Within the media and discussions with our friends/families about body image, the words “weight loss” rule the conversation most of the time. My specialization has been in “weight loss” as it is something that I feel many people struggle with today. While we are to somewhat to blame for the amount of fat that is on our bodies, there are many temptations, hormonal factors, genetic factors, life changes and mental health issues that have to do with how and what we eat. Thus, it is not necessarily 100% your fault that you may have packed on the pounds recently!
It is true that most of us are overweight because our caloric input (eating and drinking) is much more than our output (daily exercise/physical activities). If we eat more calories than we burn, we will gain weight, and vice versa. Period. However, there are many factors that determine what we choose to eat and how our bodies choose to deal with it. Marketing is to blame for false advertising “health” products to the public. For example, we believe that if something is gluten free (take vodka, for example) that it is healthy. Most of the time in order to make something gluten free, there needs to be added salt or sugar to enhance taste. If you do not have a celiac disease or gluten intolerance, this is only adding fat to your body in the long run. Choose low fat, low sugar whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice and oats.
Also, hormone and genetic factors regulate where our bodies store fat. If our hormones aren’t working normally (such as rapid rising insulin levels or a dysfunctional thyroid) then we tend to gain weight easier than others. Our parents also have a great role in where our metabolism decides to store fat. If our parents have slow metabolic bodies and tend to gain weight easier than others, chances are we will as well. This just means we have to work a little harder and watch what we eat a little more than most.
Lastly, if we are mentally unhealthy, we tend to eat to deal with emotions rather than dealing with them constructively. Instead of eating when you aren’t feeling your best for a quick rush of happiness, try working out or doing some outdoor physical activity. This will boost your endorphins (happiness!), aid in fat loss and tend to keep you happier much longer than eating something unhealthy.
While I do help people “lose weight”, I decided that I needed to shift my wording to helping people lose fat! As the factors above show that our weight is affected by so much more than just what we eat or how physically active we are, it is important to understand the difference. The scale is not a determinant of fat loss/gain and only a determinant of body weight loss/gain through many factors that include muscle gain/loss and water gain/retention. This does not mean that you are happy with what you see in the mirror and therefore, fat loss is a much better motivational factor in looking your best!
You may have heard that muscle weighs more than fat, which could steer people away from strength and high-intensity training. In actuality, those types of training are the best way to lose fat and (of course) gain muscle. By gaining muscle, your metabolism works faster and burns more calories throughout the day than someone who has very little muscle. Also, muscle doesn’t actually weigh more than fat, rather it takes up less space! This mean your body will look thinner with the more lean muscle you get. Unless you’re strength training hours a day and eating a substantial amount of protein, you don’t have to worry about getting “bulky” through strength training.
I have stopped helping people to “lose weight” and instead helped them to lose fat through identification of problems, awareness of how food affects us individually, and utilizing the appropriate fitness activities to aid in fat loss. The scale does not ultimately tell us if we are healthy but losing fat through proper and realistic nutrition and exercise will show us we are.