What’s the biggest misconception that gets in so many people’s way when trying to achieve their long-term weight loss goal?
According to Shawn Arent, director of the Center for Health and Human Performance at Rutgers University, what’s getting in the way of losing weight IS…trying to lose weight.
Huh? Let’s unpackage that…
Weight Loss versus Fat Loss
A study on college women revealed that women are much more likely than men to engage in weight-related negative behaviors, such as weighing themselves on their bathroom scales regularly.
Weighing in may seem like a good way to motivate yourself on your weight loss program and to track your progress, but in reality, it could lead you to become overly pre-occupied with your weight and could actually be giving you completely misguided messages. This is because the number staring back at you on your scale doesn’t only reflect how much fat you’re carrying; it also includes the weight of your organs, bones, internal fluids and water, and your muscles.
You may be congratulating yourself for a much-welcomed weight drop on your scale, but this may simply mean that you’ve lost water and no fat at all. On the other hand, you may be beating yourself up for showing no weight loss after weeks of exercising and healthy eating, when in reality, you’ve actually burnt off lots of fat tissue and gained more fat-burning muscle tissue instead.
Muscle tissue is what cranks up our metabolism and keeps it burning through fat. Muscle also weighs more than fat, is more lean and compact looking, and muscle supports a healthy spine, bones and joints. Building healthy muscle tissue in the body helps to torch more pounds of body fat overall and in the long term, which reflects success in your weight loss program, not failure.
Therefore, says Arent, making body composition (the ratio of lean muscle mass to fat tissue in your body) the focus of your health and fitness program – rather than just weight loss – is what could make all the difference between a successful program and a failed one. With the building and maintenance of lean muscle tissue comes continued and sustained weight loss. The key lies in understanding that it’s a package deal.
Why the Classic Weight Loss Formula Doesn’t Work
Putting all of your focus on weight loss without consideration for the mechanism that makes it work is like running in a hamster wheel, feeling like you’re getting somewhere but continuing to find yourself right back at ground zero.
Theoretically, basic weight loss should work like a simple formula: if you eat less calories than your body uses up, then your body will be forced to take calories from the fat tissue in your body, and you end up losing weight. So, according to this theory, a calorie restricted diet should successfully lead to weight loss, because it creates a calorie deficit. Eating fewer calories than the number of calories your body naturally burns should force your body to burn up its own fat stores for energy. When you first start on one of these diets, that’s exactly what happens, and you lose weight.
However, as your body mass starts to shrink in size, so do the number of calories your body uses to perform daily bodily functions. In other words, the more weight you lose, the less calories your body needs to burn on a daily basis. This means that the more weight you lose, the more calories you would be forced to cut from your daily diet in order to stay ahead of the weight loss race.
To make matters worse, severe calorie restriction for prolonged periods of time throws your body into “survival mode”, causing it to adapt by slowing down your metabolic rate even further, and “rationing” its functioning to burn even fewer calories. This forces you to have to continually cut away at your daily calorie intake because, even to just maintain your weight, your slowing metabolism is flipped into fat-storage mode and is working against you.
Essentially, the more you push your body to lose weight by starving it, the more your body pushes back by refusing to let go of the fat stores it has left. What’s more, you’ll also start to experience severe fatigue, crabbiness, dizziness, mental fogginess and uncontrollable urges to binge eat, which become harder and harder to fight. Losing weight this way becomes miserable, unhealthy, and completely unsustainable.
No More Weighting: How to Lose Fat Successfully
So what’s the answer? For weight loss results that are actually sustainable, you need to choose a diet that promotes moderate portion control, satiation, nutritional quality, hormonal balance and lean muscle maintenance, rather than severe calorie restriction and hunger. Again and again, diets like this have proven to be far more effective at creating and maintaining weight loss. This is because these eating plans moderate calorie intake while still addressing your nutritional needs and working with – rather than against – your body’s natural metabolic patterns. This allows you to lose weight while feelings energized and satisfied, rather than leaving you feeling hungry, fatigued, and emotionally and mentally low.
However, while diet is critical to maintaining a good body composition that promotes weight loss, the other key ingredient here that gets ignored far too often is exercise. Exercise is your primary tool for creating more lean muscle tissue in your body, which is the major driver of continued fat burning in your body.
Including an exercise program that involves regular strength training in your weight loss plan is one of the best ways to keep the scales tipped in your favor, as it stimulates weight loss by burning calories, rather than just restricting calories through starvation.
If you personally find it hard to motivate yourself to exercise, try these proven ways to make yourself do it…and actually come to even love it.
By promoting regular increased muscle activity, an increased metabolic rate and by burning through even more calories, regular strength training creates a healthy calorie deficit without having to starve yourself or having to resort to unhealthy strategies to stay ahead of the weight loss race.