A healthy road to weight loss: Rethinking fat loss

Focusing primarily on decreasing body fat may not be the healthiest road to weight loss. Instead, think about altering body composition – the ratio of fat to lean muscle. By thus reframing our view, we can position ourselves to achieve greater and more lasting success.

“Increasing lean muscle mass and then losing fat will improve your strength and quality of life,” said Deviny Mo, manager at UCLA Health Sports Performance powered by Exos. “I recommend full-body resistance training to improve overall body composition.”

What are the best exercises for changing my body composition?

Leaning too heavily on one exercise routine will not do the trick when it comes to your body composition sustainably said Mo.

“Instead of working body parts, work body movement. Make sure a balanced resistance program includes a variety of pushes, pulls and rotations,” Mo said.

“Our bodies are capable of moving in a lot of directions, so make sure you expose yourself to a variety of exercises.”

These include:

  • Squats/lunges (exercises for glutes and quads)
  • Hip thrusts/glute bridges (lower body pull movements
  • Push-ups/dips (exercises for chest and triceps)
  • Rows/pull-ups (exercises for back and biceps)
  • Planks/crunches (exercises to strengthen the core)

There are many variations of these workouts, and they can be done whether you are a beginner or an experienced gym-goer. While some exercises can be done at home, it is best to have a coach or trainer first show you how to do them properly to get the best results and avoid injury.

“A strength coach is helpful because we can design a program that is balanced and progresses over time,” explained Mo.

Does a rigorous exercise routine mean I’ll see better results?

Weight training with dumbbells is one of the more effective ways to change body composition. (Photo by Joshua Sudock/UCLA Health)

Going all-out in hyper mode at your local gym seven days a week does not mean you’re going to see quicker or, for that matter, better results. Nor does running for 30 minutes on a treadmill and doing 200 sit-ups a day necessarily mean you’re going to shrink the area around your midsection. There are other factors involved.

Changing your body composition comes down to a healthy balance of exercise, nutrition and rest.

If you’re exercising hard every day but not optimizing your diet and not getting enough sleep, chances are you may not see the results you want. Your body needs premium fuel and appropriate rest to perform and look its best.  

The good news is you can start small, with manageable exercises such as walking a lap or two around your neighborhood. You can also add portions of fruits and vegetables of your choice to meals. Gradually build your workouts and healthy diet until they become a part of your lifestyle, and you’ll see the changes in your body over time.

Target the total body

Stop focusing on the fat. Instead, focus on strengthening your entire body with exercises that target movement patterns for that day. For example, you can focus on upper body push exercises on Monday, lower body push exercises on Tuesday, recover on Wednesday, upper body pull exercises Thursday, and lower body pull exercises on Friday.

“Spot treatments are a myth,” she said. “You can’t reduce body fat in a certain area by doing exercises in a certain area. You will gain muscle and get stronger with that specific movement you are working at, but a change in body fat only happens as a result of consistent full body exercise and proper nutritional fueling.”

Mo added, "To get the best results, emphasize whole-body movements during exercise, maintain a sustainable relationship with food, and prioritize your sleep," Mo said. "If you can integrate these three things into your current lifestyle, you will be able to make lasting changes while improving your quality of life."

Learn more about diet and exercise.

Your path to healthy weight management


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