In an attempt to lose weight rapidly, many people resort to stringent diets and workout routines. And often, they are successful, too. But is such weight loss sustainable and does it count as healthy? “Our body weight is made up of so many components, like water, bones, muscles, cells and tissues, organs, and not just body fat. So, it’s not that elusive weight on the scale that we need to aim to drop but it’s really the ‘what’ of the weight you drop that matters,” Mihira A R Khopkar, celebrity, sports, and Olympics nutritionist, told indianexpress.com.
Explaining, she added that “losing 20 kg, most of which is the muscle (and little is fat), is actually worse than being what you were with 20 kgs added back on.” She further shared that “Most of what you lose in an initial couple of weeks is just water.”
So, what counts as good weight loss?
Good weight loss is when you lose about ½ kg every week, and on average, about 2 to 2.5 kgs in a month, said Rashi Chahal, a nutritionist. “But what usually happens is that when someone starts following a diet, especially if it is a well-written plan, there is a probability for them losing about a kg per week. So, on an average, losing 2-3 kgs in a month is also good weight loss,” Chahal mentioned.
But, the aim should be to lose fat and gain muscle mass, Khopkar said. “The real measures of ‘fat’ loss are drop in body fat percentage as assessed via a body composition assessment technique and not just the weighing scale. It is a drop in waist circumference, a drop in hip circumference, and achieving the right waist:height ratio,” she added.
Why is losing body fat important?
Body fat percentage is one of the key indicators of an individual’s health condition, said Bala Krishna Reddy Dabbedi, a fitness expert and co-founder, director at Fittr. “A high body fat percentage may put one at a higher risk of lifestyle diseases. A body fat percentage of 15 or lower is recommended for males, while a body fat percentage of 25 or lower is recommended for females,” Dabbedi told indianexpress.com in an earlier interaction.
How to measure body fat percentage?
According to Dabbedi, the following ways can help
– Online body fat calculators
– Skinfold callipers
– A DEXA or BCA (Body Composition Analysis) scan
Khopkar explained that having the right proportion of skeletal muscle mass is important for a healthy metabolism. “It’s not rocket science, really. Following a healthy diet routine and lifestyle, and working out five-six times a week, sleeping well, ensuring you aren’t deficient in any vitamin/mineral is a good way to begin your health journey. For best results, remember that consistency is key,” he stressed.
But if your goal is very high — of about 20-30 kgs — your body might go in a “state of shock” initially which may make you lose “drop a little more weight”. “During that time, you have to ensure that no matter what diet you are following, your minerals, vitamins, and other micronutrients levels are in check. They should not be compromised upon. We majorly focus on carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, but micronutrients play a big role too, despite being needed by the body in small amounts. So, adequate amount of vegetables and fruits or supplements are recommended,” said Chahal.