There’s a big difference between losing weight and losing fat. When you lose weight, you’re not only losing fat but also muscle, fluids and organ size. The truth is the number on the scale doesn’t tell the whole story.

It’s possible to get thinner or leaner without actually seeing a change in your weight – which is why you should ultimately be working toward fat loss.

Knowing the difference between losing weight and losing body fat can change how you see yourself, your progress and perhaps how you view yourself and your body.

Change how you measure your success

Besides the number you see on the scale, you can use other methods to track your progress. It’s important to do this to help you realize that you are making changes, no matter what the scale says.

Go by how your clothes fit

If they fit you better and more loosely in the places that you want, then you know you're on the right track. Once a month, try on specific articles of clothing and make notes about how they fit. Use the same clothing each month and use this a benchmark for your progress. You can also try taking a photo of yourself wearing these benchmark items and track your progress visually.

Take your measurements

Measuring your body at different points helps you figure out if you are losing fat. Here’s what you should be tracking:

  • Waist - Find your natural waist or the narrowest part of the torso. Typically, the waistline is the circumference around torso level with the belly button.
  • Hips - This is the widest part of your glutes. Try looking in a mirror while standing sideways. Make sure the tape is parallel to the floor.
  • Chest - Stand with feet together and the torso straight and find the widest part around your bust.
  • Arms - Stand up straight with the arm relaxed and find the midpoint between the shoulder bone and the elbow of one arm.
  • Thighs - The midpoint between the bottom crease of the buttock with the middle of your knee, or the widest part of the thigh.
  • Calves - Halfway between the knee and the ankle.

Measure your body fat  

Use a scale that measures body fat. These scales are readily available at a variety of different price points, or one may be available at your gym. They will provide you with a more accurate view of whether you are losing fat and gaining muscle, by telling you specifically about body fat percentage. 

Set performance goals

Instead of worrying about the number you see on a scale – or for that matter fat loss, focus on what you’re doing to accomplish your goals for improving your health and overall fitness. Your brain is focusing on gaining versus losing and that feeds your mind with a winning mindset – a far more positive approach and lifestyle.

For example, you can set goals for the number of times you go to the gym or number of workouts you successfully complete. You can set goals for specific exercises and track how many repetitions of a certain exercise you can do, like the number of push-ups you can do at a time or how long you can run without stopping.

These are tangible goals, which have you focusing on what you wish to gain or achieve versus lose. Not only that, the achievements you see will give you more of that instant gratification the scale doesn't.