losing weight vs losing body fat

If you ask anyone that is looking to get in shape what their goal is, the first thing they will say is to lose weight. But I wonder sometimes if that’s what they really want? Or maybe what they really want to do is just get rid of the body fat that they have.

Afterall, weight is just a number and even if you do lose the desired weight, somehow there will still be an unsatisfied feeling. The battle between losing weight vs losing body fat is a battle that has been going on for quite some time now.

Since weight is something that can be easily measured just by jumping on a scale, it is easy to understand why most people choose to make that their top priority. So when it comes to getting in shape, what’s more important, losing weight, or burning fat?

In order to answer that question, we need to first understand the difference between the two.

What’s The Difference?

The term fitness can have many meanings depending on who you’re asking. If you were to ask someone what the term fitness means to them, you would hear things like:

  • Weight-loss
  • Have more endurance
  • Burn Fat
  • To be stronger
  • To have more energy, etc

Because the term fitness can have so many meanings, this makes it difficult for one person to really focus on what needs to be done to get the results they want. Losing weight is a very popular goal for man because it can be easily measured.

Saying you want to lose X amount of weight is much easier to understand than saying something like you want more endurance. Because of this, people tend to get caught up in the numbers.

The difference between losing weight and losing body fat is simple. Lowering your body weight can be a combination of muscle loss, fat loss, or bone loss. Doesn’t really mean much in terms of health, but since it is a number that can be measured, those with the goal of losing weight see it as a success since all they see is the number.

Fat loss is more about reducing the fat your body carries on a daily basis. What makes losing fat so important to understand is that it tends to take up more space than say muscle. This is key due to the fact that this can control how you look in terms of what you see everyday in the mirror.

Which in my opinion is more important, and not the weight, even if people don’t realize it.

Why The Scale Doesn’t Matter

Now raise your hand if you’ve ever gone to the doctors for a physical and heard them mention your BMI (body mass index)? Well bmi is a way those in the medical field calculate how healthy you are based on your weight and height.

If you haven’t heard already, there’s been much debate in terms of using bmi to determine how healthy someone may or may not be as it doesn’t factor in muscle mass/body fat. So it is important when it comes to being healthy, to understand that the scale is not a good indicator of good health.

More Reading:  How To Eat More And Lose Weight

Weight Loss Can Be Misleading

If you are someone that tends to weigh themselves on a daily basis, then you know how much weight can fluctuate. There are so many reason for why you can lose or gain weight, and some of those reasons are:

  • If you’ve just eaten a meal
  • Water retention
  • Muscle/Fat loss or gain

You can drive yourself crazy trying to understand why you have lost or gained weight. This is why you see all those popular carb diets claiming to help you lose weight, especially when you start them. People tend to lose a lot of weight the first couple of weeks due to water loss.

This never lasts, since it is not a healthy way to lose weight. Another example is, if you take two people of the same height and weight. One is built full of muscle and the other of fat, who do you suppose is healthier. Which leads to my point in regards to muscle.

Muscle Takes Up Less Space

The great thing about building a body that contains more muscle than fat, is that muscle tends to take up less space than fat. Thus giving the body a more leaner look even though two people can be the same in terms of weight and height.

This is a big reason when someone who just started weight training will mention how they look leaner when looking in the mirror, but the scale hasn’t moved and In some cases they have even gained weight. This is usually due to the person having lost body fat and built more muscle.

This shows how unreliable weighing yourself can be

What’s Really Important

I tell people all the time, what’s really important is how you look and how you feel. If you are eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis, this will be a better way to gauge your health rather than how much weight you have lost.

Regardless if you lose 5 or 10 lbs, if you are not happy with what you see in the mirror, than it really doesn’t matter. Wanting to lose body fat is usually what people mean when they say they are looking to lose weight.

So I like to make sure I am educating people to the best of my ability to make sure I am finding out what they really want. Once that it done, it is easier to then show how they can accomplish that.

How to Track Your Progress

There are many ways to help track your progress so that you may have a better understanding of where you are in terms of physical fitness. Assuming you are eating healthy and exercising regularly, below are a few ways to track your progress.

  1. Make sure to take measurements – places include, waist, thighs, neck, arms and chest
  2. Keep track of your stats – regardless if you’re lifting weights or cardio training, make sure to keep track of your gains
  3. Stop weighing yourself – if you are weight training, you may find yourself gaining weight due to the muscles you’ve built up, thus giving you the impression you are not getting results.
  4. Make sure to take before and after pics – great way to take a snapshot of your gains as you progress through the weeks and months
  5. Keep records of your body fat – Fat calipers are a great way keep track of your body fat. Using this how to guide can help you make sure you are measuring yourself correctly.

You may run into a few issues like clothes not fitting the way they used to or people saying you look a little different, but i’m sure that an issue you can handle.

Final Thoughts

In the end, all we really want is to just be happy with what we see in the mirror everyday. There is so much noise out there telling us how much we should weigh, and how we should look, we almost forget that what really matters is how we feel about ourselves.

As long as you are doing what’s necessary to keep yourself healthy, then that is what is most important.

Just remember that good health starts with proper diet and exercise. Making sure you are eating healthy meals and keeping up with your daily fitness routine, the result are sure to follow.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what you’ve just read. If you have any questions, please don’t be afraid to share below.

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  1. Hi Ralph. I totally agree about the weight not meaning much, in itself. Every week I weight myself but, even more important, I use another device that tells me how much water I have in my body. I’m 50, so I must start to pay attention to dehydration. Well, I noticed that quite often, whenever I have lost some weight, the percentage of water in my body decreased as well. If I paid attention to the weight alone, it would have seemed that I did a great job, when in reality I did not drink enough water on that week, which is bad.
    Do you agree with my analysis?

    1. Hey Sergio! I agree with you completely. That is why it is important to not always rely on the scale since your weight can fluctuate so much. It really doesn’t tell you how healthy you are. One little advice I can give you when it comes to you water consumption, try buying a water bottle with a straw. You will studies have shown that people drink more when using a straw. I am able to drink a gallon of water a day because of it. You’ll be amazed at how much you can drink. Take Care!

  2. I am the same weight I was when I graduated from high school, but my body size is definitely NOT the same. It’s like everything got redistributed. I may weight the same or even less, but I think my bones have just become lighter. I feel like the most important point your post makes is that what’s most important is how one feels. I feel healthier at mid-life than I did in my 20s. But, only because I eat better and my exercise routine better fits my body type and age.

    1. That’s right Jackie! If you are happy with what you see in the mirror and you feel great both mentally and physically, then that’s all one can ask for. Being healthy can be simple, but what makes it difficult for many can be lack of discipline and motivation. As long as you eat healthy and stay active, it is very possible to reach your fitness goals. Thanks for commenting Jackie!

  3. This is a very eye opening article. And you are 100% correct on this. I was also told by other weight losing experts that the most ideal move is to take whatever fat you have on your body and to convert it into muscle. Many times too, I’ll noticed that a day after a workout, I won’t notice weight losing differences, although I will feel lighter and more energized.

    1. Hey Ariel! Yeah one of the best ways to help burn fat is by building muscle. There are so many benefits to helping build muscle within the body. If you are someone that really isn’t into lifting weights, there are many alternatives like bodyweight training. You definitely feel so much better when you replace the fat in your body with muscle. Thanks for your comment!

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