The Weight-loss Paradox: Exactly what kind of weight are you losing?

Most popular and fad diets seem to focus on your weight, and how much weight you want to lose, which is off the mark and therefore they fall short of your goals.  If all you care about is losing pounds, how do you know what kind of substance you are losing: Are you losing fat; muscle; fluid; glycogen?  (Glycogen is stored glucose/sugars within your muscles for energy.)   Any body can become skinny simply by cutting calories to the point of starvation, but skinny is not necessarily healthy, especially if your muscle mass and fitness level has been sacrificed or ignored in the process. 

     NONE of us should ever want to purposely or accidentally lose any of our muscle tissue – which is exactly what happens when you combine an extreme diet with lack of exercise.  More than any other physiological factor within our influence, it is our muscle mass, or lean-body mass that drives our resting or basal metabolism.  Fat does not have any affect on our metabolism, but the more muscle tissue we lose through sedentary lifestyle, aging, or extreme dieting, the slower our metabolism becomes.  Like it or not, it IS lean-muscle mass that gives all of us, men and women, a tone and tighter appearance.  Being lean and tone does not mean you also have to have big biceps girls!

 Face it: In this day in age, skinny, soft and frail is out…lean, tone and fit is in!

     I know it is tempting to ride the crash-dieting roller coaster, especially when you have a big social event or vacation coming up.  There’s usually a last ditch effort preceding such a high visibility social event to lose any kind of pounds fast, when you have not been properly eating and consistently exercising.  At this point you may only care about getting smaller quickly and who cares if the weight being shed is fat, muscle or fluid!  Extreme diet tactics at this point typically include: Starving yourself; Cutting out all carbohydrates to achieve ketosis; Abusing diuretics, laxatives and other diet-pills to purge excess fluids; Attempting rapid intestinal/colon cleanses and other so-called ‘de-toxes’;  Restricting fluids and dehydrating; Or even worse binging and purging.

     These tactics are obviously very unhealthy, can damage your metabolism, and are hard on your kidneys and adrenal glands especially.  During such drastic dieting measures you will feel lethargic, be moody, and unable to mentally focus on tasks in life.  You will lose weight alright: You will lose a lot of fluid; a lot of stored glycogen (so your muscles will shrink); you will lose/catabolize valuable muscle tissue (since your body will break itself down to get essential amino acids); and you might lose a little bit of fat too.

    So for example, let’s say you were able to lose 10 pounds in just 4 days by extreme crash-dieting tactics and NO exercise.  What you probably lost was 4 pounds of fluids; 1 pound thru voiding of colon matter;  3 pounds of stored glycogen from within your muscles and liver (providing you energy); 1 pound of lean-muscle mass (catabolized for amino-acids); and finally just 1 pound of fat (an energy source along with protein during low-carb dieting thru ketosis)!  I am not kidding you’re here – 10 pounds you lost but only 1 pound of it is actual unwanted fat!  This is why the weight-scale does not provide accurate feedback for trying to lose fat.  The mirror may even be a better method to assess.  Or you can purchase a body-fat analysis scale at any athletic store for under $100.  They measure lean-body mass and calculate approximate body-fat percentage through bioelectrical impedance signals, and they are accurate to within 2%, but more importantly you can track fat-loss trends.

     To continue along on our hypothetical crash-dieting/no-exercising scenario, you are now 10 pounds lighter, but no leaner, you’re weaker with empty muscle-glycogen stores; you’re moody; you’re dehydrated with bad, ketone-breath; and the worse news of all is that your metabolism is now slowed down to that of a hibernating bear!  You see, when you lose the same amount of lean-muscle as you do unwanted fat, your body fat percentage remains the same, so your lean-body mass has not changed. What’s more, when you deplete your interstitial fluid and your glycogen stores this works against your lean-body mass as well, so your percentage of body fat may now in fact have increased even though you are 10 pounds lighter on the scale…what?!  What a paradox you’re now in: 10 pounds lighter but yet less lean.  What a raw deal – and no wonder you always gain the weight right back so quickly!

So, how do we prevent this?  Say it with me now (it is common sense), “No crash-dieting and incorporate consistent exercise!”  Exercising is essential – the key – to not only attaining a lean, toned physique, but also to health and fitness and general.  In fact recent university studies have shown that thin people who live a sedentary lifestyle are not always as healthy as moderately over weight people who do consistently exercise.  Let’s not forget the bigger picture in life: Fitness and a lean-physique usually go hand and hand, but being physically fit should be the ultimate goal for all of us.  Exercise is critical to preserving muscle mass, especially during low-calorie dieting and exercise is the only true, natural way to restore our physiology to working optimally.  Exercise also directly improves insulin function and increases insulin sensitivity and glucose (blood-sugar) metabolism.  Exercise helps balance stress hormones such as Cortisol and stimulates lean-body mass promoting hormones such as Growth hormone, testosterone and DHEA.  Exercise preserves bone-density and offsets aging.  So we must find a way to consistently exercise and challenge ourselves mentally and physically.  Exercising outdoors or doing a sport or activity you enjoy can make it fun and help you become more resistant to normal fatigue barriers.

     Extreme and fad diets are simply not an option.  They are temporary and always lead to rebound weight gain and mental and emotional distress.  The goal must be to make fitness not only a lifestyle but an enjoyable lifestyle.  Of course some discipline will be required, but that applies to anything worthwhile in life.  Many lifestyle factors need to be assessed including sleep, nutrition, and supplements.  Any diet that instructs you to eliminate food groups, buy their brand of food, or count calories is simply setting you up for frustration, financial pain and failure.  Moderation, portion-awareness, meal-timing, proper food-group combining are the essential strategies.  It begins at the grocery store where you must buy unrefined, whole-grain and less-processed foods as a general rule of thumb.  While no food group should be absolutely off-limits, certain trigger-foods, or outright unhealthy foods should not be brought home on a regular basis, or if you do save it for special, occasional cheat-meals.

     Such a lifestyle I’m describing will be a much more attainable if you start out by planning your day the night prior so that you will be sure to make time for your work-out.  Also, by looking ahead into weekends or holidays, you will be ready to strategically plan cheat-meals accordingly when you know you will be at a social event with junk foods and cocktails abundant – you will have earned the right to indulge moderately.  Once you learn new, healthy habits, and begin to think and live like a fit and active person, so much planning will not be required.  You will learn that no matter what food options are available to you in any given scenario, there will always be a best choice that is relatively healthier.  You will acquire the mentality through experience that it is not always necessary to have access to a fancy gym: You will be able to exercise any where, at any time, with any thing, even if the only piece of equipment you have to train with is your own body.

     The lifestyle and philosophy I’m describing to you may sound a bit over whelming or vague.  Well I have already bombarded you with too much information for one blog-article!  I have presented an entire lifestyle, eating and exercise philosophy in detail in my new book titled, ‘How Much Fat are You Carrying?’ and it is available now at .  I have only presented you with the tip of the iceberg of what we at DHP have to offer in our holistic approach to fat-loss and fitness.  But at the very least, I hope you now truly appreciate why it does matter what kind of weight you’re trying to lose when you diet.  Your metabolism and your fitness depend on your lean-body mass composition!  So get rid of the excess fat and save your precious muscle mass.



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