How to Measure Weight Loss and Unlock the Mystery using DEXA scan

I have a question for you. How do you define healthy weight loss? 

Majority of the time I have found most people rely just on the bathroom scale to measure their progress when trying to lose weight. Unfortunately if that’s what you’re doing you could be putting yourself on a path that is frustrating and confusing when results are slow or don’t make sense. As well you could be setting yourself up to put weight back on as soon as you stop your weight loss diet or program.

The scale is just the tip of the iceberg and does not give you the full picture. When you see a change on the scale what has caused that change?

Are you losing fat, especially the unhealthy visceral fat? Are you losing muscle? Are you losing water? 

There are  three components that will affect the number on the scale. They are fat, water and muscle.  Variations in these components will impact the final number on the scale but you are not able to see specifically what component is changing and by how much to know if you are on the right track or if you need to make changes to your approach. 

So if you find that when you’re trying to lose weight you’re not getting results you want or if you lose weight but can’t seem to keep it off then the problem might be that the method you are using to track your progress is not giving you enough information so you can adjust your plan to get better results.  

What Is Healthy Weight Loss? 

Healthy weight loss goes far beyond the bathroom scale. It is about body composition and losing fat while maintaining muscle. 

 If you are not losing much fat but you are losing muscle, the scale may drop but you will notice you are not seeing  the change in your body shape. Also you will likely find you feel tired and hungry a lot of the time. The biggest issue with this is that as you lose muscle your metabolism will slow down (burn less calories at rest making) it harder to keep losing weight and much more likely you will regain even more fat afterwards.  

For people over 40 years old we naturally lose muscle as we age, this is one of the biggest predictors of unhealthy aging. So the last thing a person over 40 wants to do is to lose even more muscle due to unhealthy weight loss plans which give them the illusion they are losing weight, because of the drop on the scale but in fact they are losing muscle . 

Gold Standard of Measuring body Composition Progress

Tracking your progress accurately over time will make a huge difference to making sure your plan is giving you the healthy results you want and will set you up to keep the weight off. The ultimate and the best is a DEXA scan.

It’s not something you would have in your home. It’s a big piece of equipment that was mostly used in research in the past. It is usually found in specific labs and  it is the most accurate way of measuring actual amount of fat, muscle, water and bones.

DEXA scan will also show where in your body the changes in fat and muscle have occurred over a period of time. For example, are you losing the unhealthy fat in your belly or are you losing valuable muscle in your legs and core? If you are working towards building muscle it will show you where that is happening as well. It is ideal to get a DEXA scan done before starting a weight loss plan and remeasure several months later. 

I had my first Dexa scan done several months ago, to check out a facility who I now refer my clients to. I found the report fascinating and from that report I was able to adjust my diet and workout routine with a  focus on increasing muscle mass to improve my ability to age well and prevent early aging due to low muscle mass. 

This information is extremely valuable because then over time with the right guidance you will know if  your dietary and lifestyle changes are putting you on a path towards the healthy goals you desire or if you are heading the wrong direction and setting yourself up for more frustration and struggle in the future. 

DEXA Scan Helps to Set Priorities in a Weight Loss Plan

The main goals when losing weight are to lose unhealthy fat and increase muscle mass.  

One can try to do both at the same time but that is challenging because of the different dietary requirements and potentially different ways to exercise.

It is possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time but results are slower and it requires making more lifestyle changes at one time which is hard for people to do and stick with.

I have found over the years of working with busy professional people it works better to focus on one goal at a time as they build towards a sustainable long term lifestyle. I am a fan of prioritizing dietary and lifestyle steps to maximize fat loss first, while preserving muscle and then adjust the plan to focus on diet and exercise to build muscle. This simplifies the process, and people are very clear in what they need to do.

The DEXA scan is particularly beneficial for the 2nd part of the overall plan, to build muscle, because it is hard to see increases in muscle mass for the average person, so with a DEXA scan a person will be able to see that their hard work did result in an increase in their muscle mass and as well see exactly where these improvements occurred in their body.  

This report showing their results acts as a positive reinforcement to stick with their healthy habits and as well they can get their plan adjusted accordingly if they realize some muscular areas did not improve as much as others. It is very exciting to see the changes and where they happened.  

As you can see the bathroom scale will not give you any of this detailed information and for this reason especially when it comes to helping my clients increase their muscle mass so they can age well and live a long and active life, I have incorporated the DEXA scan as an option for those that want it when they do one of my weight loss programs.

Accurately measuring changes in your body will help to simplify the process and give you the focus and clarity you need to achieve your results with more certainty and less trial and error.