One of the first things my clients say to me when I ask them about their goals is “weight loss”.
Thanks to the media and unrealistic images of what a healthy and attractive body looks like, most of us look to lose weight at some point in our lives. And as a woman, there’s a pressure to look good, especially this ridiculous stress to bounce back quickly after having a baby!
But is weight loss really the answer?
What really annoys me is when some health or medical professionals automatically tell someone they need to lose weight if their BMI classes them as overweight. Yet often weight gain is a symptom, not the root cause.
The BMI (Body Mass Index) – although helpful as a guide, it doesn’t take into account muscle mass, race/ethnicity, or body shape (and where fat is stored) which can all affect a person’s risk of chronic diseases. Not just what the number on the scale says.
For example, research has shown that carrying weight around your abdomen means you can be more at risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes. There’s also visceral fat that sits around your organs. This fat is unseen from the outside and can affect people with a low BMI.
Health cannot be measured by size or weight.
I get it though. We all want to feel good and that can sometimes mean losing weight or dropping a dress size. But it’s the way you go about it that can make all the difference in the long term.
Why focusing on weight loss can be counterproductive
There’s a difference between weight loss and fat burn
Weight loss is a pretty common term that most people focus on when they’re looking to see that number on the scales decrease. But weight loss actually measures a decrease in overall body weight including fat, water, and muscle loss, whereas fat burning refers to weight loss from fat which can be a more helpful goal.
Creating a strong, healthy body means increasing muscle mass – not losing it.
Plus the more calories you’ll burn at rest the more muscle mass you have!
It becomes an obsession
Focusing on a number on the scales can make you become more obsessive than Edward and Bella in Twilight.
This often leads to extreme dieting and exercising until you burn out. It’s then easy to give up, blaming yourself and feeling unmotivated.
Not only does extreme dieting and exercise affect your body, but your mind too.
It may feel like it’s a slow burn, but creating an exercise routine that works for you and a healthy diet without restrictions can be more beneficial for your mind and for long-term results.
I’m crap at maths
Calculating numbers all day every day? Personally, there’s a reason I became a personal trainer, not a mathematician!
Finding out the exact calories in everything that passes your lips can take the joy away from food.
Now don’t get me wrong, Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is a good guide on how many calories we should be aiming for whether that’s to maintain or lose weight. And I do believe if you’re looking to lose weight there needs to be a calorie deficit.
But food is energy and it should also be enjoyed. Without having a maths lesson!
You’re super stressed
If your body is super stressed because you’re so focused on losing weight your body could be in “flight or flight” mode so your body will not be able to sufficiently digest your food.
Also, exercise is a stress on your body, and although exercise can produce endorphins to help relieve stress if you’re super stressed forcing it through a HIIT or Spin class to burn those calories could be putting it under more stress.
Learning to listen to your body and choosing exercise based on how you’re feeling on a particular day can be beneficial. Sometimes more is not always better.