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Woman with weight and salad

So in my last post I announced that my newest health and fitness goal is to eat clean and get lean with a focus on tightening up my eating (more specifically, getting even cleaner in my food choices), strengthening my body and losing fat.

*record scratch*

Losing fat? Didn’t you JUST tell us that you decided to stop losing weight? What kind of hypocrite are you anyway?!

Before you scratch your head off in confusion, let me explain that yes, indeed, there is a difference between weight loss and fat loss.

Weight Loss

Weight loss, simply put, is anything that causes the weight on the scale to drop in number. Usually this is done through a drastic reduction in net calories (you’re burning more than you’re taking in) and is the most popular form of weight loss. But you can also lose weight by, I don’t know, cutting your head off – that’ll show up on the scale, right? Weight loss does little more than make the ticker on the scale go down and it worked well for me for years. The downside of weight loss is that the weight tends to also be lost in your muscle. If all you’re doing is eating a lot less and doing lots of cardio, the weight loss comes from anywhere it can find. This is why we can lose 50lbs and still look ridiculously flabby – we’ve lost our muscle! Between the loss of water and lean muscle mass, as much as 75% of your weight loss may NOT be from fat! YIKES! You also can’t become healthy with just from focusing on weight loss alone. Just because you’re losing weight doesn’t mean you’re eating healthy – it just means you’re burning a lot of calories. We’ve already seen that we can lose weight from eating Twinkies and this is why – if you eat 1,200 calories worth of Twinkies per day, you’re still going to lose weight because your body needs a lot more calories than that. Make sense?

Fat Loss

If your goal is to get lean, tone up and get tight – in other words, get fit – you want to focus on fat loss and to do that, you need to approach it differently than with weight loss. Fat loss is based on cutting back on calories (just a bit – not drastically as in weight loss), eating quality foods that are less likely to be converted to fat and incorporating exercises that increase the production of fat burning cells (mitochondria). Which exercises are more likely to create mitochondria? High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and strength training! And the really cool part of mitochondria is that they’re an active tissue – this means that they keep burning fat the more you feed it fatty acids. Why is this important? It’s important because it means that when you perform HIIT and engage in strength training and feed your body right with fatty acids, your body burns fat ALL DAY LONG! And when the fat starts coming off, the muscles you’ve been building with your strength training slowly start to appear from under the fat and VOILA! You’ve got yourself a rockin’ bod that you only ever thought was possible with air-brushing!

The downside to fat loss, and why most people who want to shed some pounds don’t go for it is because it’s not as quick or convenient as traditional weight loss. Because you’re building muscle (and a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat), the scale tends not to dip and since most people only use the scale as a means for success – they figure it’s not working and give up. Fat loss requires you to ditch the scale and focus more on things like body fat percentage, measurements, how your clothes feel and how YOU feel instead of a number on a piece of equipment. This is why the transition from weight loss to fat loss is as much of a mental and behavioural shift than anything else. You have to switch from a weight loss mindset to learning how to fuel and manage your body so you can achieve your goals.

I hope that shed a little light on the difference between the two and maybe it’s even helped you to understand why you may or may not be achieving your health and fitness goals. You really need to eat and train for your specific goals as there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach!



Image courtesy of marin /

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