The Surprising Difference Between Weight Loss and Fat Loss

fat loss vs weight loss

After a week of healthy eating, you step on the scale, find it hasn’t budged, and you feel so frustrated. Ugh! And you wonder why weight loss has to be so darn challenging. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be.

While numbers on the scale are a common marker of weight loss, they don’t tell the whole story. 

Lose The Fat

 is fat loss the same as weight loss

When you step on your scale and see you’ve lost five pounds, you may not know if you’ve lost fat, water, bone, or muscle. But when it comes to your health, that information is vital. Why? Because your final goal isn’t a certain number on the scale, it’s to be healthy. And to achieve a healthy state, you want to incinerate excess fat – especially the dangerous visceral fat around your organs – and keep your muscle.

The healthy body fat range for men is 10 to 15-percent, and for women, it’s 20 to 25-percent. You may not know it, but the excess fat on your body can have a negative effect on your overall health and wellness. Here’s why:

  • Too much body fat can put you at risk for chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure.
  • Fat covers and hides your muscles. And it’s your muscles that make your body feel firm and gives your body shape and definition.
  • Excess body fat can cause you to feel fatigued.
  • A surplus of fat can make you want to move less, which only contributes to excess body fat.

Small numbers on the scale do not necessarily mean that the person has a healthy fat range. While looking quite slim, some people may still have a high percentage of visceral fat around their organs and may have the same health issues as overweight people.

Is Fat Loss the Same as Weight Loss?

So, weight loss is when you reduce your overall body weight, and fat loss is when you reduce your body fat percentage. When you lose fat, you’ll often lose weight at the same time. 

Let’s simplify the processes in your body to get the idea. Theoretically, if you lose five pounds of body fat but you don’t gain any muscle, then your scale will show you weigh five pounds less than you did before. In other words, you lost weight, and it came from your fat stores. In reality, these two numbers won’t be equal, since the scale numbers may be affected by other reason, like water loss or retention, digestion process, and even the time of the day. 

But, if you participate in a strength training regimen to gain muscle while your working to lose fat, your scale may not budge at all. Here’s why: If you gain five pounds of muscle and lose five pounds of fat at the same time, your weight will stay the same. 

In this scenario, your scale number may not change. But, you did become a stronger, healthier person with a lower body fat percentage, and you increased your metabolism. And that’s a good thing.

Body Composition and Weight

difference between weight loss and fat loss

As body composition changes, typically your weight will as well. Muscle is denser than fat, meaning one pound of muscle takes up far less space than one pound of fat. A fit, muscular person who appears lean may weigh much more than someone who looks bigger.

Muscle is vital to your health, and the more muscle you have, the easier it will be for you to stay lean. Muscle tissue is active, and it burns calories even when you’re at rest. The more muscle you have, the higher number of calories you’ll torch. In other words, you’ll have a higher metabolism.

Also, as you exercise more, your bone density increases which means your bones will become heavier. Your bones make up approximately 15% of your body weight, so that may be quite a big contributor to the scale numbers.


If you want to lose weight, don’t focus so much on what your scale says. Or use the smart scales to calculate your fat percentage to give you a starting point. 

The best practice is to focus on eating healthy and exercising regularly instead of watching your scale numbers. Measure your success via energy, performance, and body composition, and let go of the untrustworthy numbers on the scale.

Author's bio

Janet Ashforth

Janet Ashforth

Janet is a Health and Wellness Leader, Anti-aging Specialist, Writer, and Editor who has helped countless individuals improve their health. She’s got two decades of experience and is a former Personal Trainer, Massage Therapist, and the author of “The Last F*cking Weight Loss Book You’ll Ever Need.”