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Eat For Your Goals [Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss]

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First in our series of "Eat for Your Goals" is ...




Most people say they want to "lose weight." But is that really what they want to do?


Maybe. Maybe not. Here's the difference between the two:


Weight Loss = seeing the number on the scale go down. Losing weight can be done by losing fat, water loss, losing muscle mass, losing a limb, donating a kidney....


Weight Loss generally means the person looks pretty much the same, but smaller. That is, of course, unless they lost a limb, but let's assume their bodies are fully intact for the purposes of this comparison.



Maintain a caloric deficit. The types of food you eat don't really matter if weight loss is your only goal. You will lose fat and often also lose muscle at a comparable rate. What absolutely matters is that you eat fewer calories than you expend. 


This can be accomplished in several ways:

  • Logging your foods accurately and tracking your weight trends. Then making adjustments (eating smaller portions, or possibly tracking more diligently, avoiding in-between nibbles) if your weight isn't trending downward after 2 - 4 weeks.
  • Drinking only water or zero-calorie beverages.
  • Focus on nutrient-dense foods vs. calorie-dense (this way you get to eat bigger portions for the same or fewer calories)
  • Any diet plan will work - just be sure you're eating fewer calories than you expend. If you aren't losing weight, you aren't in a caloric deficit.

As you lose weight, it will take fewer calories to maintain you. So at some point you will plateau and will need to eat less or (move more) in order to keep losing weight.


When you hear about people who lost weight eating only McDonald's, they did it by staying below their daily calorie needs.


(Secret confession: one year in high school, I only ate McDonald's. I didn't eat breakfast, and I got to leave school at lunch time for work. I drove thru at McDonald's, ate a McDLT with fries and a Diet Coke every day. And I didn't eat dinner usually. I simply didn't eat much. I wasn't trying to keep calories low. That's just how I ate.)


Now for the other side of that coin...

Fat Loss = losing fat while maintaining as much lean mass as possible. Fat Loss means changing your body composition (in other words, your body fat percentage decreases). 


Fat Loss is usually what people imagine when they talk about "losing weight."



-Maintain a caloric deficit AND keep protein intake high

In this case, what you eat definitely matters! Your goal here is to maintain your muscle.


Why is maintaining muscle important?


Because in addition to looking good 😎 muscle is metabolically expensive. That means, you'll keep your calorie needs higher -> which means you'll get to eat MORE while still having a caloric deficit than someone who just wants to lose weight (above).


How to accomplish this goal:

  • Track your calories as your #1 Priority (no deficit = no fat loss)
  • Track your protein intake as your #2 Priority (aim for 0.8 - 1.0 grams per pound of your goal weight)
  • Use a protein supplement if you find it difficult to hit your protein goals with food. 
  • Focus on nutrient-dense foods vs. calorie-dense foods
  • Drink water or zero-calorie beverages
  • Eat on a consistent routine (this isn't critical, but it does prevent "winging it")

KEY TO SUCCESS: In addition to those eating goals, you must lift weights for the protein to be used in repair and maintenance. If you aren't lifting weights then your body won't need that extra protein and it'll let it pass right on through and you'll end up losing weight instead of losing fat. 


Now that you know the difference between losing weight and losing fat, which one sounds more appealing to you?


If neither of these is your goal, don't fret! These are coming up next:

Eating for Performance (including how to "carb load" correctly)

Eating for Gaining Muscle


NOTE: Most people underestimate how much they eat and overestimate how much they move by up to 40% variance! Using trackers (fitness, diet, steps), is a clear way to establish a baseline so you can make educated adjustments when progress doesn't move the direction you'd like. 

Show up. Communicate. Trust the process.

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