For far too many of us, weight loss and fitness are almost synonymous with each other. While we spend so much of our time and energy obsessing over that dreaded number on the weighing scale, very rarely do we ever stop to think about what's going on with our bodies on the inside, not just how it looks on the outside. Until, that is, a rude shock wakes us from our slumber. If you recognise yourself in what I've just described, here are four far more urgent and important questions than: "how much do I weigh?"
Am I sleep-deprived?
Study after study has proven that there is a direct co-relation between being well-rested and the ability to lose weight efficiently. When your brain is tired and deprived of sleep, you are more likely to skip your workouts, reach for sugar or salt-laden processed carbs to make yourself feel better and generally make poor food (and life) choices. It is a vicious cycle. When your body and brain haven't been rested for seven to eight hours, you're likely to eat unhealthy food. And unhealthy food, in turn, will make you too uncomfortable to sleep peacefully. Sleep deprivation also makes you eat bigger portions of food, while increasing the chances of you snacking late in the night. A tired brain also finds it far more difficult to resist the craving for sugary or comfort food. Give your body adequate rest so that it is equipped to respond to your diet and exercise regimen.
Am I getting any exercise?
While research has shown that what you eat is more important than how much you work out, when it comes to weight loss, being physically active is vital to a healthy body and life. Most of us tend to work out for the sole purpose of losing weight. That barely ever works because we tend to wildly overestimate how many calories we lose while working out. And after working out, we tend to allow ourselves to indulge, even if only in little ways. How many times have you told yourself, "After that kickboxing class, I've definitely earned that bar of chocolate/scoop of ice cream"? If you're only thinking of exercise in the context of weight, you need to stop right away. Even if you can only find 20 minutes in your day to spend on the treadmill or the cross-fit machine, it's fine. It might be ideal, but do it anyway. Considering the sedentary lifestyles most of us tend to lead now, carving out some time for exercise is important for reasons far more long-lasting than weight loss - it relieves stress, improves your memory, increases brain function, boosts immunity and improves your body's ability to work. According to Mayo Clinic, on an average, people should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily.
What is my body fat percentage?
You can be well within your ideal weight range, and yet be far more unhealthy than a person who weighs a lot more. Your body's weight is the sum of muscle, fat, bones, organs and tissues, and water. Usually, muscles constitute 30 to 55% of your weight, fat is 10 to 30%, bones are about 15%, organs and tissues weigh 10 to 15% and water is 10 to 25%. To be healthy internally, your body's fat percentage needs to be low. When we achieve our 'ideal' weights by crash or extreme diets, we tend to lose the water or muscle weight, while maintaining a high body fat percentage. Losing the water weight might make us look and feel great initially, but it is always, without exception temporary.
Am I happy?
At the end of the day, nothing in life matters more than being happy. If the pursuit of a certain size or weight category is making you miserable, it's simply not worth it. A happy person is far more attractive - physically, emotionally and even as a personality, than a 'thin' one. As important as it is to watch what you eat, it is just as important to be able to enjoy your food and eat it without constantly calculating calories and stressing about every extra gram of weight. Mental and emotional fitness is just as important as the physical one. Don't ignore it.