Fat loss more beneficial than weight loss
More than 65 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.So, it’s understandable why Americans are obsessed with losing weight.To make matters worse, many diet, vitamin and exercise companies looking to capitalize on the enormous weight-loss market seem to spread confusing and often contradictory information. The following facts should help demystify the weight-loss process, allowing the public to more accurately assess options, strategies and products.
First, effective weight loss is a simple mathematical equation: Consume more calories than you burn, you gain weight. Conversely, if you burn more calories than consumed, you lose weight. The above equation should be the foundation for understanding weight loss, regardless whether a diet, an exercise program, or a (fake) magic pill is being considered.
By saying, “I want to lose weight,” a person really is saying he or she wants to lose fat. The simplest measure of whether or not fat has been lost is not by stepping on the scale; rather, it’s checking to see if clothes feel looser. Fat isn’t very dense, and it takes up a lot of space, so if a person is in fact losing fat, his or her body will literally shrink the way he or she wants it to. Lean body mass – all of the weight that is not fat – is a completely separate measurement. For example, when people begin to weight train, it is common for them to notice their clothes fit much better, but their weight on the scale doesn’t change. In such cases they have gained muscle and lost fat, but their overall weight has stayed the same.
Fat cannot be “spot reduced.” Let’s say an unwanted congregation of fat exists around the belly button. Doing a huge number of abdominal crunches may strengthen the muscles hidden under layers of fat, but it will not cause fat to disappear from abs, rather than other parts of the body. Fat loss is body-wide, and it’s achieved through diet and exercise.
There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. So, burning 3,500 more calories than are consumed means losing a pound of fat. According to the Surgeon General, effective and safe fat loss ranges from one-half to two pounds per week; therefore, to lose one pound per week, use diet and exercise to burn 500 more calories than consumed per day. Multiply 500 by the seven days of the week, and that’s 3,500 calories. One pound.
Fat loss is not easy, nor is it always as simple as the above formulas, especially when considering societal and genetic factors. But the principles behind the formulas are useful to understanding what a person is trying to achieve. By focusing on the facts of weight loss, hopefully the emotional and psychological difficulties of “losing weight” will become more manageable.
Lucas Peltonen is a certified personal trainer and postural alignment specialist. He was raised in Aspen and now lives in New York City.
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