No such thing as “overweight”

by Allan Lawry

Have you ever stepped off the bathroom scales and said, “Wow, how did I gain that much?” or “I didn’t think I had lost that much weight.” Chances are you may have experienced both situations, but did you ever wonder what kind of weight it was? When you gain or lose weight, it will be one or more of three body weights: bone, muscle or fat. Known as our body composition, these weights can and do change during our lives when we are: 1) sedentary; we can gain fat and lose muscle. 2) exercising; we can lose fat and gain muscle or bone. 3) dieting; it can cause muscle loss and fat gain. 4) taking bisphosphonates; (drugs for “osteoporosis”). Intake over four years can cause bone loss.

The problem with all these situations is they cannot be measured or detected by the scales, BMI (Body Mass Index) or height /weight charts. These charts are based only on your total weight, not the bone, muscle or fat that can change inside your body and which can only be measured accurately by a DEXA X-ray body composition scanner.

Bone is given a density score called a T-score. Muscle is measured as part of your Lean G score, and fat is measured as a percentage of your overall weight. The new goal of weight control is for you to be in the recommended ranges for each category. If you achieve these goals, you have what is now called a “healthy weight.” For example, here are the scan results of a female, with a healthy weight, who came to see me in 2007.

T-Score; 1.6
Lean G; 32,000 g.
Fat; 33%

One year earlier, she was diagnosed as being “overweight” by her MD who was using the BMI charts. She felt hesitant about the diagnosis and was shocked when the doctor recommended the weight loss drug, orlistat, a fat blocker that offers minimal results with nasty side effects. My client was relieved about the new way to diagnose weight conditions and felt fine with her body image. Since that initial scan, she has gone on to lose 10 pounds of fat and gain four pounds of muscle while maintaining her bone density. These results keep her in a good range and are based on science, not on recommendations by the medical, pharmaceutical or weight loss business.

This is important because the only weight you may want or need to lose is fat weight, not muscle or bone, which is healthy vital tissue, no matter how much you have in your body. Be aware of any program or products that promote weight loss. You must know what kind of weight you need to gain or lose. I have seen people lose muscle and bone while gaining fat on many of these types of programs. Because everyone is unique, you will benefit from a program based on your personal needs and goals.

Armed with this knowledge, you begin to realize there is no such thing as overweight, underweight or ideal weight. Terms such as weight loss, losing weight and gaining weight lose their meaning and are replaced with a new awareness about your body and how you can take care of it. You can take control of your weight with knowledge, assertiveness and a good plan of action.

Allan Lawry is a lifestyle and fitness coach in Vancouver. For more info on the Healthy Weight Program, contact 604-220-7188,

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