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Weight Loss vs Fat Loss. Knowing the Difference is Key to Your Success.

July 9, 2017 0 Comments

The weight loss “industry” is a $60 billion dollar enterprise (yes, that’s a “b”, not an “m”.) The fitness industry by the way is not factored into that number. Everything from best-seller books to programs like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig; to supplements, cleanses, and surgery. The numbers are staggering and projections for the future are even more unbelievable as it is believed those numbers will not only continue to climb but the “industry” will more aggressively seek out more consumers. When you consider that 68% of American adults and 33% of children are considered obese, the effectiveness of this “industry” is highly questionable. Is the weight loss “industry” to blame or are we a highly gullible and weak society looking for panacea in bottle? It is an equally shared blame.

Perpetrated Myths

Ask 10 people what it means to eat healthy and you will likely get 10 different answers and depending on what generation they are a part of a very different mindset of what it means to eat healthy. Aside the fact that most would agree fruits and vegetables are healthy choices, most would admit they don’t eat enough or avoid fruit because of the sugar content. (Oy! That’s a fact based discussion for another day!) How did something so primal as eating get so convoluted that there is such a disparity between what’s good and what’s bad? That blame can be placed on big and little companies all looking to make a dollar at the consumer’s expense. And how is that possible? Because they are banking on scoring profits over a very emotional and of course desperate, health conscious society. A new gimmick or “trick” is released in an every few year cycle that says eating this is bad, or eating that is what makes you fat, blah, blah, blah. The end result? A society more confused, or worse, sold on an unproven theory about what constitutes healthy eating becoming more nutritionally challenged as to what they are supposed to do, slowly creeping up in weight despite what they believe to be their best efforts. But that’s when the blame can now be shifted on you.

Knowledge is King

As a result of big company myth marketing, everyone becomes an expert of their own domain. “Eat less and exercise more is all I have to do.” “I need to eat these foods in combination.” “I have to stop eating after 7.” If it were only that easy so let’s stop right there. All three and countless other solutions are total BS and what’s frightening is people believe them to be sacred truths that must be adhered to despite their continued rate of failure. And how is that possible? Because knowledge that is fact, evidence based is far less sexy than avoiding whole food groups or eating like a caveman. Let’s begin with weight loss and fat loss. They are not the same. That’s an important concept to understand as most people who enter a diet program, or exercise program will say their goal is to lose weight. Number one, weight loss should never be the goal of any program because weight loss is easy. If I wrap you in a rubber suit, put you in a room that’s 100 degrees and have you do non-stop calisthenics, you can bet your tuckus you’d lose a lot of weight. Yep, it would be all water weight and most likely a little muscle if you didn’t pass out before the session was over. Fat pounds lost -zero. Fat weight, or that matter that accumulates on the body in lumpy sometimes unsightly appearances is much more stubborn and resilient but not for reasons you think. It’s just doing what it’s supposed to do.

The Fat of the Matter

Body fat, or adipose tissue is essential to human life. Yes, you need water and oxygen but fat comes in a really close third. Without getting into too much physiology, fat is an insulator, constituent of all cells, storage site for important vitamins, and a “reserve” of energy among other things. In most of the adult population (68%), it also becomes the surplus energy site. Going back to why people diet or exercise and they say they want to lose weight, what they really mean to say is that they want to lose fat weight. Losing fat weight though is not the same as losing weight and vice versa. Yes, you can lose fat and lose weight, but as previously explained in my horrendous exercise plan, you can lose weight and yet lose no fat weight. How is that possible? Don’t you sweat it out? How myths permeate our thinking. The human body is the perfect machine. Despite your best efforts, it will do everything in its power to keep you alive and kicking. Store excess energy for a later day and store even more energy when it is simply denied energy. Careful of the interpretation here. The body doesn’t store more energy when no energy is present. No, the damage is done when energy deprivation (restrictive calories)is occurring. Weight is lost through water weight and tragically muscle. Muscle is ultimately the engine that burns anything, including fat. Some fat weight may chip away but for the most part it remains and won’t be reflective much on the scale. Here’s where the real issue begins. In the quest to lose weight by eating less, most cut calories too low in whatever cockamamie method du jour thus chipping away at lean tissue (muscle) and seeing weight drop. Time passes and the cockamamie method du jour is no longer pleasurable or sustainable and eating methods slowly return to prior behaviors. There’s now less lean tissue, hence metabolism is lower, and calorie surplus is on the rise. You may have heard of the yo-yo dieting effect. Well, here ya go. Back at square one in a worse position than previously and the cycle continues. It doesn’t have to be that weigh…excuse me..way.

Points to Ponder

Fat loss is not easy but it is absolutely 100% possible. The ease with which some seem to have is not reflective of everyone’s journey and vice versa. It requires consistent, dedicated work towards a specific goal of losing fat, not weight. Here’s a few tips on how and where to start.
• If your past efforts have failed you, perhaps it’s time to take responsibility and own the fact that you’ve been going about it all wrong.
• No more dieting, quick fixes, temporary techniques for short term goals.
• Choose exercise that you will do consistently and challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. At the very least, incorporate some form of resistance training for IT IS THE ONLY EXERCISE that can physically change your body.
• More exercise is not necessarily the answer. Develop a healthy balance that keeps it consistently fun and not a chore.
• Nutrition isn’t so necessarily complex. Stop buying into, believing nutritional claims promoted by unqualified “experts”. They exist because you continue to listen. Stop listening.
• EAT FOOD! Real food. Limit packaged, specifically marketed “diet” food.
• Food is not your enemy; the voice in your head is. You need to eat to survive, not listen to the opinions of others, including yourself.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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