Fat loss requires a very different thought process compared to weight loss. These distinctions get lost on many people, yet are perhaps the most important concepts to understand in switching to a fat loss mindset. 

Here are the five key thought differences between followers of the fat loss lifestyle and weight loss followers.

#1: Calories have more than one destination

Weight loss practitioners have a singular focus and see calories as directly related to fat. They believe if calories are lowered, fat is lost; and if calories are raised, fat is gained. Fat loss seekers understand that calories are related to not just fat but also sugar (glycogen) and muscle stores. In other words, there is more than one destination for a calorie, and choices determine which dominates.

Decrease calories, and you may lose fat. But, you may also lose muscle. 

Increase calories, and you may gain fat, but you could instead gain muscle. 

The type of activity you choose goes a long way to determine which occurs. This is one reason weight training becomes the dominant form of exercise in the fat loss lifestyle, because it is the only form of activity that drives extra calories into muscle gain.

#2: Food is information

Fat loss seekers see food differently. A doughnut and a chicken breast have the same number of calories, but they realize the macro-nutrient ratio (protein vs. carbs vs. fat) has a lot to do with the metabolic outcome. 

One food will give sustained energy and more favorably impact muscle metabolism. The other will provide less consistent energy and speak more to your fat than your muscle. Quality of food matters to fat loss people, while weight loss people only see amounts.

#3: Every action has a compensatory reaction

People who focus on weight loss look at meals as separate and distinct. 

Breakfast has nothing to do with lunch, which is separate from dinner. 

Practitioners of the fat loss lifestyle know choices at one meal directly impact choices and metabolic outcomes at the next meal. Choosing to have a tiny salad for lunch or skipping an afternoon snack to save on calories has consequences later. 

Fat loss seekers know this. 

They can connect the dots between eating less all day and insatiable cravings for sweet, fatty foods later. Weight loss practitioners seem to ignore these events, never being consciously aware that their very approach to dieting is the cause of their hunger, cravings, lows in energy, and eventual weight gain rebound.

The same concept applies to exercise. 

To weight-loss-minded people: exercise as long as possible; after all, it takes 250 calories to offset the 1/2 of a Snickers bar they just ate. What they don’t realize is that the wrong choice of exercise makes them far more likely to eat 500 calories of junk food later that day. 

Fat loss seekers realize the amount and type of exercise have food consequences that matter. Exercise and diet are not separate.

This same concept applies to stress and sleep. They have no calories, but the compensatory reactions they create impact how much we eat, what we crave, and whether we feel motivated to move. Weight loss thinking can not combat the impact of stress and sleep deprivation.

#4: Shades of gray

Fat loss practitioners know certain foods are fine for some but don’t work for others. They don’t see the rules of nutrition as black and white, but rather gray. 

A weight-loss person will choose a diet Coke because it has zero calories. A fat loss seeker may or may not choose the same thing based on what it does to them.

They are attuned to the way food impacts them. Diet Coke may cause cravings in some, and a fat loss person will honor this individual reaction. 

Many healthy foods will be avoided by some practitioners of the fat loss lifestyle because while it may work for some, they are aware it does not work for them.

#5: Fat loss seekers care less about what they weigh

Because gaining muscle also means gaining weight, fat loss seekers don’t focus too much on their weight. They instead look at the tightness and tone of the body. They realize a pound of fat and muscle weigh the same, but muscle takes up less space on the body. 

A fat loss seeker can look 130 but weigh 150, and they are ok with that. 

Weight loss people obsess over the scale and are confused about how they can gain or lose 5 pounds in one day. Fat loss people know this is water, and it bothers them far less. They measure body fat, not just weight, and pay attention to the muscle to fat ratio. They would rather be tight and firm vs. skinny and flabby.