How is Fat Loss Different from Weight Loss?
Weight loss is a task that’s familiar to many people. Maybe it’s losing the five pounds gained over the holidays that is making your pants uncomfortable. Or perhaps it’s losing weight to improve health. Although the term “weight loss” is commonly used, what most people are actually after is fat loss.
Many weight loss systems, like “detoxes,” take advantage of the phrase “weight loss.” Have you knocked five pounds of weight off at some point by doing a “detox”? Perhaps you know someone who did, and you were tempted to try the same. But, when someone does a detox and loses weight, what is actually lost?
Quick fix methods like detoxes typically make you lose water weight. A “colon cleanse,” for example, usually does just that—it flushes out your colon by drawing water from your body. The weight comes off quickly because water is heavy, and the process is fast. On the scale, it looks temporarily impressive, but losing water weight does nothing to help your health. In fact, quite the opposite.
Methods such as prolonged fasting or very restrictive, low-calorie diets cause some fat loss, but they also come with a lot of muscle loss. Fasting creates a large shortage of energy. Your body needs an influx of energy for your survival. Prolonged fasting forces your body to use its own tissues for energy. Unfortunately, this includes your muscle.
If you have a high body fat percentage, methods that produce fat loss are the best ways to improve health. Having a body fat percentage over 25% for adult men and over 32% for adult women is the definition of obesity, and is associated with increased health risks, including a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and some cancers.
Why Does Fat Loss Improve Health?
High body fat affects health for many reasons:
- The additional body fat puts extra stress on weight-bearing joints like your knees and hips and can cause joint pain.
- The additional body fat weighs you down and makes exercise and movement difficult. Less exercise increases health risk.
- Your fat tissue changes as it grows and secretes more hormones that increase inflammation and insulin resistance.
- Body fat might overflow from growing fat tissue and start to be stored in your skeletal muscle, heart tissue, and liver, making those tissues insulin resistant.
- High body fat increases triglycerides in the blood stream. This increases risk of stroke and heart attacks.
- Additional body fat is like a tax on your cardiovascular system and heart, and both must work harder to support the vascularization of more fat tissue.
Fat loss improves all these health issues. By reducing the amount of fat stored in fat tissue, the essential healthy functions of fat tissue improve. This, in turn, improves the function of other organs and tissues. The result is a healthier body.
If you have questions about whether your body fat percent is healthy, or if you could benefit from fat loss, talk with your doctor. Body fat can be measured using a household scale that includes bioimpedance analysis for body fat estimation. Most stores that carry scales have them available to purchase.
How do Fat Loss Methods Differ from Weight Loss Scams?
Treatments that produce fat loss look different from “weight loss” scams in several ways. Here’s what to look out for:
|Safe Fat Loss Treatments||“Weight Loss” Scams|
|Rate of loss is 1 to 2 lbs per week||Rate of loss can be 5 lbs or more per week|
|Process takes 12 to 16 weeks for meaningful results||Process is typically done within 1 to 4 weeks at most|
|Total weight loss is 5% to 10% of total starting weight||Total weight loss is 1% to 3%|
|Involves a systematic method to produce a moderate reduction in calories||Involves either no reduction in calorie intake or a very extreme reduction|
|Weight regain can be prevented with continued lifestyle modification||Weight regain happens immediately|
A good weight loss program should involve dietary changes that are sustainable. Remember, it takes at least 12 to 16 weeks for a meaningful amount of fat loss to happen for most people. If the program requires a drastic change in most of what is in your kitchen pantry, your cooking ability, the time you spend cooking, the cost of your food, your social eating habits, or your favorite restaurant spots, it can be hard to sustain for that long. Instead, look for a program that helps you eat in a healthier way within the boundaries of your existing lifestyle and food preferences.
Fat loss in many ways costs more time and effort. It takes longer, and it takes more patience. But, like most things, you get what you pay for. Fat loss is safe, and it actually improves your health because you lose body fat, which is the source of many health issues, instead of a temporary “weight loss” gimmick that steals your health.
Finally, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That golden rule of thumb applies to fat loss programs as much as anything else. Avoid wasting your time, money, and health on a temporary “weight loss” gimmick, and instead look for safe and effective fat loss programs.