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The Differences Between Weight Loss and Fat Loss

There are significant differences between weight loss and fat loss, but many use the two terms interchangeably. What's worse is the mental mindset weight can cause by watching the scale every day.

I naturally distinguish the two terms apart, and think it’s time to throw a little light on the topic from my perspective and experience. So let’s start with what you see on a daily basis:


“Lose 10 pounds in just a week!”


“Lose weight through our low carb diet plan!”


“Hate what you see on the scale? Weight loss is possible with our natural supplement!”

Society and Dieting


The above slogans, statements, etc. are just made up, but basically show what often appears in website advertisements and most anywhere info is located.


Society seems to want the easy way out of an issue through the quickest means possible, and these types of advertisements for products and services misguide the individual into making unhealthy choices.


differences between weight loss and fat loss

Weight loss and fat loss are definitely two terms that need to be used separately based on the needs for the individual.


Weight Loss – The lowering of your overall bodyweight, which is the total weight amount of your body’s fat, muscles, bones, organs, water, etc.


Fat Loss – The lowering of the fat that is on your body, which is determined by body fat percentages (BF%) and not weight in lbs./kgs.


You wanting that scale to say you lost weight suddenly turns into you NEED it to show weight loss. As mentioned this can lead to a mental illness and obsession over it.


Eventually drastic measures are taken, such as ridiculously low calorie consumption (starvation), dehydration, over-training, and supplementation usage that all have the possibility of leading to further medical issues.


The weight scale doesn’t even need to be used for the purpose of living healthy. This equipment is irrelevant and unreliable because of several reasons.


Below shows some of the differences between weight loss and fat loss.

  1. Body weight fluctuates on a daily basis – You can lose or gain water weight, muscle weight, and bone density, or you could have more content within your bladder, bowels, and/or stomach. There’s a lot of possibilities making the weight shown on your scale unreliable.

  2. Body weight can be unequally the same for two people – One person can be 5’10” and weigh 200lbs. with only 10% BF, while the other person is similarly 5’10” weighing 200lbs., but has 45% BF. Needless to say that the first person has a large amount of lean muscle while the latter has an excessive amount of body fat. The weight scale just showed the results to be irrelevant with comparison.


Example of Using Body Weight Improperly


We see this irrelevant use of weight quite often, and I can share one with you from personal experience. While serving in the Marine Corps a fellow Marine was quite big (muscles wise) and trained often.


I remember he was 6’1” weighing 210lbs. with 13% BF, but new USMC regulations at the time stated that he was “overweight” regardless of the measurements because they went off his overall weight to height scaling (BMI).


Neither his BF% nor his ability to outperform most the company in physical testing was taken into account. Luckily they waived this after months of trying to discharge him, but it shows improper use of overall body weight is not unheard of even at military levels.

Forget the Scale and Use Other Methods


Okay, so you should have a better idea on why the weight scale is basically garbage unless you compete and have to make weight. You should use other means of determining your diet progress such as looking in the mirror or noticing changes such as clothing size.


These physical means of knowing if body fat has been lost don’t lie. If your pants are now two sizes too big after properly dieting, then I would venture to guess that fat loss has taken place.


weight loss and fat loss

However, what if it was “weight loss”? Then the most definite way of knowing is using fat calipers, which measure the current body fat, which you take note of, and then you use them again in a month to check for progress. Not every day, not in a week, but a month.


Another option for finding out your body fat percentages is using machines that can calculate this for you, which some of them can pinpoint what body region holds what amount of body fat / water.


This psychologically helps you keep from dragging your self-esteem down since it may take several weeks to notice significant results during dieting after the first few months.



How Would You Know Fat Loss is Occurring, and Not Just Weight Loss?


Following a proper nutrition program and physical training regimen is your best way of knowing while also making good use of fat calipers. Let’s take a look at these factors.


When you consume less carbs you are in fact losing weight – water weight. Following a low carb diet is going to show great results in the beginning since water is mostly being lost.


foods for fat loss

The reverse effects happen when you consume too many carbs whether they are complex or simple – water retention occurs. So to sum this up, when you follow a low carb diet, lose the weight, and then eat carbs again, the end result is more weight gains than before.


What should you eat then? I’m not your trainer or dietitian, so I cannot give exact specifications, but I can give general advice. You should consider the following guidelines for proper dieting:


You should be consuming 5-6 meals/snacks throughout the day. The size for these depends on your goal and training program.



Regardless, you need to consume calories for your metabolism to have energy to burn fat and encourage muscle growth. Extreme low calorie deficits overtime cause your body to retain fat for energy. This is called starvation.

Proper Training Regimen


A mixture of strength training and cardiovascular training is the safest and most efficient way to successfully lose body fat. Cardio training only is not recommended and even doctors are starting to recommend strength training being performed on a weekly basis with cardio.


Strength training encourages the strengthening and growth of your body’s skeletal muscles, thus improving bone strength and increased calorie burning.


Both men and women even in their senior ages are recommended to perform strength training weekly to keep their muscles and bones from degenerating, but a medical physician should give the okay to proceed if not in good health standings.



Cardio increases your heart rate, which increases blood flow to bring oxygen to your muscles causing your metabolism to increase. Your metabolism uses calories from energy nutrients, such as carbs, and turns them into the energy you use to run that extra mile.


After carbs are depleted the energy source becomes fats, which leads to fat loss. This transfer of energy will be covered more in-depth later, but just be aware that this is fundamentally the way you lose fat from proper cardio training following strength exercises.

Time to Apply Your New Found Knowledge


The differences between weight loss and fat loss have been given to you, and it is your choice to use the information how you see fit. People are always going to be using the two terms interchangeably, but it's up to you to know which is needed.


Just focus on what you feel is right for your body, and strive to do everything possible to lose fat naturally and properly. All I ask is that you don’t focus on using the weight scale.


As always, remember to seek medical advice before embarking on new fitness and diet programs if you have had any past or current medical conditions. Stay strong and fit everybody.


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