Fat is stored energy. It’s not evil and it’s not wrong – it is there by design and you will always have some unless you are no longer interested in living. We consume food to live, some of it is used up right away so we can continue thinking and breathing and some of it, whatever is left over, gets stored in the fat cells for later.
Once we hit adulthood the number of fat cells in our bodies remains the same – think of it as “pockets”. We can fill them up or empty them, but we can’t get rid of the pockets themselves – the cells always stay there, they just get bigger or smaller.
Fat is essentially the fuel we use to keep on going when we most need it. Think of the human body as an organic machine that runs on energy, it runs on the food we consume and once there is a shortage, it dives into the reserves in the micro vaults – the fat cells. As you burn it and use it up turning it into energy there is nothing left but the byproduct – carbon dioxide. Yes, you breathe it out.
To force and speed up the process and make our bodies dig into the reserves we have two options: diet and exercise, that’s where “eat less and exercise more” comes from.
Dieting alone will deprive your body from the needed resources and force it to dig into the fat cell for energy. You will lose weight rapidly, but and there is a big “but” here – it’ll also shock your system and you will (not might, but will) gain everything back in half the time it took you to shed it off. That’s a defense mechanism your body has for these exact situations and it is done to ensure your survival and wellbeing in case of future famine.
Dieting can, on its own, give you weight loss results. Dieting exclusively will only give you weight loss results but these will be temporary. This will force you to then find another diet. And then another one, and another one – because eventually they’ll all fail you and it’ll be harder and harder to go back to eating lettuce. You’ll never see chocolate cake the same way, again.
It’s worth mentioning that if you also lose weight too rapidly, your skin won’t have enough time to adjust either. Think of your body as a balloon filled with water that just got popped. Do you want to look like a popped balloon?
Excess weight is still very new to us and in the recent past all we used to do is diet so naturally we learned that it is all about weight loss and shedding pounds. We now have experience, we are smarted and we know that in order to stay healthy and fit and not just skinny we also need to exercise. Exercise, incidentally, being a highly demanding activity forces your body to dig into the its stored energy reserves. Unlike dieting, though, it doesn’t just help you empty the fat cells it also builds muscle. And muscle weighs a ton. Well, just about.
In the past we could use the term “weight loss” because in the past all we did is diet. Without the muscle to add to our overall weight we could do that because that’s all we could do. Now, we also exercise so the number we see on the scales is no longer a good indication of our progress. It’s not totally irrelevant, but it’s not the single overriding guideline it used to be either. You can drop three dress sizes and see zero difference in how much you weigh if you diet and exercise.
You still “lose weight”, read: empty fat cells; you just can’t accurately say how much it is in pounds or kilograms. If you diet and exercise the best way to track your progress is by taking regular pictures of yourself, measuring your body with a measuring tape or measuring your body fat % using special scales designed for that.
Hurray for exercise. And yet, it fails if you rely on exercise alone.
The winning combination
With exercise it’s very easy to be lured into the false sense of security. Even if we exercise until the cows come home but we eat more than we have burned or feed the body too much before, during or after a training session providing it with all the resources it needs – it won’t touch the stored reserves. There is just no need for your body to dig in if it already has everything it needs to meet the energy needs being demanded of it. Exercise only boosts the burning process similar to raising heat under the frying pan but it doesn’t just melt the fat away all on its own – there has to be a deficit of the resources available at hand for the body to open the pantry and use up what it has stored up there.
Together dieting and exercise is the winning combination. We don’t just say it, it happens to be true. You put into the body just a little bit less and you demand from it just a little bit more on a regular basis. It’s finding that balance that’s the tricky bit.
You get to see slow but steady progress. By slowly changing your habits but not putting yourself under so much pressure that you are unable to handle or maintain physically or emotionally, you get to achieve a sustainable state of fitness. If there was a way to have your cake and eat it, this is it.
Muscle for fat burning
Muscle is high maintenance, it requires a lot of resources just to carry it around. The more muscle you have, the more energy you are going to use by simply going about your business every day and tripling the burn during exercise. When you don’t have any muscle your body doesn’t need a lot, you can’t eat much and you have to constantly diet. If you do, on the other hand, your daily calorie intake is naturally higher because you have serious machinery to supply with energy.
The muscle you have is not there forever, though, if you don’t feed it and you don’t use it – you lose it. Without regular exercise your body will get rid of the nuisance that makes its life difficult. After all, the only reason your body grows muscle is so it can deal with whatever physical inconvenience you throw at it aka = exercise.
Your body takes the shape to fit your lifestyle. Change your lifestyle and you’ll change your body, permanently.