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Weight Loss Vs Fat Loss – Understanding the Difference

After 6 months of calorie counting and deprivation, Lance goes back to the weight loss center for his final weigh in. "Congratulations!" says the weight loss coach. "You've lost 30 pounds on our program. Great job!" What they don't tell him (because they've never bothered to measure it) is that most of the weight he has lost is comprised of muscle and water. They also don't tell him that muscle weighs three times as much as fat and that it is metabolically active (which means it burns calories at rest) or that when total body water levels are low, the body is unhealthy and inefficient.

So everyone leaves the encounter happy and satisfied- and completely unaware of the well intentioned fraud that has just been committed. All because of the unfortunate use of the term "weight loss."

This is not simply a matter of semantics. We find ourselves in the odd situation where an imprecise use of language all but insures a poor outcome for those trying to lose fat and achieve health. The first and greatest mistake of most weight loss programs is that they are termed "weight loss" programs. The phrase is a misnomer and the language itself is hurting us in that it misdirects our focus so that our compasses are off from the very outset of our journey towards leanness and health.

Losing fat results in a loss of weight as measured on a scale; so does losing your wallet. Or your teeth! In fact, losing anything results in a loss of weight as measured on a scale. A scale is simply not the best tool to use for judging leanness and health but as long as we insist upon using the phrase "weight loss", what choice do we have?

The better option is to measure body composition. This is simply a measure of the proportionate mass of each of your body's tissues (fat, water, muscle and bone). Thanks to modern technology, these devices are readily available and affordable. As an added bonus, many of them will even tell you your weight!

Leanness and lightness are not the same thing. Water is heavy. Muscle is heavy. Fat is comparatively light.

The definition of weight is ”the gravitational force exerted by an object upon another object” – in this case the earth. The significance of this for our purposes is pretty much who cares? We want to be lean, that is, without extra fat hanging from places where it has no business.

As previously mentioned, Lean tissue (muscle) weighs three times as much as fat. It is also metabolically active (which means it burns calories at rest), healthier, and way sexier. A program which does not distinguish between weight loss and fat loss will likely result in a greater proportional loss of muscle and water weight. This will have a negative effect on your metabolism, energy level and long term success.

The concepts of weight loss and fat loss are related. So are Eric and Julia Roberts but how many of us would have seen Pretty Woman if Eric had gotten the lead? Close enough is not good enough! Losing pounds is great, but the next time you set out to accomplish this, please ask yourself this one question... pounds of what?


Dr. David Rendelstein offers an all-natural, fully customized scientific approach to fat burning, weight loss and improved health, with offices in Cranford, Marlboro and Toms River. For more information, please call 908.325.5192.

This article appears in the January issue of Natural Awakenings Monmouth/Ocean edition. Please click here to subscribe, or download the entire issue below.


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