[Episode 78] Where Does Our Fat Go When We Lose Weight

by | Dec 8, 2021

In this episode we will be looking at another thing about our body that’s important to know. And today we’re gonna have a see of what actually happens to our body fat when we get leaner or lose weight.

Because all we ever hear about from the fitness industrial complex and western culture when it comes to weight loss is that we should do that.

We need to have less body fat to be “attractive”, “healthy”, “fit”, “athletic” or whatever. But the concept of losing weight is pretty vague.

What actually is happening in our bodies when we “lose weight” or better said, reduce the amount of body fat that we have?

It’s like this information isn’t important at all. The only important thing here is the aesthetic result of weight loss.

 

 


 

Here’s the thing about exercise, losing weight and fat…

I personally think that it’s so important that we understand how our bodies function, because we all have one. And if we are going to be taking actions that change our bodies, I think it’s so helpful to know what the plop is going on inside us.

So with that in mind, let’s check out the process our body goes through when we reduce our body fat.

As a disclaimer before I go further, I don’t believe that weight loss should be a focus when it comes to getting active. I understand that many folks including the people I train want to develop a certain aesthetic.

And this is totally valid. But to achieve this, it’s always better to focus on your training and nutrition. Then changing our body shape becomes the by product of our actions.

But when we make it our main focus, it can become hard to see beyond it. And at the end, our bodies change slowly anyway.

 

Karamo Brown from Queer Eye saying "Remember, its a journey"

 

So when we have expectations to look a certain way and rely on wanting to see big changes in our body as a result of our training short term, it can be disheartening.

Change will happen and it will always happen when we are consistent with how we move and the way we look after our bodies with our eating habits.

 


 

So what’s the deal with loosing weight and fat?

Ok. Now that that’s out of the way let’s get into it. To start with let’s look at how our body stores fat.

So we all have fat cells in our bodies. It’s a common misconception to think that people who hold more weight than other people have more fat cells.

Dwight from The Office (US) stating the word "False"

In reality they just have larger fat cells. This is because as we store more fat, our fat cells get bigger. We don’t produce more fat cells.

What this means is that when we begin to reduce the amount of body fat we have it’s because our fat cells are shrinking.

When I first learned this, it kinda blew my mind! Again I think this is because, we just aren’t taught this and also it’s not talked about much.

 

Patrick from Sponge Bob looking dumfounded while his mind explodes

 

It’s as though talking about fat is a really taboo subject. And I get it. There has been so much body shaming associated with people’s weight and body shape.

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with having fat on our bodies. It’s a natural thing and essential for our survival.

I did a whole episode on the benefits of body fat back in episode 53. You can check it out anywhere you get your podcasts if you wanna hear more about that, or have another listen if you’ve already heard it.

But this avoidance of the subject of body fat has led to a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about fat. In particular what is really happening when you lose weight.

So now that we’ve had a little refresh on how our bodies store fat, let’s look at what happens when we lose it.

 


 

How do fat cells work then?

A few misconceptions

Now, I can almost guarantee loosing fat doesn’t happen the way you think it does.

Now over the years since I first became a trainer, I’ve kept myself up to date with how training and nutrition are approached. It changes all the time! Keep in mind this has been over a period of around 9 years now.

 

Energy in = energy out?

And I’ve heard so many different theories and approaches to nutrition and weight loss. The most commonly spoken view has been that energy in equals energy out. Meaning that the calories we put into our bodies needs to be equal to or lesser than to reduce our weight.

While this is true, it is based around the concept that our stored fat is converted to energy and “burned” by our bodies.

 

Fat cells convert convert to muscle?

Another common theory is that fat cells are converted into muscle when we train. Which is actually physically impossible.

 

Donald Glover saying "That's not true..."

 

Here’s what really happens to fat cells!

For a little while now I’ve been reading and learning about different theories about how our bodies actually reduce our stored fat.

And research suggests that what our bodies actually do when they break down our fat cells is convert it to carbon dioxide and water.

With 84% of our fat being converted to carbon dioxide which is exhaled through our lungs. While a smaller amount of just 16%, becomes water, which gets then circulates back into our bodies and is either sweated out of pee’d out.

This theory goes against so much of what has commonly been perceived as the way we would generally lose weight.

Now I found this research to be fascinating! And it goes even further and suggests that when we metabolise the foods we eat, these being carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fibre, we actually end up exhaling most of this.

What makes it through our intestines is just fibre. But carbs, proteins and fats all wind up being converted to carbon dioxide and water.

I know this may go against everything that you’ve ever heard or learned about how our bodies function so I’ve included links to the research in the show notes if you wanna check it out yourself.

 


 

And that’s fat cells folks!

Now just because we metabolise fats into carbon dioxide and water, doesn’t mean that you can just breathe more or elevate your heart rate for a bit and boom, you’re gonna lose more weight.

It’s a far more complicated process than that. And the level of activity we practice and the foods we eat still play a big part in how our bodies function, metabolise energy and physically develop.

So to keep it simple! Just remember that the best thing that you can do for you is move when you can, in the ways that feel good for you. And do your best to eat the foods that help you feel good physically and emotionally.

Your body is amazing just the way it is. And by learning a little more about your body, I hope you can see just how incredible it is as well.

 


Closing Recap

 

Today’s show had a lot in it! We looked at how our bodies store fat by increasing the size of our fats cells. Before touching on the almost taboo subject that having fats seems to be.

  • Remember our bodies are supposed to have fat. It’s healthy for us! There is actually research out there that suggests that people with a lower than average body fat percentage have increased risks of overall mortality than folks that have and average or higher than average percentage of body fat. But we don’t really hear that being spoken about much now do we!
  • Then we looked at where our body fat goes when we reduce it. Which is through the process of our fat cells being broken down into carbon dioxide and water and removed from our bodies through our lungs as we exhale and through sweat or wee’s.

Until next week remember our bodies are supposed to have fat. They need fat to function. And there is no shame in that. No matter how much or how little fat you have, know that your body is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. So feel proud about your body, because it is frikkin incredible exactly as it is.

Have a rad as day pals.

Bowie Stover Thinking Pose

Bowie Stover

Pronouns: they/them

My passion to help others through developing an active and healthy lifestyle, along with my desire to contribute as much as I can back to our queer community, has led me to co-found Non Gendered Fitness. To be a small part of your day that makes a HUGE impact on your life would be one of the most gratifying and rewarding experiences that I could hope to have.

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Non Binary Fitness Coach Bowie Stover kneeling with two kettlebells

Bowie Stover
(they/them)
Kettlebell and Movement Coach

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