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Fat Loss or Weight Loss: Which Should You Target?

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Weight Loss related image Photo: Getty Images

The short answer is that both fat loss and weight loss are important. You should be trying to burn fat and lose weight. Ready for the long answer? Read the rest of this article.

The advertising giants give us the easy answers we want to hear when it comes to weight loss. The most popular advertising line by far goes something like “lose 20 pounds in 10 days.” Advertisers know its human nature to seek the easiest path to success. So, they feed it to us like hungry puppies and they keep getting richer. Meanwhile, our nation gets fatter as a whole.

Here’s my question for you: do you really want to improve your health and transform your body? It will take longer than you think and you will have to work harder than ever to accomplish your goals.

But, I don’t know anyone who regrets working hard and overcoming obstacles to look and feel better. I know plenty of people wasting money on weight loss pills, fad diets and fitness gadgets.

Burn body fat, burn body fat, burn body fat ... get the idea? Body fat, especially belly fat, is the real danger to your health.

In a WebMD article excerpt, “Belly Fat Doubles Death Risk,” it states:

"Researchers followed about 360,000 Europeans enrolled in one of the largest, longest health studies in the world."

"They found that people with the most belly fat had about double the risk of dying prematurely as people with the least amount of belly fat."

"Death risk increased with waist circumference, whether the participants were overweight or not."

The study provides some of the strongest evidence yet linking belly fat to early death, says lead author Tobias Pischon, MD, MPH. It appears in the Nov. 12 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

"Our study shows that accumulating excess fat around your middle can put your health at risk even if your weight is normal," Pischon said. "There aren't many simple individual characteristics that can increase a person's risk of premature death to this extent, independent of smoking and drinking."

How many times have you heard me say fat loss is more important than weight loss? And, the most effective way to burn fat and keep the weight off is no big secret. Its healthy, managed nutrition and regular exercise.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that losing weight and body fat with diet and exercise are more effective when done together. Doing either one alone is not as effective. The results of this randomized trial, led by Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Prevention Center and a member of the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division, were published online April 14 in Obesity.

According to the Hutchinson study, the majority of women who both improved their diet and exercised regularly shed an average of nearly 11 percent of their starting weight, which exceeded the study's goal of a 10 percent or more reduction in body weight.

Here are my tips to burn total body fat and keep the weight off:

1. Start a healthy meal plan filled with whole, natural foods. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low-fat diary products and whole grains fit the bill. Severely limit sugars, fast foods, processed foods and foods in a box or bag.

Base your daily caloric intake on your basal metabolic rate and your daily activity. This way, you won't eat too much or too little (severe calorie restriction). You need to maintain a daily caloric deficit to burn fat and lose weight.

2. Start building muscle mass and burning fat at the same time. You must change your body's composition to more muscle and less fat. This will speed up your metabolism and help you burn more calories every day.

Your body will also shrink because muscle takes up less space than fat. Over time, you will begin to lose weight and the weight will stay off. Do full body circuit strength training 3 times a week, about 30-40 minutes a session. When you get really good at it, 20-minute strength training sessions will be enough to get the job done.

3. I recommend doing interval cardio sessions (about 20 minutes a session) 2-3 times a week. Sprint interval cardio works best, especially on inclines on grass.

Bodyweight exercise interval cardio also works well. You might have to work up to being able to do 20-minute sessions. If you are doing 60-minute cardio sessions, stop now! It is wasting your time and precious muscle mass.

If you have stubborn fat areas like lower abdominal fat, you can do extra strength exercises on cardio days to address those areas. Never do spot training only. It doesn't work. Aim to burn total body fat first and local area fat second.

Ready! Get started already!


WebMD article, “Belly Fat Doubles Death Risk”


Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, study led by Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D.


The National Cancer Institute funded the research, which also involved investigators from the University of Washington School of Medicine, the NCI Office of Cancer Survivorship, the University of British Columbia and Harvard Medical School.

Reviewed August 5, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

Mark Dilworth, BA, PES, CPT is a Certified Personal Trainer and former NCAA Division I athlete. Mark is the owner of My Fitness Hut, Her Fitness Hut, Sports Fitness Hut and My Nutrition Hut. Mark’s Fat Blaster Athletic Training System has been proven to give his clients the fit, sculpted and athletic-type bodies they want. Visit Mark’s main site:

Your Fitness University http://yourfitnessuniversity.com

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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