The BIG Difference Between Weight Loss and Fat Loss

This article was originally written for and posted in my column, The Fitness Corner, in The Macon Telegraph.

Instead of making weight loss your focus, I suggest that you should make fat loss your focus. The terms are often used interchangeably but can have vastly different meanings.

Ok, we all know what body weight is. It’s the number that comes up on the scale when you step on it, right?


Technically, our body weight is equal to the force of gravity on our bodies, and can be found with the following equation:

W=mg, where m is the body’s mass in kilograms, and g is the gravitational constant, 9.81m/s². (Sorry guys, I had to do it … blame the Mercer University engineering program.)

Anyway, your body weight involves your entire body, including your organs, bones, muscle, fat, and any food and water that you’ve consumed. So when the number on the scale goes down or up, that could mean that the weight of any (or several) of these in your body have changed.

Difference Between “Overweight” and “Fat”

Consider the definition of “overweight.” The adjective form of the word is defined by as “weighing too much or more than is considered normal, proper, etc.”  That said, it’s important to understand that one can be overweight from an excess of muscle tissue in the same way that a person can be overweight from excess body fat.

Now, taking fat alone into consideration, fat is tissue that the body uses to store energy. The definition of being fat is “having too much flabby tissue,” or body fat. It can also be defined as having too much stored energy. When people are dealing with excess weight problems, it isn’t usually because they’ve eaten too much (I’m talking about the weight of the food in your body), or because any internal organs have grown too large.  Again, a person can be overweight from having significant muscle mass, but for the “regular” person, weight problems stem from carrying too much body fat.

Possible Consequences of Focusing on Losing Weight versus Losing Fat

Too often, we focus on losing weight rather than losing fat. Some might think, “What’s the problem with that?”

I’ll tell you.

  • If you focus only on losing weight, you may lose some fat, but you’ll likely lose muscle, too. While it is normal to lose a small amount of muscle when trying to lose weight, losing too much is not good.
  • Losing weight can become an obsession, meaning that you begin weighing yourself all of the time and your entire life revolves around what you weigh at any given moment.
  • When you focus on losing weight, you’re more likely to resort to unhealthy measures just to see the number on the scale go down. Those measures may include crash dieting and skipping meals.

I believe that if you focus instead on losing fat, you will be more likely to make healthy life changes.  So how do you focus on losing fat?

Steps to Focus Specifically on FAT Loss

• Greatly reduce your consumption of junk food and processed food.

• Reduce your consumption of “energy” foods (high carbohydrates) so that your body can use your excess energy.

• Perform cardio exercise regularly, aiming for at least 150 minutes each week.

• Perform resistance training regularly to build muscle. This is important because muscle tissue burns fat.

• Weigh yourself no more than once per week, and less is even better. The downward trend of your weight over time is what’s important, and constantly weighing yourself only causes unnecessary frustration.

I’ve started a Twitter hashtag that I challenge you to retweet as a declaration that you will not let your scale define your life, and that you will instead focus on making the changes necessary to specifically lose excess fat. #IAmNotMyScale … say it with me.


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