Most likely, the reason you want to lose weight is because you’re carrying too much fat, and you want to change your body shape. It’s really not so much the number on the scale, although they’re certainly related.
Your scale weight, which is your total body weight, is composed of two things- body fat and lean mass, fat and lean. We all know what fat is, lean is everything else- muscle, bone, blood, organs, skin- all of the weight you carry that isn’t fat.
When you just lose scale weight by reducing the calories you eat without any resistance exercise, you’re losing both body fat and lean mass, which includes muscle. Your clothes might fit you better, but it’s quite possible that you’ve just become a smaller version of what you were before. If your body fat was in the 30% or more range (which is considered obese), you might still have 30% or more body fat even though you weigh less and wear smaller sizes.
Most diets are focused on losing scale weight.
You want to be focused on losing body fat.
Stop Weighing Yourself
Now, here comes a heresy – stop weighing yourself.
Let me say that again- “Stop weighing yourself.”
The problem with the scale is that it can’t tell you how much body fat you’re losing, only how much total scale weight you’ve lost or gained. (Yes, I know there are scales that measure body fat, but they aren’t the most accurate. I’ll discuss methods of measuring your body fat in a different post).
In addition, your scale weight can fluctuate on a daily basis usually due to water retention and undigested food. But if you’re only focused on the total pounds, the scale weight can kill your motivation and/or make you depressed.
Even more importantly, if you combine eating healthier foods with resistance training, your scale weight can stay the same or go up, even though you’re becoming slimmer, fitter, and your clothing size is getting smaller. Let me quickly explain why that happens.
Doesn’t Muscle Weigh More Than Fat?
Some people mistakenly believe that muscle weighs more than fat.
A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat, which weighs the same as a pound of feathers.
The difference is that muscle is more dense than fat and so a pound of muscle takes up less space inside your body than a pound of fat. In fact, according to a few different articles I’ve read, a pound of fat will take up about 4 times the space as a pound of muscle.
Imagine two people standing side by side. They’re the same height and each weighs 160 lbs. but one has 25% body fat, which means 40 lbs. of body fat (that’s 25% of 160) and the other has 10% body fat, which means 16 lbs. of body fat.
Who do you think is fitter, leaner, and healthier (everything else being the same)? Who do you think looks better, feels better, and wears smaller sizes? Yet they’re both the same height and weigh exactly the same amount. Hmm, imagine that.
Basal Metabolic Rate- Your Starting Point
Now, on to the question of how to lose body fat and not just scale weight- put simply, it’s a combination of nutrition and resistance training.
But first you need to know your starting point, your basal metabolic rate.
By that I mean how many calories do you burn in a day just by breathing, digesting, circulating your blood, and all of the other bodily functions we don’t really even think about, without considering any other physical activity? How many calories would you burn if you were asleep all day?
It’s actually a mathematical calculation that was formulated in 1919 by two scientists and is known by their names as the Harris-Benedict equation. It’s been revised over the years and is generally accepted as the standard for calculating your basal metabolic rate.
Once you have your BMR, you factor in your activity level to determine how many calories you burn per day. This is what’s known as your maintenance level and that’s your starting point.
I can hear you saying, “Wait a second, Rick. I have to do all this math myself? I haven’t done any algebra since the 9th grade.
Enter the wonderful word of the Internet. There are several online calculators that will help you determine your BMR, your basal metabolic rate and factor in your activity level. Here’s a simple one that I recommend. The URL is http://www.bmrcalculator.org . Plug in your age, gender, height and weight, and decide what your activity level will be with your new exercise plan.
The answer is the total calories burned per day. It’s what’s known as your maintenance level and that’s your starting point. This is the number of calories you need to eat each day, with your exercise level factored in, to maintain your current scale weight.
In How To Lose Body Fat, Not Just Scale Weight- Part 2, I’ll show you how to apply these numbers to yourself in order to lose body fat, not just scale weight.
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