Weight loss vs Fat loss
WHAT IS FAT?
Fat. It sits where we can see, poke and jiggle it. This is the stuff most of us wants to lose because we don't like how it looks. We also have fat you can't see sitting around our organs. This is the fat that can wreck havoc in the body and what we refer to when we are talking about health risks. That jiggly grabby stuff won't kill ya, the stuff around your organs might.
But just know, that is what fat is.
WHAT IS LEAN MASS?
Bones, skin, hair, muscles, brain, heart, lungs, fascia, intestine etc. This is part of "lean mass". Pretty straight forward right? But what ELSE is lean mass?
It is also the food you haven't digested yet. It is also the food you digested but haven't yet eliminated. It is also the stored glycogen INSIDE your muscles (for the sake of simplicity glycogen is the stored water & glucose weight)
Lean mass is also your water balance. You are approximately 70% water. Therefore, your "lean mass" is also determined by anything that will alter your fluid balance, such as hormones, electrolyte ratios, toxins (food and otherwise), stress and poor sleep.
Ok, so we know that when we're talking "Lean" we're talking about muscles, but if you keep viewing it that way you're going to become very disappointed and frustrated with your efforts.
WHAT IS WEIGHT THEN?
Weight is the sum of FAT MASS + LEAN MASS
That means, anything that affects "fat mass" and "lean mass" will affect the WEIGHT. Are we clear on what we're looking at here. Weight is that number you're looking at on the scale.
The scale does not measure how much FAT you've lost, nor how much LEAN mass you've lost or gained, it simply tells you what your WEIGHT loss is, and that's not a very accurate way to track your results.
Let's make this super simple. You come in and weigh in at 80kg, and your body fat percentage was 15% (12kg fat mass + 68kg lean mass) You go away for 30 minutes and drink 2L of water, you come back, busting as all hell and I weigh you, you're 82kg. I then take your skin folds (which of course haven't changed over the last 30 minutes), and you're still 15% bodyfat, but the calculator now shows us that you have 12.37kg of lean mass and 69.63kg of lean mass. WOW in 30 minutes you created an extra 1.63kg of lean mass for yourself! Amazing.
But you didn't lose FAT or gain MUSCLE at all, you simply changed your weight.
Is this all making sense?
The point I'm trying to make here is that if you rely on the scale for your results, you're not really tracking your progress very well. I'm sure you're not doing all this work just to lose a few kg of water weight right? Surely it's fat you want to lose?
Losing fat and losing weight are two different things. We can all do the lemon detox diet or take a bunch of laxatives and lose weight, but this is not fat.
We need to be thinking about fat loss, not weight loss.
Those daily fluctuations you see on the scale...
Those overnight "gains" of 1kg etc...
They're not fat.
You would have to have had a 7000 calorie EXCESS in ONE DAY to gain 1 kg of fat overnight. I've not met a single client doing that, so I can safely tell you, that your weight going up overnight, is not fat. It's literally impossible.
And here's the reason why you're scared of carbohydrates
Glycogen, as mentioned earlier is derived from the glucose in the foods you eat and water. It gets stored in the muscle, and it weighs something. We want this, it helps supply fuel, it gives our muscles a nice toned round look.
When you embark on a diet like Dukkan, you are going to lose glycogen, because on a low carb diet, there is not really much to replace this glycogen, so you're going to lose glycogen weight. At some point, you should start burning fat.
But when you add the carbs back in, you're going to refill those lovely muscles again - and yes you're WEIGHT will go up, but provided you remain sensible, your fat shouldn't go back up.
And this is why you're scared of carbs, you see this weight gain and freak out. Don't freak out, would you rather have a nice toned muscle or a thin flappy muscle that makes you look 10 years older than you are? You might gain 3kg of glycogen weight back! This is not fat!
Here are just some other things that will affect WEIGHT.
- sodium/potassium balance (adrenal function, poor sleep, stress, trauma, illness)
- Hydration fluctuations (didn't drink enough, had lots, haven't pee'd yet etc)
- Alcohol (can both dehydrate but also encourage fluid retention
- Constipation / Diarrhea
- Hormones (PMT, high stress, emotions, trauma)
- Lean muscle gain
- Illness / disease / organ issues (lymphatic system, kidneys, spleen etc)
- Your treat meal. It will add some food weight but also some extra sodium and fluid retention
- Humidity levels
Just as a wee note, the healthier you are, the less you will retain large amounts of fluid pre-menstrually, you may want to work with a Naturopath over the next 6-12 months to help with this. If I may share my own story, I used to gain 2-3kg every PMT, and was struck down with terrible mood swings and pain. I worked on Candida, Liver health, adrenal function, general gut health and detoxification under the close supervision of a few different Naturopaths, it took about 3 months to start noticing a difference in my cycles, after 6 months, we had solid changes, and here I am 2 years later, consistently good PMT, and periods and ZERO fluid retention (unless I've eaten crap food) So it is actually possible to free yourself of this fluid retention if you're prepared to do the yards.
And here are things that will affect FAT
- Poor diet, high in processed foods, refined carbohydrate or white carbohydrate
- Sedentary lifestyle - no exercise of any sort, or not enough exercise
- Acute stress (Adrenalin can make us lose it fast...this is not a good thing)
- Chronic stress (Cortisol can make us gain it around the belly)
- Hormone levels (Is your body thriving, or is it just trying to survive right now)
- Inconsistency, impatience, lack of effort on your part (and all things that interfere with your efforts, like emotions, binge eating, injury, illness, excuses etc)
- Weight training, more muscle burns more fat. You want this!
In the first week of a new nutrition or exercise program, one of two things is going to happen:
- You are going to lose 2-3kg in WEIGHT, this is fluid and glycogen loss and also simply a reduction in the weight of the food that your body is carrying in digested and undigested materials. It is also because you're in the honeymoon phase, where you followed everything exactly 100%. You probably slept better and were slightly less stressed because the food made you feel good.
- You are going to gain 1-2kg in WEIGHT. This is glycogen supercompensation and can happen when someone embarks on a new exercise program, typically something that is quite a step up from where they were before hand. This is good weight to gain, so tough it out for a bit, it could take up to 4 weeks for the body to re-adjust.
HOW TO TRACK FAT LOSS
- Use the scale, but use it with other things. As a Weight Loss Coach I need to use the scale to work out your body fat %, so it does have a valid application
- Bodyfat % testing. This can be done a number of ways, I use skinfold (caliper) testing and the Durnin and Womersley 4POINT Caliper method, but there are others.
- Measurements, measuring tape.
- Your clothing. Surely you're doing this because you want to be more comfortable in clothing right? So this would make you clothing to be a very intelligent form of measuring progress.
- Before and after photos. It is photos where you see the magic of the body fully at work. This is where you get to see yourself SMALLER even though you gained 5kg of muscle! This is the form of measurement that means that most, but confuses the hell out of you guys. You see, it's the old 1kg of feathers / 1kg of lead scenario. They both weigh the same, but one takes up less space. So if you lost 5kg of fat and gained 5kg of muscle, you would weigh the same, but you would look a whole lot smaller.
- Trend charts. A trending graph will show the trend over time, so you might have fluctuations up and down in weight, but we're looking for the trend over time...12 weeks or whatever. But we also want our trend graph to consider your measurements, clothing size, skinfolds, weight and what you look like.
So what's more important now? Option A) How you look, feel and function? Or option B) What you weigh? I'm hoping you chose option A.
FAT LOSS VS WEIGHT LOSS CHEAT SHEET
- Weight went up over night = not fat gain (check how you slept, stress, anti-inflammatory use, constipation etc)
- Weight went down by a big-ish amount overnight = not 100% fat loss, might be some fat loss, but will mostly be fluid or other wastes if it was over 200g overnight
- Weight goes up, but pictures show smaller = FAT LOSS + LEAN GAIN
- Weight goes up in one week, clothes tighter, pictures no change = maybe fat gain, maybe fluid gain - too early to tell
- Weight keeps going up, clothes keep getting tighter, pictures no change = fat gain or serious fluid issue
- Weight went down, aged, body a bit floppy and soft = possible lean mass loss
- Weight goes down in a week, in a fairly big amount and pictures show a dramatic change in puffiness = probable loss of retained fluids.
We need to understand the fluctuations in weight vs fat to keep our heads in the right place while trying to achieve our goals The more we stress ourselves out about what we think is fat gain, the more likely we are to drop our program or think negative thoughts. Both of these things aren't going to get you to your goal. Weigh yourself weekly, but assess your weight chart monthly along with your tape measure and images - then you can get a true picture of your results, and from there assess what needs changing.
Try to avoid the urge to just give up based on what the scale says, you are handing a lot of emotional power over to an inanimate object that isn't even measuring your fat levels anyway!