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What's the Difference Between Weight Loss and Fat Loss?

What's the Difference Between Weight Loss and Fat Loss?
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

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Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 8 min read

Many people aspire to lose weight. Losing weight approves one’s appearance and overall health. However, weight loss and fat loss are not the same thing. 

Weight loss is a reduction in overall body weight, but fat loss is a decrease in weight that results from a loss of fat mass. Weight loss in itself comes from a loss of weight coming from muscle, fat, and water. 

When you lose weight, it can be difficult to discern whether the pounds you’ve shed come from a loss of body fat or weight that is extracted from other tissues in the body. Losing weight due to a loss of fat is healthier than losing weight due to muscle or tissue loss. 

When does weight loss occur?

According to Healthline, weight loss occurs when you burn more calories than you consume on a daily basis. Weight gain, on the other hand, takes place when you consume more calories than you burn each day. If you drink beverages that contain calories, you are increasing your likelihood of gaining weight. Drinking beverages that are high in calories contributes to your daily consumption of calories. When you drink beverages that are high in calories, you increase your daily caloric intake.

Drinking water in place of calorie-filled beverages makes you feel full. Because water has weight but no calories, it’s a win-win situation for those who want to lose weight or maintain their current weight. When you drink water, you feel and hydrated, while drinking a beverage without calories. This can lead to weight loss or weight maintenance, depending on what your ultimate goal may be. The number of calories you burn is also known as your calorie expenditure. Calorie intake refers to the number of calories you consume each day. 

What about calorie intake and calorie expenditure? How are they different?

Your calorie intake and calorie expenditure are a little more complicated than you may expect. Your daily intake of calories depends on a number of factors. Your optimal calorie intake is dependent on your metabolism, age, and level of physical activity. According to experts, women should aim to consume 2,000 calories per day, while men should consume 2,500 calories each day. 

In simple terms, calorie expenditure is an estimate of the number of calories you burn per day. The amount of exercise you get will impact the number of calories you burn. Your physical characteristics also impact your daily calorie expenditure. Knowing the difference between these two terms can help you in your weight loss and maintenance endeavors. What other factors influence weight loss?  

According to experts, the thermic effect of activity or TEA plays a role in weight loss. The thermic effect of activity refers to calories you burn when you exercise. You can burn calories even when you’re not working out. In fact, just about any physical activity causes you to burn calories. You expend calories when you partake in activities, such as yard work, and by simply moving around. Calories burned by performing daily tasks also affect weight loss.

What is fat loss?

In simple terms, fat loss is any reduction in weight you experience when you burn fat through diet and exercise. How much fat you lose will ultimately depend on a number of factors, including your lifestyle. You can tell you are losing fat when you experience a number of symptoms. These include the following:

  • Your clothes are looser

  • You see muscle definition

  • You are not continually hungry

  • An improved sense of well-being

In addition to this, you can tell you’re losing fat if your body measurements change. You may also experience a reduction in chronic pain. Your bathroom habits may also change. You may find that you are running to the bathroom more or less often than you usually do. You may also find that your blood pressure lowers. 

Your clothes are looser

You may find that you don’t have to struggle to get your clothes to fit. You may actually see that your clothes are looser, even before the number on your scale changes. This can be a great motivator that encourages you to continue with your current fat loss efforts. 

Muscle definition 

Although it takes time, you typically see muscle definition within the first few weeks or month of trying to lose fat. Of course, how much muscle definition you see will depend on the type of exercise you have incorporated into your workout routine. One 2019 study found that young women acquired “more muscle mass in their legs” when they repeated leg curls and bench presses. 

These women were successful when they used a lighter load. As a result, they saw a noticeable change in muscle definition.   

You are not continually hungry

You may lose weight, because you’ve changed your style of eating. Maybe you’ve incorporated more protein and fewer fats and carbohydrates into your diet. Doing this makes you feel full more quickly. Amino acids send feelings of satisfaction to your brain, and you are inclined to eat less. You typically feel more satisfied when you get protein from plant-based sources, instead of animal-based ones.

Improved well-being 

 Losing weight can improve your overall well-being. Those who lose fat typically are less depressed, have more self-control, and have more energy than those who are not trying to lose fat. After six months of dieting to lose fat, few people see significant results. Most people begin to see noticeable results after 12 months of dieting to lose fat.  

But how does fat leave your body? According to top experts, the body gets rid of fat through several metabolic processes. Fat is removed from your body through water. Water is excreted through the skin when you sweat. It is also expelled from your body through urine. Your lungs also play an active role in disposing of fat, as water is expelled through your lungs when you breathe. 

Fat cells in the body are equipped to store energy. The body burns calories when it is at rest. When you are resting, your body needs these calories, so your brain can think, and your heart can beat. 

Your body needs calories to perform physical activities, such as running a race and rising from a chair, experts say. You also need calories to eat. Your body requires calories to store and digest food properly. 

Where does body fat go when you diet? When you’re on a diet, your body consumes significantly fewer calories than it needs for optimal functioning. When your body recognizes a calorie deficit, it uses fat stores as a source of energy. 

But how does weight loss differ from fat loss? Your body weight is impacted by a number of factors. Your body weight is affected by the number of calories you consume and the amount of activity in which you partake. Sometimes weight loss is intentional, especially when you are dieting. Conversely, weight loss can be unintentional. 

Unintentional weight loss often occurs as a result of an illness or other factor beyond your control. Diseases, such as chronic depression and cancer, can lead to unintentional weight loss. Weight loss can be caused by other conditions, which include the following:

  • Chronic pancreatitis

  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome

  • Malnutrition

  • Certain medications

However, there may be situations when weight loss can lead to a serious medical condition. A condition called cachexia or wasting can cause excessive weight loss, even if you are getting the right number of calories. Excessive weight loss can significantly impact your health, and in some cases, may lead to death. 

Because all bodily systems are affected, excessive weight loss can hinder your immune response and healing processes. Kidney function and your muscle strength may also be weakened as a result of consuming an insufficient number of calories.  

However, it’s important to know the symptoms of losing weight too quickly. Those who lose weight too quickly and unintentionally may experience a loss of appetite, fever, constipation, or diarrhea. Additionally, one may experience abdominal pain or a smaller physical stature. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), weight loss does not necessarily need to be the result of a program or diet. Instead, it should be a lifestyle that utilizes healthy eating habits, stress management, and regular exercise. 

Losing weight comes with a number of benefits. Experts assert that even a weight loss between five and 10 percent of your body weight can produce a number of benefits, including lower blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels, and stable blood sugar levels. Although a weight loss of five percent produces only a small amount of weight loss, it still decreases your risk of developing obesity-related health conditions.

These conditions can be debilitating and significantly life-altering. By lowering your blood sugar levels, you can reduce your risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It can also improve the health of your cardiovascular system.   

How weight loss affects your heart 

Losing weight improves your heart health, allowing it to pump blood more efficiently through the body.  

Healthy weight loss reduces your risk of developing conditions that are linked to being overweight or obese. Losing weight also has a significant impact on your blood pressure. When you’re overweight, the body must work extra hard to pump blood through your system. This can result in problems, such as heart disease, kidney damage, and stroke. 



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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.