Q: Hi Erika!
Great blog post. I’ve been doing anaerobic muscle-building stuff (Pure Barre) 5x/week for the past several weeks. I’ve noticed that I’ve gained a lot of weight, but I don’t know if this is due to muscle growth or overeating as I am quite a snacker and haven’t been counting calories as of late. Is there a way for me to figure out what is “good” weight gain vs “bad”? – J

It’s really important to note that there isn’t really such a thing as “good” or “bad” weight. Muscle won’t always be inherently good – there are issues that can come from being substantially larger than your build can withstand. Fat won’t always be inherently bad, either – seeing as how breasts and booty are largely made up of body fat, hips are usually carrying a bit of body fat, and females actually need a good bit of it in order for certain systems – reproductive, for starters – to operate optimally.

So, it’s less about good and bad when it comes to your body, and more about what gets you closer to and further from your intended goal. (Gotta be careful about and mindful of the language we use, of course.)

That being said, there are lots of ways to figure out what weight is getting you closer to and further away from your goals. It’s all about what you’re after, and developing a more complicated understanding of what it’ll take to get there.

As someone who is adamant about people quantifying their goal progress in ways other than what’s reflected on a scale, I actually have quite the arsenal of resources to help you figure out what’s growing and changing, where it’s changing, how it’s changing, and what you should do when you experience changes, whether you want them or not.

From my blog post on goal measurement:

Here are a few ways to measure your progress as a fitness-focused individual, with a little mini-rubric to help you understand what you should be shooting for in fitness, not merely in your sport of choice:

Stability: Can you stand on one leg? Can you hop on one leg without wobbling? Can you land on one leg without tipping over? It’s a one-legged lunge, or it’s a leap forward to hit the volleyball on one leg… either way, being stable on the legs – or leg, for that matter – that you’re workin’ with make a huge difference. Standing on one leg while lifting the other in the air as high as you can without tipping over and without the lifted leg getting tired? Yes.

Flexibility: How flexible are you? How close are you to being able to do a split? How close are you to getting that knee behind your head? (Don’t ask me, ’cause…) I mean, flexibility matters…………. and not merely for the obvious reasons.

Ahem.

Flexibility isn’t all about how wide apart your legs can go, though – how far around can you twist your torso? How flexible is your spine? How flexible is your neck? Your arms? Can you clasp both hands behind your back and bend forward? Can you bring your nose to your knees? Hell, can you touch your toes?

Strength: When the zombies come, can you climb things? And, by climb, I mean, can you pull your body weight up a structure, and push yourself over the ledge as you’re climbing? Are you strong enough to lift up your child and carry them on your back through the legions of blood-sucking zombies? Can you pull them over that ledge you just climbed? This is how you measure strength.

Endurance: When those zombies are chasing you, for how long can you run? I mean, yeah, you can #DoubleTap and all that, but sometimes, you just have to run. It doesn’t have to be parkour, but it needs to be consistent. Zombies might be strong, but they can’t run particularly fast. Outlast them.

Agility: How quickly can you move? Are you graceful when you do it? You know how basketball players can “fake you out” by acting like they’re going to go in one direction with the ball, but instead slip over to the other side instead? Agility, man.

And you’ve never known just how agile a body needs to be until you’ve needed to intercept a child running towards danger. You will leap coffee tables, pump fake around doorways, and you might even slide under something… but you’ll get the job done.

Power: When you move, can you move with force? How strong are your limbs? If I asked you to throw a ball, how far do you think it’d go? Plyometric activities – lovingly referred to as plyo – are largely about power movements, done with body weight. How much do you deadlift? What’s your helicopter push up look like? Gymnastics? Power. Animal flow? Power. Metcon, ViPR, and their offshoots? Power. Hitting a ball with a bat, club, or limb? Yep.

Develop an eye that becomes intimately aware with the shapes, curves and nuances of your body. Do you know where every freckle is? Do you know the difference between your left foot and your right? Do you know what the space between your lower back and your upper thigh is curved like and, just-as-importantly, will you be able to spot the differences that occur once your body begins to change? Spend time looking at your body, beaming with pride at what it’s been accomplishing lately, and excitedly looking forward to what’s to come in the future.

Learn to love your tape measure: Measure the following parts of your body every three to four of weeks, to give yourself some insight on the minor changes that you might not be able to see.

  • Neck: Take a tape measure around the neck, a half-inch above the shoulders, and measure the length of the tape measure.
  • Bust/Chest: Across the widest part of the chest, usually a few inches above the bust measurement.
  • Bust band: Measure the place on the chest where you normally wear your bras.
  • Waist: Usually in line with your belly button, but should naturally be somewhere in the space where your ribs end and your pelvic bone begins.
  • Hips: The widest part of the hips and booty, usually with the tape measure laying across the pubic mound.
  • Thighs: Measure each thigh individually, wrapping the tape measure around the widest part of each thigh

Keep a record of your progress with your measurements, and hopefully they decrease – or, as it were, increase in some spaces – to your liking over time. That way, even if you can’t see changes, you’ll know they’re occurring.

The progress dress. You can’t be a regular around here and not know about the progress dress, can you?

Excerpted from The 5 Components of a #ScaleFreeSummer: Goal Measurement – A Bajillion Ways To Measure Progress Without A Scale | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

I’m also going to add something else. Invest in a body fat measuring scale!

The scales aren’t 100% accurate – the only body fat measuring metric that is accurate is hydrostatic testing – but they are consistent, and that consistent measuring of your body fat percentage (and water weight, for that matter) will help you understand what kind of weight you’re gaining, and this information combined with the other measurements of your fitness progress will give you a much more concise understanding of where your hard work is taking you. This is the scale I use, and fully recommend to others.

Give yourself new ways to understand and appreciate your progress, and your efforts to advance in these new ways will also bring about the body fat progress you’re after! Before too long, you’ll be cruising towards your goal, and your body will thank you for it!