Wednesday, 1 June 2011

What is 1 lb of fat?

Many a time have I heard someone say "I have ONLY lost 1 lb" and they feel like their effort has not paid off or someone has been ill and lost 10 lb thinking it will help their overall weight loss. These are all perfect examples of people who really don't know what a lb of fat is. I am guilty of both of these in the beginning on losing weight. At times the weight came off a lot slower than it wanted to, and sometimes, like when I had flu, I did lose 10lb in 4 days and thought that I would be slimmer because of it.

The aim for most people when losing weight is to lose fat, as fat is the reason most of us are overweight. So you need to be aware of what fat is, how you can lose it and most big losses in one go are not fat at all.

At the start of losing weight, say in the first week, you can see results of 7-10lb a week. This is pretty much all water that you are losing. It is pretty impossible to lose 7-10lbs of fat in a week. Yes, you may feel and look 7-10lb smaller, but that is because you are less bloated from the water you were carrying. If you have cut back on salty foods during that week (which cause water retention) and you have drunk more water, you will have a big water loss, which will show a higher weight loss.

Once your body starts to get used to your new eating and exercise regime, your weight loss will level out to a healthy 1-2lb a week. This can be really difficult to deal with after being used to much higher results in the first couple of weeks, but just remind yourself that every lb or even half lb is still in the right direction.
Your body is also going to naturally fluctuate with weight anyway. Different times of the day, or the month, can have a big effect on your weight. My biggest piece of advice I can give to you is don’t focus too much on each individual lb. Look at the big picture and be really proud if you have lost 8lb in a month. Daily lb loses are not a good way to gauge an actual loss. Look at the change over a month and that will give you a better idea of how much fat you have actually lost, rather than just water.

Now, time to be aware of what a lb really is. Every time you “only” lose 1 lb, take a look at this picture to remind yourself of what you have actually achieved if the lb you have lost is fat. This is what a lb of fat looks like.

Apart from the picture being pretty gross, it is pretty cool to see it there, instead of hidden underneath skin. I still can’t get over the fact that I have lost 91 of those chunks of fat. Where were they all hiding? Obviously some of the weight I lost was water, but the majority was definitely fat.

You should also know that 1lb of fat is equal to 3500 calories. I hear some people say that they think a weight loss of 7lb a week, every week is realistic. It really isn’t, as that would mean that you would need to be burning off 3500 calories every day. Yes, although you burn calories just wandering round the house, that is still a serious gym session that would need to be put in every day. I don’t think these people realise what you have to do in the gym just to burn off 500 calories. An hour of press-ups will burn off 500 calories, just to put it into perspective.

Realistically, burning off an extra 500-1000 calories a day will mean a weekly loss of 1-2lbs, which is healthy and manageable. If you try to lose more than the recommended 1-2lb a week, then you will most likely be just losing water or lean muscle mass, rather than fat. This will mean that you have less energy which could lead to gaining the weight back.

Also, when it comes to weight loss and perhaps being disappointed with a small loss, or even a gain, you need to remember that muscle does weigh more than fat. Hopefully you will be exercising alongside your healthy eating and that means you will be building up muscles, which will weigh more than the fat you have lost. So, you may have lost fat, but weigh more than you did before due to building muscle.

The message of this post is, be proud of only the small losses, now you know what they actually look like, and don't get over excited about the very quick big losses, as they are not what you think they are. Any healthy eating and exercise is going to set you in the right direction, so concentrate on that, not what is on the scale.


  1. Muscle doesn't weigh more than fat. If you have a lb of fat and a lb of muscle it's still a lb. The difference is the volume, so fat has a larger volume than muscle. It's a common misconception.

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