When dealing with diets it is important to define what we mean by weight loss. Standing on a bathrooms scale and seeing a reduction week by week is generally seen as a good thing. Likewise, when reductions in weight cease, many assume that this is bad. However, weight loss can be good or bad depending on the composition of that weight It is therefore important to understand what weight loss comprises at any given time. Dieting should be considered far more complex than just weight loss. Let’s see why that is.
Weight Loss Can Be Body Fat
When we talk about weight loss, what we really mean is body fat loss. Hideous unsightly body fat. The goal of weight loss is therefore to remove this unsightly body fat. Body fat in itself is not detrimental to health unless it is around the waist area. However, all body fat can be unsightly and this is the reason most choose to lose excess fat. Most people assume that if they are losing weight they are losing body fat. But if the scale are falling day by day, does it really mean we are losing body fat? Not necessarily, because that weight loss can be made up of other things.
Weight Loss Can Be Skeletal Muscle
As well as losing body fat, most dieters also lose skeletal muscle. This is almost inevitable on any calorie counting diet and why I don't recommend counting calories. Muscle loss is problematic because it is the skeletal muscle mass we have that determines how many calories we can burn every day. Less muscle means fewer calories, and so the more muscle we lose the greater the chance of stagnating in fat loss aspirations and the greater the chance of regaining lost body fat. Conversely, if we gain muscle but lose body fat, the scale can increase but our body composition has still improved. So don't trust the bathroom scales.
Weight Loss Can be Water and Glycogen
Most calorie counting diets work for the first few weeks because the dieters lose the excess water they carry around. This is because restricting calories causes a restriction of carbohydrates in most cases. This causes a reduction in insulin levels, and this can cause water excretion. Glycogen is a storage form of carbohydrate and this too is lost when a calorie counting diet is begun. For every gram of glycogen three grams of water are stored. Loss of glycogen through restrictive diets therefore causes a large loss of water from the liver and muscle. The loss of weight through water loss can therefore be considerable in the initial two weeks of a diet.
Weight Loss Can Be Bone
Long term weight loss of skeletal muscle leads to dysfunctional mineral homeostasis and osteoporosis. This is highly detrimental to health and should be minimised where possible. Bone loss can be significant on very low calorie diets and again, this is why I do not recommend such drastic dietary regimens. Luckily there are healthier ways to lose body fat than very low calorie diets and in most cases bone loss can be overcome by weight bearing exercise.
Weight Loss Must Be Fat Loss
For weight loss to successful then we must ensure that the majority of the weight is body fat. Most commercial centres and clubs who deal with weight loss measure weight on a bathroom scale. Often the calorie counting diets run from such centres causes an initial weight loss comprised of mostly of water which lasts a few weeks. Following this, the restrictive nature of the diets cause skeletal muscle loss. Research has shown that such diets nearly always fail and few of the participants make successful long term progress.
So What's The Solution?
So how do we ensure that the majority of the weight lost if from fat? Well the first thing to consider is that calorie counting diets don’t work because they cause too much skeletal muscle loss, and this can permanently damage the metabolic rate. This makes it easy to regain lost weight and leads to yo yo dieting. This is how most long-term dieters end up. Therefore the first thing we must do if we are to achieve our goals is dispose of the bathroom scales and throw away out calorie counting books. Only then can we assume the right mindset to be successful in our weight loss goal.