Weight loss can be a misdirected goal. When the focus is on the pounds lost, the results can be frustrating when the scale doesn’t move. It can also mean that the dropping numbers can come from muscle loss, strength and … (temporarily) water. Not to mention the roller coaster of emotion we feel when our weight fluctuates (even though it may be the result of hormones, our menstrual cycles or water retention from eating more carbs or sodium).

Fat loss is usually the more appropriate goal. With fat loss, our clothing size gets smaller, we reduce the risk of many illnesses and diseases, and we find shape as our muscle begins to be defined. There are, however, a few instances when weight loss absolutely IS an appropriate goal.

1. When extra weight causes pain. Foot pain, joint pain, nerve pain … the extra weight is taxing on a frame not designed to carry such a load. Most of the pain can be alleviated and even eliminated during weight loss. Carrying excess weight can also cause osteoarthritis, plantar fasciitis, fibromyalgia and back pain. Losing just 10 percent of bodyweight can help improve associated symptoms.

2. When it can improve mobility. The more someone weighs, the less they move. The less they move, the more weight gain tends to occur, which can lead to loss of muscle mass as well as flexibility. This leads to the inability to remain independent and reduces quality of life.

3. When it can reduce sleep apnea. “Sleep is a major regulator of our metabolism. If our sleep is bad, so is our metabolic health.”* The most common cause of sleep apnea is excess weight. Sleep apnea leads to serious issues including cardiovascular disease, as well as making daily functioning difficult and even deadly (think accidents).

4. To avoid the significant consequences of obesity. Obesity can shorten life span as much as 20 years. Research has also shown that those who are obese are more likely to develop dementia, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and various cancers. Obesity also brings negative social and psychological effects.

5. To improve depression. Those who are overweight or obese tend to have more anxiety, failing relationships and low self-esteem and body image. They also tend to be less likely to get a higher education, and make less money. All of which may lead to a higher likelihood of committing suicide.

Weight loss can be an appropriate goal for those who have a significant amount of weight to lose. Making even small changes in diet and activity can have an impressive impact on a weight-loss goal in overweight and obese men and women. For the rest of us, our focus would be better off in working toward fat loss and tightening up on our good lifestyle choices.