I remember Carol, a sad example of overdependence on the bathroom scales. When she started our program, she weighed 127 pounds and was 26 percent fat. After six months of aerobic exercise, Carol had dropped to 23 percent fat. She had lost two inches off her waist, two and half inches off her hips, and one inch off each thigh. She now wore a size ten instead of a size twelve. She looked better and felt better. But when we weighed her on the scale, she had gained six pounds. Obviously, because of the increase in muscle mass, which weighs more but takes up less space than fat. But all Carol could see was that she had gained weight. "This is stupid," she said and quit the program. That's what I call shallow thinking.

Most people expect a dramatic weight loss when they embark on an exercise program. Well, I hate to disappoint you, but unless you're quite a lot overfat, there will be little if any reduction in your total weight. In fact, you may gain muscle. Muscle is much heavier than fat. As the fat is exercised away from inside the muscle, total muscle mass will increase, and it's likely you'll gain two to three pounds, assuming that you were not grossly overweight when you started.

What does change is your shape. Alan was a most dramatic example. Alan didn't think he has overweight, but he had the typical middle-aged pot belly. He started an aerobic exercise program and in six months his waist went from 38 inches to 32 inches - and he didn't lose one pound! Once a woman sent me a bill for $175 as a joke. This is what it cost her to start a new wardrobe when she dropped from a size twelve to a size eight - while gaining six pounds.

Let's look at what happens to muscle when it isn't exercised. All of us start with muscles that are long and lean with very little fat. As we become older and more sedentary, fat slowly invades the muscle. The shape of the muscle itself changes, becoming shorter and rounder. The muscle eventually becomes so saturated with fat that it can't hold any more, and then the fat begins to accumulate outside the muscle, under the skin. When you diet, you lose fat from under the skin, Your diet has little effect on the fat inside the muscle and nothing happens to the muscle shape. It's still short and round. But you can exercise the intramuscular fat away and change the muscle back to its original long, lean shape. Men lose the roll around the middle, and women regain the waist they had in their youth.

It's the fat under the skin that one can see, pinch and weigh. Obviously, loss of subcutaneous fat will result in change of body size. But usually the person's shape merely seems to be a smaller version of what it was before the loss. You go from a big pear shape to a little pear shape. It's muscles that give your body shape. The definition and firmness are due to exercised muscles, not to loss of subcutaneous fat. As you exercise, keep saying to yourself, "My muscles are getting lean and slinky."

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