Body composition vs weight
I know that for most of you what you see on the scales is very important, but really it isn’t about how much someone weighs, it is about how much of that weight is fat.
I often see clients who are quite surprised at just much of their weight is actually fat. They may have gained 15 kilos on the scales in the past 20 years, but in reality their level of body fat may be a lot higher than the scales suggest.
Here are a couple of (made up) scenarios which illustrate this.
Ben is 50, 6 foot tall (183 cm) and weighs 112 kilos. When Ben was 20 he was playing rugby regularly and he ran to maintain his fitness. He weighed 90 kilos and had a body fat percentage of 13%. This means that of those 90 kilos he was carrying around 11.7 kilos of fat, ideal for a healthy young man.
Over the next 30 years Ben’s life got busy. He had a demanding job which involved a fair bit of travel, fancy meals out and high stress. He often ate on the run or missed meals completely. He rarely made time for exercise. Now at 50 and weighing 105 kilos his body fat has crept up to 35%, meaning he is carrying 36.7 kilos of body fat. An extra 25 kilos of body fat, but only 15 kilos more in scale weight.
Exercising less, skipping meals, living a stressful life and eating less protein than his body required all contributed to the change in body composition. His fat free mass reduced while his body fat increased. He didn’t look after himself and is now officially classified as obese and at a higher risk of developing health issues.
Maria is 48, 5’6” tall (168cm) and weighs 85 kilos. Maria was always slim as a child and teenager. She married young, had three children in quick succession and after the last pregnancy found herself 15 kilos heavier than when becoming pregnant with the first child.
By then she was super busy and didn’t get around to losing the excess weight. Now, at 48, her kids have flown the nest, she has a good income and she has more time to socialise and travel. She and her husband eat out regularly and tend to catch up with friends for drinks and eats most weekends.
Like most women in their 40’s and beyond Maria assumed that as she approached menopause it was normal to gain weight and that it would be difficult to lose, so she let things ride. She simply bought bigger sized clothes.
At 85 kilos Maria has a body fat percentage of 37%, meaning that she is carrying 31.45 kilos of fat. Getting that number under 20 kilos would be a realistic goal. Also, while fat distribution may change as we age, gaining fat does not have to happen.
It’s not about being ‘skinny’ or the weight you may have been at 20 years old, it is about losing excess kilos of fat to get you back into the healthy range again. Once you are back in the healthy range, then it is about finding a body fat level that you can maintain without feeling you are on a diet all the time.
To a large extent, fat free mass can be influenced by lifestyle. The amount and type of food we eat, the type and amount of exercise we do, how we handle stress, etc. This is good news, because it means that we can change our body if we change our lifestyle.
Once we get into our 40’s we start to lose muscle tissue – unless we are proactive. Every time our muscle mass reduces we burn less calories per day, so hanging on to our muscle through eating right and exercising right is a win-win scenario.
I would say that of the clients who come to me for help with weight loss, less than 1% would have a medical reason why they couldn’t lose weight, meaning that for more than 99% if they make changes to their lifestyle they will be successful. Of course to keep the weight off, those changes need to become permanent.
Please never feel embarrassed to come back and see me if you have fallen off the wagon. I bumped into an ex client recently and she told me that she had been wanting to come back but that she felt embarrassed because she had gained weight.
I know this is a common situation for people because without the accountability they can fall back into old habits.
It’s way better to come back, make a fresh start and get back into a routine as soon as possible.
If you need help to get on the right track, please give me a call, I'm happy to help.