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Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss - What is the Difference?

Weight loss is one of the hottest topics in the fitness industry. Everyone is wanting to lose weight nowadays and are completely obsessed with those magic numbers on the scales! Telling people not to worry too much about the numbers on the scales is a very common theme for me, and for a very good reason. The numbers on the scales are only one part of the puzzle, however your progress can be sabotaged by the deceiving numbers on the scales.

Weight loss and fat loss get used interchangeably – But what is the difference between the two? Take a minute and I want you to ask yourself this – If you were the same weight one the scales but dropped two dress sizes or lost 3-4 inches around your waist WOULD YOU BE HAPPY!!

Whilst you are thinking about the question about let me start by defining weight loss and fat loss!

  • Weight Loss – You want to lower your body weight, this includes losing muscle, water, fat, bone density.

  • Fat Loss – You want to reduce the amount of fat you are carrying in the body, whilst preserving muscle.

The problem with weight loss is the wording of it. If you are wanting to lose weight for health reasons, or you want to look and feel better in yourself then the likelihood is you are carrying too much fat and want to reduce fat NOT weight! Anybody can lose weight, you go on a stupid lower calorie diet and exercise excessively (and probably incorrectly), and you will lose weight, but unfortunately this is not healthy weight. This weight loss ultimately comes from muscle, water and fat, not just FAT.

Stop obsessing about the Scales

Weight loss can be unreliable, it can and will fluctuate daily since weight is influenced by many factors such as stomach, bowel and bladder content, water content, muscle mass, fat mass, hormonal patterns etc. – So you really have no idea what is actually going on.

Here is how the scales can be misleading and weighing yourself can become your worst enemy and extremely demotivating.

  • Carbs bind to water – So eating less carbohydrates will make you lose weight – but mainly water weight. A common line I hear from people I speak to who “want to lose weight” is – My friend has lost 2 stone in a month, she has cut out carbs completely and only eating about 1000 calories a day, cut out dairy etc, etc. – Well done to your friend!! But ask yourself this – Is this sustainable? Is this living your life? Yes, your friend will have lost weight, but they will have lost a lot of muscle mass, decreased their bone density and ultimately lost a lot of water weight. As soon as they go back to eating normally they will put this weight back on, and probably more. Why?? Because water will start to bind to carbs again. Carbs are not the enemy if eaten in moderation and you are eating the correct portion and serving sizes. You will have also slowed down your metabolism, thus anything you do eat will be stored in the body.

  • You gain muscle whilst losing fat. If you are strength training and have been strength training for a period of time, it is likely that you will put on an element of muscle mass as well as losing fat, however, on the scales it will look like you are not making progress as your body weight hasn’t changed.

Two people could weigh 70kg, but one might be 35% body fat the other might be 10% body fat. On the scales they are both the same. When we start any weight (fat) management program it is vitally important to track your results through a variety of methods not just scales. Body composition, fat calipers, tape measure, pictures, clothes feeling looser and peoples comments! are great measures and indicators you are on the right track. Trust me people will notice a difference if you are reducing fat and they will want to tell you how good you look.

Ok, so if our goal is fat loss, we need to focus on preserving muscle mass, or putting on muscle mass, whilst reducing our fat content. For every 1 pound of muscle you have your body will burn around 50 calories through the elevation in your metabolism. On the other side of the coin, if you start losing muscle you are fighting a losing battle to lose fat as muscle burns calories, when we lose muscle we slow down our metabolism. This is vitally important to remember, yet something many people do not consider.

To prevent muscle loss, follow these basic guidelines –

  1. Get enough calories for your body size and activity level. Remember for fat loss we need to be in a SLIGHT calorie defect.

  2. Make sure 80% of your calories come from nutrient dense calories such as meat, eggs, dairy, wholegrains, fruit and vegetables.

  3. Aim for a minimum of 0.8 to 1.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight. Obviously, this will be higher if you are exercising more. Try to divide this between 3-6 meals a day.

  4. Eat enough carbs to fuel your body.

  5. Eat healthy fats.

  6. Make sure you do some strength training at least 2-3 times per week. If you don’t use them, you will loss them.

Here is how to track your progress efficiently.

  1. Stop weighing yourself daily – Your will fluctuate and this will mess up your motivation. Weigh yourself every week or two, ideally at the same time and on the same day so that it is consistent.

  2. Stop looking in the mirror! Self-image can skew your perception. You will never notice how well you are doing as you see yourself every day and will always look for the flaws. Take full length photos and compare them with old ones.

  3. Track body fat. Gets some fat calipers and do this every 2 – 4 weeks. We should be aiming of a 0.5% decrease every 2-3 weeks.

  4. Take measurements – Chest, arms, legs, waist and thighs.

  5. Log your workouts – are you lifting heavier, this is a great way to see progress. If you are lifting the same as what you’ve always done, you need to start progressing and pushing yourself a little more.

Now we have a better understanding about weight loss vs. fat loss ask yourself the same question again – If you were the same weight but you have dropped a dress size would you feel happy? Is your goal to feel better in yourself and look better in yourself? If this is the case, which in my experience 95% of people reading this it is, then you actually want to lose FAT not WEIGHT.

We live in a society obsessed by weight loss, a lot of his is because of social media, television and the internet. The fact is its fat that we need to shift not weight. Clothes, pictures, and measurements don’t lie, neither does fat percentage. Listen to what people say. Trust me people will notice your body change more than you will. Clothes will start to feel looser too. Keep going towards your goals, reassess what it is you actually want to achieve, and don’t let the scales hamper your progress.

For more information or advice about fat loss, if you are struggling with motivation or need direction, please contact us at build a body – for a FREE consultation. We understand our client’s needs and goals and look forward to helping you achieve yours.

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