The weight loss industry is a big business that often promotes mixed messages about how to lose weight. While most of us assume that weight loss will enable better health, the truth is that weight loss alone does not predict our risk of disease. If not done the healthy way, weight loss can actually increase our risk of chronic disease.
The key to understanding healthy weight loss is to understand healthy body composition. Body composition is our ratio of lean muscle mass to body fat. Body composition is a much stronger predictor of health and disease than weight alone. The goal of any healthy diet and exercise program should be to build muscle mass and burn body fat.
Sounds pretty simple, but the process can be a bit of a challenge for those of us who are attached to the scale. Muscle mass weighs more than body fat. If we build muscle and burn fat we may not see much of a change on the scale, but will see a much bigger improvement in our overall health. Weighing yourself consistently may lead to frustration, but when you are following a healthy plan the weight loss will start eventually and continue to improve as your metabolism grows with your growing muscle mass.
In contrast, those on an unhealthy plan, like a starvation diet, tend to see the following pattern: initial progressive weight loss as muscle mass wastes away. Followed by a plateau in weight despite dieting. Ending with an increase in weight despite calorie restriction as the metabolism has been lowered as a result of the progressive muscle mass loss and starvation.
So how do we know that our weight loss is healthy? One simple tool, and a great measure of success, is your waist measurement or waist-hip ratio. If your clothes feel looser, if you feel stronger and if you have more energy, then you are on the right track. In contrast, if you are tired, weak, and irritable, but you are losing weight, you are on the wrong path and your lowered metabolism will soon catch up to you.
A Naturopathic Doctor can help you foster a healthy lifestyle and optimal nutrition plan that will not only will help you achieve healthy weight loss, but will reduce your risk of disease and improve your quality of life long term.
Erin Wiley is a Naturopathic Doctor and the Co-Founder and a Clinic Director of the Integrative Health Institute. Erin is passionate about health promotion and integrative medicine and has believes in leading by example to inspire and educate others to live active and healthy lives. Erin is compassionate, ready to listen, and motivated to offer patients the support they need to achieve their health goals. Follow Dr. Wiley on Twitter