"Gosh, I'm so fat. I need to lose weight!"
How many of you have muttered this phrase, either to yourself or someone else?
Over my years in the fitness industry, I've heard many people, men and women alike, wishing and working hard to "lose weight". These folks go on all kinds of calorie-reducing diets, from low-carb to the South Beach Diet to Atkins to low-fat to some celebrity-endorsed gobbledygook, while excitedly signing up for various fitness memberships, in the hope of losing that weight.
I know you've likely read many an article explaining how weight loss is dependent on preserving lean muscle mass through proper training and nutrition and paying attention to overall caloric intake, as well as the type of nutrients consumed. Yes, this works brilliantly for many people, and I've been down that path before as well, with great success. HOWEVER, as soon as one's life situation changes- be it a change of job, loss of a loved one, birth of a baby, family and relationship issues, relocation, a birthday, or health problems- weight loss using this simple approach has a way of... stopping completely.
When I began my own fitness journey using this method to get in shape, I initially saw good results and was able to repeat those results consistently, as needed. Now that I'm in my 30s, however, I have to admit that my body is responding in quite a different manner than when I was in my 20s. Who can relate to this? Hello, 30s! The old "exercise more/eat less" and "train hard/eat clean" model no longer works for me as effectively. I instead observed that I more easily gained fat, specifically in the famous women's "trouble" spots: lower tummy, love handles, abdominal, thighs, back, and arms- in that order.
This sparked my natural curiosity to search for the truth behind what was going on with my body, despite following the calorie counting model. I eventually came to realize that after all these years, I'd been looking at weight loss from a faulty lens.
The epiphany: Our hormones play a massive role in our body shape, and losing weight is different from losing fat! The latter is actually the ultimate aim of what most of us actually want, but we tend to overlook the difference.
To lose fat, we have to first understand the impact that hormones have, and work towards keeping the hormonal system in harmony. When we keep our hormones in balance, the fat and weight loss journey becomes a breeze. Ok, maybe not a breeze, but you catch my drift!
Losing body fat, especially for women, is tricky. We have our menstrual cycle to consider. And, for some of us, we take the life-changing 9-month path of carrying another human being in pregnancy. Our bodies are constantly changing with our hormonal cycle.
So what exactly is fat loss- what's the difference? And what do hormones have to do with it?
Weight loss is simply losing kilos measured on the weighing scale. However, that does not necessarily indicate a change in body shape and more importantly, body fat percentage. I hate to be crude, but it's like going from a bigger marshmallow to a smaller one- the weight may have dropped a bit, but the shape and contents are still pretty much the same.
Fat loss, on the other hand, is a reduction in total body fat percentage. Some machines are able to measure the differences in visceral fat (fat near the organs which you cannot pinch) and subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin which you can pinch). This is a healthier approach than just focusing on weight loss. However, sometimes you may notice that despite losing fat, you feel moody, lethargic, cranky, hungry and crave sweets all the time.
Hormonal fat loss, on the other hand, takes into account finding a unique plan that works specifically for your body, with the aim of balancing your hormones first, so that when a nutrition and training program come into play, the results you're dying to have actually happen for you.
How many times have you attempted to go on a diet, only to gain back what you've lost later, as it was not sustainable to maintain for life?
That is because these traditional programs are primarily looking at calorie-counting. Calories impact hormones, and hormones affect our mood, sleep, hunger, energy and cravings- and thus may take us off the track of a diet.
The truth is, you do not have to feel trapped into counting exact calories or chasing a number on the scale in order to lose body fat. You can lose weight and still feel healthy and vibrant and free, instead of miserable. When your energy is at its peak and you're seeing your shape change, that is a good sign that your hormones are in harmony. This is when you've found an individualized lifestyle regimen that works for you to keep fat loss sustainable, long-lasting, and manageable.
A hormonally-based fat loss approach may take a bit of trial and error at first, like a crime detective at work, but when you look at the overall big picture and the "why" behind your goals, you have a far greater chance of sticking with your commitment. Remember, when you treat your health right, the aesthetics will follow. It just takes time!
In love, health and wellness,
Yan Huang is Tangram's Hormonal Nutrition Consultant and Metabolic Personal Trainer. Read more about Yan on our About page, or book an appointment with Yan through our Contact page. Do you have a question for Yan? Leave your thoughts in the comments section or reach out to us! Did you like this article? Please share the love!