Weight Loss v Fat Loss. How Your Diet Is Sabotaging You.
People can lose fat, and can still weigh the same.
People can lose weight and not lose any fat. Confusing right?
Your weight is also not a direct correlation to the amount of fat on your body.
You can have 2 light people who are the same height and clothes size but one may be heavier because they have low fat but a lot of muscle and the other lighter because they have more fat and less muscle.
You can also have heavy people with low fat on the body. Think, competitive body builders where you can see the veins through their skin.
By looking at the weight on the scales of any of these people you simply cannot tell how much fat is on them and more importantly - how the amount of fat or muscle on their body is affecting their health. And I think looking at health is far more important than how much fat is on ones body.
So when you think you want to lose weight (and you actually mean you want to lose fat) then how can you tell that by weighing yourself?
You can’t, and it can do more harm than good when you use this number as a metric to gauge your success on any kind of diet or weight loss plan.
Think about diets you may have tried in the past. You might even be on some new diet right now.
Have you ever gone on a really restrictive diet and lost tons of weight in the first week?
Have you found that low carb had amazing results in the shortest amount of time?
Or keto? Much better right??
Did your last juice “cleanse” get even better results?
It’s not surprising these things will get you a quick win on the scales.
In order to get rid of fat from the body you need to burn off A LOT of energy. But the quick way to see a lower number on your scale is to drop water and glycogen from your body.
Glycogen is the body's way of storing carbohydrates and it does this by binding with water molecules before settling in the liver and muscles. Glycogen is the body's preferred energy source as it’s fast and efficient.
Sports people who need to be a certain weight will often use methods to drop water from their body in order to ‘make weight’ without sacrificing muscle.
For every gram of carbohydrate stored in the body, there will be a further 2-3 grams of water. Processed carbs are more likely to retain more water as opposed to complex carbs (whole fruits, veggies and pulses) due to added salt present in those foods and lower fibre.
So this fast weight loss you see is the depletion of water and glycogen - not fat. And the more processed foods you have been eating the quicker you will seem to ‘lose weight’ as you try the new fad diet.
Have you ever lost 5-8kg in less than a week on a “miracle diet”?
Athletes making weight and crash diets essentially are doing the same thing.
The thing about this is, as soon as you eat any of those foods again your body will top up it’s glycogen stores and your scale will tell you that you put weight on……….. And what does that do for your mental state?
Using the athlete example again, they will also put the weight back on but they plan to do so, unlike dieters who are horrified at a pound showing up on the scale!
Quick weight loss and exit strategy...
When you decide you need to lose weight and you “find a diet” you think might work, do you ever think about the long game? I mean, not just telling yourself you will find a diet and stick to it forever this time.
I am asking because - the diet has the purpose of making you lose weight and if you kept just losing weight without an end point you would die. There has to be a point at which you think….. This is where I want to be and when I get there I will have to do X, Y and Z differently?
And how do you pick the number you want to be on the scales?
What happens if you reach that number and you don’t look the way you thought you would?
As already mentioned - if you just go back to eating the way you did before, you will restore your glycogen levels and weight. If you have been eating less for a longer period of time you may have lost some weight from both fat and muscle. Usually, women lose more muscle when they diet in this way and then regain the weight as fat.
This has the effect on the body of being about the same weight but with the possibility of being in a larger dress size (because fat takes up more room than muscle pound for pound).
Jumping from diet to diet and losing and regaining weight can over time be responsible for lots of muscle loss and lots of fat gain and this happens more in women than in men. It is also linked to higher risk factors for disease.
This quote from a client this week sums it up -
“Slimfast was my downfall. I wanted to lose 5kg way back when and put on 20kg”
Repeated attempts to diet have added almost another 20kg onto her weight. She has been victim to the diets that have been popular and none have worked.
Binge eating is something I work on with almost every single client. Binge eating happens more often than not, as a reaction to under eating…. AKA dieting. The worst effects of binge eating are the role shame and guilt play as it truly brings a person into a cycle which is very difficult to get out of, especially when they believe the best way is to diet to ‘undo the damage’. It’s never ending.
Other reasons for binge eating can be due to fasting like behaviours, missing important nutrients in the diet and even boredom. All of these things can be linked to diets where whole food groups are limited or eliminated. And boredom can have an effect on the pleasure centre of the brain, driving us to want to eat more….. Usually carbs and fats - easily available in processed or convenience foods.
I don’t have many clients who binge eat on fruit and vegetables but chocolate, biscuits and crisps are high on the list. With their high sugar, salt and fat contents hitting all the right places of the brain for a quick hit, as it were.
Think back to all the diets you have tried and remember what happened the first time you felt it failed - what was the first thing you ate? I imagine it was not a salad, or a home cooked meal.
Diets lead to binge eating and binge eating can be the cause of the weight gain experienced by those who feel like failed dieters.
Internal v external cues...
Our body has internal mechanisms to tell us when we are hungry and when we are full and also what to eat, but most who diet and stick to rigid plans focused on external cues (such as what time to eat, exact portion sizes, weights/measures, calories, colour codes or points) can actually destroy these cues which then means the person is reliant on something other than their body to tell them when to eat and what to eat.
If you no longer want to be stuck on diets but don’t know what or how to eat then that’s not going to be very helpful in maintaining your energy or health.
The small % of people who do lose weight and successfully keep it off (5+ years) are the ones who have incorporated good habits into their life. They almost all don’t do the diets that lost them the weight but they have made a lot of realisations along the way and have very balanced and flexible approaches to their health and fitness.
They typically don’t have a specific weight goal but they are aware of natural fluctuations, they don’t have a system of feast and famine (i.e summer holiday diet and Xmas gorge), they eat similar portions and meals 365 days of the year and most often they prioritise breakfast.
Successful weight loss maintainers are also active on a daily basis, and interestingly they don’t all “eat healthy” all the time but they do eat a very wide variety of foods which covers all bases for them.
So now that I’ve covered a few things around weight loss and fat loss - how do you think your new diet working for you now?
And what do you need to do differently to stop the yo yo diet lifestyle fueled by binge, restriction, hunger and confusion?
Need advice on how to get started with a healthy lifestyle instead of yo yo dieting?