(insert clever quote here…right now I have nothing)
You ever hear of parking lot science? The expression comes from a story about a guy who lost his keys in a parking lot. He keeps looking around the light pole, but he dropped them somewhere else. Why? “It’s easier to look here.” Many critics of popular press reports of “medical” studies can cite numerous examples of dangerously reductionist science that isolate the thing that is easiest to measure, then apply all importance to it because it’s convenient.
We laymen do that every day. The scale is the quickest easiest way to take a measurement of one’s body. But it is only one number, which is composed of many factors a scale cannot see. Put 15 pounds of butter next to 15 pounds of sirloin steak. The scale seems them as equivalent. Now think of your body as being made up of butter and steak. Which do you want to see more of? (Cue Homer Simpson. mmmm….. buttered steak…..) Of course, that’s reductionist too, as we are made up of A LOT OF THINGS. But pounds of butter vs pounds of steak is a good quick metaphor to get at my experience today.
If I were to simply go by the scale, or the so-scientific-sounding yet equally simplistic and flawed BMI rating, I could say that I am losing weight and that’s awesome so keep doing just what I am doing! (I knew a guy 10 years ago who was an avid weight lifter, whose doctor literally never looked up from his clipboard and told him that he was obese according to his BMI. “Hey doc, look up.” Doctor took one look at muscular Steve, age 60, and said “oh. Well this is crap” and crossed it out on the chart.)
But alas, it is never that simple. I have indeed lost scale weight. My BMI is coming down. Hooray! But in my never ending quest to be a constant lab specimen, I need more information than that. Today I got some that was not a surprise, but made it clear that I still need significant adjustments.
I had my 2nd DEXA scan in 28 days. The DEXA is the full composition scan that is usually intended to check on bone density in those at risk for osteoporosis. As a side benefit, it is the best analysis available for body composition. Even better than a BodPod. Of course, four weeks is not a long time, and no one expects to see massive changes in that time. The scan was done as part of the resveratrol study I am in. Still, I’ve lost a few pounds in that time, so knowing exactly how it breaks down will tell me a lot.
And the news is….. drumroll please……………………ok stop the drumroll, it’s a mixed bag.
First the bad news. I have lost yet more lean mass. That means steak. And if I did all the math right, I even lost more steak than butter. This is not cool. This is not the way it should be.
But wait, there’s more.
The good news is, that within the profile of the fat I have lost, the DEXA also precisely identifies 2 kinds of fat. One is android, one is gynoid. Even a tacit familiarity with Latin word roots will make it no surprise that android fat is typical on men, creating the “apple” shape, with the fat around the abdomen. Gynoid fat tends to gather on hips and thighs creating the “pear” shape. Ladies, can I get an amen?
Here’s the generally agreed upon science: android fat is much more dangerous. And from my own parking lot science, I can say this: visiting nursing homes, there are a lot of fat old ladies living into their 80s. There are almost no fat old men. None. So, that’s where I look because it’s easy, but no matter the method or study, this does seem to be a settled consensus.(Oh, and those 80s and 90s folks not living in nursing homes, but on their own? Almost none of them are fat.)
So with that in mind, my total fat profile changed. While I only lost a total of under 3 pounds of fat, my android fat is down over 4 pounds. (Yes that means I gained a pound of fat elsewhere in the month where I swam 4 miles and ran 30. I know, it’s sick.)
But back to this total picture. Forget the scale for a minute. The most minute analysis available shows that two maxims of fitness and weight loss are bearing out in the evidence:
#1 – the first fat to be burned off is often around the organs and won’t be as noticeable visibly, but it is vitally important.
#2 – without significant strength training, weight loss for a runner will involve burning both fat and lean mass.
If I simply focused on the scale, I could go on with just the running and swimming, and I’d continue to lose weight, and increase my endurance. And that would be great. But if I want to change even faster, and build a body that will last, it is becoming increasingly clear that I can no longer put off the weight training.
It’s setlled then: back to the weights. This is a little harder to figure, because with running and swimming, all I have to do is go farther each time. With weight training, any lifting will help, but I am not interested in trial and error for 6 months. I want efficient, hardcore workouts. I’m filling the hours pretty quickly. I lifted a lot for a long time way back when, and I don’t think I ever saw any real progress. And, let’s face it: one of the most difficult things to do is lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously. It’s damn near impossible. It requires triggering two different hormonal systems and reactions, that are often incompatible.
A new challenge! Bring it on! I have some good research in this very paradox. I am delving into it tonight. It is going to require stepping up to the next level of workouts here. Not just adding the weights, but lifting in a particular way, timing and structuring meals more precisely, resting at the right times, and doing even more data collection than I am already doing. Good thing I like this. 😉
Oh and speaking of data, one more nice good news from the morning. It was this same visit 4 weeks ago that led me to the discovery that I was indeed type II diabetic. My blood sugar that morning was 142. This morning it was 105. I am doing some things right after all.