Dr. Michele and I routinely see frustration in the hearts, minds, and voices of our patients regarding failed weight loss attempts. If you have been frustrated with the scale and its stubbornness or if you have tirelessly searched for the weight loss answer, please keep reading.
Many of these frustrations are needless because you may really have been shooting at the wrong target. Rather than target weight loss goals, you should be targeting body composition goals. Do you know your current body fat percentage? How about your basal metabolic rate (BMR)? What are these and why are they so important?
You make ask, “Isn’t it all about what the scales say?” The answer to this question is an emphatic, “NO!” Let’s discuss a few principles to back up this assertion.
The danger of excess fat accumulation is undeniable.
With that said, we are seeing a growing number of persons so consumed with scale weight that they sacrifice lean muscle. Even though the scale goes down, fat composition goes up. This compromises the system with the condition of sarcopenic obesity (increase of fat with ongoing muscle wasting). The scale may be happy, but the system is growing sicker.
What is BMR?
It is the number of calories you are currently using in a 24-hour period while at rest. These numbers are critical when it comes to tasking and setting proper body composition goals. If you don’t know how many calories you are burning and how many you are taking in, you are setting yourself up for problems.
While in a recent class consisting of nearly 100 practitioners, the question was posed regarding tracking their own daily caloric intake. Asking for a show of hands of those who do, I observed only 2, maybe 3, who acknowledged tracking this critical factor.
It simply stands to reason if you put in more calories that your are using, an overage will be created fostering excess fat accumulation. Fat, after all, is a very caloric dense fuel (one gram equals 9 calories). The denseness of fat is compared to the less than dense nature of carbohydrates (1 gram equals 4 calories). Therefore, fat should be utilized as fuel. To learn how to body can use fat as its primary source of fuel, read our recent article regarding ‘ketosis’.
In order to lose weight, a caloric deficit must be created.
I normally start with 200-300 calories BELOW the BMR forcing this deficit. I also encourage regular exercise (2-3 times weekly) to enact a larger deficit (resulting in further potential excess fat burning).
Lean Body Composition
Lean body composition consists not only of muscles, but also vital organs, bone and bone marrow, connective tissue and body water. Lean body mass can be described as lean body weight minus fat. The proportion of lean body mass to fat not only determines the body’s aesthetic look, but more importantly it determines a person’s physical fitness, health status and the risk of morbidity (disease) and premature mortality due to a variety of causes. Needless to say, appropriate lean body composition is critical to lessening your propensity to sickness and disease.
If you have not taken the time to obtain your own BMR and percentage of body fat, why wait? In our clinic, we utilize the InBody 5000, which is a bio-impedance machine. You can also use calipers, operated by a trainer, to obtain a fairly accurate and quick body fat percentage. For the BMR, you can use the Harris-Benedict formula (many are found through a quick internet search).
Bottom line, it is NEVER about simply weight loss. This has not worked for our country and NEVER will as evidenced by the growing obesity trend/crisis. However, it is about more lean tissue/muscle and less fat. Whether you are young, old, tall, short, male or female, your goals should always be the same…more muscle, less fat. All of of should be striving for positive body composition change. This ‘change’ is the true change the world needs to eliminate the obesity crisis and reduce personal health care costs.