AXA Health lead physiologist, Tom Rothwell, explains the basic science behind an age-old question: what is the secret to fat loss? Clue: the answer doesn’t lie in detox tea (or ‘teatoxing’), detox pills, or fasting, nor does it lie in ‘compensating’ for what you’ve eaten by doing a hard session in the gym.
In an age where #ripped, #gains and #shredded are the hashtags du jour on many social media platforms, it’s easy to get swept up in the frenzy about what’s right, wrong, or hot right now in the quest for the holy grail of weight loss.
It’s no wonder this is still a misunderstood topic in society, as we are inundated with fad diets, supplements and self-proclaimed ‘gurus’ claiming they can solve all your problems when it comes to losing fat. What many of these avenues fail to do is to educate and empower us on the topic of fat loss.
Weight loss v fat loss
‘I want to lose weight’ is the goal we often set ourselves but, more often than not, we really mean ‘I want to lose fat’. Our weight can fluctuate throughout the day; this can be due to many things, such as hormones, acute food/water intake, carbohydrate intake, the previous day’s food intake and salt intake, to name a few. This is the reason why weight on the scales is not necessarily the best indicator of fat loss or gain.
Considering around 60% of our body weight is water, solely focusing on scale weight to look at fat loss or gain is pointless and potentially damaging in some cases if we then start to rely on and become obsessed with the numbers we see. Better methods would be a body fat percentage test (if you have access) or invest in a tape measure.
Circumference measurements of your waist (use your belly button as a reference point), thigh or upper arm are useful measures to check progress. Not only is the waist measure great to track progress in area that we might be conscious of, it is really important regarding health. Typically, a larger waist can indicate greater fat stores around stomach, otherwise known as visceral fat. Excess visceral fat is linked with an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease so, by tracking your waist measurements, you might even get an insight to what’s going on inside your body, not just how you look.
Don’t forget that underwear sizes, clothes sizes, belt sizes, how your clothes feel on you and progress photos are all useful tools, too!