Could you be following the wrong plan for your goals?
The terms above are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between each one and your ability to understand that can greatly change the method you are using to achieve your fitness goals.
Let’s start with some definitions:
Weight loss: Lowering your total body weight (the sum of your bones, muscles, organs etc.)
measured using: Scale (Eek!)
Fat loss: Lowering the total amount of fat that your body carries. The healthy body fat % for women is 20%
measured using: Calipers (best method)
Who should be trying to lose weight?
People who are medically overweight.
There is a reason it’s called ‘overweight’- you are simply carrying too much weight for your body. This may be detrimental to your health- you may get exhausted too quickly because you have a lot more weight to carry around, your knees need to work harder to carry your weight and your heart needs to pump more to get blood to all parts of your body. These are all some of the medical issues which you may face if you are overweight and you need to take steps to remedy the issues.
Who should be trying to lose fat?
Most people who want to lose weight are simply carrying too much fat. You want to look more toned and get leaner and the only way to do that is by working to lose fat. Yet you are on the scale daily trying to measure your success and more often than not, getting discouraged by the number you see. Why? Because weight fluctuates. What you weigh in the morning is different to what you weight in the evening. Maybe you are wearing shoes that are heavier than the previous day. Maybe you have thick box braids this time. So many factors play into the number you see on the scale, yet we put all our hopes into that grand total that we lose sight of the actual physical changes that we are making.
And BMI? Doesn’t work! Your body mass index doesn’t take into account your fat content. Two people with the same height can weigh the same but look completely different because their fat content is different.
So what should you do?
Focus on Fat Loss, not weight loss. This doesn’t mean that the number on the scale won’t reduce; it just means you’ll be losing fat, not just water or even muscle. And by focussing on reducing your body fat, you can actually achieve long-lasting changes!
- Prioritize on nutrition
What you eat can seriously make or break your whole plan. Eat healthy and high protein foods as these will help muscle growth that leads to fat loss (see next point)
- Get stronger
Add a few more weight and strength training days to your workout routine. Building strength by adding weight to your exercises promotes muscle-building. The body burns more calories to maintain muscle than to maintain fat. This means that your body will burn more calories maintaining your new muscles in and outside the gym and thus help burn more fat.
These two steps are all you need to build the foundation of your fat loss plan.
Now you’ve hidden the scale in the dark hole it belongs in. So how do you measure your progress effectively?
- Take pictures. As you progress, take full body pictures every 2 weeks. Use these as comparisons to see the changes you are making.
- Take measurements. Pull out that measuring tape and measure the width of your arms, waist and thighs. Record your measurements weekly.
- Get a pair of calipers. Track your body fat every two weeks to see the change you are making. Use this how-to guide and watch this video.
- If you must, weigh yourself only every 2 weeks. Give yourself enough time to make some change before you put yourself under scrutiny.
In conclusion, the truth is, you might not even want to lose weight. Most people who want to lose weight often change their mind once they’ve lowered their body fat. They realize they prefer to keep some of their curves as long as their body fat is healthy.
Focus on fat loss first. Once you’ve got your body fat down, check if you like what you see. Then decide if you still need to lose weight.