Why weight loss shouldn’t be your health goal
Why weight loss shouldn’t be your goal, and what your goals should be.
More often than not our clients will say their main health goal is weight loss. We’d be willing to bet that most people wanting to make a change to their health would start with the same mindset. There’s a big flaw with that; body weight isn’t a good measure for health or wellness and focusing on it can lead to poor outcomes.
We wanted to explain why you should forget about body weight as your main goal, and what you should focus on instead for long-term results.
WEIGHT AS A PROXY FOR HEALTH
Body weight has become the dominant proxy measure for health and fitness. It’s understandable why; it’s a simple metric, easily measured with cheap and abundant weight scales. But in 2020 we can do better. It’s time to stop considering weight loss as inherently good, and weight gain as inherently bad.
It’s also time to recognised that weight loss shouldn’t be the main goal and the main measure of health progress. We need to get smarter about how we think about, talk about, and quantify the relationship between health and weight.
One of our scan clients said it perfectly;
“For me the goal wasn’t necessarily weight loss. It was overall gaining health, gaining fitness, gaining a better view of my body, wanting to be a stronger and more confident version of myself, not just a thinner and lighter version of myself.”
Now that’s a goal we can get behind. It’s also something we can plan for, and measure, with our body scanners. It’s all about body composition. Our scanners can determine what your composition is so we can focus on what needs to increase or decrease and how that affects your health. Let’s talk about why focusing on weight is a mistake.
LEAN MASS IS GOOD – AND HEAVY
Lean mass is the collective term for everything other than fat mass; muscle, organs, bone, and water and plenty more. For most people, lean mass increase is positive. It means your muscle mass has increased because it’s unlikely that you’ve gained organ or bone mass in a way that affects your weight.
Muscle is higher density than fat. Gaining weight while physically getting smaller is, for most people, a desirable outcome. We see it frequently; clients will add resistance training to an improved diet and put on weight. Their circumference measurements, body fat %, and risk factors will all decrease though because their composition has moved towards lean mass. We love giving people that news, and having the measurement to show them. It’s common for people to start going to the gym, and change their diet to put on weight. Yet they tend to see weight gain as bad because that’s the widely accepted measurement of progress or good outcomes.
Once you can see your composition change towards lean mass, and your circumferences reduce, you get an appreciation for how misleading weight can be. The image below shows a client’s scan with a 600g weight increase but a 1.5 kg loss in fat mass and 2.1 kg gain in lean mass. That’s a significant positive change that’s hidden when focusing on body weight.
WHEN WEIGHT LOSS MASKS WHAT’S REALLY CHANGING
Assuming all weight loss is good can hide what’s really changing in your body. There’s several ways to lose weight quickly that will give you a lower number on the scales, but doesn’t mean you’re healthier. Extreme calorie deficits, dehydration, or wastage of muscle will all lead to reduced mass.
One client on our Health and Wellness program lost a whopping 8 kgs in 12 weeks. A great result, right? Well, not really. That wasn’t what he wanted to achieve, and not what we’d built his program to achieve. His goal was to lose fat mass and gain some lean mass. After 12 weeks he’d lost both fat and muscle. How?
In short, he didn’t stick to the diet or exercise program we’d designed. He cut too many calories, and worked out vigorously – both of which we told him not to do. Sure, he lost a lot of weight but that wasn’t the goal. Exercising too much without proper nutrition forces the body to burn lean mass. Explaining his results was a revelation to him. We re-wrote his program, educated him on how to build his lean mass back up, and changed his exercise program to focus on lower repetitions with higher resistance.
He wouldn’t have known that he was regressing without our 3D scanners showing body composition.
LONG TERM THINKING
Short term, extreme change, health and diet programs tend to give short term weight loss results but don’t work long-term. This backed by a wealth of research and has been described as “the NIKE Swoosh of weight loss” because it resembles a sharp drop followed by a slow increase over time.
Many health programs are built on high exercise volume, lower calorie intake, and wildly different eating habits to what the client is used to. That approach can lead to exceptional weight loss results in a short timeframe. Those programs don’t normalise good, sustainable habits though. People willingly suffer in the short term because of the rapid results in 6-12 weeks. Effectively; people lose weight in the short term but re-gain it, and more, over a period of 3 years.
Those interested in learning more about this should give ABC Radio National’s the Rise of the Anti-diet podcast a listen.
We designed our Health and Wellness plans to be the counterbalance to these programs. We’ve built them around 6 or 12 weeks but we take a much more sustainable approach; workouts that fit the client’s abilities, small calorie deficits, and using body scanning to measure body composition to take the focus away from weight. It’s our goal to build you up for long-term change and use the scanning to motivate and bring accountability.
WEIGHT LOSS AS PART OF THE GOAL
All that said, weight loss can be part of your goals but shouldn’t be the only one. Our Styku 3D body scanners give so much measurable data that you can be incredibly specific with what you want to change.
When we build our Health and wellness plans for our client we try and flip the script towards goals like these:
- Change my body composition towards higher percentage of lean mass and a lower percentage of fat mass.
- Change fat mass or lean mass to a specified percentage or quantity.
- Build basic strength and increase mobility with an exercise program that suits my lifestyle.
- Change my food and drink consumption to suit my long-term goals.
- Sustain my change in body composition for 12 months.