Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss
"I want to lose weight".
The phrase I hear from about 80% of clients who approach me about personal training, online coaching and fitness classes. Something we seem to be a little obsessed about is weight loss.
A quick search on Google Trends shows that the term 'weight loss' has been one of the most googled words in the UK in the last 30 days. Top searches include 'How to lose weight in 7 days' and 'how much to walk for weight loss'. Seriously?!
Another quick search while I was on there showed that the words 'weight loss pills' and 'weight loss shakes' are in the top 5 most searched for the category of weight loss too.
These are some pretty shocking stats! When I was just starting to think people are beginning to understand food and calories, this is thrown at me. Pretty worrying if you ask me.
Anyway, we aren't here to talk about that...back to weight and fat loss.
What is Weight Loss?
Weight loss is a decrease in your overall body weight. This weight includes muscle, fat, bone and water. Bone, muscle and organs make up your lean body mass where as fat and water are simply just that. Weight is measured very easily by stepping on some scales. From stepping on scales you can see if you have put on or lost any total body weight, that's it.
What is Fat Loss?
Fat loss is a reduction in body fat. This is measured in a percentage but is a little more complicated to measure. Measuring body fat gives a more specific result. When it comes to body fat we have two different types-
Essential body fat is just that, essential! This fat is what the body needs for normal structure and optimal function of the body. Found in the brain, bone marrow, nerves and membranes that protect your organs.
Non-essential fat is the other type, which yep, you guessed it, is what we don't need. Also known as subcutaneous and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat stored under the skin, the one you can pinch around your arms, belly, thighs and bum. Visceral fat (also know as 'belly fat') is in your abdomen and stored around your major organs.
The difference between the two?
It's mainly in how you say things to yourself and knowing what you actually want. When people say they want to lose weight what they usually mean is that they want to lose fat. They aren't happy with how they look or feel and generally want to look more 'toned' and slimmer. This is fat loss, not weight loss. When looking at weight loss alone, how do you know you're losing fat? You don't. You assume you are because the scales have gone down a few pounds but in reality, in most cases, this isn't true. Initial weight loss is usually water and probably some muscle too.
The majority of people, you guys reading this, are after fat loss. It's all well and good stepping on the scales and seeing that four pound loss but you don't know where this has come from. As I said before, it's most likely not fat you're losing.
This is one reason why I am not a fan of weighing my clients or anyone actually weighing themselves on the regular. People take this number far too seriously. If they see that one pound rise then that's it, day ruined. Mate, you probably just need a poo.
There are plenty of other ways to measure your FAT LOSS- how your clothes fit, are they a bit baggier? How you feel, how you look! And if you must look at numbers then grab a tape measure and measure yourself (waist, hips, thigh, etc.). These are all much better ways of measuring progress!
As a PT, when it comes to any of the above, I prefer to put those to one side and think more about habits and overall fitness and health. I'd much rather you focussed your energy on building healthy habits and using exercise as a way of getting stronger, boosting your mood, getting fitter and generally making you feel better. There's nothing wrong with wanting to lose some fat but there are much better ways of doing this than having this as your only focus. Exercise will not get you there. Fat loss is achieved through dietary changes and maintaining a calorie deficit over a period of time.