Whether it is the quarantine fifteen or you're getting beach ready, this series will focus on how to shed weight consistently. This article will introduce a variety of topics that will be focused on in subsequent articles.
Introduction to Fat Loss
To start, I'd like to clarify fat loss vs. weight loss. To define this, I'd like to point to the American Reality TV Show "The Biggest Loser."
A quick overview, a group of overweight contestants compete to transform their bodies over 30-weeks. During that time, they first compete on teams and then eventually as individuals. Trainers work with the teams and individuals to implement comprehensive workout and nutrition plans. Historically, contestants weighing over 400lbs have been able to lose 200+ pounds in the 30 weeks.
Yes, this is incredible, but it's not the right way. In 2016, the National Institute of Health did a fantastic analysis of Season 8 (2009) contestants and what happened over the 7 years after the competition. The results are troubling.
In the quick version of the story, their bodies fought to put the weight back on due to changes in various hormones that affected appetite and metabolism. The conclusion, dramatic weight loss is not the answer. If you'd like to read a more in-depth overview, check out this 2016 article from the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/health/biggest-loser-weight-loss.html)
Types of Weight we Have
Although the study doesn't get into it, contestants likely sacrificed lean body mass while losing weight. That is, their bodies likely lost muscle mass because of the rapid transformation. Winning the show was mainly based on % of weight loss over 30 weeks. From personal experience, I know what results when you lose weight that fast.
Back in 2016, shortly before this article was published, I went through a dramatic transformation myself. I went from 258.8 lbs to 195.0 in 14 weeks (~25% weight change). It was part of a transformation challenge. The problem was, I didn't lose just fat.
Looking at the numbers, my final body fat % was 10.0%. Using the same device, my fat was 26.8% at the beginning. For argument's sake, let's assume the device was 100% accurate. To calculate my lean body mass (the amount my body weighs if I remove all the fat), I use this formula: Bodyweight * (1-bodyfat%).
So, My starting lean body mass was 189.4
My ending lean body mass was 175.5
That's a loss of 7.3%.
In other words, almost 14lbs of the 63.8lbs I lost was muscle. 21.9% of the weight I lost was muscle.
So, you have Fat Mass and Lean Body Mass. Lean Body Mass is composed of Muscle Mass and Bone Mass.
In the last few years, I learned a few things. For this article, I'll give a quick outline but will dive deeper later on.
How to focus on the Fat
When push comes to shove, there is no silver bullet to weight loss. It is all a personal journey. However, you can get science on your side to help. You do this by working with your medical professional and tracking everything.
On the medical side, I would encourage you to consider engaging with a Registered Dietician to analyze how you are eating and get blood work done. The Dietician will help you understand how your body processes nutrients from blood work and other tests. For some people, their bodies metabolize certain macronutrients differently. Thus, their intake profiles need to be different. However, one principle will remain the same intake less output shows whether you are generating a caloric deficit or a caloric surplus. Deficit helps your body utilize fat; surplus leads to storing fat.
By tracking everything, I mean everything. Food, exercise, walking, sleep, stress levels, etc. Just track it. Don't analyze it every day, though. Review it each week to start to see trends. When does your diet break down? Why? What days do you tend to miss your workout? Why? To do this, there are a variety of workout trackers and food tracking apps (I use MyFitnessPal but have seen others do well with Noom.) Smartwatches help track heart rate. For pure weight training workouts, you'll have to keep a log of what you actually do.
Another tip is motivation. When losing fat, there has to be a purpose. Sometimes, multiple. I like a balance of extrinsic motivators like DietBet to keep me accountable. However, I need intrinsic motivation. Like, lifelong ability to play with my daughters and (hopefully) eventual grandchildren. I also enhance intrinsic motivation by talking over the why with a support group. This goes for all of my fitness goals.
In future articles, I dive more into the pieces of fat loss. I know this article didn't give a concrete principle to use today, the future articles will cover that.
If you have questions or feedback, feel free to comment or email.