this comes with persistence, patience, and your continued dedication to ‘the cause’…yourself.