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Weight loss Vs Fat Loss: Which One Should You Be Aiming For?

Hi Bethan,

My question is about weight loss vs fat loss.

I've been trying to lose weight for many years. I've had some success. But I'm now reading that weight loss is not what I should be aiming for and fat loss is better.

Surely if you lose weight you lose fat?

Have I been doing it wrong this whole time?

How would I go about losing fat and how would I measure fat loss?

Thanks

Sandra

Weight Loss vs Fat Loss

Hi Sandra,

Thanks for your question.

First off, well done on your success. It's never easy to make changes in your life, and stick to them, so you should be chuffed with what you've achieved so far.

Having said that, if you're still asking questions, Googling about weight loss or fat loss, my guess is you haven't yet reached your ultimate goal yet.

Maybe you're stuck on a plateau you can't get off. Or what has worked for you in the past doesn't seem to be cutting the mustard anymore.

Whatever it is, let's see if we can get you moving in the right direction again.

Weight loss vs fat loss - What's the Difference

The weight loss vs fat loss debate has been raging for quite some time. And does cause a lot of confusion.

So, to help clear it up I'm going to start by explaining what weight loss is and why it is different to fat loss.

Because, no, they're not the same.

Excuse me if this sounds patronising, it's not meant to be. It's just a starting point.

When you lose weight your body weighs less. You jump on the scales and they read less than they did the day, week or month before.

But where does that weight loss come from?

Weight Loss vs Fat Loss - what is weight loss?Weight Loss vs Fat Loss - What is Weight Loss?

The most common places are fat, muscle or water. Us women are also a bit lighter after that time of month. But I'm not going to focus on that here.

Water is actually the most common cause of weight fluctuations. Increases and decreases.

Now you might be thinking that because you drink a lot of water your weight can't be due to a loss of water.

But, that's not actually the case.

Water is stored in your muscles and your liver, attached to a substance called glycogen.

Glycogen is a form of carbohydrate that is stored ready to fuel energy intensive activity like sprinting.

When you deplete your glycogen reserves, either through a strict diet or lots of high intensity training, you also lose the water that's attached to it.

Conversely, once you replace your glycogen reserves, either through a binge or refuelling after training, you also replace the water.

This, results in weight fluctuations.

So, that's how your weight loss could be water related. But what else could it be?

Well, it could be muscle.

To be honest, this is less likely. Your body generally wants to hold onto it's healthy tissue. But under certain circumstances it can happen.

What are those circumstances?

Not eating enough for a prolonged period. If you drop your calories too drastically, to quickly, you are telling your body that there's not enough food. That there's a famine.

When this happens, your body will cling onto your fat reserves, because that is what fat is for. To get your though a famine.

To make up for the energy you're missing, your body will turn to your healthy tissue. Your muscle.

Lastly, weight loss could be down to fat loss.

This is what you want.

It happens when you're in a calorie deficit, so you're moving a bit more, eating a bit less, but your body is not worried about a famine.

It knows that food is plentiful. It's going to get what it needs.

Then you will start burning fat instead muscle.

Weight loss Vs Fat Loss - what have you lost so far?

To help you get back on track let's see where you are now. What have you lost so far?

My, first thought would be, if you've managed to lose weight, and keep it off, it's probably not water weight you've lost.

So, it could be muscle, it could be fat.

Now, the likelihood is, it's fat you've lost. But let's just make sure.

weight loss vs fat lossWeight Loss vs Fat Loss - Where are you now?

Have a look at yourself in your underwear.

Now this is not easy for a lot of women. And if it's not easy for you, please bear with me. I'm not suggesting this to make you unhappy, or to ruin your day.

I'm suggesting it to help you make changes. You can't do that until you know what you need to change, or what you want to change.

When you look at your body, try to be objective.

Look at yourself honestly. Or, if it helps ask a friend or your partner to do it.

Don't get caught up in the 'I hate my ... (bum, boobs, arms, belly, hips, legs etc.)'. That's not helpful at this point.

Are you less wobbly than you were? You've lost weight, yes, but have you lost some of your lumps and bumps. Do you look leaner?

If you are just as wobbly as you ever were, you may have lost some muscle.

But don't worry, and don't look at this as a failure. It's really not.

Ok, you may not be where you wanted to be. But you've made healthy changes.

If you are less wobbly and looking leaner, then congratulations.

You may have to make a few adjustments to what you are doing, but you're nearly there.

Weight Loss Vs Fat Loss - How Do You Go About It?

Again, I say, the way to make changes is to notice what you are doing now.

You're obviously not getting where you want to be, so you need to change what you're doing.

But you have to know what needs changing.

There's no use jumping in to a new exercise programme if it's your nutrition that needs attention.

There's no use in cutting your calories if they're too low already.

So, what are you doing now?

Make a note.

Exercise. Include all movement you're doing.

If you're only moving through doing everyday tasks, then you need to include a dedicated exercise session.

If you're working out a lot in the gym but are pretty sedentary afterwards, you need to start moving more throughout the day.

Nutrition. What are you eating? How much and of what?

Yes, this does mean calorie counting, but don't worry it's not for long. It's just so you can see where your calorie intake is now.

Do it for about a month and see how it affects your weight.

Make sure you include everything you eat and drink. All oil for cooking, all sauces you have as an accompaniment and all of your cups of tea and coffee.

You'd be surprised how quickly calories can add up.

A tablespoon of oil is about 120 calories.

An average HobNob biscuit is about 70 calories.

And a tablespoon of tomato ketchup is about 20 calories.

If you forget to include just those three things you're under reporting by nearly 200 calories. That is the difference between losing weight and staying where you are.

Once you know exactly what you're eating it will be easier to see where you can make some easy changes.

When you're making a note of what you're eating and doing, make sure you note down how you feel afterwards.

You might be eating something that doesn't agree with you. Or your meals might be the wrong mix of protein, carbs and fat for you.

You might also be pushing your body too hard in training.

But until you know all of this, you can't make a plan to go forward.

Weight Loss vs Fat Loss - Your Next Step

Well, I hope that has cleared up the weight loss vs fat loss debate for you.

I appreciate there is not a clear cut, easy to apply answer. But unfortunately, that's not how our bodies work.

Everyone is different.

We enjoy different movements. We enjoy different foods.

We are also coming from different places.

And all of this will dictate what you need to do next.

By understanding what you are doing now and how that impacts your body, how you feel, how you look, you will be in a much more powerful place to make the changes you need to make.

Knowledge is power. Until you know, you're just shooting in the dark.

So, take a month to just record, to just observe. And once you have that knowledge, make a plan to go forward.

It's not the easy way. But it will save you time and a lot of failed attempts in the long run.

Good luck and let me know how you get on.

If I can be of any further help ... you know where I am.

Thanks

Bethan


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