Weight Loss =/= Fat Loss

“Lose 10 pounds in one week!” – any magazine on any shelf at any time.

Do you want to do this? Here’s how:

  • Don’t eat any carbs for a few days
  • Drink a ton of water so you are peeing all the time.
  • Walk around in a sweatsuit or plastic bags.
  • Then stop drinking water.

10-pound weight loss – EASY! But far from healthy, safe, or purposeful.

How does this work? Water follows carbs – in the storage form of glycogen in your liver and muscles. When you stop eating carbs, your body will have to pull 100% from glycogen stores, so you will burn more glycogen. Because you are drinking a TON of water, but not eating carbs, there will be less glycogen for the water to bind to, so it will flush out as much water as possible.

Add in a bunch of dehydrating sweating (more water losses), and then once glycogen is depleted, STOP drinking water but keep sweating it out to REALLY lose more water… and BOOM!

MAGIC!…and you feel like trash. Then, as soon as you eat a piece of bread and drink a glass of water you explode into a giant puffball of water retention because your body is craving it!

Sounds super healthy, doesn’t it?

If you haven’t sensed the sarcasm yet, please re-read this – and realize all we have talked about so far is how to lose a bunch of water weight. BUT THE SCALE SAYS…stop it.

Losing fat on the other hand is challenging.

Now, numbers and math don’t perfectly apply to the human body as simply as textbooks might tell you, but for a ROUGH estimate, to burn a pound of fat, yes 1 pound, you need to create a 3500 calorie deficit over the course of a week.

This doesn’t take into account many individual factors, but it’s close enough.

Thats a 500 calorie deficit per day for a whole week.

“Aw man, only 1 pound?!” 

Yes, if it’s all from body fat, that’s amazing! You see, to burn your bodies stored fat – which is stored energy – your body needs a reason to tap into those fat stores. If you are eating too much food, your body doesn’t need to tap into your stores, and if you are eating way too much, your body will store even more for later!

Using this very simplified number, to lose 2 pounds of fat per week would require a 1000 calorie deficit per day! I don’t know about you, but I like food way too much to even think about a 1000 calorie deficit.

To put this into perspective – again, calculations aren’t perfect – this means I would have to eat 2000 calories per day. That may seem like a lot to you, but realize that as of writing this I’m on maintenance at about 3050 calories. 2000 would be damn hard.

So when it comes to just looking to lose weight, remember, it’s not about just losing pounds as fast as possible, but losing BODYFAT as healthily as possible, while maintaining as much muscle as possible.

But I swear I’m eating -500 calories per day, but not losing 1 pound per week!

There can be many reasons why this is happening, but in my experience, these are the biggest reasons why you aren’t seeing the number go down…

You aren’t actually in a deficit.

Yes, you might think you are, but you’re not. Many people aren’t aware of how much they actually eat. Bites, nibbles, snackcidents (you forgot about those late-night munchies, didn’t you) all add up. Even condiments can add a couple of hundred calories a day. Enough to throw you out of a deficit.

ALL Calories matter. Period.

You are in a deficit sometimes.

5 days of strict eating followed by 2 days of “cheat meals” can put you in a weekly surplus. Whether or not you do this on purpose, many people like to let loose on the weekends, rightfully so. But calories dense delicious food can mix well with high-calorie alcoholic beverages and lead to a net surplus when the week is over.

Imagine you eat -500 for 5 days, so a net -2500…but then you spend two days eating and drinking +1250 (which isn’t hard to do) and you are at a net-zero.

You ARE losing fat, but holding water.

This can happen for many reasons – as seen here. 

And this is why we can’t always rely on the scale, and patience is a virtue.

This is also why I’m such a huge fan of tracking averages. If you want an app that does this, try Happy Scale (iOS) or Libra (Android).

In the end, we need to take a deep breath, assess that we are doing everything right, and have some patience. AND realize that the body will fight back against fat loss, and if you have been constantly trying to lose weight for an extended period of time, maybe what you actually need is to chill in maintenance for a while, push hard at the gym and focus on BUILDING your body – as this is often the MOST overlooked aspect of improving health in the general public.

If you need help getting started, look no further than online coaching. Training and nutrition! Let me help you find the best plan for you – from anywhere in the world.

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