Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Real Goal of Weight Loss (Part I)

Last week, I talked about not fearing the scale and not being emotional about the whole process; however, I have to also warn you not to become obsessed with the scale either. Remember it's just one tool amongst many that you will use. Actually, body weight is not the best way to determine if you are on your way to having that svelte physique you've always wanted.

The scale, unfortunately, becomes a trap for many guys because that's the only way they determine if their program is working. "If I'm losing weight on the scale, then it's all good, right?" Well, not necessarily.

The goal of any weight loss program should be to lose as much body fat as possible, while sparing as much lean body mass (i.e., muscle) as you can. If you just go by the scale, then you have no idea if the pounds you're losing are actually fat or muscle. Let me give you a personal example.

Back in 2000, I reached a high of 288lbs. and felt that I needed to do something about my expanding waistline. So, since I live so close to the Mexico-US border, I made a run for it to go and visit a weight loss doctor. After taking all my vitals, and even hooking me up to an EKG machine, the doctor went over my new eating plan--which was a moderate low-carb diet similar to Sugar Busters--and prescribed a three month supply of weight loss pills.

Man, did those pills work. I had energy for days, and the very thought of food made me want to puke. As expected, I lost weight and lost it rather quickly. I would eat one solid meal a day (usually lunch) and had to literally force myself to drink two meal replacement shakes. I really didn't care whether this was healthy or not because the scale was telling me that it was working, and I had the energy to do 45 minutes to an hour on the elliptical machine five days a week. I would play around with the weight machines for 20-25 minutes after my cardio, but my main focus was doing cardio and watching the scale.

I lost more than 40lbs taking what I later found out to be phen-phen, and I was fitting clothes I hadn't been able to in years. However, there was just one problem: my body was extremely soft and pudgy; I also had saggy man boobs to boot! Yes, I was happy that I was lighter and could fit smaller sized clothes, but I hated the fact that without clothes, I felt and looked like a smaller version of Jabba the Hut.

Well, it was 60lbs and a couple of years later that I realized why my body was as soft as a baby's ass. You see, I never worried about whether I was losing muscle or body fat; all I cared about was losing weight on the scale. So, through my starvation diet and tons of cardio, I effectively burned more of my lean body mass than body fat.

Fellas, do not fall into this trap. To be healthy and to have a body that you, as well as others, will admire, you want the majority of your lost weight to be body fat and not muscle.

In part II, I'll explain techniques you can use to maximize fat loss while minimizing muscle loss. I'll also talk about the different ways to go about measuring your body fat percentage. Until then, here's a pix of me after regaining the weight I lost, and the 20+ friends they brought along with them.

Oh, just in case you were wondering, yes that's a chocolate candy bar I have in my hand. Damn, you'd think that I'd at least hide it, huh?

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