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Why Weight Loss Doesn't Mean Better Health

by James Anderson
Posted: February 04, 2016

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Having been a trainer for over a decade I have seen my fair share of stupid trends come and go, but sadly there’s one “fad” that still remains; The Bathroom Scales.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, because parts of this so-called “health industry” have fooled you into believing that weight loss equals better health.

Now, this is not only wrong, it’s downright deceitful.

So James, why do they do it then?

Great question… because it’s easy - jump on the bathroom scales and you instantly know whether you’ve been good or bad, right?

Why weight loss doesn't mean better health


Weight loss is not the best measure of health gain it’s just the easiest thing to measure.

Most fad diets, detoxes and cleanses will make you dramatically drop “scale weight” which further fuels your belief that that the 5kg’s you just lost in a week is same 5kg’s of fat you gained over winter.


The Problem

I believe the major is a clear a lack of education around the difference between weight loss and fat loss.

Weight loss = A loss of any combination of muscle, bone, water, urine, excrements or body fat.

Fat loss = A loss of body fat.

Weight-loss is marketed because it’s easy, but the variability in what you’re actually gaining or losing makes it a terrible way to measure your health.

Your weight can fluctuate quite dramatically each day for a multitude of reasons but we tend to enjoy making ourselves miserable thinking that we’re doing something wrong when in actual fact we could actually be doing everything right.

What you need to know

weight loss- not necessarily better health

1. Juice diets, cleanses, detoxes, low-carb diets will strip weight quickly but it’s mostly water you will put this weight back on just as quickly.

2. If you consume less than you expend, you’ll lose weight (no matter what diet you’re doing)

3. If you cut calories dramatically, your body will start to break down muscle and fat to use as fuel. This is where poor health starts.

4. If you lose equal amounts of muscle and fat you’re ideally the same body fat percentage, meaning that you haven’t actually changed your shape. So if you were a big apple shape, you’re now just a medium apple shape.

5. Muscle is metabolic, meaning it burns calories, and now you’ve got less of it, you’re metabolism is now running at a much slower rate.

6. You’ll eventually break your diet and binge, most likely eating everything in sight, and because you’ve got yourself a slower metabolism you’ll pack on weight faster than ever before.

7. You’ll then diet again because you lost “weight” last time. The cycle repeats and your health goes down whilst your weight continues to go up.

What you need to do

1. Understand that the most important thing in a body transformation is to gain, or at very least maintain, as much muscle tissue as possible.

2. Get more data - the more things you can measure the better.

a. Invest in a body composition test to measure your muscles vs fat tissue.

b. Take measurements of your chest, waist, hips, things and arms.

c. Take photos from the front back and side to accurately assess your body transformation and shape changes.

Remember, if it can be measured it can be managed

better health

3. Don’t cut calories too far – calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate) and ensure you’re not overdoing it. If you cut too many calories you’ll lose muscle and fat.

4. Resistance train – this will help maintain and possibly build muscle.

5. Stop weighing yourself daily – your bodyweight can fluctuate a few kilos on a daily basis since it’s heavily influenced by your stomach/bowel/bladder content; dehydration or fluid retention; muscle loss or gain; fat loss or gain, or simply whether you sold a kidney on the black market over the weekend.

What you need to believe

1. That weight-loss doesn’t always correlate to an improvement in health.

2. That weight-loss, more specifically, a quick and dramatic loss is mostly fluid, not fat.

3. The best and healthiest results will come from a gradual loss of body fat whilst still feeling full of energy. This means that you’re eating in a healthy and mindful way and not cutting calories too far.

4. That scale weight by itself should never be a leading indicator of how good or bad you should feel about your body.

So James, should I ever use the scales?

I’ll admit that there’s a time and a place for your bathroom scales but it’s most certainly not everyday.

My suggestion is once per week (for those who just can’t help themselves) or even better once every 4-6 weeks. Just remember to track your body composition using other measurements and I believe photos are a much better motivator than a number on a scale.

After all, it’s much easier to show your improvement in a photo than it is walk around with your scales showing everyone you’ve lost 5 kilos!


James Anderson

James is the owner of a women’s only tribe based at Bondi Beach that focuses on strength and conditioning team training for optimal outcomes and long-lasting solutions.

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