Fat Loss Versus Weight Loss - What's the difference?

Fat Loss Versus Weight Loss - What's the difference?

Barry Kerrigan |

We see the two terms 'fat loss' and 'weight loss' thrown around constantly, and you might make the mistake of thinking they are exactly the same thing - but in fact they have significant differences which are important to understand when considering a diet and fitness plan. 

Weight loss is basically a decrease in body weight measured by a all-scary weighing scale. This generally occurs if you are:

  • Eating less food
  • Exercising more
  • Dehydrated so you lose water weight
  • Sick therefore not eating or suffering from diarrhea or vomiting
  • Losing muscle

You often find that quick fix diet plans promising 'weight loss in 7 / 14 / 28 etc days' are exactly that...weight loss, not fat loss. Therefore they're never good for a long term, healthy strategy.

The concept of weight loss is pretty easy in general  - eat less and move more. But you can lose weight and still never see any dramatic changes in your close sizes or how you look in the mirror. If this is your goal and you're not seeing results this maybe due to you losing weight but not necessarily body fat.

Dropping body fat can be a more difficult concept for some people and it definitely takes more patience and hard work. However the benefits are huge compared to weight loss only.

Fat loss is exactly as it sounds - a decrease in the levels of fat on your body. Some of the advice for losing weight still plays a major role in fat lose such as being in a calorie deficit (using more energy than you take in), but the big difference here is what food is going on your plate. Eating less isn't going to cut it - you need to be eating high quality food with a good level of protein such as lean cuts of beef, chicken, fish, quality fats from eggs, nuts, avocados and good carbohydrates sources coming from plenty of fresh vegetables. Always keep processed food to a minimum too.

With regards to exercise weight training for fat loss is a must -  relying on cardio alone will not be helpful when trying to drop body fat.

Weight training has so many benefits:

  • Increased muscle mass means your body requires more calories on a daily basis to operate making it easier to reach a deficit.
  • An increase in your metabolism
  • Enhances your mood and reduces stress.

The easiest way to measure body fat progress is to take plenty of pictures of yourself so you can look back on them to show your fat loss results. It's also a great way to get a little extra motivation. You can also judge by how your close are fitting or by asking your PT to measure your body fat.

The scales is also a tool for both weight loss and fat loss but certainly do not go by the scales alone when your aim is to drop body fat.

The scales can be misleading for a number of reasons: 

  • If weight training you may actually not be losing weight but you're losing fat. This is because you're gaining muscle at the same time.
  • For women monthly period can have the scales jump up to as much as 3kg , this is generally do to with hormones causing excess water weight.
  • Constipation if you haven't gone to the toilet for a few days then the scales might not budge.
  • Eating a higher carb meal before weighing yourself will cause slight excess water weight - not fat.
  • Muscle soreness after an intense workout can also cause you to temporary store of water weight as your muscle repairs itself

So when dieting aim for a long term, sustainable strategy that you can fit realistically into your hectic lifestyle.


Aoife is a Foods For Fitness Ambassador and founder of Pixie Fitness. She is a fitness and well-being consultant who loves exercising, nutrition and her family! Follow her journey at www.pixiefitnessdublin.ie or on Instagram here

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