As a coach for menopausal women a lot of the questions I see concern weight loss. But for women, especially midlife women, focusing on fat loss instead of weight loss is more important.
In order to understand why you should focus on fat loss let’s look at body composition. Your muscle is denser than your fat by about 18%. (need to check number). This means that a pound of muscle takes up less room than a pound of fat.
This means that someone with less body fat who has more muscle will look slimmer than someone with more fat and less muscle even if they weigh the same.
If you focus on weight loss…
Focusing strictly on weight loss usually means that you lose water, muscle and a little fat. This is especially true if you try to lose weight quickly. You will also likely lose strength, have lower fitness levels and lower immunity.
Consider which is more important to you, an arbitrary number on a scale or fitting into your jeans or looking great or just being healthy.
Muscle loss increases with age
As you get older you will lose muscle mass, especially if you don’t exercise. If this is happening, then even if your weight stays the same, you are probably starting to look fatter. Your jeans can start to get tighter.
How to lose fat
If you want to lose fat rather than just weight, then you should follow these guidelines:
Don’t lose weight to quickly.
Fast weight loss often involves water loss to start which doesn’t provide any long term benefit. When you lose weight quickly your body takes the energy it needs from wherever it can which includes muscle. In fact women’s bodies like to hold onto fat, especially when you have a large calorie deficit (you are eating less than your body needs to maintain itself).
Include exercise, especially resistance training, in your routine.
Resistance training helps to build and maintain muscle. When you are trying to lose weight, you will be less likely to lose precious muscle. Muscle also burns more calories than fat, so your metabolism will increase a little as well.
Limit processed carbs and sugar and eat protein at most meals.
Your body needs protein to build and maintain muscle. You do need carbohydrates as well, but processed carbs and sugar tend to raise blood sugar and end up being stored as fat more easily.
How to measure progress without a scale
A scale is an easy way to measure your progress, but its not very accurate for fat loss. Here are some other ways to measure your progress.
Measure inches (or cm).
Waist circumference is an easy measure to take. It doesn’t matter what method you use as long as you are consistent. You can also take measurements at other locations on your body – hips, chest, upper arms, thighs.
Body fat measurements.
You can use a body fat scale to measure your body fat at home. These measurements may not be very accurate, but you can use it to gauge your progress. You can also have someone measure your body fat using skin calipers, but the accuracy of this method depends on the training of the individual, how much fat on your body and the method used. There are other more expensive methods for body fat measurements. These vary in accuracy but are not usually used for measuring fat loss.
This is a great way to measure your progress. Take photos of yourself in a bikini or sports bra and shorts. A front view and a side view is good. Then repeat the photos every month or two to see how your body is changing.
How do you feel?
This is a very subjective measure, but if you are starting a healthy lifestyle plan which includes changing your diet and exercising more, you start to feel better. You might have more energy, you might feel more confident or you might have a better body image. If your changes are making you feel better, then you are more likely to stick with them.
Stepping on the scale to measure your progress is easy, but it might not be telling you the complete story. Take other measures so you can focus on fat loss instead.