Jan 18, 2015
The euphemism of weight loss
Why do we talk about 'weight loss' when it's actually fat loss we mean? Weight loss is an unhelpful euphemism.
The euphemism of ‘weight loss’
The majority of my clients first come to me concerned about their ‘weight’. They are looking for help to become slimmer, to drop dress sizes, to deal with their ‘middle-age spread’, or to fit back into favourite trousers. Their impression often is that a regular exercise programme will sort out the issue; the harder they exercise the more ‘weight’ they will lose. The truth is that effective training can undoubtedly assist but if food and drink intake is poor, the problem will persist.
Let’s deal first with ‘weight loss’. We don’t actually mean ‘weight loss; do we, despite what the media and the slimming industry say? We mean ‘fat loss’. After all what other weight are you looking to lose? Obviously not muscle -which leaves bone and organs, and I’m pretty sure you want to hang on to them. The term weight loss is euphemistic and very unhelpful. It doesn’t confront the issue head on.
With all new clients I discuss their personal aims and then carry out a series of measurements in relation to body composition. These measurements are less concerned with overall weight but shine a light on the proportion of fat, muscle and bone in the body; they also analyse hydration levels, blood pressure and resting heart rate, and assess the level of visceral fat we have. I’m not saying that the measurements are 100% accurate but they represent a far more effective starting point than simply standing on scales and taking overall weight as the key variable.
Most new clients are very surprised to note the percentage of body fat that they carry. Excessive body fat is now extremely common; our national overweight/obesity rate climbs year on year and even in a relatively affluent region such as North Yorkshire it stands at over 70%. There are clearly a number of contributory factors, but the most influential is our diet. I don’t mean ‘diet’ as a verb, but ‘diet’ as a noun – what we eat on a daily basis. If our food intake is properly addressed then we will lose fat; that process can certainly be speeded up with effective exercise but without addressing food and drink intake it is impossible with exercise alone.
Too often our daily food intake is heavily dependent upon processed foods, trans fats, and in particular carbohydrate. There are strong historical, political and commercial reasons why carbohydrate dominates our diet. There are very few dietary ones. There are also similar reasons that underpin our obsession with ‘low-fat’ products, and a rejection of saturated fat despite the lack of evidence linking the latter with heart disease. Current research identifies carbohydrate as a much more serious culprit in relation to those diseases affected by diet. And remember, low fat usually means high sugar.
Real fat loss can be achieved by reducing the amount of processed food we eat, increasing protein and ‘good’ fats (cold water fish, grass fed meats, eggs, full fat cheese and yoghurts) eating more brown rice, sweet potatoes, most other vegetables, some fruit, nuts and seeds. Alcohol intake also needs to be dramatically reduced for most clients. When the ‘diet’ is established and reflects real behavioural change, rather than a short term change, the effects of exercise can also be felt.
On that final point I would advocate the following formats, in order of priority, as being the most effective for fat loss; 1. Weight training 2. High intensity interval training and, 3, longer steady state activities such as cycling, running and using the X trainer.
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