Did you know over 70% of Australian women feel they’d like to lose weight? In fact, over two-thirds of new year’s resolutions is related to losing weight, and becoming fit and healthy.
Interestingly, what’s commonly known as ‘losing weight’ should actually be called ‘losing mass’. Weight is measured in newtons, while mass is measured in kilograms. When it comes to our bodies, it’s referred to as body mass.
Do you know what your body mass is composed of? Water, fat, and muscles. But how much of each? This is referred to as body composition.
When people say they want to ‘lose weight’, what most of them are referring to is actually losing body fat. For example, when you say you want to lose 5kg, what you should be saying is that you want to lose 5kg body fat.
Why should you care about your body composition?
Muscle is precious, and nobody wants to lose muscle. It’s the one thing that allows for movement by the human body. Muscle loss causes a myriad of illnesses including low bone density, obesity, and immobility. Scary, right?
Muscle is the one thing that we can’t get too much of. Here are some properties of muscles:
- you lose them if you don’t use them
- they weigh more than fat
- they consume lots of energy
- you can’t shape them, regardless of what you’re told by the media!The shape of your muscles is predetermined by your genes
- when you starve your body in the effort of losing weight, you end up losing a lot of muscles as well as fat
Fat isn’t the enemy.
Fat has unfairly copped bad press for decades. Our cells and organs need fat to function normally, particularly our brain, which is 60% fat! A fat-starved body has many problems including low immunity, fertility issues, constant fatigue, naming just a few.
Our body is also fussy when it comes the type of fat it wants. And unfortunately a modern diet is often low in the good fats, and high in the bad fats. It’s often hard to tell which type of fat is stored in your body – a slim person can have surprisingly high levels of ‘bad’ or visceral fat in the body.
Your muscle dictates your metabolism.
Have you ever met someone who could eat anything and everything and yet remain slim and muscular? Your metabolism refers to the rate at which your body converts food into energy and expending them.
Have you ever heard someone say that as they get older, it becomes easier to gain weight because of slowing metabolism? This isn’t quite true. Your metabolic rate is closely linked to your muscle mass – the more muscles you have, the higher your metabolism as muscles naturally consume more energy, even at resting state.
As we age, we lose muscle at about 3-5% per decade up until the age of 65 before seeing a sharp decline. This means our metabolism doesn’t alter that much before then. And exercise can definitely slow the rate of muscle loss further.
This means we shouldn’t blame age for slowed metabolism, and weight gain. It’s our lifestyle as we get older that we should examine; are we still doing as much exercise as we used to? We may be moving less as we get older but are we still consuming the same amount and same type of foods as we used to?
Crash dieting doesn’t work!
When you go on a restricted diet in the hope of shedding kilos in the short-run, the weight inevitably returns once you’re off that diet.
Why is that?
Our body doesn’t like sudden changes. When you go on a restricted diet, our body sees it as starvation. It shocks the body to begin stripping off its muscles (yes, not fat!), because muscles are expensive to maintain as they use up a lot of energy.
That’s typically when you’ll see the number drop on your scale because muscles also weigh a lot – a lot more than fat.
When your diet inevitably returns to normal, your heavy energy burners i.e. your muscles are gone so you won’t be able to burn off as much as you used to. All that excess calories get stored as body fat.
So the sad truth is that: the weight gain that follows strict dieting is often excess fat!
This is why crash dieting inevitably results in weight gain, in the form of body fat, in the long run. So avoid it all at cost!
The fallacies of traditional measures of ‘weight’
The scale – the number there tells you your total mass, but it doesn’t tell you what makes up your mass. An athlete who trains for 8 hours a day and follows a strict diet could have the same weight as someone who has a sedentary lifestyle and consumes poorly.
The BMI – this number expresses your mass measured in kg as an index. It doesn’t tell you what that mass is made up of. An athletic person could have exactly the same BMI as an overweight person, but what makes up their body mass is completely different.
The tape measure – the number tells you the circumference of your limbs and trunk, but it doesn’t tell you what’s underneath the skin. A body builder could have exactly the same arm circumference as an obese person, but their body composition is wildly different.
If you’re wanting to lose body fat, getting an accurate starting point is paramount!
From there you can work out exactly how much body fat you should aim to lose, which is much more scientific than the vague kilograms that you’re wanting to lose.
Like with everything else, if going at it alone feels like an uphill battle, then enlist the help of professionals! With the right help and guidance, you can achieve your goals a lot quicker – perhaps even in the months left of 2020!