Introduction: The cellular model of body composition divides the body in body cell mass (BCM), extracellular solids and extracellular fluids. This model has been infrequently applied for the evaluation of weight loss (WL) programmes. Objectives: (1) To assess changes in body compartments in obese men undergoing fasting, very low calorie diet (VLCD) and low calorie diet (LCD); (2) to evaluate two cellular models for the determination of changes in BCM, fat mass (FM) and body fluids. Materials and methods: Three groups of six, obese men participated in a total fast (F) for 6 days, a VLCD (2.5 MJ per day) for 3 weeks or an LCD (5.2 MJ per day) for 6 weeks. Body composition was measured at baseline and after small (~5%) and moderate (~10%) WL. FM was measured using a four-compartment model. Total body water (TBW) and extracellular water (ECW) were, respectively, measured by deuterium and sodium bromide dilution and intracellular water (ICW) calculated by difference. Two cellular models were used to measure BCM, FM and body fluids distribution. Results: After about 5%WL changes in TBW were F=−3.2±1.2 kg (P<0.01), VLCD=−1.2±0.6 kg (P<0.01), LCD=−0.3±0.9 kg(n.s.). The contribution of TBW to total body mass loss was indirectly associated with FM loss. ECW increased during fasting (+1.5±3.1 kg, n.s.), decreased during the VLCD (−2.0±1.5 kg, P<0.05) and remained unchanged at the end of the LCD (−0.3±1.6 kg, n.s.). ICW significantly decreased during fasting (−4.7±3.9 kg, P<0.05) but did not change in the LCD and VLCD groups. The loss of BCM was more significant in the fasting group and it was directly associated with changes in ICW. Conclusions: After a 6-day period of fasting we observed more ICW losses and less fat mobilization compared with VLCD and LCD. The cellular model of body composition is suitable for the characterization of changes in body fluids distribution during WL.