Weight Loss vs Fat Loss – What’s the Difference?

weight loss vs fat loss

Table of Contents

What’s up everyone? Hope everybody is doing well. So, I was writing an article the about fundamentals of losing weight and how to start losing weight effectively when it crossed my mind that I must explain something first. For me to show you how to start losing weight, I must first explain to you the difference between weight loss and fat loss. “Aren’t fat loss and weight loss the same thing, Nour?” Nope. The term weight loss could be misleading and explaining the difference between both terms is important.
More humans are familiar with the term “weight loss” than any other variation of the same term (i.e. fat loss), why is that? This is because there is a lack of misunderstanding of what exactly “weight” is. Most people I’ve spoken to throughout my life would always talk about weight loss in general, not fat loss. So, what exactly do we mean by the word “weight”?
The human body is made up of several MAIN types of tissues; muscle tissue, fat tissue, Epithelial tissue, Connective tissue and Nerve tissue. Keep in mind that there are other sub-categories of tissues under each of the former types of tissue. For the sake of this article, we will only talk about muscle and fat tissue since those two types are what mainly make up “weight”. Weight could refer to muscle, fat, water or lean body mass; which means the total weight you carry that is not fat. So, lean body mass is the combination of muscle tissue, water, organs, bones…etc.
Now, since most people are not familiar with the above terms, when they say they want to “lose weight” they unknowingly want to lose fat. You never ever want to lose muscle tissue! Unless you are a runway model or want to be anorexic, that’s a different story.

Weight loss vs Fat loss: A tale of tissues!


Weight Loss

The broad term of weight loss refers to losing any type of weight, no matter where it comes from. That could be water, muscle tissue, bone mass (although very hard), or fat. When someone wants to lose weight, they’re under the illusion that losing any sort of weight will enhance their physical look, which is only partially true.

Fat Loss

Fat loss is the pinnacle of weight loss. When you specifically want to lose fat, that means you want to preserve your muscle and bone mass and exclusively get rid of that ugly fat you are carrying around. Fat loss is what most people unknowingly want. Losing fat will enhance your aesthetic look, athletic performance, and improve your health.

Why do we store fat anyway?

The human body is a very complex machine that has only one goal; survival. Your body will do anything it takes to keep you alive. You can throw almost anything at your body, and best believe it will have a mechanism to counter that. Fat is energy that your body stored just in case you experience lack of food. In case you are starving to death, your body will then free some of the stored fatty acids and use that as energy to carry out the necessary physiological functions and keep you breathing. So, in a way, fat is not all bad, however, too much fat is bad! Too much fat will ruin your aesthetic picture, ruin your athletic performance by increasing your weight, increase the amount of LDL cholesterol which can clog up your arteries, and bring upon you a myriad of diseases that could even cause death in severe cases.

Fat vs Lean body mass

I said earlier that you never want to lose muscle tissue or lean body mass in general, correct? The reason you exclusively want to burn fat and not lose lean body mass is because lean body mass is essential to everything in your body. In fact, let’s look at some of the benefits of having a good amount of lean body mass:

Muscles help you move:
lean body mass
Think about every little movement you do throughout the day, guess what? Many muscles were involved in that movement. No, muscles are not just for showing off.

Muscle and metabolism: The more muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolism will be. In fact, clinical studies have proven that every pound of muscle tissue you have burns approximately 13 calories at rest! This means that if you gain a pound of muscle, that pound of muscle will consume an extra 13 calories per day just to maintain itself without you having to do anything! So, imagine if you build 10 pound of muscle ;). This also disproves the common myth that a pound of muscle burns 50 calories at rest! No, that’s just wishful thinking.
Fat and metabolism: Building up on the last point, I had to point out the fact that fat is not really “dead” tissue either. In fact, a pound of fat will require 4.5 calories to maintain itself every day, but fat’s cons outweigh its benefits. Say no to fat.

There are many other reasons why you want to have more lean body mass than fat mass, however, since this article is exclusive to fat loss and weight loss, I will just focus on that. If you are still not convinced why you should focus on just losing fat, here is a brief list of some benefits you get when you lose fat:
Improved blood circulation:
fat and blood circulation
Having too much fat will raise your LDL cholesterol level and even lower your HDL cholesterol level, talk about a double whammy! Having too much LDL cholesterol and too little HDL cholesterol can clog up your arteries and wreak havoc on your blood circulation.

Improved athletic performance and improved cardiovascular conditioning: This is common sense. In addition to the fact that you improve your blood circulation when you lose fat., the less weight you carry, the better you will be able to perform athletically. I know many of us are not planning on becoming the next basketball start or soccer player of the year, but I am sure you like playing some sort of sport with your friends every now and then. In fact, even if you don’t play sports, you will be able to perform better at the gym.
More energy:
human energy level
Are you tired of being tired? Well, lose some fat. As I mentioned earlier, every pound of fat consumed 4.5 calories to sustain itself, additionally, fat is just extra weight that you must carry around. Add those two facts together and you have one of the main reasons why you usually feel tired and sluggish. Additionally, having a lot of fat hinders your body from performing optimally, so every organ in your body will not be able to function as good as it could because of the extra fat you have. Lose fat and you will gain back your energy, I promise.
Better joints: “my joints are not as good as they once were. I think I am getting old.” How about you shut up and lose some fat? You are not getting old and your body doesn’t suck, you just have to lose some fat. Imagine that you are carrying 20 pounds of fat that your body doesn’t “need”, wouldn’t those 20 pounds add extra stress on your joints and tendons? I think you see what I am getting at here.
Significantly less stress: Having too much fat ruins your aesthetic look, you know it and I know it, which causes you to feel bad about your appearance and that causes you unnecessary stress. In addition to that point, having too much fat, especially abdominal fat (abdominal obesity) has been linked to heightened cortisol levels, which can also make you store more body fat. It’s a vicious loop you don’t want to deal with, so lose the fat for good.

Less anxiety and mental illnesses: In many clinical studies, obesity was found to have a significant effect on the individual’s mental state. Not only because of the bad image the individual has of himself/herself, but having too much fat affect certain neurological and chemical pathways that cause less than optimal mental performance. Such an effect has been linked to contribute to having certain mental illnesses such as: anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia and many others.
In conclusion
The difference between weight loss and fat loss is that weight is a broad term that can include water weight, muscle tissue, bone mass and fat tissue. However, fat loss exclusively refers to getting rid of that ugly layer of fat you’re carrying around. Weight loss may not improve your health by much due to the loss of other vital tissues in the process, but if you lose just fat, you are guaranteed to have an improved sense of well-being, improve energy levels, better athletic performance, improved appearance and a better state of mind.
American Heart Association. (2014, February). Obesity Information. Retrieved from American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/WeightManagement/Obesity/Obesity-Information_UCM_307908_Article.jsp
Moyer AE1, R. J.-S. (1994, May 2). Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Retrieved from US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16353426
ZiMian Wang, 1. Z.-W. (2012, May 1). Evaluation of Specific Metabolic Rates of Major Organs and Tissues: Comparison Between Men and Women. Retrieved from US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3139779/
Gatineau M, Dent M. Obesity and Mental Health. Oxford: National Obesity Observatory, 2011



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