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Weight Loss Journey: What to Expect As Your Body Changes from Fat to Trim

Beginning a weight loss journey can be challenging, but it can also provide so many significant rewards that the entire experience is ultimately worthwhile.

If so, you may be considering starting a weight loss journey of your own.

It can be helpful to know what to expect as you transition from over-fat to über-healthy.

Familiarizing yourself – ahead of time – with some of the obstacles you might face on your weight loss journey can help prevent you from becoming discouraged or derailed from achieving your target body weight.

Positivity: Having an Adventurous Attitude on Your Weight Loss Journey

I encourage you to approach body composition with a positive outlook.

It’s beneficial to approach a new diet and exercise goal with a light-hearted attitude of adventure.

People come in all shapes and sizes and physical diversity is what helps to make life interesting and meaningful. You’ll likely have more success moving from fat to trim if you have an empowered perspective:

  • You’re not trying to shame yourself into conforming to society’s ideals of the perfect physique.
  • Instead, you are emboldening yourself. You are seeking to master the destiny of your own health.

Everyone wants to look better naked – that’s simply a natural part of human psychology. It feels congruous and satisfying to look as strong on the outside as you feel on the inside.

However, you’ll be accomplishing more than just a youthful appearance. You’ll also be extending the healthy years of your lifespan.

 

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Be Realistic about your Start Point

I suggest you resist the influence of your current culture when it comes to nutrition and movement. What’s normal isn’t normal.

Readers of this website come from all over the globe; have a look at average body compositions by country:

  • In the US, almost 40% of adults are obese. Approximately 72% of adults are overweight.
  • In the UK, 28% of adults are obese. Approximately 65% of adults are overweight.
  • In Canada, 28% of adults are obese. Approximately 65% of adults are overweight.
  • In Australia, 32% of adults are obese. Approxiamtely 67% of adults are overweight.
  • Body fat is also increasing in India, Germany, South Africa, the Netherlands, and the Phillipines.

Medical professionals do not all agree on what body compositions are considered overweight or obese. Generally, however, the criteria for people in middle age and post-middle age seem to fall within these ranges:

  • For men: percentage of body fat greater than 22% is overweight and over 27% is clinically obese.
  • For women: percentage of body fat greater than 33% is overweight and over 40% is clinically obese.

If you’re a man over the age of 50, your ideal weight – that’s the weight that most increases the odds of you having a long and healthy lifespan – will vary based on bone structure, your unique metabolism, and genetics. Even so, it’s likely that your ideal body composition percentage will be somewhere around 14%. If you’re a woman over 50, your healthiest number might be in the neighborhood of 25%.

It has been proven that most people think they’re healthier than they actually are. Having worked with clients for decades I can tell you anecdotally that most people need to lose more body fat and reduce more inflammation than they realize.

How to Track Progress Along Your Weight Loss Journey

My favorite way to accurately track fat loss is with a measuring tape.

It’s easy. Put the tape around the widest part of your abdomen (love handles) at navel level, and take two measurements:

  • One measurement is your abdomen when you’re sucking your gut in as much as you can.
  • The other measurement is your abdomen when your muscles are fully relaxed.

These numbers will not lie and will tell you accurately how your weight loss journey is going.

 
 

I don’t like using scales because water loss (or water retention) messes with the number. Also, if you gain muscle, it will make it seem like you’ve lost less fat than you actually have. Muscle is very good and much harder to create than most people realize. Muscle burns calories even while you are at rest.

Being overweight is a significant contributor to health problems. It increases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, cancer, gallstones, gout, arthritis, sleep apnea, red face, underventilation, and perpetual drowsiness.

– Melissa Stöppler, MD

What to Expect As Your Fat Cells Empty

When younger people lose weight, they tend to lose it more evenly than older people. If you happen to be over the age of 50, you’ll likely notice that, at first, the fat shrinks unevenly:

  • Feet have fat cells too, and as fat cells shrink from the padding on the bottoms of your feet, you might experience temporary discomfort (eventually the body adapts and comfort is restored).   
  • Fat deposits along the waist, arms, and thighs often develop a watery texture during the cutting phase. This also doesn’t last. Eventually the cells empty out and the tissue becomes firm again.   
  • If you’re losing a significant amount of weight, you might be left with extra skin. Again, younger people have an easier time metabolizing this extra tissue (especially when they eat enough healthy fats and avoid excess carbs and inflammatory foods). After 50, extra skin is harder to remedy – but you’re still going to look fantastic in clothes at your new, trim weight.

There’s one thing that gets better in both younger and older people when they lose excess fat from adopting an anti-inflammatory diet: an improvement in mental clarity.  The benefits of this are not to be underestimated. As inflammation lessens so does brain fog. The ability to sustain focus, self-motivate, and achieve goals is increased.

The Shadow Side of Your Weight Loss Journey

Society is peculiar:

  • The more trim you are, the more visible you become.
  • The more fat you carry, the more invisible you become.

If 20 people are in the grocery store, almost everyone’s eyes will linger longer on the fit person.

Someone who is obese might be noticed briefly, then quickly disregarded on an unconscious level.

This is unfair, but it is true.

The reason I mention this is to prepare you for the possibility that as you become healthier and trimmer, you will garner more attention. This might make you uncomfortable because it can be a vulnerable sensation. But if you know ahead of time that this might happen, it helps make the experience less jarring.

How to NOT Lose Weight

My least favorite way to lose weight is what I call “The Skinny-Fat Diet.” It’s kind of popular, even though most people gain back what they lost (and often, gain even more).

Basically, you restrict calories, eat a low amount of protein, and do mostly cardio (and almost no weight training). This method of weight loss is not my favorite because it doesn’t significantly raise your resting metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn while at rest).

Instead, I suggest you lose weight this way so that you can keep the weight off (while getting healthier in the process).

3 Tips for Your Weight Loss Journey

There are particular strategies that many have found useful during their weight loss journey.

1. Meal Prep

When people get hungry and they haven’t planned their day’s nutrition carefully ahead of time, they tend to make impulsive decisions with food.

Meal prep is when you make some meals ahead of time for the next several days. Maybe it’s lunches. Maybe it’s dinners. Maybe it’s both. In my case, I make 3 to 4 days of greens smoothies at once, then seal and refrigerate them.

To succeed at weight loss, you’ll probably need to be more organized in your weekly grocery shopping process. You’ll need to make lists, and you’ll need to meal prep once or twice a week – or, use a meal prep delivery service.

2. Develop New Associations

Almost all of us associate certain activities with certain foods. For example, watching television at night while having ice cream. Or having popcorn and soda at the movie theater. In order to succeed at changing your body composition permanently, you’ll probably need to develop new associations with these activities. Or choose entirely new activities (at least until you reach your target weight).

When I worked in a traditional office environment, two or three times a month everyone would gather in the breakroom at the start of the lunch hour to congratulate a coworker. I would join in to sing “happy birthday” with everyone else, then stand around and chat while holding a bottle of water. Eventually, people noticed I never ate the cake and it became a running joke. But that’s fine. My new association became birthdays = hydration.

3. Stop Underreporting (Track Accurately)

In studies, researchers have been able to establish that, when tracking calories, almost everyone underreports their intake – even professional dieticians!

Your new, trim body is waiting for you underneath layers of subcutaneous and visceral fat; but to get at it, you’ll need to be meticulous about counting your caloric intake accurately. Once you’ve achieved your target weight, many of your new habits will be automatic and you might be able to enjoy a diet cheat day every now and then.

Additional Sources:

Clinical Definitions of Obesity – https://www.medscape.com/answers/123702-11456/what-is-the-definition-of-obesity-based-on-body-fat-percentage

How Much Body Fat Should You Carry? – https://www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/how-to-calculate-your-ideal-body-fat-percentage

Undue Health Risks of the Obese – https://www.medicinenet.com/obese/definition.htm

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