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Healthy Weight Loss Preserves Muscle and Bone Mass

We all know the benefits of weight loss.  Not only does it makes us feel great and boost our confidence, but the loss of weight has been linked to improved glycemic and cardiovascular markers as well as reduced inflammatory markers. Since inflammation is at the root of all chronic disease this is a very beneficial thing to reduce.


What a lot of us don’t know is that how you lose this weight is also important. With weight loss being a billion dollar industry we are bombarded by a plethora of information about how we should lose weight. Or my favourite is how fast you “could” do it!  It’s like a badge of honour for the program that can guarantee the quickest results. While many of us know deep down that quick fixes don’t work, when you have that wedding coming up and the dress that doesn’t fit they sure sound appealing!


If we want to correct our metabolisms and hormonal imbalances however, we need to be in this for the long haul and choose a program that we can sustain. Weight loss without focus on lean muscle tissue can results in lower muscles mass, and consequently reduced muscle strength.  Studies have shown that over time reduced muscle mass and strength have been shown to be predictors of reduced mobility, slower walking speed, long term risk of disability and lower rates of survival. Overall health and healthy aging really do depend on the preservation of this lean muscle tissue. This is why in the office we track weight, but also track body composition to assess that as people lose weight, their lean muscle tissue is being preserved.


The diets that are known to create this loss in lean muscle tissue are those that restrict caloric intake. Symptoms that will tell you that you are on a caloric restrictive plan would be things like fatigue, feeling cold all of the time, hunger and cravings. So yes, even though you can lose a ton of weight quickly to get into that wedding dress it can also reduce your percentage of lean muscle tissue.


Exercise is a very important part of a healthy weight loss program as it is helpful to preserve this lean muscle tissue.  This is where this gets confusing. I just sent out a video last week on how diet is 80% of weight loss and exercise is 20%. This is true! When it comes to results, you cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet.  On the flip side, a healthy lifestyle based weight loss program always needs to eventually incorporate exercise for all of the benefits that exercise provides including helping you preserve lean tissue as well as helping to prevent weight loss plateaus. In fact meta-analysis study has shown that lifestyle based weight loss programs that include exercise will actually help people to increase their bone mass density.


So at this point you are saying – okay well we all know that we should be eating well and exercising – but it is so overwhelming I don’t know where to start!


My advice is to always start with nutrition. The right nutrition plan will help you balance hormones which will control cravings and hunger and also give you the energy and motivation required to work out.  When it comes to exercise, I believe we should all be trying to aim for our 10,000 steps a day. On top of that I suggest two High Intensity Interval Training workouts per week which will last about 12-15 min as well as two strength training workouts per week. Rome was not built in a day, so you don’t have to start with this right away. This is the ultimate goal, and will be something that you will build up to.


Resist the urge to lose weight quickly  – and be kind and patient with yourself about the true time that it is going to take. At the end of the day we all want to live long, healthy lives and in order to do that you need a plan and a team of people that are going to be able support you over the long haul.




Kim B et al. Changes in muscle strength after diet-induced weight reduction in adult men with obesity: a prospective study. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2017;10:187–194.


Volpato S et al. Role of muscle mass and muscle quality in the association between diabetes and gait speed. Diab Care. 2012;35(8):1672-1679.

Soltani S et al. The effects of weight loss approaches on bone mineral density in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Osteoporos Int. 2016;27(9):2655-2671.


  • Sharon Wettlaufer

    I think the best way for me to loose weight must be to fine tune my diet. I have osteoporosis so I go to the gym 4-5 days a week.
    I really struggle to loose weight and often think it may be a very slow metabolism

  • Robin Walsh

    Hi Sharon,

    yes if you are struggling – there is either a hormonal imbalance or it is the type of food you are eating, or even when you are eating it that can really slow metabolism down

  • Robin Walsh

    some of it can be done through just taking a health history and listening to symptoms – and otherwise I would run blood work to figure things out

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