The difference between weight loss & fat loss!

Updated: Mar 17

women resistance training

Often clients will come to me and say 'Tom I want to lose weight'. But what does this really mean?

In my opinion there is a massive difference between just losing weight compared to reducing body fat, increasing muscle mass, improving cardiovascular fitness and overall health! One will actually produce the results you want, while the other one will leave you feeling disappointed and chasing even greater but unnecessary weight loss.

My beef with 'diets'!

I am all for people trying to improve their health and for the majority of people this can drastically improve from losing weight. However, there are too many diets on the market that actually promote negative mindsets and offer no education.

For example Slimming World rewards a member who has lost the most weight each week. All this is doing is rewarding the individuals who has the greatest amount of weight to lose. With up to 60% of the body made up of water, they are basically giving a pat on the back for the person with the greatest loss of water. Meanwhile another member who has less weight to lose and therefore less water retention is sent away and told to try harder next week.

This develops poor relationships with diets and offers no education on how to lose weight! Our weight on the scales is just one small way of measuring our progress and should not be used as judgement day.

Not appreciating the difference between water loss and fat loss seems to be a common theme found across the majority of popular diets along with the lack of acknowledgement of energy balance.

So how do I achieve fat loss?

Unlike water loss, fat loss is a lot more slower process and can also be harder to measure. It is reported that roughly 3500 calories is equivalent to one pound of body fat and this is where the goal of a 500 calorie deficit a day comes from. Now there are many variables that prevents this from being black and white, but it a great bench mark to start with.

Exercise should also be introduced to not only help enhance the calorie deficit but allow you to increase your muscle mass and improve your body composition. In particular resistance training allowing you to achieve a toned looking body.

A study in 2015 concluded that 'protocols utilizing exercise were more effective than those that employed just a hypocaloric diet.' They also found that in particular the best combination was diet and resistance training.

A meta analysis published in 2018 found that resistance training prevented loss of lean body mass by 95%!

Research also suggests that a adequate protein intake can also help reduce muscle loss along with resistance training.


Anyone who is overweight weight loss should always be your number one goal because this alone will have the biggest positive factor on your acute health. However, if you have a longer term goal of improving health and your body composition, exercise should be a primary focus alongside a calorie deficit. In particular your exercise should include resistance training.

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