Everyone likes to talk about weight loss but what type of weight are people actually losing? In this article, you’ll discover the truth about the term collectively known as weight loss.
In 2003 I attended a seminar entitled “Fat Loss not Weight Loss” as part of my Naturopathic training. Early in the day the lecturer made a comment that I have never forgotten. “You can lose weight just by going to the toilet!” Although Mr. Eddy ND was stating the obvious; it wasn’t until that moment that it dawned on me just how misleading the term weight loss can be. Losing excess fat, fluid, waste or toxins, should be the goal of any healthy weight reduction program. However, for most people, the success of a weight loss program is measured simply by a decrease in kilograms on the scales.
So when “Anita” weighs herself on the scales and she’s 2 kg lighter, she assumes that this is healthy and what she is doing is working. And of course this is understandable given that the generalized notion of weight loss, is all anybody ever talks about! But what if that 2 kg weight loss came at the expense of a reduction in muscle and bone mass? Muscle mass is heavier than fat mass so when it is lost it has a dramatic effect on the scales. The irony is that muscle mass drives metabolism and enables you to burn fat more effectively. So while losing muscle mass might look good on the scales, it actually weakens your overall physique and body structure, decreases your immunity and slows fat loss.
Therefore, as any of my clients can attest, it is essential that you know what type of weight you are actually losing. There have been instances among my male clientele where their overall weight has increased but their physique has improved substantially. This is because their increased weight came from muscle mass which enabled them to burn more fat. It should also be remembered that muscle mass also adds tone to the body and improves its overall appearance. It also produces increased stamina, strength and energy.
Overall physique is a very important consideration when attempting to reduce body weight. Many people have large frames with a high degree of muscle and bone mass. This can weigh quite heavily on the scales but it is very important for the body to have a strong structural framework. The body’s bone mass peaks at 20 years of age but according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 5 to 7 years after menopause bone mass declines by a whopping 20%.
This is because women lose the protective effects of estrogen after menopause which predisposes them to developing Osteoporosis (porous bones) which fracture and break easily. Therefore, maintaining a healthy amount of bone mass is essential to offset this hormonal change.
My advice to anyone undertaking a weight loss program is to make sure that they monitor and manage their progress with regular Body Composition Assessments (BCA) to ensure that muscle and bone mass is not being sacrificed in an effort to weigh less on the scales. Ideally BCA’s need to be done every three weeks as bone and muscle loss can occur with surprising speed.
On a final note I believe it’s unrealistic to compare one person’s weight loss success with another because there are so many variables. Among my clients there are examples of people who weigh lighter simply because they have a smaller frame. There are also examples of people who are heavier yet healthier than others, simply because they have more muscle and less fat mass overall.
Having conducted countless Body Composition Assessments, I can assure readers that there are definitely risks associated with weight loss if it is not monitored and managed correctly. Bathroom scales are next to useless because they do not give you the full picture. Be fully informed about your weight loss program and the type of weight you are losing to avoid serious health issues down the track.