Your Natural Fat Low Point
Losing fat, to hit certain goals, is, in my opinion, an excellent pursuit. What those goals are, however, is a very personal decision, and can come in many different forms. It depends heavily on lifestyle, and priorities – the goal of losing fat itself generally isn’t what’s valuable, but what that fat loss will enable, or what it will bring, to your life. Losing fat could mean the ability to play more sports, or it could mean being able to play with your kids. For other people, it could mean a sign of maintaining the best health they can, or perhaps the final step in a life-transformation that has involved many mental and emotional changes, as well as physical ones.
Though we talk about losing fat, or getting thinner, more slim or lean, in fact it could be argued that this process is actually a ‘correction’ back to the natural state of a body well-fed, well developed and in balance. Fat storage in other lean animals sometimes comes for practical reasons – for example for winter hibernation, for cyclical periods of food scarcity, or for practical water-storage, in the case of camels, but in humans, however, practical reasons for fat storage are less common. One exception is pregnancy, where fat below the waist, on the hips and butt, tends to balance out the extra weight in the front due to the growing baby. This fat is general mostly lost after birth, and therefore can be seen as functional fat gain that the body favors. For many people, however, there is nothing functional about the fat they gain over time.
In fact, for the vast majority of people, fat gain only serves negative outcomes – increasing risk of disease, increasing inconvenience in daily life, decreasing other vital factors of living and of course leaving us not feeling great about how we look, which can lead to all sorts of complex spirals. And so then, I wonder, why is it that we talk about goal weights of anything other than our lean mass, plus our essential level of fat storage (3-5% for a man, 8-12% for a woman)? The answer is complex but can be grouped under the umbrella of “compromises of daily living”. Put simply, we don’t live solely for the purpose of being in the best shape we can be in, physically, because our world demands much more than physical maintenance for us to live a happy and fulfilling life, not to mention paying the bills and maintaining many different focusses.
So then, what is that balance? What is the compromise? Generally speaking, the more we are prepared to push fat loss up our priority list, the closer to our essential fat storage level we can get. What this means is if you see fat loss as a higher priority than social interaction, then quite likely you’re able to time meals better, be very specific with what you eat, and keep to your regime until such time that fat loss comes to the degree you want. If social interaction is a higher priority, which it is for a great many people, then it’s going to be more difficult to keep to these routines and therefore getting to a low point of fat storage will be more difficult. I’m not suggesting, of course that we always trade fat loss against social outings, it’s just one example. Other examples include the need for convenient food selection, hobbies and activities that take time away from food preparation, preference to engage of fun activities vs grocery shopping and meal preparation, and the list goes on.
What does this mean for your fat loss? Or mine? Today, more than ever, there are large amounts of knowledge around the methods to achieving fat loss. Slow carb is a great example of a refined version of a system that can work very well. Due to the methods the body uses for fat storage, muscle fuelling and food digestion, however, it will have its limits, and this depends on the individual. For some, slow carb will get them nearer to their essential fat level than they ever have been, for others, using alternative means, like The Last Mile (which is a low carbohydrate diet) will be required, as the body needs to cool-off the insulin levels in the blood stream before that last bit of fat loss is seen.
For those looking to see the ultimate in fat loss, there’s no doubt that a high degree of commitment will be required, and this inevitably means pushing things aside. Whether it’s get-togethers at pubs, or other after hours commitments, there comes a point at which not all pursuits can happily co-exist. Especially in the world of diminishing returns, such as trying to get from 10% bodyfat to 7% bodyfat.
But is it worth it?
This simple question can only be answered by you, by me and by all the other people who are focussed on losing fat. It depends on what you want to achieve.
To use the idea of a ‘correction’ – I see fat loss as returning the body back to a balanced state whereby fat is not getting in the way of anything, whether that is the healthy internal processes inside the body, or whether its bending over or moving quickly for the enjoyment of physical recreation. There’s nothing quite like trail running when you’re not carrying extra pounds around your middle. You literally fly through the forest. And there’s nothing like bending over while sitting without thinking about it, to pick something up, and realizing that there’s no longer anything in the way of you doing that. Below the surface of course, there’s all sort of other benefits happening – your body’s natural systems are free to work how they need to, to maintain harmony and balance. And to me, that’s where I want to get to, as I see that as removing the ‘road blocks’ out of the way. You might see the situation differently – for example, that the goal of fat loss is to be as healthy as possible, without totally rearranging your life, and I totally understand that. Or perhaps that if you can happily run around the soccer field on a Sunday, or run bases with your beer league baseball team, that your goal has been met. It doesn’t matter what it is, or how it’s different to somebody else, just that it suits you and your lifestyle.
Correcting the body’s fat storage levels to a healthy zone is the most important goal of any fat loss program. This zone of course could be anywhere from 8% to 15% bodyfat for men, and 12% – 20% for women. It’s then a personal choice as to how fat loss, as a priority in life, compares with all the other competing priorities. Ultimately it’s a personal choice as to what will give you the most satisfaction, and enjoyment in your world.
Do you think that fat loss is the ultimate goal? Or just one stop on the way to a better life? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and your goals!
Fit & Well: Core Concepts and Labs in Physical Fitness and Wellness, Body Composition Chapter 6, U. Michigan Exercise Physiology presentation.
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