Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss: Are You Losing the Right Weight?

I received a message from Mojan Radfar (our guest blogger), few days ago asking my opinion about weight loss vs. fat loss. Her topic got me thinking, how many people in my practice know the difference. The answer is almost 1-2%. So I told her to write a blog post and with her permission I changed it to what you see here.

Fat loss seems to be the hottest topic nowadays. Men come to my clinic complaining about the fat around their abdomen and women seem frustrated that they cannot go back to their previous weight. The problem is people who are trying to lose weight always measure their success by focusing on the numbers they see on the scale. You want to know what is even worse? The fact the people weigh themselves EVERYDAY!

What is weight loss?
Weight loss means your goal is to reduce your total body weight. This weight loss can be achieved through losing muscle, bone, organ weight, fat, protein, etc.

What is Fat loss?
It means you lose the amount of fat your body carries. You need to be realistic when it comes to fat loss as it plays a vital role in your body. So experts usually recommend that a healthy goal cannot be more 10% fat loss for men and 15% for women. This number can be lower, if your BMI is normal or if you have a lot of muscle mass.

I hope you are asking: What is BMI?
BMI stands for body mass index
It is measured by using your weight and height
This is why BMI is flawed. It does not take in to calculation how much fat and or muscle you have
An athlete and a sedentary man with same height and weight have same BMI. This means BMI completely ignores the fact that muscle is heavier than fat

What is a successful weight loss?
If you ask any nutrition expert, they would tell you reduction in weight is a success, when reduction is only from fat mass.

Why do I have an issue with people weighing themselves every day?

Your weight fluctuates everyday. There are many different variables involved. For Instance:
• Low carb diet is usually everyone’s favourite because it is a fast weight loss. However, I want you to remember that low carb diet is all about water loss for the first two weeks. Carbohydrates bind to water. So when you eat less carb, you retain less fluid.
• If you do strength training, you are building muscle. This means that your weight might stay the same or even go up, although you are losing fat and getting toned.

Why do I have an issue with people restricting their calorie intake to 800 calorie or less a day?

• It is amazing initially as the numbers keep going down dramatically:
No carb or fat in diet means breaking down muscle and protein
Each gram of protein produces half the amount of energy that a gram of fat does (What do I mean: you burn double)
Protein loss and water loss happen together to a ratio of one protein to four water. This means an even more dramatic weight loss.

• Problem is:
Soon you will hit a plateau
To stay alive your body resists more protein break down
Your body is starved. When you go back to a normal diet, you will gain more weight than you lost. This is for your body to get prepared for the next starvation period if it ever happens.

Should you exercise to achieve fat mass reduction?
• Cardio would make you lose weight. This means you are losing muscle mass, water and fat.
• Strength training or weight lifting will increase fat loss and preserve muscle mass.

30 minutes of moderately intense cardio five days a week
Strength training of all major muscle groups three days a week

Why is it important to lose weight the right way?
• Low muscle mass means:
Decreased strength
Lower immunity
Early aging
Eventually losing independence

• Maintaining muscle mass and protein means:
Higher metabolism
Weight control
Remember that after age 30 you lose approximately 1% muscle mass each year (AHA! That is why it keeps getting harder to shed the extra pounds off)

I think right now you are thinking: what should I do to achieve my fat loss goal?

This is what I want you to remember:
• You gained the fat (weight) over months and years. Be patient! It takes time to lose it all
• To maintain muscle and fluid, you need a balanced diet [Fruits & Vegetables, carbohydrates (whole grains), Protein (lean meat and fish) and Healthy fats (seeds, nuts and olive oil)]
• Portion control is the key
• Calculate your body’s caloric need (Normally it is believed that an average woman needs minimum 1,200 and an average man needs minimum 1,500 Calorie per day)
• Exercise is a must to build muscle and ensure fat loss
• Do not depend on numbers only; instead:

Look at yourself in the mirror
Take before and after photos every 2 weeks
Use scales that measure fat percentage
Use calipers for subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin) measurement to measure the thickness of the fat under the skin

Lastly, we certainly hope, that you learned the importance of losing the weight the right way. Caloric restriction is your body’s enemy and weight loss it is not about deprivation at all.

Dr. Z and Mojan Radfar

Picture taken from: http://www.funnyweightloss.com

Author resumes no liability for incorrect information or any action reader decides to take based on the information on this blog post. This blog post is only author’s personal input on the topic and by no means entails any medical advice.