The Most Dangerous Fat Loss Activity There Is
By Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic, PhD, RD
In the mid-1900’s, technology brought something into our homes that previously was only available freely at the doctor’s office, or for a penny (or more) at the general store.
This device was unique in that it could measure how much your body weighed against the pull of gravity. And since this wasn’t known to most people before, it was quite the novelty.
People would gamble to guess a person’s correct weight, and it was fun to see how much your friend weighed compared to you.
But then something happened: That number on the scale was no longer fun to look at. Instead, that number became a measure of a person’s attractiveness or how healthy their body was.
If it was too low, you were sick or lacked muscle. While if it was too high - especially compared to someone you knew - you were considered fat, or out of shape.
Body weight numbers soon became standardized, and people were then compared to each other on a height and weight basis. They were given a “too fat,” “too thin,” or “average” categorization; but, never was your weight completely right. Either you had to gain, lose, or become better than average to be happy, healthy, and desirable (whatever that meant).
Today, women and men are bombarded constantly about how much their favorite actors and actresses weigh, and (foolishly) strive to weigh the same as them. Or, they’re given the stats on a magazine model and die trying to weigh the same.
If you really think about this though: How healthy is all this weighing, really? And, how healthy is it to try and weigh the same as someone that looks completely different than you, is probably 20 years younger, and has all the time in the world to have a very low body weight?
Not healthy at all!
Since the advent of the bathroom scale, people have become obsessed about their body weight, but yet are getting heavier and heavier with each year, while our “models” and favorite movie stars get thinner.
Also, if you weigh more than our so-called “standards” for healthy body weight and our famous “models,” does that necessarily mean that you’re fat? Not exactly.
Women are more affected by this competition of numbers than men, unfortunately, and go to great lengths to try and achieve a certain body weight. But, what they fail to realize is that there’s more to those numbers on the scale than they realize, and that the numbers we’re supposed to model after are mostly unrealistic.
Your body weight on a scale does not tell you how much body fat you have. Even newer scales that claim to tell us how much fat we have, are known to have an error margin of at least 5% either direction.
Body fat, muscle mass, and bone density, however, are more important for us to focus on (if we need to focus on anything at all), compared to a general number on our home bathroom scale that tells us nothing about overall health or happiness.
The reason being is that it is well known that the more body fat you have, the more at risk you are for chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and arthritis; while having more muscle mass and denser bones is a protective factor against injuries and disease.
And, even when a man or woman loses a fair amount of body fat, which is a healthy move in the right direction, his or her body weight may not actually change very much, especially if that fat loss was due to an increase in physical activity (which is one of the best ways to get rid of body fat, along with an unprocessed diet). This is because as fat is lost, body muscle and blood volume is gained, and total body weight may be minimally different.
Yet, even if their clothes feel better and their pants are falling off, both men and women will complain that they’re not losing any weight at all (because, technically, they aren’t), and will feel all their efforts are wasted and will give up their quest for health and body improvement - which is totally, completely, wrong.
Sure, maybe if you’re 45 and you’re aiming for your high school body weight, you probably won’t get there, but you sure did change your body and are now fitting into clothes you haven’t worn for 10+ years! Consider this loss of inches a great accomplishment and start charting your progress more on how your body looks and feels every day, rather than a single number on a scale!
If you’re quite over-fat (see how I’m not using the word overweight here?), yes, your body weight will probably decrease as your waist slims down.
But, we all have seen the weight loss struggles with those contestants on Biggest Loser and other fat-loss shows, and can visually see the decrease in their body fat levels even if the scale says not much has happened at all. We shout at the T.V. screen and wish that the rules of the game were different, and that they should be judged on body fat losses instead of pure body weight.
Yet, we do the same to ourselves, by being mad and frustrated when the numbers on our own scales don’t do what we think they should, even though our bodies are clearly better.
The bottom line here is: Stop judging your health and body by a single number on your scale. It’s not doing anyone any good, and it’s time to do something different.
If your clothes are tighter than they ever have been before, or if you’re buying bigger sizes this year compared to last, don’t even bother getting on the scale – realize right then and there that your body fat levels are increasing; and, that it’s in your best health interest to do something about it right now before it gets out of hand.
Again – if this size increase is a change from your high school days to your mid-twenties, that’s not something to be upset about given that we’re not designed to have a body of a teenager forever (unless you’re in the modeling business, however…).
Aim for a body size that is realistic for your body. Don’t try to look like a runway model, or a Hollywood superstar. Aim to look like a fit, healthy, athletic man or woman of your age, who is not paid to look a certain way, and looks the way they do because they eat well and exercise often.
That is the body you’re aiming for, not one that has a body weight that only celebrity chefs and star personal trainers can help you achieve.