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How to Lose Fat Not Weight

Think Fat Loss, Not Weight Loss

It is important to understand that weight loss is not synonymous with fat loss. In general, changes in body weight may represent a change in lean muscle mass, body fat, and/or hydration. For this reason, using a scale to assess changes in body composition can be very frustrating and misleading; which, ultimately undermines long-term weight loss success. Remember, the scale only measures body weight – it does not evaluate changes in body composition (e.g. body fat, muscle mass, or hydration status).

If you want to use a scale to monitor changes in weight, that’s fine; however, I would encourage you to utilize other measures of health as well. For example, how your clothing fits, your energy level, improvements in strength and fitness, confidence, and so forth. I gained 15 pounds via strength training – big deal. Increases in lean muscle mass from strength training significantly improves health, confidence, and physical appearance; however, it may also result in weight gain due to muscle density. It is important to note that loss of lean muscle mass also results in a decrease in resting energy expenditure – or metabolism. Unfortunately, reductions in energy expenditure also necessitate a matching reduction of food intake in order to maintain body weight; which, at very low levels, is incredibly difficult, unnatural, and unrealistic – for anyone to maintain long-term.

If it feels as though you gained 5 pounds over night after implementing a strength training program, you’re not alone. In general, this slight increase in weight is related to the acute inflammatory response experienced within the muscles and increased storage of glycogen – not true weight gain. No, you did not gain 5 pounds of fat overnight. To gain 5 pounds of fat one would need to consume an excess of approximately 7,000 calories (in one day). Besides, muscle is far more dense than fat tissue. Increasing lean muscle mass will result in a physique that appears more fit and slim.

What is a healthy weight loss goal?

The evidence suggests significant improvements in health can be achieved by simply losing 5 – 10% of your total body weight. While 10% may not seem like a lot for some people, the real challenge is maintaining weight loss long-term (or “keeping it off.”).

How do I calculate my weight lost percentage?

When evaluating weight loss success, it is important to consider the percentage of total weight lost. Let’s take a look at the example below:

An individual who weighs 300 pounds would be expected to lose more weight – more rapidly – than someone who is 180 pounds. You can calculate weight loss percentage by dividing your current weight, by your initial weight (or starting weight).

A 300 pound individual loses 50 pounds over 12 months:

  • 250/300 = .83% or a total weight loss of 17% (100% – 83% = 17%).

A 180 pound individual loses 50 pounds over 12 months:

  • 130/180 = .72% or a total weight loss of 28% (100% – 72% = 28%).

As you can see from this example, the individual who started out weighing 180 pounds lost more weight (or a greater percentage) than the 300 pound individual, despite an equal amount of weight lost.

My point in sharing this example is not to encourage weight loss competition, but rather, to demonstrate the value in establishing personal and realistic weight loss goals. By the way, I picked these numbers for convenience purposes only. Losing 28% of initial body weight within 1 year is never healthy.

How much is 10% for me?

To calculate how much weight is equivalent to 10%, take your current weight and multiply it by .10% or (0.10); example below:

Current weight: 200 pounds
Calculation: 200 x .10 = 20 pounds.

Like I said, I realize most people can lose 10% of their body weight fairly rapidly, the real challenge is keeping it off.

But, that doesn’t seem like enough..

I understand, but consider this, surgical weight loss patients who lose 10-15% and keep it off for 3 to 5 years are considered a huge success! Remember, the goal is not to lose 10% rapidly via some stupid diet. The goal is to lose 5-10% via sustainable lifestyle changes and keep it off. Whatever you do, don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals for yourself. Create SMART goals.

Should I consider liposuction?

Liposuction only removes subcutaneous fat and therefore should not be undertaken as a procedure for reducing visceral fat.

Subcutaneous Fat:
Subcutaneous fat is the fat that we store just under our skin. The fat we may be able to feel on our arms and legs is subcutaneous fat.

Visceral Fat:
Visceral fat is the fat stored underneath our organs. Research suggests that excessive accumulation of visceral fat increases risk of metabolic disease (e.g., type 2 diabetes).

Ditch The Self-Doubt

Self-doubt and negative thinking can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. At times, we can be incredibly hard on ourselves, despite any evidence that our standards are realistic or even healthy long-term. With practice, you can learn to dispute negative self-talk in order to achieve more positive outcomes.

Eat When You’re Hungry, Not When You’re Bored

Eating in the absence of hunger – or disinhibited eating – a phenomenon defined as the lack of self-restraint over food consumption prompted by emotional, physical, or external factors, can sabotage health and weight management efforts long-term. Youth with emotional eating are thought to have a predisposition toward a high level of emotional sensitivity and tendency to experience emotions intensely, for a long duration.

Cope Without Food

Yes, I said it. Learn to deal with emotions and boredom without food. One of my favorite quotes is “If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not really hungry – you’re just bored.” It’s true! When we are truly hungry, even raw fruits and vegetables sound appetizing. When we eat to cope with an emotion or deal with boredom, we are far more picky.

Rather than eating out of boredom, consider an alternative behavior such as walking outdoors, listening to music, stretching, cleaning up the house, or reading your favorite book.

Surround Yourself With People Who Get It

Find a workout buddy and join a community of like-minded people for ideas, inspiration, and support!

Eat Clean

Eat minimally processed foods, while avoiding ultra-processed foods and beverages.

Value Quality Over Quantity

Just because you can buy a $0.49 hamburger doesn’t mean you should.

Avoid Ultra-Processed Sweeteners

Researchers believe sugar substitutes may be linked to weight gain and metabolic dysfunction.

Eat More Raw Plants

Raw fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories, high in fiber, and a powerful source of bioactive compounds.

Eat More at Home

Eating out inevitably leads to a higher intake of sugar, fat, and salt.

Eat Less Snacks

Snacking excessively throughout the day (e.g., between every meal) likely promotes weight gain and/or metabolic syndrome. Try to fast between meals and read up on the benefits of Intermittent Fasting.

Don’t Cave to Food Cravings

We don’t have to respond to every food craving we experience. Some food cravings may actually be a sign of an underlying issue. For example, craving salty food – especially at night – may be a sign of dehydration.

Limit Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors

Researchers believe endocrine disruptors (e.g., BPA, mercury, fluoride, pesticides, parabens, phthalates, and triclosan) may be at least partially responsible for the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Get the Skinny on Your Meds

Check to see if any of your OTC or RX medications promote weight gain. If they do, consult with your MD re: possible alternatives.

Optimize Vitamin and Mineral Status

Micronutrients are key to metabolism and weight management. For instance, chromium deficiency has been linked to type 2 diabetes, while tryptophan deficiency is believed to be associated with increased carbohydrate cravings and overeating.

Ensure Adequate Iodine Intake

Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of hypothyroidism worldwide; which, is a known contributor to weight gain and obesity.

Get More Sun

Sunshine is our primary source of vitamin D and vitamin D deficiency has been repeatedly associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Breath Clean

Indoor air pollution contributes to more than 4.3 million deaths per year and has been linked to lung and heart disease. Recent research suggests HEPA indoor air purification systems reduce indoor air pollution and improve cardiopulmonary health.

Drink Clean

Hydration with pure water is essential to optimal health and wellness, including weight management. In fact, dehydration has been linked to obesity and heart disease. Beverages high in sugar and other empty calories (e.g., liquor, beer, wine, mixed drinks, soda, and juice) offer very little nutritionally and promote weight gain.

  • Drinking 500 mL pure water before meals may promote weight loss.

  • Filter tap water with reverse osmosis and carbon filtration to remove potentially harmful water contaminants (e.g., endocrine disruptors and fluoride).

Train Mean

Move your body! At a minimum, aim to walk for at least 30-45 minutes each day. 

Get Adequate Sleep

There is evidence to suggest sleep deprivation increases energy intake and weight gain.

Stand More and Sit Less

Sitting for prolonged periods of time has been associated with an increased risk of cancer, anxiety and obesity (independent of walking or training time).

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