Weight Loss vs Fat Loss: Why You Don’t Want to Be the Skinniest Fat Person Around

The FIRM Master Instructor Team by The FIRM Master Instructor Team | November 7th, 2011 | 8 Comments
topic: Fitness, Health & Wellness, Healthy Eating, Weight Loss

Woman struggling with her weightby The FIRM Master Instructor Kelsie Daniels

I said in a past blog that I prefer to be a lean 145 pounds versus a plain ol’ 145 pounds. A lean 145 just looks better … tighter, smaller, stronger, FIRMer, and, well … leaner! I would take that one step further and say that most of us would also feel better if we were leaner instead of just smaller!

When your goal is “weight loss,” you want to lower the actual amount that you weigh; in other words, you want to see the number on the scale go down. A goal of “fat loss” involves the desire to lower your body fat — the actual amount of visible and invisible fat you carry on and inside your body. People who want to lose weight probably need to lose body fat as well, so I say why not just go for a “two for one” and make fat loss your goal and get some weight loss as an added benefit?

There are downsides to just focusing on weight loss and doing whatever it takes to get the number on the scale down.

  • The number on the scale can be deceiving. Many factors affect that number, and frankly that number cannot be trusted! Time of day, bloating (too much sodium), bowel and bladder contents, and muscle loss or gain (muscle gain can actually make the scale go up because muscle weighs more that fat) can all affect the number you see on the scale from day to day … even from hour to hour. And who has time to weigh themselves every hour?
  • The number on the scale is irrelevant and not a true indicator of what is going on with your body. Two people can be the same weight (and height), but look and feel completely different. The leaner of the two will look healthier and leaner and will probably feel better.

What are the downsides of fat loss? There really aren’t any! That is if you maintain a healthy, reasonable amount of body fat. Some level of body fat is necessary for many bodily functions. For men a healthy, safe range is 14-17 percent, and for women it is 18-24 percent.

What is the best way to achieve fat loss? Thankfully for us, The FIRM workouts contain the perfect combination to achieve fat loss. Fat loss is best achieved with cardiovascular and resistance training. Cardio alone will probably give you the weight loss, but then you will be “skinny fat.” You have to do the resistance training to get lean. Also you must fuel your body. A car won’t run without gas and your body won’t run without food. So make smart, healthy choices when choosing what you eat.

In conclusion, when people say they want to lose weight, what they probably mean is that they want to look better. They think that getting the number on the scale down will make this happen. Their goal will be better met by losing fat and not just weight. As the title of this article suggests, when your goal is to solely lose weight without the consideration of fat loss, you will not get rid of the unsightly visible fat, or for that matter, the invisible fat! You will look smaller, but you will still have lots of body fat. There are instances where a person is thin, but obese based on their body fat percentage. That is not only “not cute,” but also very unhealthy.

Work out with The FIRM on GaiamTV.com!


  1. This ties back into the old Fit or Fat philosophy — that weight is just a number, and your physical fitness can vary widely at any given weight.

    Dennis Blair | November 13th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  2. I don’t think this makes a whole lot of sense. When people say they want to lose weight, they mean that they want to become a smaller size, lose inches in circumfrence from around their body, and generally cut back on the ‘blubber’. How is that different than fat loss? Do you honestly believe people are specifically dieting to lose muscle mass, but somehow not body fat? I’m fairly certain that’s not even possible. Besides, what makes a person unhappy with the number on the scale is disliking how they look at that number – nobody ever said, “Hey, I look like a sad sack, but the scale says I’m a healthy weight so I don’t want to get in shape.” People don’t think like that. That’s ridiculous.

    Huh | November 18th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  3. Thank you for the post, it give lots of encouragement!

    I really like that idea of maintaining a good balance diet and working, I’m reasonably tall – 5ft 8 and in size 12, I’m not fat, I just wanna better shape, I want thinner thighs and leaner hips, that could be done through the right workout and healthy diet, I dont need no liposuction and surgery!

    autumnbree | May 8th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  4. Great article. I’m 100% in agreement that we are more than just numbers on a scale. While its a useful measure by itself it means little. We need to understand our weight in context to our fitness level. That is also why I am working to lose weight at a slower pace while doing both cardio and resistance training. I don’t want to be the thinnest fat person around. I want to be healthy and strong.

    Jeremy | September 26th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  5. I am a slim person but my belly looks big. I think I have belly fat. What sort of diet should i eat or which work out so that I do not lose wieght on other parts of my body?

    Thank you

    Perry | January 19th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  6. It is true that most people confuse weight loss with fat loss. An athlete doing thorough cardiovascular will cut on the weight but maintain or minimally reduce on the body fat. To burn fat, strength training and resistance conditioning work best especially if the program is well designed to suit the particular individual. Last but not the least, “You must not be thin to be healthy, one can be big bodied but very healthy and strong”

    Chris Thorndike | March 3rd, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  7. This is a great article. Here’s a site where you can learn about how you can discipline yourself when you are working to loss fat. http://www.brainb4body.com/setting-yourself-up-to-dominate-the-fat-loss-discipline-game/

    Chelsea Sawyer | July 26th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  8. Ah, weight loss vs fat loss. A very controversial topic however I agree with your position entirely. Simply losing weight is different than losing weight as weight loss can also be attributed to muscle loss. What good is losing fat if you are losing your muscle content as well! Good read.

    AnthemNutrition | August 5th, 2014 | Comment Permalink

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