Written by R. S Jacobs
Everyone has thought about losing weight, at some stage throughout their lives, most commonly for physical or medical reasons. Ask anybody what their goal is, from avid gym goers, runners, home workout enthusiasts, and they would most probably tell you that they want to lose some weight.
Unfortunately, there is a very common misunderstanding about some of the key factors that determine our weight and the number on the scale does not always determine our body fat ratio. Our body weight is made up of roughly 15% bone, your muscles are roughly 20% for the average person, organs (remember, skin is an organ) is an average of 5%, and surprisingly the body is made up of between 50 – 60% water!
You must take into consideration that all these individual things count towards the number that smiles back at you when you step on the scales. You can’t fight nature, and some people have a naturally higher muscle ratio or hold more water. So, when we say we want to lose weight, you are almost saying that you want to reduce the weight of our skeleton, reduce your organs/tissues mass, decrease muscle weight and worst of all, dehydrate! This is commonly done with fad diets, gastric bands, calorie deficit and other extreme weight loss regimes. When you look at it like that, it’s easy to see how someone can achieve quick weight loss, purely based on malnourishment!
The most successful and healthy scenario for effective weight loss is to maintain your required muscle/bone/tissues ratio, which is basically the main difference between weight loss and fat loss. Your goal should always be focused on maintaining your natural body composition whilst you implement strategic techniques to focus on reducing body fat. There is the tendency to sabotage our fitness goals by eating too little food which results in muscle loss rather than fat loss. Once you start reducing your muscles, you have basically ruined your chances of achieving long-term weight loss as muscles are highly metabolic – they use fat as a fuel source, therefore the more muscles you have, the more chance you have of reducing your body fat.
This also goes for people who have gastric band surgery, as they often end up with the dreaded saggy ‘apron’ of deflated excess skin because their muscles, organs, tissues have wasted away. For anyone who has lost a considerable amount of weight, they will tell you that excess skin is often much harder to deal with compared to losing weight, as it requires significant efforts to see minimal results.
However, if you lose weight through diet and exercise (lifting weights is by far the best approach), your skin will have a much greater chance of snapping back so you achieve a much more toned and athletic physique.
Let`s discuss this diagram. Both guys are the same height, weight and BMI, however, the man on the right looks significantly bigger in comparison to the man on the left. This is due to the fact that body fat takes 3 times more space than muscle, meaning both men with equal body composition will have drastically different appearances. The guy on the right has a body fat percentage in excess of 40%, while the guy on the left has roughly 10% body fat. So, as you lose body fat, don’t be surprised if you still weigh the same or even more, despite losing inches, fitting into smaller clothes and being in the greatest shape of your life.
For those that are serious about getting in shape, and using the correct methods of achieving and maintaining muscle, my advice would be simple…..Ditch the scales! They are not an accurate indicator at all, and they only encourage people to keep chasing a magical number at any cost. In fact, even top medical professionals are disregarding the concept of BMI as inaccurate and prefer to practice body fat measurements to determine the real story. You can check this very easily, why not get your own body fat calipers (there are lots of very low-cost options online), always take before-and-after photos, use a tape measure and of course, your clothes are fantastic indicators!
Let’s go over the main benefits of fat loss vs weight loss.
* Fat loss = Good nutrition. Weight loss uses unsustainable techniques such as extreme calorie deficit and crash dieting, whereas fat loss encourages proper nutrition to fuel your body efficiently, therefore triggering the use of stored body fat as fuel to repair and restore the muscles after a workout.
* Fat loss = Low body fat. Weight loss does not necessarily mean you have a lower body fat percentage. Just because you look slimmer does not mean you are necessarily healthy and free from the risk of diseases caused as a direct result of excess fat. Fat loss on the other hand significantly reduces the risk of such diseases.
* Fat loss = Youthful. Have you come across people who look old and weak when they lose weight? That’s a direct side effect of someone who has used extreme methods to achieve quick weight loss, basically, it drains the life out of you as your body is seriously depleted. However, fat loss keeps you looking younger as you get the essential nutrient from proper nutrition, and a weight based fitness regime will help achieve a more toned, athletic physique.
* Fat loss = Faster metabolism. By encouraging your body to use excess body fat and increase muscle mass, your body will be able to process food and absorb nutrients more efficiently. The increased muscle will enable your metabolism to stay in high gear and burn more calories even when you are resting.
* Fat loss = Sustainable. With your body working like a furnace, you will be able to maintain your results. Most people who focus on weight loss often end up gaining the weight back again, and in some cases, even more. This is because the body is constantly under attack and sees food as something that needs to be stored rather than fuel to be used.
* Fat loss = Happy. Scientific research shows that exercise increases endorphins in the body, which are natural mood enhancers! If you add this to how you will feel when you look in the mirror and see your results, and on top of that, seeing how capable your body is when you push it – I can guarantee you will feel on cloud 9! As cardio/calorie deficit induced weight loss often leads to loose skin, it will most certainly have a negative impact on your overall self-esteem.
* Fat loss = Good food relationship. Most people see food as the enemy, and it can result in triggering dangerous food disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and bingeing. It becomes a daily battle that is very difficult to break free from and encourages a very unhealthy relationship with food. Fat loss achieved through good nutrition shows you how to respect your body by fuelling it in a way that helps to achieve the best results.
In conclusion, if you want to lose weight, you should focus on reducing your body fat percentage, not just weight loss. Make sure you combine diet and exercise, and always aim to incorporate strength training in your fat loss journey. You will not only feel great, but you will achieve your results much quicker and better than you initially hoped for. The more muscles you have, the more fat you burn (check out my article on “Why everyone should lift weights”). This approach takes care of your hunger levels, energy production, manage cravings and ultimately, guarantees fat loss.
Stay strong, warriors.
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