Everyone wants to lose weight these days – and I have a problem with that. Are you surprised to hear that from a personal trainer? Hear me out.
“Weight loss” is not universally a good thing. When you lose weight, you lose a combination of water, fat, and muscle. This is inevitable – nobody loses pure fat – but the goal is to lose as much fat as possible, and as little water and muscle. In fact, you should work at adding muscle, while losing fat - but we'll get to that in a minute.
Unfortunately, most weight loss programs, products, and diets ignore the distinction between weight loss and fat loss, and focus solely on the number on the scale. The end result is a loss of muscle - to the tune of about 50% - and a really messed up metabolism.
To help illustrate the difference between weight loss and healthy fat loss, here’s a comparison.
Person A is focused solely on the number on the scale. They’re following a program that limits calories and doesn’t distinguish between good calories and bad, and focusing their exercise on cardio. They will lose weight, but about 50% of it will be muscle. It’s stressful on the body to lose all that vital tissue, and will depress their metabolism for months (MONTHS!). They’ll likely end up in a yo-yo dieting cycle because of it.
Meanwhile, Person B (a Nielsen Fitness client, perhaps!), is focused on fat loss. They choose healthy, whole, protein-rich foods that stimulate their metabolism. They will eat well but make choices that prevent the storage of fat (ie: not eating within three hours of going to sleep). They drink lots of water, engage in resistance training, and focus less on cardio. They will experience fat loss in combination with gains in muscle. The number on the scale won’t be as low, but this is a good thing. Their clothes fit great, they look and feel strong, and they are setting themselves up for a strong metabolism in the long-term.
Trust me, you want to be Person B.
Get rid of the scale
I always tell people that the way your clothes fit is a better indicator of success than what the scale says. In some cases we weigh our clients, but that’s so we can figure out body fat percentages. We primarily track success through physical measurement using good old-fashioned tape measures, and with fat calipers. When we report back to clients, we tell them how much fat they’ve lost and also how much muscle they’ve gained.
In virtually all cases, people feel their best when they’ve not only lost fat but also gained muscle. If you’ve been unsuccessful in the past, it’s time to get educated and re-think the plan. It’s the only way out of the unhealthy and vicious cycle that so many people are caught in.
(Image courtesy of bamboocorefitness.com)
Poul Nielsen is the owner and operator of Nielsen Fitness, Toronto's leading team of in-home personal trainers. He has 16 years' experience in the fitness industry and has taught courses in Fitness and Lifestyle Management at George Brown College.
In addition to exercise (obviously), he loves spending time with his family, playing the guitar, strong coffee - and dark chocolate!