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TOPIC: Dogmeat's thoughts on weight loss

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January 29, 2010 9:20 PM
Disclaimer: I do not have formal education in anything related to health, nutrition, sports, or any even remotely related field. In fact, I'm only properly trained in the field of how to kill people. Rest assured though that it's not my intention here wink

I do have lots of opinions. You can take them or leave them, just don't take them with a grain of salt because the subsequent water retention might be de-motivational on the scale.


Weight Loss

No one should have that as their ultimate goal. Weight loss in itself CAN be irrelevant, and often is. Treat your scale like that distant relative who readily gives out bad advice; just smile and ignore most of it. Your weight fluctuations are generally comprised of 3 separate things: changes in water levels, changes in lean body mass, and changes in fat mass. The first one is largely irrelevant, the two latter ones are very important; you want to decrease your fat mass and increase your muscle mass.

Muscle mass

Two things: One; you want to grow bigger muscles. One point one; yes, even if you're a female, this IS what you want (and if you are one, no, you will never look like a bodybuilder, no matter how much weight training you do).

Two; you can't grow bigger muscles. For now.

Building muscle mass and getting rid of fat mass are mutually exclusive. Muscle mass is built through calorie surplus, and when you're on calorie deficit, it just won't happen. What you really want then, during your weight loss project, is to preserve as much of your existing lean body mass as possible. In practice, this means keeping within your calorie goals, not being too much under very often, and eating away your exercise calories. If you don't, you WILL experience muscle mass loss, your metabolism will go down from that alone, and it won't rebound back up until you build back the muscles through calorie surplus and hard work. You might see weight loss on the scale, but it's not a sign of a victory, it's a sign of a failure.

Related to this, you might be working hard, hopping on your scale constantly and occasionally seeing it go up. People are quick to point out that perhaps, due to your awesome exercise regime and the fact that muscle weighs more than fat, your small weight gain is probably due to growth in muscle mass. While I'm sure this is a nice and supportive thing to say, it's BS. Your muscles won't be growing. You are probably retaining water, or, in some much rarer cases, gaining a bit of fat through lowered metabolism, possibly caused by not eating enough.


Fat loss

This is what you really want when you talk about weight loss. It is quite simple to achieve, although not necessarily easy, depending on your personal relationship to food and drink items and exercise. If you keep your calorie intake between 200-500 kcal below your maintenance level, you will lose weight. If you're really heavy, you might have a bigger deficit. It's a slow process, and there's NOTHING you can do to speed things up. Don't set unrealistic goals, like "I want to lose 30 lbs before my holiday in Spain in 5 weeks". You won't be losing 30 lbs of fat, and just losing 30 lbs of "something" isn't doing your looks any favours. 30 lbs loss done the wrong way will quite likely make you look more disgusting naked than you looked before the loss.

Fat loss is a covert operation you conduct against your body. We evolved, through natural selection, to be really good at storing energy during periods when there was lots of food, and to survive through times when there wasn't much to eat. Your body is smart, has honestly good intentions at heart, and only tries to help you to survive. So you need to be sneaky around the basterd. That's why it's important you keep your daily deficit small - if you don't, your body will think it's those damn lean times again, lets burn away the energy-costly muscles while holding on to all the fat we see. It's called "starvation mode", and while it's a little bit more sophisticated than a simple on/off switch, you want to avoid slipping into it.

What generally happens after your body discovers your not-so-sneaky operation depends much on the individual, but is usually a combination of lost lean body mass, slowed down metabolism, and strengthened hunger signals and cravings. The purpose of this is to stop wasting energy in maintaining the muscles and get you off your butt to binge on food. When you then go foraging and consume 20 Big Macs the energy is carefully stored as extra fat until your body is convinced that it gets it's fix of burgers and fries on a regular basis. If you give up, and return to eating like you did before your diet, you will end up heavier than you were before.

One neat/frustrating thing about fat loss is that you have zero control on WHERE you lose it. Training your abs won't get rid of your belly fat. Training your thighs won't get rid of your thigh fat. Anyone who claims so is full of horsesh*t (including 99% of women's magazines advertising their retarded articles for acquiring killer abs, and about 90% of men's health related magazines). Exactly WHERE the fat loss occurs when you're running on negative calories is determined by your body, genetics and so forth, not by what you eat or attempt to do. If you're genetically built to lose the belly last, your quest for a sixpack means you need to lose it everywhere else first. Chances are that you'll never get there, and if you do, the required bodyfat percentage is too low to realistically maintain long term. For most men, the belly fat is the last one to leave, for most women it's the butt/thigh fat. So, keep this in mind when you scribble down your goals and exercise plans.

In short; eat more or you won't lose weight. If you face your body in a gloves-off match, you will always lose. It keeps a horseshoe in its glove.


Foodstuffs

Most of this stuff is common knowledge and common sense. I won't go into much detail regarding macronutrient breakdown; basically you will want all 3 of them, and you should probably pay more attention into what KIND of sources you have for them than the exact percentages for your CFP breakdown.

Protein helps you in the muscle mass maintaining business. Getting enough of it is a good thing. Many sources of protein come with saturated fat attached, so go for lean and get your fats from elsewhere.

Fats are your friend. Not all of them, but some of them. Focus on unsaturated fats and avoid saturated fats. Stay completely away from anything that has trans fats. Nuts are awesome sources of fat (but make sure you know the amount you're about to consume fits into your calorie goals).

Carbs shouldn't be a swear word either; there are good ones and there are not so good ones. Veggies, fruits and whole grain is good, over-processed crap filled with sugars is bad.

Drinking water is good. Especially if you have problems with portion control, drink water with meals to fill up. The "8 glasses a day" has no scientific basis, and is probably unnecessary, but isn't going to harm you. Anything your body won't need will be peed away anyway. Go for it if you feel like it, don't feel bad if it seems like too much.

Stay away from excess pop. A can every other day isn't going to harm you much, whether its diet or non-diet. Neither HFCS or aspartame aren't healthy for you, although most of the aspartame scare mongering all over the internet is based on roughly equal amount of facts as 9/11 conspiracy theories.


All this being said, absolutes won't work for most people. If you really, really like something, even if it's unhealthy, don't decide to deprive yourself from it for the rest of your life. You'll likely fail anyway, and enough small failures might lead to giving up altogether. Be it beer, doritos, twinkies, mountain dew, whatever - if you really like them, allow yourself to have them, in moderation, and not too often.

I like Panago's Super Cheezy Pizza, Tim Horton's Boston Cream Doughnuts, Diet Dr. Pepper, A&W Root Beer, for example. I generally squeeze my vices in a regular, within calorie goals day, not to a specific "cheat day", but you might want to do differently.

And on the topic of "cheat days", here's my take on them. I believe having one every 7-10 days or so is beneficial. The most important thing about cheat days is that they're NOT cheat days. You're not "cheating" your diet. You're engaging in a deliberate, controlled plan to both keep your metabolism going and giving you a chance to feel less restricted (if this is an issue for you). MARK everything down. This is very, very important. Skipping food diary days tends to lead to higher chances of giving up counting altogether. You want to know what to expect after your cheat day. I prefer to fill up the extra calories of an over day with nuts, you might want to use it to go for stuff you crave.

On cheat days, or "over days", I hit my maintenance level or go SLIGHTLY above it. "Slightly" doesn't mean over by 5000 Calories. Go above no more than you go under on a regular day. If you go above by 3000kcal (it's not very difficult to do, even by accident) on a cheat day every week, and follow 500kcal deficit the other 6 days, your net outcome is +-0.


Exercise

If you've ever logged your exercise, you know working out to destroy a simple doughnut takes incredible amount of work. So, on the face value, fat loss is mostly about diet, and very little about exercise.

If we do supplement our diet with exercise, we're supposed to eat away the calorie gains anyway. So why the hell would you want to waste time exercising in the first place?

Well, as it turns out, for plenty of reasons. As I mentioned before, you want to do your best to hold on to the muscle mass you have. This can only be done through exercise, and most efficiently through resistance training. It serves two purposes; one is preserving a level of metabolism that makes it easier to lower your weight and manage it once you've reached your goal. Another is that without it, you end up looking like crap once you've reached your goal.

Exercise, be it cardio or anaerobic, will also have a positive impact on your metabolism. This helps in general fat loss and helps to avoid or break plateaus, which can be demoralizing.

There's also the small matter of improved health. For most of us, this just isn't a compelling enough goal by itself, but it's there as a small additional reason to get your butt off the couch.


Motivation

I've been around on a few different weight loss forums and around dieting people in real life. People who aim to lose excess fat for selfish reasons are usually those who end up succeeding, and people who do it for noble reasons (like, "for my kids", or "for my wife/husband") end up failing. I get it, it might sound like a good idea to have such a noble cause. In reality, it rarely works. If you plan to make changes to your body and your lifestyle, you have to be selfish and do it primarily for yourself. All other great and awesome reasons can be in the background, but the primary reason looks at you from your mirror.


Summary

Focus on eating healthier stuff in moderation. Avoid crap on regular basis, but don't place absolute restrictions on yourself. Excercise. LOG EVERYTHING. Be selfish.
Edited by dogmeat On January 29, 2010 10:14 PM
January 29, 2010 9:37 PM
Bump to read later
  251763
January 29, 2010 9:57 PM
Love it! Usually I have a lot to say...not this time!smile
  297394
January 29, 2010 10:11 PM
I agree with all of that.. you sound a bit like my PT smile cheers for the reminder! flowerforyou
January 29, 2010 10:32 PM
You may not have a great deal of formal training, but you have a great amount of GOOD SENSE.
Hopefully, a lot of people will read this post. Thanks a lot for posting. smile
January 29, 2010 10:47 PM
And, apparently I can't edit my post any further? Bear with my grammatical clumsiness; this is not my first language smile
January 29, 2010 10:49 PM
I Love your common sense approach on weight loss... My fitness regime includes 3 push ups a day...
1 from the breakfast table,
1 from the lunch table, and
1 from the dinner table.....
  451264
January 29, 2010 10:50 PM
great advice.. only I am pretty sure that muscle and fat weigh the same.. just double check your info.. Great advice anyways.. :)
  327205
January 29, 2010 10:55 PM
Muscle is about 18% denser than fat, therefore, weighs a bit more for the same volume. That isn't the point of the argument though; the point was to dispel the touchy-feely argument that your occasional weight gains might come from additional muscle mass.
January 29, 2010 11:00 PM
QUOTE:

Muscle is about 18% denser than fat, therefore, weighs a bit more for the same volume. That isn't the point of the argument though; the point was to dispel the touchy-feely argument that your occasional weight gains might come from additional muscle mass.


Understood the fact.. :) and thanks for the info..
  327205
January 30, 2010 4:03 AM
Very good, common sense advice. Well said, thank you!
February 18, 2010 12:11 PM
Wow, good sense. So rare,,,

<bump for later>
February 18, 2010 12:21 PM
LOVE it!!!
February 18, 2010 12:38 PM
We Americans have really become a society of instant gratification, and "there's a drug for everything." That's why we're the fattest country in the world. We have to overcome hundreds of millions of dollars spent in advertising telling us to eat fast food, and drink soda. The only thing we really have control over is the choices we make as individuals. We can't control the commercials that are on tv, nor can we control what your friends and family choose to eat. Set a good example for the people around you, and it will rub off.

It can seem hard to overcome a lifetime of over-eating and under-exercising, but after you build up a healthy routine you'll find it's easier than you first thought. Now is the time to become educated, and to renew your vows to good health for yourself and the people around you. Rome wasn't built in a day nor were any of us. It's a process that requires commitment, follow through, and self-discipline.

I commend everyone who's made the choice to be healthy. It's never easy to make a life change, and it must be taken one day at a time.
February 18, 2010 12:52 PM
QUOTE:

Building muscle mass and getting rid of fat mass are mutually exclusive. Muscle mass is built through calorie surplus, and when you're on calorie deficit, it just won't happen.


I admittedly didn't read your entire post and I'm sure I'll be flamed for this, but most people CAN in fact build (limited!) muscle at a calorie deficit. smile Especially if you've got a lot of extra body fat (read: extra energy for your body).

The human body is super complicated. Suffice it to say that making absolute statements like "you can't build muscle on a calorie deficit" simply doesn't work.

I wish I had sources on hand.
  270768
February 18, 2010 12:55 PM
Thank you for posting this. I like how you compare the scale to a family member like that. Funny, but true. Smile and nod.
February 18, 2010 12:58 PM
Dogmeat = funny stuff. Like it! laugh
  675779
February 18, 2010 1:10 PM
Great post! Thanks!
February 18, 2010 2:07 PM
Bump to read after work!
  124137
February 18, 2010 2:09 PM
QUOTE:

I admittedly didn't read your entire post and I'm sure I'll be flamed for this, but most people CAN in fact build (limited!) muscle at a calorie deficit. smile Especially if you've got a lot of extra body fat (read: extra energy for your body).

The human body is super complicated. Suffice it to say that making absolute statements like "you can't build muscle on a calorie deficit" simply doesn't work.

I wish I had sources on hand.

For all practical considerations, yes, you can pretty much make a blanket statement that you will not gain muscle mass while you lose weight on negative calories. The process of gaining muscle mass is extremely hard even if you optimize your intake for that specific goal. You could set very short bulk/cut cycles or attempt to balance with a low calorie deficit, but that's more an exercise in futility than a logical method to approach issues of body fat percentage. For anyone who's sailing at 1lbs loss per week calorie deficit, and isn't in a heavy weight class recognized by Nihon Sumō Kyōkai, lean body mass preservation is a sufficient goal. I know it's more complicated than that, but most of the "oh, your slight weight gain must mean you're gaining muscle" is just useless touchy-feely-huggy BS rather than reality.

Gaining muscle and losing fat are pretty much opposing goals. Chances are that if you're in Bismarck, ND, and you want to visit your aunt in San Fransisco and your uncle in Philadelphia, an efficient way to do this is to head to California first, then to Pennsylvania, instead of bouncing aimlessly between Montana and Minnesota. In the end, you might even get a hefty inheritance from both relatives, instead of a line in the will that says "for dogmeat, my lazy nephew who never bothered to visit me, I leave the pink plastic flamingo I won on bingo in 1982, worth 20 cents".
February 18, 2010 2:24 PM
Thanks for the post. I've lost most of my weight with that approach.

And I agree with the muscle mass/calorie deficit thing, I cringe everytime I read it
February 18, 2010 3:22 PM
I enjoyed your post! Thanks. smile
  219022
February 18, 2010 3:46 PM
bump
February 18, 2010 5:44 PM
Gaining muscle mass while losing bodyfat is extremely rare. You have to be extremely careful, and you have to be a genetic freak. Call me a liar if you wish, but I've done it. Measured and weighed and verified. I was on maintenance, eating exercise calories, doing mega cardio and heavy weight and supplementing protein. I maintained weight and lost inches off the waist and gained inches everywhere else.

Extremely rare, but it can be done (sorta - I admit I wasn't losing weight). Was probably gaining 1 pound a week lean and losing a pound of BF,,, but I did it.

I do completely agree with you that "I did a pushup and gained 5 pounds! I'm ripped! Muscle is heavier than fat you know,,," is crap. We see a lot of it on this site, and you just let it go.
Edited by CasperO On February 18, 2010 6:04 PM
February 18, 2010 6:25 PM
My only question would be - how are you not gaining muscle if you are able to life more weight, run longer, etc? Wouldn't you have to gain some muscle for increased fitness while losing weight? Curious of your opinion. smile
  219022

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