So 'weight loss' is bad, but 'cutting body fat' is fine? Explain yourself immediately
On loving yourself, caloric deficits, and whether those two things can ever coincide.
Hi Swole Woman!
I started lifting dumbbells almost a year ago and am enjoying the strength gains. I've noticed the appearance of new muscles on my arms and back, improvements in my posture, and a new ease in walking home with bags of groceries and hoisting boxes of cat litter. I haven't noticed any loss in fat since starting to lift, and while this is not a big concern, I wouldn't mind losing a bit of fat and seeing a bit more muscle definition, for aesthetic reasons.
Generally, my understanding of diets is that they are as miserable as they are useless (since weight lost is usually gained back, while lost muscle is harder to regain, as per your avocado drawings). I understand many bodybuilders do 'cutting' diets, but I'm confused by how these work, and how they differ from other diets. Is doing a cut healthy? Does it have any benefits other than aesthetic ones? And do body changes from a cutting diet last after a cut is over? Basically, is doing a cut worth considering, and if so how do I approach it?
Thank you in advance, and thanks for all your inspiring content!
How are you against weight loss but cutting is okay?
—many men in my DMs who seem to believe they have outsmarted me
In the last few years, I’ve noticed a lot of breath-holding by my cohort around the topics of weight loss and cutting and dieting. A lot of it is for good reason: Nearly all our focus on weight loss and restricting food stems from, essentially, fatphobia. The defensive crouch among dietitians and fitness coaches and nutritionists has become “everyone should do whatever is right for them; I respect body autonomy.” But when they follow that up with “I don’t care if someone wants to lose weight, or be smaller, or be leaner, or for instance, eat less, or... “ ...whether intentionally or not, they are still dog-whistling that the only acceptable goal is to lose weight (or I guess stay where you’re at, if you are already pretty small).
To paint with a broad brush, I think there are very, very few people, if any, who are separated from being the picture of health by the garden-variety “I just need to lose 20 pounds” journey. Because of that, when a nutritionist or app takes clients at face value for these kinds of goals, it feels like an elision of responsibility. Sohee Lee has posted a lot of good joking and not-joking videos roleplaying these kinds of client conversations, both how they can happen badly, as well as how someone in her position can help clients unpack what they want (e.g. “weight loss”) and why they want it (”they want to feel better in their bodies”). She nails that clients’ understanding of the relationship between how they feel and how they look is often informed solely by fitness influencers’ FaceTuned photos selling juice cleanses and Weight Watchers/Noom testimonials.
In reality, they might feel better in their bodies by locating their value outside of what they look like, and/or by eating more, strength training, taking up a hobby like clog dancing... any number of things! Point being, the Venn diagram of “weight loss” and “feeling better about yourself” is often treated as a circle, even by people who are (sort of to very) trying to get on top of a more inclusive and value-neutral approach around weight. It is objectively not a circle, we should stop treating it like a circle, and the range and pace of directions our weights can be moving while we remain steadfastly healthy and happy is much grander than how most people act.
Still, others have made camp in the opposite extreme of “any deliberate management of food is bad and disordered.” As someone for whom a measured amount of goal-oriented eating gave me a path away from my worst dark patterns, gave me access to the sublime joys of building strength and feeling strong day in and out, ultimately helped me eat more, and helped me build a well-rounded relationship with food for the first time ever in my life: I have to disagree with that end of the spectrum, too. More specifically, I don’t think that changing body composition or losing body fat is inherently wrong or disordered, either, for reasons I’m about to explain.1
Here we I arrive at what appears to the untrained eye as my own “weight loss journey” (I started a cut around the beginning of February). You might be squinting at the evidence (body weight trending down; caloric deficit maintained; hunger present; energy not exactly through the roof) and saying, how ISN’T this the “weight loss” you rail against day in and day out, like a screaming banshee?