Many clients may seek out help from our dietitians in order to help them ‘lose weight.’ Weight loss simply means “a reduction of total body mass including fluid, body fat, and lean body mass,” however, ‘weight loss’ is often used as a catch-all term to describe reaching a lower number on the scale, changing your body composition, and/or fitting into a smaller clothing size (example, ‘dropping a dress size’.)
Within the umbrella term ‘weight loss’ clients are often also looking for fat loss or changes in body composition.
Weight loss explained simply
First, keep in mind that the weight on the scale (Total Weight) is not just measuring fat.
Total Weight = Fat Mass + Lean Mass
A person’s weight is determined by total body mass including fluid, body fat, and lean body mass, such as muscle and bone. As such, a person’s weight fluctuates a lot throughout the day, depending on whether or not they are dehydrated. Therefore, small fluctuations in weight could be a result of fluctuations in energy stores (glycogen and/or fat), but more likely, they reflect a change in total body fluid. On a daily basis, this could be 5 or more pounds for some people!
When a person loses weight, they are also likely losing lean body mass in addition to fat.
- TIP: Resistance training during weight loss can help mitigate any loss of muscle mass and help improve muscular strength, especially when paired with a higher protein diet.
To measure your weight and weight loss, all that is needed is a scale. In terms of what constitutes healthy weight loss, that depends on your starting point and specific goals. However, for most, losing 1-2 lbs per week is both safe and healthy. Wondering what a healthy weight may be for you? Check out this FAQ.
Fat loss explained simply
Fat loss refers to the reduction in body fat stores (adipose tissue).
There are actually two types of fat stores in the body; subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat resides directly under the skin, whereas visceral fat is stored in the abdominal cavity, around your abdominal organs. People often wish to reduce subcutaneous fat for aesthetic reasons, however, visceral fat is associated with an increased risk of disease, independent of body mass index (BMI).
Fat Loss = Decrease in subcutaneous and/or visceral fat
It’s also important to note that in certain cases, fat loss can be achieved without weight loss. For instance, if a person begins resistance training and gains muscle at the same time as they lose fat, total body weight will remain the same (and may even go up), but body fat will decrease.
Are you curious how long it would take to lose different types of fat?
Read our FAQ on the topic: https://nutriprocan.ca/how-long-does-it-take-to-lose-an-inch-off-my-waist-or-thigs/
To measure changes in body fat and body composition, we recommend clients either have a DEXA scan or BodPod done. From there, we help clients to set weight goals based upon their lean mass and fat mass.
Body composition explained simply
Body Composition = Ratio Lean Mass: Fat Mass
A change in body composition reflects a shift in the proportion of fat mass to lean body mass. Similar to fat loss, changes in body composition can occur with or without weight loss, for example, if a client loses fat mass while gaining muscle. Changes in body composition can also occur with or without fat loss. For instance, a person could gain muscle mass without losing fat. Their body composition would change, reflecting an increase in lean body mass even though they technically didn’t lose any fat mass.
In terms of changing body composition, quite often we have clients set goals such as losing 1-2 inches off of their waist or thighs or fitting into a certain pant or dress size. These changes are not always reflected on a traditional weight scale, but can be measured through DEXA or BodPod, or estimated with a simple measuring tape!
Wondering what a healthy body composition should be for you?
Read our FAQ on the topic: https://nutriprocan.ca/how-do-i-lower-body-fat-percentage/
Weight Loss Example
Let’s take a client we will call Regan. Regan is 5’9” and weighs 205 lbs. Regan has the goal of reducing her weight to 150 lbs, her “pre-baby” weight.
Overall weight loss goal = 55 lbs
However, Regan began lifting weights a few years ago, something she never did before having babies.
Regan has her BodPod done and here are her results:
- Weight: 205 lbs
- Lean Mass: 125 lbs
- Fat Mass: 80 lbs
- Body Fat Percentage: 39%
In ‘typical’ weight loss, about 50% of the weight is fat and 50% is lean mass. Based on her goal, this would mean that in the end, Regan would be 150 lbs, would be about 98 lbs of lean mass and 52 lbs fat mass, bringing her new body fat percentage to 34.7%.
Regan would like to continue lifting weights, and would actually like to get even stronger! She also wants to get her body fat down to a healthier range.
We then revamp her goals:
- Weight Loss Goal: 50 lbs (155 lbs)
- Lean Mass Goal: 125 lbs (maintain lean mass, versus losing it)
- Fat Mass: 30 lbs
- Body Fat Percentage: 19.4 %
Wow – that is a HUGE difference in body composition. Although Regan is ‘heavier’ on the scale as compared to her original goal, she would look smaller and leaner (and overall be healthier). A smaller change in Total Weight, a huge change in Fat Mass and Body Composition.
Are you curious about what your weight loss or body composition goals should be? We can help!
Request a free call with a dietitian to discuss your goals!