Losing Weight vs. Fat Loss



Let’s make this simple. Weight is a meaningless number. Sure, if you weigh in excess of 300 pounds, the number has some meaning, and the meaning is your dangerously obese! I’m not talking about you. You already know you need to lose weight and there is an entirely separate struggle there.

I’m talking about the people in the picture above. The rest of us. The ones that fixate on the number on the scale, promising ourselves that we’ll eat less until we drop that 20 pounds. You know, the stupid ones.

Yes, the stupid ones.

It’s not how much you weigh that matters. It’s the composition of fat, muscle, and other stuff that matters. You have virtually no control over the other stuff – bones, organs, skin, etc, but you have complete control over the other two, muscle mass and fat percentage.

Let’s talk about that one.


Look at the picture above once again. The healthy ideal for men is 10 – 15%. For women, it’s 20 – 25%. Look again at the picture. Now envision yourself in those ranges. It’s important to have clear and tangible goals. Take one more look. Do you think they got there from not eating? Or eating less? Or using this diet or that diet?

The answer is no.

They actually ate more. And worked out with beast-like intensity. And it paid off.

How do we get there?


Ah… the age of sensationalism. Where people make ridiculous claims based on unproven theories and non real world results.

And perhaps, right about now, you’re thinking that I’m about to rake you over the coals with some “magic” fat loss formula that only exists in Peter Pan land or that can only be achieved by those with no job and no social life. Nope. Not even close.

What I’m about to share with you is the result of over 2 years of tweaking and is proven to work in a “free range” environment… and never fails.

It doesn’t require that you understand hormones, to boost the male sex hormone, for instance… it doesn’t require that you understand how fat is oxidized… it doesn’t require you understand the difference between protein, carbs, and fats…

In fact, it’s like driving a car. You likely don’t understand how power steering works, or the flame speed of gasoline, or whether the engine represents an adiabatic, nonisentropic process or not, or whether the fuel mixture is “rich” or “lean” or in stoichiometric proportions, or the drag coefficient of your car… because you don’t need to.

You just know that if you put the key in (or push the button), shift out of park and hit the gas, you get the result you want.

But, just in case you are a fanatic about the hormones, etc of fat loss, the method I’m getting ready to show you naturally takes all of this into account, without you even having to worry about it. I repeat. It all is naturally accounted for… without any extra focus on your part.

And again, it’s been tested relentlessly over thousands of people in the free range. (Free range = people do it for themselves with no exterior coaching or accountability… it’s all on them. Having a personal trainer or diet coach looking over you is not free range)

It’s also “healthy”. So far, every person that’s gotten all of their “health” measurements checked have come back “normal” or “above normal”… which I guess is the only way you can truly measure “health”.

Also, I promise you this: Although this process isn’t magic… it will surely feel like it is. Just give it a week and test it out.

Okay, let’s get started.

First, we need to understand the “primary driver” of fat loss… and there is only one. It is simply: Fat loss requires a caloric deficit over time. Create it however you want but regardless of the how… the deficit must be achieved in order for fat loss to occur. It is a non-negotiable law.

In fact, it’s really the only rule of fat loss, everything else, all of the methods (even this one) are governed by this rule. They must all fit inside this bucket in order to work. This is why there are so many diet books and programs… they all can pretty much “work” as long as they don’t violate this rule. Yet, most methods fail because they don’t allow for the 2nd step in this method.

Second, you need to understand and map out your lifestyle constraints. You need to do this. Before you figure out how you want to tackle fat loss, you have to understand the “rate limiting steps” of your life. Face it, if you’re slammed all day, have limited financial resources, with 7 kids and the nearest gym is 40 miles away, you have different constraints than a person with no kids, a gym next door, no job because they were left a fortune and have all the time in the world.

Yet, many plans and programs superimpose the plan that “works” for person B on person A and expect it to work… and blame your laziness or willpower when it doesn’t because the plan is (cough) proven. This is akin to one person being able to dunk a basketball on a 20 foot goal on the moon, and another person not being able to dunk an 8 foot goal on earth… even though they did the same exercise program.

Not only do initial conditions matter (where you start)… but the constraints and build up of your life matter as well.

You need to identify your constraints and work them into your plan, not try to expend all of this energy trying to eliminate the constraint. Face it. You have certain responsibilities in your life and some things even though you could change them, the energy it would take to change them is so much, it’s not worth it. And, guess what. You don’t have to.

What about exercise? How much time can you create a week for it? How do you fit it in? As an aside, at this stage, you can’t worry about local optimums or whether something is the “best” way or if certain times are better than others. At this stage, you have to get a handle on the hand you’re working with, not wish for another hand. Also, if certain times of the day were the only times that you could exercise for results, personal trainers would be really expensive because they’d only be able to work you out between 7am and 8am each day. There would be no other time slots… think about that.

Ultimately, this is called “Seeing The Battlefield” and your ability to do this will determine your success or failure.

Now, after we’ve determined all of our “lifestyle constraints” – oh, and these could be “health constraints” as well like diabetes, a broken foot, etc. Funny that people and coaches tend to take “health” constraints seriously but tend to overlook and ‘blame game’ lifestyle constraints with accusations of willpower deficiency, etc. Trust me when I say that no one ever needs willpower to continue doing something that is effortlessly working for them… this is an important thing to know, as we’ll soon see.

Next, we have to set up our measurement protocols and goals. How are we going to determine our results? How are we going to measure our progress and most importantly… where do the errors in any measurements occur?

Here’s a fact:

All conventional (ie accessible to you… not in a lab) measurements for both caloric intake and caloric burn have error rates that are completely unacceptable in all other scientific and engineering research. Where as most error rates in other fields need to be less than 0.1% of the unit of measurement to be “acceptable”, measurements for both caloric intake (labels, etc) and caloric burn (calorie counters on machines, body bugs, and other formulas) have error rates that can exceed 30%!

For example, you could read your food labels and think you’re getting 1000 calories of food, but because of “rounding” on the labels and maybe your servings were larger than the average ‘batch size’, you could very easily consume 300 calories more than you think. Couple that with thinking you burned 1000 calories in a workout when you only burned 200… and you can see how crazy this gets.

Naturally, some people may say, “Well, I’ll just get a food scale and measure my food” – and that’s completely fine – unless you have a time or money constraint and can’t make it work in your life.

This is why we determine constraints first… before we decide on plan of attack. You can’t have an aerial bombing run if you’ve got no planes, right?

Now, because of the insane errors that occur with all forms of calorie counting (both in and out)… work with the following guidelines and frame-work.

  1. Assume that the amount of calories you are burning through exercise is lower than you think.
  2. Assume that the amount of calories you are taking in through food is higher than you think.
  3. Assume that you cannot and will not drop any fat without some sort of dietary controls on food volume.
  4. Assume that you can lose body fat through calorie restriction alone (ie no exercise needed)

Now, I can go through rigorous proofs on how this all really works but lets just say that exercise alone generally causes compensatory effects in most people (ie sleep longer, take a nap, eat more) when the other variables aren’t strictly controlled.

So, what’s the easiest way to wrap all of this up into one nice little guideline to follow?

Free Range Guideline:

Assume that exercise and daily activity burns no extra calories in your day and use your calculated BMR as your calorie starting point for the day

Sure, sounds harsh, but it actually makes more sense than you’d think.

  1. If exercise introduces a compensating effect, then the calories you ‘burned’ off could be re-injected at some point during the day.
  2. Exercise generally burns fewer calories than you think – unless you’re exercising more than 2 hours a day, which goes back to our constraints.

Therefore, we can effectively view the calories burned by exercise as a ‘wash’ for all practical purposes and in fact, with the errors involved, is really the only way you can be sure you have a handle on this part of the equation.

So, for example, I just went to a BMR calculator and got that my BMR is roughly 1861 calories burned per day. I just rounded up for simplicity and use 1900 as my “base number”.

Now that I have my base number… which is the only number I’ll need… I just multiply this number by 7 to get my maximum weekly caloric load.

1900 x 7 = 13300 calories per week

So, now we see that I have a maximum budget of 13300 calories per week and still lose some fat. Because of our assumptions, this will be a little lower than your maintenance in general, but it guarantees you’re under the bar for all practical purposes.

Next, we apply our constraints.

Applying your constraints to exercise generally yields this recommendation:

Weight training is your foundation… cardio is your “extra”. If you have a time constraint on either days you can work out or time periods or both, weight training will always take precedence over cardio work unless another constraint prevents it (broken bones, etc).

We can go over the “health benefits” another day but for all practical purposes, most people hate cardio… so they won’t do it… lol. (pseudo constraint)

Now, remember, exercise is not necessary for fat loss… so don’t get your panties in a bunch if this is a toughy for you. If you can’t workout for a week straight, no biggie, just work with the “diet” portion and inject your workouts back in when you’re able.

Applying your constraints to “diet” will likely look like this:

  1. What are the lifestyle constraints? These include work, kids, time, and social activities. Dropping body fat for most people represents a social problem and most plans fail when you get around the pressures of others. More on this in a bit.
  2. What are your food constraints? What do you like to eat? What do you hate to eat? What about drinks? Hate water? etc. If your plan requires you to eat things that you don’t like, you won’t stick with it, let’s be honest and upfront about this.
  3. Establish scenarios where willpower may be needed due to “aroused” states and eliminate or incorporate these scenarios into your program. In other words, if you have plans to meet your friends at a sports bar to watch the game and you like beer, either account for this proactively in your plan or don’t go. Never let willpower be the thing keeping you on target when you can take care of it ahead of time. This is important. Your fat loss strategy should not be willpower driven.
  4. Take your maximum weekly caloric load and subtract out 3500 x the ideal number of pounds of fat you’d like to drop that week. I say ideal because with all of the error built-in plus the fact that we’re likely going to “eyeball” our food for the week with guess-timations, and the fact that our daily “targets” are more “beacons” than exact numbers, this works well.So for me, I subtracted out 7000 calories (2 pounds of fat) per week to give me a “balance” of around 6500 calories per week to consume. Sounds rough doesn’t it? Hey, it’s your plan and you can adjust however you want as long as it’s something you can stick with… that’s the key if you haven’t noticed. This whole process of deriving your plan has nothing to do with hormones and local optimums and everything to do with the deficit you can stick to over time.
  5. Take your “adjusted” caloric load, apply your constraints to it, and map out your week. For example, I know that Fridays is Date Night and its important for me to be social. I know Saturdays I am on my own at home and it’s easy to cheat. So, I start there and wrap everything else around these two things.

I’m not going to “best case scenario” my plan on willpower and assume that I won’t want a few drinks. What if I see a friend that I haven’t seen in a while? Instead of willpowering my way through, I just build this in. So lets say Saturday is a 2000 calorie day. That’s the “allotment”. That leaves me 4500 calories for the rest of the week.

Next, I assume that on average, each dinner meal for the rest of the week is going to be about 500 calories give or take… so that’s 3000 calories out as well.

That leaves me 1500 calories to spread throughout the week.

I’m particularly fortunate as I never miss breakfast, and always pack meals to take with me to work/play/etc. Your constraints may be different.

Here’s my general fat loss plan for myself:

  • Monday: 500 calories (dinner only)
  • Tuesday: 1000 calories (lunch and dinner or all dinner)
  • Wednesday: 500 calories (dinner only)
  • Thursday: 1000 calories (lunch and dinner or all dinner)
  • Friday: 500 calories (dinner only)
  • Saturday: 2000 calories (lunch, dinner, maybe some drinks)
  • Sunday: 1000 calories (lunch and dinner, or all dinner)

I get a regular six days of exercise in. 20-30 minutes of walking to read and clear my head per day and 45-60 of weight training with an additional 20 minutes for HIIT and core … but sometimes I skip the HIIT and core if time is an issue.

Also, my days are interchangeable so if a buddy of mine calls on a Wednesday and wants to do lunch, I just go ahead with it and let Thursday be Wednesday.

Now, are all of these numbers exact? Hell no.

But they give me a great ballpark or “beacon” to shoot for each day and all of the possible errors are already built-in to the program, so even if I “accidentally” overshoot by a bit one or two days out of the week, I’m still all good.

Some things to note:

  1. Eliminate or account for all willpower challenges. For me that means I don’t stop at the grocery store on the way home. If I see junk food, chances are I’ll eat it, so I just make sure there is none in the house. Controlling food availability is one way to eliminate the need for willpower. Make sense? This is just an easier battle to fight than struggling and eventually giving yourself a reason to eat the pop tart that’s staring at you.
  2. Your food choices are going to be based on your plan, so in general, you’ll be eating more veggies by default. It’s really the only way to get in a higher volume of food and still stay under “budget”. You’ll also probably find that protein sources help with hunger… although after the first week, it’s generally not a huge issue to contend with. With that said, you’ll probably stay away from processed carbs because they make you hungry after you eat them… so it just makes sense to make it as easy as you can on yourself. But, then again, they may not affect you in this manner.
  3. You’ll probably employ strategies like “intermittent fasting” and “cheat meals” by default, because that’s just how your life works out. So your “hormones” that everyone is trying to scare you about… well, they’re taken care of.

In conclusion, I’ve lost of 45 lbs using this method while my muscle size and strength are vastly improved (but that’s from the working out).

I’ve tested this theory on dozens of “free range” people. It may not sound impressive but those are people I’ve directly had contact and influence with. It doesn’t require a coach, just simple math and applying your personal constraints to the problem first. Quite frankly, it’s the only way I know that takes all of the mystery and scare tactics out of fat loss and applies the real reasons you never get results to your problem.

Oh, and don’t forget, by all measurable markers… it’s “healthy” as well. By the way, because you’re accounting for all of your social events and gatherings, nobody will ever know that you’re trying to lose body fat. Everything you’re doing is “covert”… it’s under the radar, in case you’re the shy type.

That means, that nobody can persecute you because they have no idea that you’re doing anything… because you’re not broadcasting it to the world! Personally, I prefer public accountability to stay on track but I’ve learned and accepted that doesn’t work for everyone, and I sincerely want everyone to succeed with their fat loss goals.

In fact, they’ll probably start accusing you of having a ravenous metabolism… how funny is that?

To recap, this method:

  1. Eliminates most of the need for “willpower”
  2. Eliminates the social pressures of “going on a diet” and the persecution of “friends and family” challenging your diet with other “diets” and “that’s not healthy” talk
  3. Takes into account your life and your constraints
  4. Bases food choices on numbers and what you like, not on trying to eat a “certain” way
  5. Keeps your “hormones” in check… by all “guru” accounts (insulin, leptin, growth hormone, etc)… and without you having to hassle or worry about it.

Look, if you’ve had some issues trying to drop body fat, give this method a try for a week. In one week, if you identify all of your constraints and apply this method just as I’ve outlined, you’ll weigh less and have lowered your fat percentage 7 days from now… guaranteed.

10 responses to “Losing Weight vs. Fat Loss

  1. Some of us big guys can beat 300 pounds without getting all the way to obese. I’m merely overweight. 😉

    Fascinating post, though. I’m going to work through it and see what happens. Is there a handy formula for calculating BMR?

      • OK, so just so that I make sure I have this: My BMR is 2893.9 (yeah, really). Ordinarily, following the recommendation of that site, I would multiply that by 1.55 to arrive at the actual calories I need to maintain weight, but you’re saying to skip that step and stick with 2893.9–which is actually amazing, because my trainer eyeballed me and guessed about 3000.

        So, 2893.9–let’s say 2900–*7 is 20600 per week. If I want to lose two pounds/week, that’s 13600/7 ~= 1940 calories a day on average, with more more or less apportioned depending on schedule.

        That seems… remarkably feasible.

        • That’s the entire idea. Make it simple so you don’t really have to think about it. I look forward to you trying this for a week and letting me know your free range results.

        • I don’t have ready access to a scale. I’ve yet to find one that doesn’t go haywire at my weight, so I have to wait for my regular checkups. Two pounds is a rounding error on my frame. So I’ll report back in a month or so, when I can tell how I’m doing from the way my clothes fit. 🙂

      • It hasn’t been a month, but I can report that I can now wear a shirt that I couldn’t button. It’s still tight around the chest, but the progress is undeniable.

        Onward! And thank you.

        • Keep me posted. I also recommend taking pictures, even just for yourself. We’re out own worst critics and I guarantee you that when you have pictures side by side you’ll amaze yourself with your progress.

  2. Very interesting article! Over the years, I have somewhat tried to follow a similar philosophy, but never that organized which is probably why I didn’t improve (much).

    But I also didn’t get worse (much), unlike the people around me who tried extreme diets or fitness programs which they hated. Which in this decade really shouldn’t surprise anybody.

  3. This is exactly what I’ve experienced myself. Great article summing it all up.

    I use MyFitnessPal to track my calories (seems to have most foods or approximates in the database), which makes calorie monitoring really easy.

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