100 Days of Fitness: Week 12 – The Geography of Weight Loss

How long does it take to change your life? Follow author Robert Fure as he begins a 100 day trek to a fitter, healthier life by following this simple program. Today, we talk about where you lose weight first on the 100 Days of Fitness program.

You've no doubt been promised that with this product or that supplement that you can instantly shave off the fat from ______ body part.  Perhaps you've purchased an ab wheel to blast your midsection, a thigh-triangle to sculpt those quads, or perhaps you've bought a shake-weight to improve masturbation arm fat.  Maybe you even bought something called SuperThin or UltraSlim or DietDown or WeightUp, a disgusting powder you mix with water and then almost throw-up.  And if you've done any of these things, you've realized that they're all bullshit.

There is no real way to target an area and lose the fat from around it. A few studies have shown that intense, localized exercise may lead to a slight increase in fat loss from the area (like an hour of ab work may slightly increase fat loss in the stomach. Slightly.) though nothing has been established to a point that you should just spend all day doing crunches.

Drawing of a thin man inside of a heavy manThere is a certain geography to fat loss, but the initial reduction comes more systematically.  If you lose 15lbs, it just doesn't magically drop off of your hips.  You skim a little from the butt, a bit from the arms, some off the chest.  What creates a noticeable difference though, is where fat is stored.  For example, people often notice their faces get thinner first – in reality, there is just very little fat stored in the face, and as such the face looks thinner faster than the buttocks, which stores an ample amount of fat.

This fat distribution leads to a pretty uniform pattern of visible fat loss – starting with the face, men most often see a loss of fat in the arms and shoulders, followed by the chest, then abs and legs.  Often the most stubborn fat is stored in the belly, so even guys with ripped arms and shredded thighs might not be sporting a six pack – but continue to lose weight and eventually they will.

Women follow pretty much the same pattern, with two major differences, again due to how their bodies store fat.  Among the first noticeably smaller regions are the breasts, because they're mostly fat so any change in fat is going to occur visibly there.  Second is the female storage of fat in the hips and rump, which is fairly more dense than in males.  Translation? Women will see a more immediate reduction in the chest and a slower reduction in the butt area – but again, keep losing fat and eventually you'll cut that off too.

Why is this important?

Well initially, you'll want to know this so that you can visually watch the fat melt from your body as your arms appear more toned and your chest flattens out.  Secondly, it's good to know on days when you're not feeling great about your gut – the gut is the grand prize in fitness, you don't get rid of it until the very end. So if your arms look hoss and your belly looks flabby, don't worry, soon you'll be getting to those fat deposits.

Knowing when and where the body cuts fat is also useful for tracking fat versus muscle loss. Because comparatively minimal amounts of fat are stored in the arm, it's a good place to take a measurement that will be consistently measuring muscle.  Yes, if your arm is doughy it's fatty, but once weight loss kicks in you'll have a pretty solid arm pretty quickly.  At this stage, your arm will only grow if you add muscle and will only shrink if you lose muscle.  When you compare this with the abdominal region, which doesn't have large growth muscles, but does have a lot of fat, you can monitor what you're losing: lean mass or fat.

If you measure your arm (lets say its average: 13 inches flexed) and two weeks later you've lost four pounds and your arm still measures 13 inches, its a pretty safe bet you've eliminated fat.  You can double check this by measuring your waist and you should see a drop there.  Conversely, if your arm measures 12.5 inches after four pounds of weight loss, and your waist hasn't changed, odds are you've lost lean mass and held on to some fat – time for a change in your plan.

So as the weeks go on and the pounds slip off, take note of yourself in the mirror. Watch your arms and chest for signs of muscle coming through and fat leaving.  Measure your biceps and waist and every week or two, double check the measurements and see what changes are taking place. But most importantly, when you're down on your gut's lack of shrinking, know that if you stay on the road, eventually you'll blast that too.

My Results

On the scale I'm down 1lb to 233lbs, bringing my total loss thus far to 18.5lbs.  Not too shabby.  In terms of my weight loss geography, my face seems a lot thinner, my shoulders seem leaner, and my biceps are beginning to pop more.  My gut, as expected, isn't progressing at quite the same rate, but using one of the all time great standards of measurement – my pants – I know I'm losing fat from around my abdominals.  That's really one of the easiest measuring tools to use – how do your pants fit?  How are your shirts?

Part of my goal is to be able to fit in some t-shirts I own that are a bit too tight right now, or accentuate my gut.  By cutting down the pounds I'll have to retire an XL or two, but I'll fit much better into a large and maybe squeeze into a generous medium from time to time.  I can say that one of the happiest feelings is when your “normal” pants start to slip down just from the weight of your wallet since their is so much new room in them.  Though after a week or two, it just gets annoying and then you need a new belt.

So if you don't have measuring tape, just put on some pants!

Robert Fure

Robert Fure is a fitness, lifestyle, and entertainment writer living in Los Angeles. He is also a certified Personal Trainer and the Creator/Editor of Fit and Furious, an online outlet dedicated to the pursuit of a fit lifestyle. His entertainment work can be viewed at Film School Rejects.