If you’ve been following our articles on our blog or email, you would know by now that we are proponents of evidence-based, methodical approaches to health and weight loss. In case you missed it, we wrote an elaborate piece on how you should approach weight loss to see the best results here. Read it first if you haven’t, it will bring more context to this article and also get you started in the right direction if you want to lose weight.
Getting started is, however, just half the battle. A large part of working towards any goal is tracking progress, putting in place a feedback loop to see what’s not working and making the necessary adjustments along the way. Applying this to weight loss, we need to start with first setting the right goals. When people say ‘I want to lose weight’, what they really mean is ‘I want to lose fat and keep it off for good’. Let’s see some examples of how these statements can be very different:
Juice ‘cleanse’ or ‘detox’ programs have been all the craze recently. People consume nothing else but pre-rationed servings of fruit juices during these 3-5 day crash diets, and lose a few kilos doing so. They typically see great results – if their goal is weight loss instead of fat loss. Most of the lost weight during crash diets like this comes from glycogen, or ‘water weight’ as most people know it. Glycogen is a polysaccharide (carbohydrate) that is stored in the liver and muscles. A person can store up to 500 grams of glycogen in the body. Each gram of glycogen is bound to 3-4 grams of water; this amounts to up to 2.5kg of water weight that is prone to fluctuation. During the initial phase of a caloric deficit (especially on a low carbohydrate or crash diet), glycogen stores often deplete drastically and give the illusion of effective fat loss. When you transit from your crash diet back to your normal eating habits, you put all this water weight back on within a week. So, in summary, a complete waste of time, effort and money.
Let’s look at another very common scenario. Say it’s the new year again; you decide to eat proper food, sign up for a gym membership and get in the best shape of your life. 3 weeks in, you’re losing a ton of fat and even putting on some muscle in the process – icing on the cake. Overall, it’s working out great for you. But when you get on the weighing scale, there’s no notable change to your weight. So you stop – you end up scraping a routine that was working great because you were tracking the wrong metric (weight, not fat). Many people, especially men with no prior weightlifting experience, report a similar effect when they start a weight loss regimen with a gym routine – because they go through a short phase when they simultaneously lose fat and gain muscle.
While the weighing scale is a decent gauge of fat loss, it doesn’t always tell the full story. It’s a good idea to track changes to body fat in specific when you’re trying to lose weight – ideally every 2-3 months. There are a few ways to measure body fat – the most accurate method I know of is the DEXA scan. The DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scan measures bone mineral content, bone mineral density, fat-free mass, and through these consequently provides very accurate estimates of percent body fat.
The only DEXA scan machine I know of in Singapore is in Aptima Nutrition’s clinic. I went down and tried the machine myself a few weeks ago. It gives you a list of very useful data points, besides just body fat percentage:
Body shape rating – based off key measurements like waist to hip ratio etc.
Body fat percentage – the key metric you need to track for weight loss
Fat mass and lean mass – Which are derivatives of weight and body fat percentage
BMR – A number you absolutely need to properly plan your daily caloric intake
Site measurements – Great for detecting muscle imbalances and tracking muscle growth
Jaclyn, Aptima Nutrition’s founder, runs you through the details of the report, so you don’t have to worry about missing out any areas for improvement. She’s a certified dietitian with prior working experience in a hospital, so she has you covered for the entire end-to-end weight loss journey if you’d like more guidance. You can head over to their website to get in touch and schedule an appointment.
If you want to see proper results, go for the DEXA scan. Sticking to a cookie-cutter theoretical approach is often not enough – real long term results come from tracking key metrics, making changes and adjusting to your specific circumstances.