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Where Does the Fat Go?

Things are going great now that you're dropping a few pounds.

Your pants feel looser around the waist, you feel better than you have in years, and people are starting to compliment how good you look.

Of course, that isn't why you're doing it, but it's a nice little bonus.

You've got this weight loss thing dialed.

But here's a question: where did the fat go?

OK, you may not be too bothered - as long as it's gone who the hell cares?

Amazingly, a study in the British Medical Journal found that almost no nutritionists, personal trainers or family doctors knew either.

Here's how they answered.


As you can see, the vast majority thought the fat mass got turned into energy/heat.

Fortunately, that's not what actually happens - if it did, your weight loss really would be the talk of the town (or what's left of it).

Why? Because converting 10 kg (22 lbs) of matter (whether were talking fat, cardboard or Michael Bolton CDs) into pure energy would release the equivalent of 220 million tons of TNT!


Thank Einstein and his E=MC² equation for that one.

OK, if all that fat doesn't end up as energy, where does it go?

Well, here's what actually happens.


Ignore the equation - the bottom line is we'll need to breathe in something like 64 lbs of oxygen to burn 22 lbs of fat.

The atoms the fat is made from will then leave the body as 3½ lbs of water and 18½ lbs of carbon dioxide.

Which means we lose weight mainly by breathing it out!

Pretty cool, huh?

Perhaps more importantly, this study helps to underline that exercise isn't an efficient way to lose fat.

A typical 155-lb person exhales a little over 1.6 lbs of carbon dioxide each day.

Replacing one hour of rest with one hour of running increases the amount of exhaled CO2 by a meager 0.3 lbs.

That's a hell of a lot of effort for very little return.

Like we say in our free sign-up guide Six Awesome Ways To Get Started Today:

A Big Mac may take only a few minutes to eat, but it takes around 1½ hours to walk off

So fat loss is more about the small things we do consistently than the occasional balls-to-the-wall effort.

• Pushing the plate away when we're no longer hungry instead of waiting until we can't eat another thing

• Sticking with one beer instead of pounding the entire 6-pack (yes, you can lose weight without giving up alcohol!)

• Using a free pedometer app to make sure we keep everyday activity levels high

Counting calories so we can make more informed food choices

Remember, getting in shape is a marathon not a sprint, and nobody wins a marathon in the first 100 yards.

It takes guts to stick with simple stuff that actually works while ignoring the promises of quick fixes and shortcuts.

Sure, we all like the idea of losing 20 lbs of fat in 30 days, but it comes at a price that few of us are willing to pay.

So take small steps that coax the fat off, and be patient.

And if you want to make a weight-loss "expert" squirm, you know the right question to ask them.

"Where does the fat go?"

- Tim

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Images: BigstockErik Charlton - Meteor Crater

Reference: BMJ 2014;349:g7257

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