A Fat Loss Checklist

This won’t be exhaustive but let me take a few moments this week to give you a rundown of some things I’d like you to know before you start your fat loss journey.

-Not everyone needs to count calories or track macros. If you like the quantitative approach to your food intake, it can be helpful to learn the skill of tracking. Regardless of which food tracking app you elect to use, I normally advise clients to start your process with a goal of weight maintenance. You’ll be asked questions like: age, gender, height, weight and level of activity so that your calories can be calculated. Remember that all numbers given are estimates and none of them are perfect. If you decide to count calories, spend a few days learning how to measure food, weigh food and/or scan UPC codes for the best accuracy you can provide. Unless you truly love tracking your food intake every single day, I believe it’s best used for a short-term snapshot of your current intake so that you can determine where and how you want to make reductions for fat loss.

-Your body does not burn the same amount of calories per day and most conventional smartwatches and cardio machines are inaccurate at estimating what you burn. You’d be much better served to use your exercise as something you check off the list that it was accomplished rather than assuming that you burned 560 calories when you may have only burned 320. Someday (maybe), those smartwatches will be more accurate in estimating expenditure but we’re not there yet.

-You can eat a nutrient rich diet and lose fat or you can eat a nutrient poor diet and lose fat. I’m not encouraging you to do the latter, simply stating that it can and has been done. Ideally, I want you to eat food that is as nutritious as you will enjoy and stick with. If you need room for some “fun foods” and you can still achieve an energy deficit then you’ve got the ideal scenario for fat loss and ultimately living at a maintenance weight you’re happy with.

-I would love for more people to increase their protein intake. Not because I want you to be a bodybuilder but because more protein tends to correlate to greater satiety and fullness cues. This is important when you’re dieting. No one enjoys the feeling of being hungry. You can play with loose ranges of 100-120g of protein on a lower end and see how you feel. That equates to 400-480 calories out of your day. It’s not easy for everyone to do it and even if you can get close to 100g you’ll probably be in a good place.

-Following on the heels of protein, fiber is another component to your diet that can not only assist with overall gut/digestive health but may help you stave off feelings of hunger as well. At least 12g of fiber (from multiple sources) for every 1000 calories you consume is a good minimum. Sources of fiber worth considering: whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, many fruits and most vegetables.

-The jury remains out on how much water you should consume to help with fat loss. It’s not necessarily that X amount of water is the secret it’s that dehydration may make you hungrier. If you need a very simple test that you’ve had enough, the urine test is a good way to go. You’re aiming for light yellow to clear in color (be advised that certain vitamins can make your urine stay brighter for longer).

-It’s a bit of a game in semantics but fat loss done right isn’t really about sustainability. If you do it right, it’s a very short term process leading to a maintenance outcome that IS about sustainability. As for the fat loss part, you need to find a process that you can do consistently enough to get the right results. No one signed up for yo-yo dieting and said: YES, this is what I was born for.

-Some people can do aggressive dieting and have little to no negative outcomes. Many people cannot. If you’re fighting like hell to slash and burn calories every which way you can and your quality of life sucks, then something needs to change.

-There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with slow fat loss. Everyone I’ve ever worked with wants to achieve their fat loss goal yesterday. I’ve found, with rare exception, that the people I’ve worked with who take a slower and more conservative approach to fat loss tend to be really good at keeping the weight off.

-Fat loss does not solve every problem. Some aches and pains will exist even if you lose the weight. Some people will hate their body even if the weight comes off. It sounds very “woo” but if you don’t find something (or several things) to love and respect about your body, fat loss becomes just another avenue giving you the ability to mistreat or speak poorly about your body.

-Even if you’re doing “all the right things” the scale may not reflect the outcomes you want (yet). Be patient, make sure that your actions are in alignment with your goals and track trends over time. For the ladies, the days leading up to and during your period are not a great time to weigh yourself. If you’re “feeling” less bloated after your period, you can try hopping on the scale then for a more accurate measure.

-I can’t overstate how many people have basically ONE area of their diet that’s in the way of their fat loss goals: they snack too much, they keep eating after dinner, they drink too much, they have too many sweets, they dine out too often, etc. That doesn’t mean the problem is easy to change but it does mean that it isn’t more complicated than that. Any diet approach you use, if it doesn’t manage to tackle that ONE area will only end up causing you more frustration. Try tackling the problem first before you drop $25 on a best-selling diet book that’s more fiction than fact.

(Photo courtesy of AllGo)