22 Dec

fat versus calories

I know, I know, there are lots of reasons why people are fixated on their weight. Yes, overweight people have more health problems than people who are at their ideal weight. Yes, there is a social stigma against overweight people. And, yes, self-esteem often does track weight. I get all that.

But, focusing too much on the scale can distract you from finding your way to your most healthy self. A person obsessing about weight might make bad decisions in desperate attempts to just see that number on the scale go down. Even if you wouldn’t go towards an eating disorder, you could still miss the mark in the long run. Eating too few calories signals to your body that it is time to kick into starvation mode which really creates havoc! Missing key nutrients in your diet can cause a multitude of problems. Not all exercise regimes promote ideal health. I’ve met many a person who gets so discouraged scale-watching that they throw in the towel and completely give up.

What works better is a focus on fitness and health and strength and flexibility and endurance and stamina and a positive outlook. Get the picture?

If your decisions about eating, exercise and attitude support your long term fitness and health goals, your body will naturally get to its right size.  So, let’s back off on setting weight goals.


Instead, here are some alternative goals that might work better for you. Keep in mind that this journey is a process and it’s a lifestyle for a lifetime. So, we’ll be learning more and more details as we go along.

  • First, use a tape measure to track your progress as your body finds its ideal size. Think about how you feel and how your clothes fit.  By the way, did you know that muscle DOES NOT weigh more than fat?  Fat takes up four times more space than muscle. As you get healthier, you will have less fat and more muscle. Your body will be leaner. You will feel better and better!! As a SIDE benefit, you will weigh less but who’s watching the scale anyway!!

    • So, just to get started, track your body SIZE instead of weight. Record your neck size, chest (just across the nipple line), upper arms around the biceps/triceps region, waist (just below the rib cage, slightly above the navel), thighs and calves. Where applicable, measure both sides of your body and, if possible, measure at the same time of the day. Do this regularly once a week to track your results.
  • Focus on body fat percentage in proportion to muscle mass. A strong body is healthier and looks better than a flabby body. Muscle boosts a person’s metabolism. A pound of muscle burns more calories at rest than a pound of fat. No, not the mythical 50 calories per pound of muscle but muscle IS more metabolically active than fat. That means you could be sitting around and you’ll be burning more calories just by having more muscles.
    • For men, the standard ideal percentage range of fat is 10 to 20 percent. Twenty to 25 percent is moderately high, 25 to 30 percent is high and 30 percent and above is considered obese. Women generally need a body fat measurement five to 10 percent higher than men. The ideal range for women is 15 to 25 percent. Twenty-five to 30 percent is moderately high, 30 to 35 percent is very high and above 35 percent is considered obese. Values exceeding 20 percent in men and 25 percent in women may lead to an increase in health problems.
  • Set goals for those things we listed above: strength and flexibility and endurance and stamina and a positive outlook. Why not focus DIRECTLY on where you want to go?
  • Make sure you focus a lot on HEALTHY and balanced eating! Any kind of food in excess including carbohydrates, protein, or dietary fat will be converted to body fat. Body fat is related to calories. If we eat more calories than we expend, we put more fat on our bodies.
  • Make sure that you include strength training along with other types of exercise.

Doesn’t it just feel better to no longer be a slave to that scale!!

Enjoy and let’s get healthy!

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