A Brief Synopsis About Why “Fat Loss” is Preferred Over “Weight Loss”

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Look familiar?

“Weight loss” is a common set of terms that has been the measurement of health and wellness for decades.  Once the mainstream grabbed ahold of the weight loss, it was all over.  As for who first used the phrase “weight loss” to describe a positive shift in a person’s health and appearance?…

I have no clue.

What I do know is that I have never really understood why we say “weight loss”.

While I know that on some level, “weight loss” does do a decent job of describing the events taking place when a person decides to improve their nutrition or physical activity, I also feel that “weight loss” is so short-sighted.

Especially when the weight that is being lost is being measured by a bathroom scale or the equivalent.  We judge our progress by comparing our previous weigh in to the current weigh in.  If the needle moves left (weight loss) we celebrate and feel good, if the needle moves right (weight gained) we become frustrated, depressed, pissed off and in some extreme reactions, give up on our health endeavors all together.

I’ve witnessed people give up on physical activity and nutritionally smart eating habits solely based on the needle bouncing to the right instead of the left.  They may not give up the first time that they see it happen, but most certainly on the second, third, or fourth time that significant loss does not occur.

The problem with letting the weight scale be the dictator of your progress is that weight scales measure weight!  Ha!  Yes, weight scales suck because all they do is measure weight.  Weight scales don’t factor in whether that weight is useful muscle or useless fat (not all fat is useless), water weight, fecal matter (grow but true), etc.  There is zero indication about where the weight displayed on the scale is coming from, which is why I feel that body composition (or the composition of your total weight) is such important information to know.

Here are a couple of pictures that help make my point.  If you are someone that finds motivation to get fit for body appearance reasons, consider this picture:


The picture depicts the same female at different weights, yet different shapes.  Although the difference between the right and left pictures may be subtle, there is a noticeable difference.  When asked, most people would probably want to look like the picture on the right, especially not knowing that the picture on the right represents the same girl at a HEAVIER weight.

The girl looks more “toned” (not sure I like using this word but it works for now) and fit in the picture on the right, but she weighs more.  Why?  She built lean muscle and removed  layers of fat.

Fat on the body, visually, projects much different than muscle on the same body.

Here is a picture that helps support my last statement, anyone who has ever been in a health class or kinesiology classroom has no doubt seen images like this:


While the old “muscle weighs more than fat” adage doesn’t make much sense, body composition and  visual observations at what muscle increase and fat decrease looks like certainly do.

What we could potentially say, is that “a pound of fat takes up nearly four times the space of the same amount of muscle tissue”.

In other words, your height and weight can remain exactly the same, but you can feel and even visually look, well… fatter.

If you add more lean muscle to your body while simultaneously losing fat, you’re going to see a decrease in size, despite what the scale tells you. Your body begins to “tighten up”, “tone” or whichever descriptive word you choose to use.

Increasing muscle while decreasing fat is a positive shift in body composition, and generally, overall health.

The most direct and efficient way to accomplish this is with resistance training, and decent nutritional regimen.

Here is an old article from the University of New Mexico describing all of the benefits of resistance training…

Too simplify, here is a snapshot:

Weight loss versus Fat loss

Because of this, I have to recommend that we shift our thinking and judgements away from the weight scale, and on to body composition tests like bodpods, skin calipers or hydro-static weighing to analyze what the ratio of muscle to fat really is.  The problem is, these are all laboratory tools.  They are unrealistic for the average person to use for monitoring progress.

Waist circumference is also a decent indicator of how your body is reacting to exercise and nutritional interventions.

Go find a pair of jeans that fit tight at the current moment.  Try them on.  Set them aside for now.

Get aggressive with your movement and eating, forgetting about any measurements or weighing.

A week or two down the road, try on that same pair of jeans.

Rinse and repeat for months, because months is how long it is going to take.  Dedicated and repeated effort for months, not overnight or in a week.  Bodies built naturally and properly, take months to establish.  But once they are built, basic upkeep is all that needed to maintain their integrity.

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Better yet, strip down into a swimsuit for females, and a  pair of short with no shirt if you are a male.  Make a conscious effort to show some skin.  Now, take a full body picture.  Have the courage to do this in the beginning and frequently along the way.  It’s unscientific but it is brutally effective.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

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You don’t have to show anyone the pictures but yourself.  It’s your reminder of where you started and how you a progressing.  In the future, it may serve as a fuel to continue on the right path when times get rough.  We can all use a little motivation every now and then.

It takes time and effort to make change.  Transformation is a big process.  You’re tearing down and building up.  A complete remodel of your body.  Don’t get discouraged.  If you’re doing right things to initiate lean muscle gain and fat loss, you’ll make progress.  There is no doubt.  If you falter or give up, your progress will slow or halt.

Always remember that if it were easy, everyone would do it.

In most cases, body composition change is incredibly predictable.  Keep moving often, purposefully and aggressively and leverage that effort with nutrient dense food.  The combination of the two will peel fat off of your body like an onion, and restore something that most of us could use more of… muscle.

Cheers to trading weight loss for fat loss…



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