Are Fat Loss & Weight Loss Different?

by | Feb 13, 2023 | Lifestyle, Nutrition

“I want to lose weight.” 

^ Without official statistics, that is easily the most popular request from prospective clients. 

As someone who has been through her own body transformation, I LOVE to hear this.  

As a coach, it excites me to meet someone who has come to the conclusion that they’re ready to make a change in their life, and I’m honored to be asked to be a part of their journey.  

But there’s a part of me that still gets a little sad… 

I’m sad that with all the knowledge we have about the human body that there’s still a major gap in understanding weight loss and fat loss.  

The desire for weight loss is largely driven by what you hear at the doctor’s office (BMI deserves it’s own blog 🙄) and what you see on social media.  

But is weight loss what you REALLY want? 

Because too often I’ve seen men and women lose enough weight to reach their goal weight but still feel unsatisfied in how they look.  

You lost the weight, so what gives?? 

This blog breaks down the difference in weight loss and fat loss with the intention of helping you better understand what you really want and how to get there.   

What Is Weight Loss? 

Weight loss is a reduction in the total body mass. 

It literally means decreasing how much you weigh.  

While that might sound like what you want, you better understand what makes up your weight… 

Weight is comprised of: 

  • Bones 
  • Blood & Body Fluids 
  • Muscles
  • Organs 
  • Skin, Hair & Nails 
  • Whatever Is Currently on Your Body (Clothing, Jewelry, etc.)
  • How Much You’ve Eaten or Drank

It is literally EVERY part of you.  

Would you like to see a lower number? 


However, you can lower that number without actually changing your body composition.  

Take off your clothes.  

Weigh yourself after hours without eating (AKA after a night of sleep)

Donate blood.  

Lose a limb (okay, maybe a bit dramatic).  

Do all of those and the number on the scale will definitely be lower, but your body won’t look much different (if at all).  

What Is Fat Loss?

If weight loss is the change in total body mass, then fat loss is the change in the body’s fat mass.  

Simply put, you’re losing the fat stores on your body.  

(Did you know there are 2 different types of fat? Read about it HERE!)

If you took off your clothes or weighed yourself after hours without eating, you could weigh less on the scale, but it’s possible you didn’t lose an ounce of body fat.  

So how did weight loss become so popular? 

Well, the best way for the average individual to measure whether or not they are losing body fat was to assess changes in the number on the scale.  

There are no simple or cheap ways to measure for changes in body fat, but it’s not to say you have to use the scale.  

You can look at: 

  • Body Measurements 
  • Handheld Calculators 
  • Clothing Sizes 
  • Body Scans ($$)

But know that the scale is a perfectly suitable option when you know how to interpret results for successful fat loss.  

What Do You Really Want? 

Ultimately, it’s up to you! 

And this might be a rare occurrence, but I’m going to say that it’s okay if you want a little of both… 

So long as you want to lose body fat just a bit more… 

It’s okay to want to see a lower number on the scale, but a lower number doesn’t always translate to improved health.  

You’re Skinny Fat. 

Have you ever lost a bunch, reached your goal weight, and STILL felt disgusted with your body?? 

That’s probably because you were too hooked on lowering the number on the scale that you did whatever was necessary to keep the scale moving.  

Unfortunately, it meant you were unable to build layers of muscle, which means you look in the mirror and see a smaller individual still with cellulite, bingo wings and a bloated midsection.  

Better known as, Skinny Fat.  

At this point, you convince yourself that you just undershot your goal, so you try to slash more calories, get skinnier and chase the figure you dreamed of.  This turns into a vicious cycle of losing and regaining weight.  

You Still Have Unhealthy Fat Stores.  

When you lose body fat, you reduce the amount of unhealthy fat on your body.  

When you only lose weight, that fat typically hangs around… 

During weight loss, your body looks to shed easily disposable mass.  

Do you know what’s NOT easily disposable? 

Body fat.  

Your body views some level of fat as necessary for insulation, protection and energy support.
It’s relatively low maintenance, so the body doesn’t have to work hard (AKA burn many calories) to keep it on. 

Do you know what IS easily disposable? 


Muscle requires quite a few calories to maintain it and is generally considered inefficient by the body.  Therefore, when it comes time to protect resources and make itself more efficient in a calorie deficit, muscle is usually the first to go.  

(This is also another reason why people are “Skinny Fat.”)

What this means is that your fat stores are still present after you’ve lost the weight.  This means your body is still at risk for diseases (more to come on this), struggling with visceral fat build up around the abdominal organs and likely to regain weight when you attempt to put muscle on.     

You’re Not Any Healthier.  

Lastly, let’s touch back to still being at risk for disease.

Visceral fat is a type of fat that surrounds and protects your abdominal organs.  Due to unhealthy eating habits, low levels of activity and weight gain, visceral fat can further build up around the organs.  This results in compression of the organs, metabolic syndrome* and further health complications.     

*As stated by the Mayo Clinic, metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together increasing your risk of heart diseases, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and other serious health conditions.  

How Do You Get There?

Remember, it is okay to want to lose weight and see a lower number on the scale, but overall, fat loss is going to lead to a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle.  

So how do you get there?? 

Appropriate Calorie Deficit 

An appropriate calorie deficit doesn’t mean just eating less.  

It means establishing your maintenance level calories (find out why this is important HERE).  

Reducing caloric intake (what you eat) by 10 to 15% and increasing overall physical activity to support an active lifestyle.  These 2 factors work together to foster a caloric deficit to help you lose body fat for good.  

Full Body Resistance Training 

A calorie deficit won’t do it all.. 

No, you need to become a calorie-burning machine to incinerate body fat.  

Best way to do that? 

Build lean muscle through resistance training.  

Resistance training uses your bodyweight, resistance bands or weights to physically resist movements and build muscle.  

It is important to note that while you might want to lose fat in specific areas, training to build muscle on your entire body will improve your caloric (and fat) burn globally.  


Good old accountability…. 

How does this help you lose fat? 

Because everyone loves to see their efforts rewarded with a lower number on the scale! 

(That’s another reason many just say they want to lose weight!)

It takes coaching and accountability to try a new path.  

One that fosters a healthy metabolism.  

Encourages you to stay on track when the scale isn’t moving quite as fast.  

And to set you up to keep the weight off for good this time.  

Speaking of a healthy metabolism… 

Want to know why your metabolism sucks??

Click here to find out (and to see how to fix it!)

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