Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss. What's the difference?

It’s relatively important that you understand the difference between weight loss and fat loss. In certain cases these terms are used interchangeably and it’s most likely because individuals don’t fully understand the difference.

I don’t know if it’s just me or if other trainers experience the same issue but I wanted to share this with you today because of its importance.

I’ve consulted with women who really don’t care much about losing weight. They are more interested in looking better in their clothes. 

And I’ve had clients who weigh themselves daily and live in a constant state of frustration because they don’t see the scale budge and appear to get the results they’re hoping for.

This could be because…

1. The scale fluctuates by the minute based on of a variety of factors.

2. Changes happen slowly – It’s a process. The sooner this “clicks” the more relaxed, focused, and happier you’ll be. 

Losing bodyfat is hard work – Not only does the scale fluctuate daily and the process takes time, it’s also difficult. There can be A LOT of factors that go into losing body fat

...and, if your lifestyle isn’t necessarily set up to achieve this, it makes it darn near impossible.

So, I’ll fill you in.

There is a major difference between weight loss and fat loss. They are not the same thing.

Weight Loss – A reduction or lowering of bodyweight, the sum of your bones, muscles, organs and body fat.

Fat Loss – A reduction or lowering of the amount of fat your body carries.

Take a look at the image above.

You notice on the weight loss side of the scale, you see fat, water and muscle. The last part is the key part.

There can be a significant amount of muscle mass that is lost if you are not strength training. That’s not ideal and that’s not good “weight loss.”

If you desire to lose weight it’s most likely because you really want to lose excess bodyfat.

“The goal then, should be lose fat, rather than lose weight.” 

By saying this, I’m not implying that it’s a bad thing to lose weight. If you’re losing weight properly, you most likely are losing bodyfat so it’s a win either way.

However, not all weight loss is good weight loss and not all weight gain is bad weight gain.

The problem is losing “weight” can be a very unreliable predictor of what is actually happening. It’s one of the many metrics that is used to track progress but it’s also one of the most skewed.

Weight loss isn’t linear and it shouldn’t be totally neglected when it comes to monitoring and tracking your goals. There are just better metrics that will provide you clearer data on your progress.

Many women who start a diet and can lose up to 7-10 lbs in the first seven days. This isn’t actually FAT but rather a combination of things. This is also the reason that you might go out for a night of indulging and gain 3-5 lbs over night. You didn’t all of a sudden gain 5 pounds of fat.

Here's the real difference between the two:

Weight Loss:
Crash Dieting with Fad Diets and Poor Training

- Decrease strength
- Poor performance
- Reduced Immunity
- Early Aging
- Reduced Immunity

Fat Loss:
Proper Nutrition and a Balanced Training Program

- Improved Fitness
- Increased Strength

- Increased Performance
- Delayed Aging
- Reduced Risk of Diseases

Here's another thing that must be understood. The picture below represents 5 lbs. of fat and 5 lbs. of muscle. As you can see, the 5 lbs of muscle is far more dense and takes up less space than the 5 lbs. of fat. 

When you start to tone (increase) muscle and lose fat you actually begin to lose inches. I can’t begin to explain how many times I’ve had clients tell me their clothes fit better yet the weight on the scale hasn’t changed much.

That alone further reiterates the lack of importance of scale weight.

So What Should You Do?

First, adjust your nutrition so that you begin to eat healthier, more supportive meals. Second, find a strength training program that you will stick with for at least 60 days.

The key though, is to get your body fat tested at the beginning of your program, and every 30 days. This is important because you want to know how much lean body mass (lbm) you have in addition to your total fat mass. Your goal should be to maintain or increase lean body mass as you strive to lose excess fat from your frame. If you do that, along with a proper nutrition program, you will not only lose fat but you will also lose weight and inches.

That is exactly why I stress the importance and encourage full body measurement and body fat testing every 30 days...to monitor exactly what is going on with the changes that are occurring in your body.