As you know, I am no expert on fitness and exercise physiology. I am just a person with 35 years of experience battling the bulge (weight). When I started this journey I just wanted to be healthy and happy in my own skin. Sure I wanted to lose weight, but after years of failed diets, I wasn’t ready for another one. When I got my first Fitbit, it really was just to see how many steps I took in a day, because I was sure it was a lot. I didn’t realize what else it would do for me. It gave me the key to seeing the formula for my weight loss.
One of the things it showed me was my lean body mass (the weight of everything in my body except fat). I think this is where the idea of “your just big boned” came from. My lean body mass was around 142 lbs back in January 2016. I understood from the knowledge I had gained over the many years of diet and exercise that you want to maintain muscle mass while losing weight. Muscle helps burn the fat. Also, you don’t want to be “skinny fat.” You look thin, but your body fat percentage is actually in the overweight zone. This comes from just focusing on weight loss and not fat burn, there is a difference.
My goal back then was to burn the excess fat to reach 25% body fat (the high end of normal given my age) while maintaining lean body mass. As the weight came off and I could exercise more, I added resistance training back in March with the help of my friend Wayne Lehtinen. He has been a weight trainer for years and understands how to create an exercise program that caters to your level. He created a simple 30 minute workout with what I had available to me (kettlebells).
Ten month later I am 71lbs lighter. When I look at my body composition I see my lean body mass is now 135 lbs, so part of the of the 71lbs lost is 7lbs of lean body mass. Not terrible, but my goal was to try and maintain what I had to begin with. I started reading to see if this was “normal” with burning large amounts of fat, but no one discussed it. In fact most writer said, “focus on the fat burn and don’t worry about the muscle, you can gain it back later.”
As I thought about it, this does makes sense to me, 64lbs of fat is a lot to carry around 24/7. If I had to carry a 5 gallon bucket of paint with me all day I’d need some muscles for that. So now not carrying that bucket probably means my body can restructure and drop some of the muscle that it doesn’t now need to carry the fat.
In all my research on the subject, I think the take home message for me is that it is important to maintain your muscle and lean body mass to help burn the excess body fat you want to lose. As fat burns off, your body will change to accommodate the new you, so don’t worry about it too much, as long as it is not a rapid loss of muscle mass. Resistance exercise helps retain your muscles, but believe me it’s not about crazy workouts, just what makes sense for you and most importantly, something you can do and stick with for the long term. Don’t get to carried away with crazy fads. Focus on the burning fat by cutting calories and potion control, you body will take care of the rest.