It was Christmas 2002, I turned on the bathroom lights in the middle of the night only to be startled by the image in the mirror. Yikes, what happened? This must be the exact opposite of a flat tummy. Is my belly folding over my waistband?
It looks like I’m pregnant, not a good look for a 23-year-old single male. Six-pack abs would be great, but I just want to look less awful. Is less awful a look? I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
“I just want to look less awful.”
But, here’s the big lie. Exercises alone will never achieve a flat stomach. Never. Trust me, I’ve tried. I once did 1,000 sit-ups for 7 days because my friend (who was equally chubby) told me Bruce Lee swore by this method. Without question I tried feverishly. My stomach ached for weeks, but sadly, I remained chubby.
Not until I became a certified personal trainer with years of experience, I finally discovered how to get a ripped stomach. Like me, you’ve probably tried gimmicks, shortcuts, teas, waist trimmers, pills and everything else in the market. I’m here to help you clear away the nonsense.
For a flat tummy you need to understand a few basics:
– The Role of the Stomach
– Food Matters (A Lot…)
– Fat and Energy
– The Different Types of Fat
– What’s Bodyfat?
– Dropping Bodyfat to Flatten the Belly
– Ab Exercises Help Your Core but Flatten Nothing
– How to Finally Get a Flat Tummy
The first principle to understand is your stomach. An organ aiding with digestion, it works like a muscle, expanding and contracting to process foods we eat. You can feel when your stomach has too much in it, needing to loosen your pants. You can also feel when you’re hungry and don’t have enough in your belly.
Although your stomach expands and contracts, the range of the movement is temporary. The movement’s range is small, we’re talking inches. Your stomach isn’t the issue, one single meal isn’t going to help much.
The next area to investigate is what you’re eating. What happens when you eat more food than your body needs? But it’s actually not food that matter, is the calories from the chosen food. First and foremost, you need to understand calories. Calories represent the energy required to keep us alive. Think of it as precious fuel for our body. Back in our hunting days, meals were far and few in between. Humans crave calories, crave food, our human survival system.
The real problem arises when we eat more calories than our body needs. After the food goes through the stomach, it enters the digestive area, where valuables like proteins, fats, carbs, vitamins, and water aid the body. The digestive system will strip all the valuables from our foods. Proteins are the building blocks for your body, carbohydrates are instant energy and fats are stored as a long-time source of energy. But anything your body doesn’t use will be converted and stored as fat in your body.
Imagine you’re getting at a campfire. You’re responsible for the fire to burn the entire night. You gather wood, but don’t know exactly how much wood you’ll need for the entire night. You don’t want everyone to be cold, so you make sure to grab enough wood. Your fire starts, the energy starts burning. Throughout the night, you throw more logs into the fire. After the night, all extra logs remain as extra unused energy. All that extra wood is simply extra energy that hasn’t been used. The extra energy is fat on your body. I guess, back in 2002 I was a giant ball of energy.
Any valuable food your body eats but can’t immediately use will be stored as fat. They mostly accumulate in two places, subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is found under your skin, while visceral fat collects within the abdomen in the spaces around organs.
The visceral fat is the dark, yucky fat surrounding your abs. This is where that blasted fat tummy first appears. Unhealthy visceral fat needs to be removed. But because of its location, it’s hard to measure our visceral fat. Luckily, subcutaneous fat’s location helps us get a measurement… (“Whohooo, lucky us” said no one ever.)
Go ahead and pinch your skin. The stuff under your skin that isn’t muscle is fat. Anything you can grab but can’t move is subcutaneous fat. This is your bodyfat, as trainers we measure bodyfat with calipers. We take a one-inch pinch on four sites on your body, add up the numbers, crosscheck with a bodyfat table to get your bodyfat percentage. Some scales can also check your bodyfat with impedance. Your numbers will vary, but the lower the bodyfat, the less fat you have, the less visceral fat and (drum-roll please…)
The lower the bodyfat, the flatter the stomach
Here it is! Your recipe to a flatter tummy. To flatten the stomach, all you need to drop your bodyfat. That’s it. You can perform crunches, sit-ups and planks all day long. But if your bodyfat doesn’t drop low enough, you’ll never reap the benefits of your hard work. Your rock-hard abs will be covered in a marshmallow layer of fat. Which means no flat tummy ☹
You can perform dozens of exercises for your tummy. This will make you feel better, but you’ll look the same. At least the ab work strengthens your core. Your core is vital for everyday life. Unfortunately, no matter how cool the ab exercise is…it will do NOTHING to make your tummy look flatter. Sad, but true.
Focus on your caloric intake, eating less calories than your body burns. The best exercise is the one where you go to the grocery store, buy and eat the right foods. Perform total body exercises focusing on the major muscle groups, while keeping the core (abs) engaged. Focus on the energy intake and energy expenditure.
No matter what anyone tells you, the best and only way to flatten your stomach is by focusing on your energy balance. How many calories you’re eating versus how many calories you’re burning. By dropping bodyfat you WILL get your tummy flatter. The days of being scared to turn on the bathroom lights are finally over for me. But I want to share the same success with you.
I know the truth can be hard to hear. I went through this process myself. I’m an engineer, so I’m always looking for the fastest, simplest way. Unfortunately for your flat tummy, this won’t work. I fell for the Bruce Lee 1,000 daily sit-ups. My stomach and pride were hurt. What kind of silly things have you done to get that coveted waistline? Please share with me in the comments.
NASM Master Trainer
Author, Get Me Skinny
PS: Have you downloaded your FREE Guide to a Flat Tummy yet?
1. Clark, M.A., Lucett, S. C., & Sutton, B. G. (2012). NASM Essentionals of Personal Fitness Training (4th ed.). Wolters Kluwer.
2. Your digestive system and how it works. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/yrdd. Retrieved 9/21/2019
3. Mason JB. Mechanisms of nutrient absorption and malabsorption. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Retrieved 9/21/2019
4. Johnson LR, et al. Physiology of the Gastrointestinal Tract. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Retrieved 9/21/2019
5. Hall JE. Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Retrieved 9/21/2019
6. What I need to know about bowel control. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/bowelcontrol_ez/index.aspx.
7. Marcia Wade. Web MD “The Risks of Belly Fat — and How to Beat Them” Retrieved 9/21/2019 from https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/the-risks-of-belly-fat#1
(Sigh..) Fat loss failures have plagued me for 17 years. Clients, friends, neighbors have asked me some form of this question. What should I eat? What’s the fastest way to trim my waist? How do I get rid of this? To help anyone, I first needed to help myself. No one likes a fat trainer. And sadly, I was a fat trainer. The answer surprised me and it will surprise you. You only need to master two keys to succeed in fat loss. Just two. Avoid more fat loss failure with these two keys.
Fat loss failure happens for at least one of the following reasons:
- You don’t understand the difference between fat loss and weight loss
- You don’t know what calories are or how many you should eat
- You’re not moving enough and/or eating too many calories
- You don’t drink enough water
- You can’t execute your plan
Avoid Fat Loss Failure with Five Principles
Take a moment and ask yourself these five questions. I asked myself the same questions. Even after my first training certification in 2002, I couldn’t answer all five. Epic freaking fat loss fail.
Do you remember the last time you checked out at the grocery store? Did you glance at the magazine headlines? Some celebrity always loses 10 pounds in 3 days, or 15 pounds in 10 days with a “new” diet. Can this be true? Or are they lying?
It might actually be possible…
But weight loss and fat loss are not the same.
Weight loss can happen instantly, but true fat loss always takes time (sometimes a long time.) Fat loss is the process of your body converting fat matter into usable energy. Fat loss and weight loss are very different.
Have you ever tried to grab water?
Have you ever grabbed fat?
You CAN grab fat, but you CAN’T grab water.
If you can grab it, you can lose it.
Why Our Weight Changes Daily
- Water (Body is 65% water)
- Carb Intake (Carbs hold water: Carbo – HYDRATE)
- Sodium Intake (Salt retains water)
- Bowel Movements (Poop, if it’s in you, it’s IN you)
- Time of the Month (Females)
A daily weight change of 2-5 % of total weight is normal. In 2002, two years after my brother’s passing. I didn’t care about anything…including myself. I crept up to 192 pounds. For myself, a daily weight change of 4-9 pounds is normal.
I wish I would’ve known this back then. In college, fast food was the norm. My diet attempts included ordering a #1 with no mayonnaise, no cheese and a diet coke. The next day I would jump on the scale. Boom, down five pounds! But, the next day, I would walk off the scale up seven pounds (instant sad mode.)
“I didn’t realize it was so simple.”
This phrase I’ve heard from my clients dozens of times when they first learn about calories. I can teach you about carbs, fats, and proteins, but why? To lose fat, you don’t need to know a lot, you only need to understand calories.
Calories. I know, I hate the word, too.
But for us to have any chance of reaching your goal. You need to understand calories. Especially, how they relate to fat loss. Many diets, cleanses, and media promise you calories don’t count. I wish it was true, but sadly, it isn’t. If you ignore this basic fact, you will struggle with fat loss.
Calories always count, always.
An energy deficit results in fat loss, this is the only way fat loss can happen. Any successful diet claiming you’re not counting calories, still places you in an energy deficit. Meaning you’re still eating less calories than your body burns.
Calories always count, always.
Every successful diet makes you eat less calories than your body burns. So, even if you’re not counting calories, you’re still counting calories. Sorry.
Calories always count, always.
I know you don’t like calories. And you hate watching calories for the rest of your life. So, I’ll give you a moment.
Like my mom always told me. “It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. Get it done.” Calories are a fact of life. Calorie management is a basic governing law. Calories, like money will always matter in your life. Your feelings won’t change the facts.
Calories always count, always.
But what are calories?
Calorie: a unit of energy, defined as the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius.
The non-nerd version:
Calories are the currency of energy. A calorie is just a form of energy, 1 pound of fat = 3,500 calories. To burn one pound, you have to burn 3,500 calories.
“How many calories should I eat?”
If you can’t answer this question, you will never lose the fat. In 2002, I had no idea what a calorie was, at all. Nobody told me, I was never taught in school, the internet didn’t exist. But lucky for you and my clients, we know how many calories you need to eat to lose fat.
A good gauge would be to add a zero to your body weight. I weighed 192, I should eat 1900 or less calories. As your weight decreases the number of calories also decreases. Use My Fitness Pal to help monitor caloric intake.
The caloric intake is only one side of the solution, the most important side and the easiest to control. If you’re not losing weight, you aren’t moving enough for your body to burn the extra calories on your body. Use a FitBit or other fitness tracker to measure caloric output.
Here’s the good news:
Calories function exactly like money.
Managing calories is like managing money. If you want to lose fat, burn more calories than you eat. If you want to be rich, make more money than you spend. Using an activity tracker will help you keep you active, logging your nutrition will show you how many calories you’re eating. Manage your caloric budget like money, every savings of 3,500 will equal one real pound of fat.
Stop reading this and go pee. Check the color of the pee.
*More steps required for females*
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
What color was it?
Yellow, light yellow, brownish, clear? If it wasn’t clear you’re not drinking enough water.
Water consumption should be equal to half your body weight in ounces.
Ex: weigh 192 lbs = drink 96 ounces = approximately 12 glasses of water.
I know it sounds like a lot. Most people think they’re hungry, when in fact they’re actually thirsty. Imagine if all this time, when you thought you were hungry, you were just thirsty. Water might be the easiest way to avoid fat loss failure, ever.
Take a moment and re-read the four principles. Do you understand each one? I cover these principles first with all my clients. If they can’t understand these fundamental principles to avoid more fat loss failure, the party stops here. Once they fully understand the basics, then we can move into the more challenging part of the solution.
Oh, you thought it would be easy?
I wish it was, but once you know the information, you must be willing to accept the difficult part:
Back in 2002, a potential client told me. “I don’t need a trainer. I know what to do.” This statement hurt my feelings. After all, this was my profession. And I was still a fat trainer (not a good look.)
He wasn’t in great shape, and I believed him. I believed everyone for years. I thought I knew what to do, but as a chubby trainer. Did I really know what to do?
Knowing what to do and doing what you need to do are very different. I spent the next 2 years losing the weight while gaining invaluable insight. I ran into the same landmines you do. Like having a plan, then failing during the weekend, falling to peer pressure in the break room, and overeating for no reason at parties.
After 17 years of experience, 2 degrees, and 7 certifications I can tell you the answer is simple. The reason we experience fat loss failure is we because we eat more than our body needs.
Move More and Eat Less
While it is a simple theory, it is difficult to apply.
Here are some tips to get you started on your fat loss journey.
Start with Small Changes
If you start with drastic changes, you’ll struggle. That’s why most diets don’t work. Start with making less mistakes. Like no mayonnaise, candy only once per day, fast food only on weekends. Build off your wins as you work to create new habits.
Have a Strategy for Dinners/Weekends
If you know you’re going to overeat, (family dinners, bdays, parties, etc.) Plan for it. Eat less before the event, like a soup or salad. Save your calories for the event. The plan will work exactly like a budget, save what you want to spend.
Make It Simple
Don’t waste energy complicating matters. How much sugar? How many grams of carbs? Focus on less calories. Blah, blah, blah. Stay away from “Del Taco.” Don’t have seconds and thirds. Junk food is called junk food for a reason. Eating while intoxicated usually leads to a poor choices.
Download Your FREE Fat Loss Failure Prevention Guide
I’ve been there. I’ve walked the walked. Through trials and tribulations, I found the answers to your struggles. After years of working directly with fat loss clients,I learned the simple strategy to avoid fat loss failure. I call the solution the MAD Plan. I’ve used it successfully for years. You can have the plan for FREE!
Download the plan, learn the simple way and permanently avoid fat loss failure. I’m no longer a fat trainer, and my clients don’t need to waste time or money with techniques that don’t work. After you download your free guide, let me know in the comments if you found the guide useful.
NASM Master Trainer
Best Selling Author, Get Me Skinny
PS: Download the Secrets of the Skinny NOW
- Clark, M.A., Lucett, S. C., & Sutton, B. G. (2012). NASM Essentionals of Personal Fitness Training (4th ed.). Wolters Kluwer.
- Merriam Webster. “Definition of Water” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/water
- Merriam Webster. “Definition of Fat” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fat
- USGS “The Water in You: Water and the Human Body” https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/water-you-water-and-human-body?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects Retrieved on Sept 21, 2019
- Jessie Szalay. “What are Carbohydrates?” https://www.livescience.com/51976-carbohydrates.html Retrieved on Aug 14, 2019
- Cleveland Clinic “Feel Bloated? 5 Odd Reasons for Your Stomach Pain” https://health.clevelandclinic.org/feel-bloated-5-odd-reasons-stomach-pain/ Retrieved on July 1, 2019
- Abdominal fat and what to do about it. (2015).
- Cummings, JH., et al. (1992). Fecal weight, colon cancer risk, and dietary intake of nonstarch polysaccharides (dietary fiber).
- Diarrhea. (2018).
- How often does the average person poop? (n.d.).
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). Chart of high-fiber foods.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Weight-loss basics.
- Picco MF. (2018). How long does it take to digest food — from the time you eat to the time you excrete it?
- Slavin JL. (2005). Dietary fiber and body weight. DOI:
- Cheuvront SN, et al. (2013). Physiologic basis for understanding quantitative dehydration assessment. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.112.044172
- Gorczyca AM, et al. (2016). Changes in macronutrient, micronutrient, and food group intakes throughout the menstrual cycle in healthy, premenopausal women. DOI: 10.1007/s00394-015-0931-0
- Guarino M, et al. (2011). Progesterone receptors and serotonin levels in colon epithelial cells from females with slow transit constipation. DOI:
- Inam QU, et al. (2016). Effects of sugar rich diet on brain serotonin, hyperphagia and anxiety in animal model of both genders.
- Jenkins TA, et al. (2016). Influence of tryptophan and serotonin on mood and cognition with a possible role of the gut-brain axis. DOI:
- Julian R, et al. (2017). The effects of menstrual cycle phase on physical performance in female soccer players. DOI:
- Kohndoker F, et al. (2017). Serum calcium and magnesium levels during different phases of the menstrual cycle.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Edema.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Menstrual cramps.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Water retention: Relieve this premenstrual symptom.
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). (2015).
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). (2018).
- Racine SE, et al. (2011). Differential associations between ovarian hormones and disordered eating symptoms across the menstrual cycle in women. DOI:
- Sawai A, et al. (2018). MRI reveals menstrually-related muscle edema that negatively affects athletic agility in young women. DOI:
When we fall for fat loss myths dire consequences occur. When we’re promised quick results, but instead fall flat on our face it’s devastating. We’re less likely to try again. Obesity is surging. There are currently 175 million overweight or obese teens and adults in the United States. We need proper guidance. I won’t promise what I can’t deliver. I promise you the truth. Changing your lifestyle won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. You deserve great health. Let’s start with a stand. Let’s make today the day we stop falling for these notorious fat loss myths.
15 Common Fat Loss Myths
We’ve all seen that guy wearing trash bags or a sweat suit. They look hot, silly, and in no better shape. Are they onto something? Let’s take a deeper look. The human body is approximately 60% water. If our human body weighs 180 pounds, 60% of the weight is water, which means 108 pounds of your weight is water weight. On the scale your weight can vary anywhere from 2-5% of your body weight daily. That means the weight can vary from 3-9 pounds for our 180 pound example. If we have 108 pounds of water, and we dehydrate ourselves by sweating as much as possible. We can drop up to 20 pounds of water in extreme cases. We can bring down our weight on a scale to 160 pounds in a very short time.
But, it’s only a water weight loss not fat loss. Great for making weight in a fight, but not for changing your appearance. Unless you’re training for a big fight, you’re playing with fire. Sweating too much can compromise your health. You will lose water weight, but you run the risk of many severe health problems:
Sweat is mostly water, and sweat is used to cool the body down, so you won’t die. Not dying is good.
Dehydration from vigorous exercise, increased temperature or not enough water can cause:
- Heat Exhaustion: These can range in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion to potentially life-threatening heatstroke.
- Swelling of the Brain (Cerebral Edema): This can happen when you drink water after being dehydrated. The brain is desperate for water and pulls water, sometimes too fast causing swelling and sometimes cellular ruptures.
- Seizures: Electrolytes in water carry electrical signals from cell to cell. If your electrolytes are compromised, the normal electrical messages can become distorted. This can lead to involuntary muscle contractions and sometimes a loss of consciousness.
- Low Blood Volume Shock (Hypovolemic Shock): When low blood volume causes a corresponding drop in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body. This can prove fatal.
- Kidney Failure: This life-threatening problem occurs when your kidneys can no longer remove excess fluids and waste from your blood.
- Coma and Death: When not treated promptly and correctly, severe dehydration can be fatal.
People’s bodies average two to four million sweat glands. How much sweat is released by each gland is determined by many factors, including gender, genetics, environmental conditions, age and your fitness level.
Fat Loss Myth versus Fat Loss Fact
Fat is matter, it’s a substance you can grab, it’s a real thing. For fat loss your body needs to convert the extra fat mass into energy. The human body is sixty percent water, so cutting water out, or sweating it out, will only give you a temporary weight loss. You temporary lose the water in your body, but once you re hydrate your weight will come back. To lose one real pound of fat, you need an energy deficit of 3,500 calories. A realistic fat loss goal is one to two pounds per week.
Fitness Simplified: While wearing a sweat suit, not drinking water and sweating too much can be dangerous in extreme situations, it can be helpful in measuring your own effort.
How To Use: Keep everything equal, meaning proper clothing, proper hydration, and a cool temperature. In this situation, sweat can be a good indicator of effort. Sweat can show you if you are putting on a good effort, compared to yourself. The key to the game is caloric burn, and if it feels harder then it is harder, and harder always burns more calories.
“My friend started running and she lost a ton of weight,” my client Kelly said.
I’ve personally trained over 50 clients in endurance events. Whether you’re training for a marathon, half marathon or 5k, running didn’t make anyone lose weight.
In fact, in my estimates people misjudge the amount of calories their body burns. Most people eat more calories “carbing-up” for a race than they do running one. Just because you’re running, doesn’t mean you get a free pass at the buffet line. Don’t let running be another creative excuse to overeat. Fat loss comes from eating less than your body consumes. And your body burns calories far less than it can consume.
Fitness Simplified: Running isn’t a fast track to fat loss, just another sad fat loss myth.
What to Do: Running is a great cardio, strengthens your legs, strengthens your heart, strengthens your mind. Run, but only count it as exercise and incorporate it with a healthy diet for best results.
“Oh, I don’t eat bread,” said everyone in the last seven years.
Poor bread, I love bread, but it got such a bad rap. But how can cutting bread make you lose weight?
Breads are carbohydrates. (Carbo-HYDRATES) Emphasis on HYDRATE, like water.
Carbohydrates are your primary source of energy. Coincidentally, they hold a vast amount of water. Lose the carbs and guess what happens? You lose water weight, again a temporary weight reduction. But you need carbohydrates in your life. Carbs are an essential macro-nutrient, like protein and fat, they provide essential functions in your health. Unless your diabetic, or pre-diabetic then you don’t need to worry about carbohydrates.
Fitness Simplified: Don’t let carbs scare you.
How To Use: If you want to lose weight don’t limit the carbs, limit the calories.
We can probably blame Instagram for this one. We’ve heard our body is supposed to burn more fat when it’s in a fasted state. This is correct, the body burns more calories from fat stores. Which is great if you’re trying to burn less calories and only the ones from fat.
Do you know which ones those are?
When you grab your love handles, what kind of fat are you holding? Do you care or do you want it gone?
Yeah, me too.
Fasted cardio is a fast way to pass out. When you have energy in your system, you push harder and thus burn more calories during the workout. It’s hard to burn calories when you’re light headed and laying down.
Fitness Simplified: Use common sense for your workouts. If you can power through a workout with only coffee or a small banana then go for it. If you feel awful with no fuel in your system, don’t do that. There’s no one since fits all solution, do what works best for you.
How To Use: Don’t complicate calorie burn. When something feels harder, you’re working harder. When you work harder, you burn more calories. Burning more calories, gets you there faster.
Metabolism: Converting food into life energy
Our metabolism converts calories from food into energy to live. During this complex process, calories are converted into the energy your body needs to function. Even at rest, your body needs energy for all its regular functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and cellular maintenance. The calories your body uses to perform these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate, “metabolism.”
Fat Loss Factors
While age doesn’t affect metabolism directly, other factors exist between people that account for differences in our individual metabolic rate. (How many calories our bodies burn, with no physical activity.)
- Your Body: Larger people burn more calories. It takes more energy to power a garbage truck than a shopping cart.
- Your Sex: Men usually possess more muscle than women. Having slightly more muscle than fat means a slightly higher energy demand. Muscle requires energy, fat doesn’t.
Although we don’t have control over how many calories our bodies use, we can control the demand for calories. This can be increased with physical activity. But not the type your thinking. Not weights, not exercise, but movement. Yes, any and all movement.
Fitness Simplified: Think of your metabolism as a funnel. You can’t change the speed of the funnel. That remains pretty much the same. What you can do is pour more energy into the funnel.
How To Use: You can’t increase your metabolism rate, but you can use it more. By moving more, your body uses the funnel more. By moving more, your body needs more energy, and when your body needs more energy, it uses the energy from the fat in your body.
Move more, lose fat faster.
I’ve met countless ladies who desperately want to get rid of their bat wings. I get it, I want to help you get rid of that too. Unfortunately, like our height (I wish I was a little bit taller) we aren’t in control of our genetic make-up. Your genes, (so in essence your parents) are the ones to blame for those thick thighs. Genetic factors influence whether people store fat around the trunk or in other parts of your body. Males store fat different from females. Individual fat storage also varies from person to person. And trust me, the place where you store fat, is not where you want it.
Sucks, but true.
But what can we do?
To minimize fat in the areas you hate, you need to minimize fat everywhere in the body. Yes, lower your overall bodyfat and everything will look better. I know the look you want, and to the look you want means the bodyfat needs to come down everywhere. The first place you gain fat is the last place you lose it.
Fitness Simplified: Don’t target specific areas, target the total body.
How To Use: Focus on exercise that burn more calories. Total body workouts burn more calories because bigger muscle groups burn more calories. Burning more calories reaches your goal faster.
Females fear lifting weights, because they fear getting bigger and looking manly. While there are similar percentage improvements in strength with resistance training, increases in muscle size are typically less in women than men. While it is true both women and men produce testosterone, which is an anabolic hormone that plays an important role in growth and the repair of tissue, men produce up to 10 times more testosterone than women. This is one of the primary reasons men produce a greater amount of muscle mass over a shorter period of time.
Women only look bigger if they lift weights, but don’t adjust their diet.
If you keep the bodyfat or increase the bodyfat, and add more muscle. You will get bigger, if you keep the muscle and lower the bodyfat you will get smaller, and look more toned.
Fitness Simplified: It’s more important for females to lift weights than men.
How To Use: You don’t have to kill yourself in the gym. You only need to stimulate the muscle and bones in your body. Adding external overload (resistance training) will help your bones and muscles grow stronger. Your bones like your muscles are living tissue. Perform a total body workout 2-3 times/week.
This fat loss myth alone causes more people to avoid the gym. While there is some discomfort in resistance training, flexibility and cardio training. The discomfort can be minimal. Think of it, this way. You need to go slightly past the breaking point for your body to rebuild. Then we rest, recover, and come back stronger. We repeat this process and you slowly become stronger, more flexible and improve heart strength. Like the three little pigs story, you need to breakdown the house and then rebuild stronger. When you push too hard, it’s painful, dangerous and you will quit. Obviously, it hurts too much. Quitting gives you zero benefit.
Fitness Simplified: The workouts need to be slightly uncomfortable, unnecessary pain will only force you to quit.
How To Use: Don’t think of the exercise as a punishment. Think of it as a reward and push yourself enough to produce natural endorphins. Plan a day of rest in between workouts. Start with about an hour of resistance training and roughly 20-30 minutes of cardio. Start slow and build. It’s more important to be consistent than to go hard.
This fat loss myth is closely correlated to spot training. The body essentially has three layers. Muscle, bodyfat and skin, when we measure bodyfat we pinch all three and get bodyfat percentage.
When you target the abs with crunches, you do make the muscle stronger. Which is great for strong abs, but the problem isn’t the muscle. The problem is the fat covering the muscle. I call that layer the marshmallow layer and this layer is the problem. But doing every crunch known to man will not do anything to change the appearance of your tummy. You need to remove the extra fat to have the abs look better.
Fitness Simplified: Crunches make your abs stronger but does nothing for the looks.
How To Use: Crunches, planks, and core work are great exercises. But these exercises do nothing for the appearance of the midsection. To trim the waistline, usually the best exercise is the one where you eat the right amount of calories.
High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) is alternating between timed hard cardio, and then a timed rest interval. You then repeat the circuit, hard and rest, hard and rest. Trainers like to tell you that you burn more calories in this matter. But, here’s the problem with this method.
150 female doing HITT (5 minutes on, 1 minute rest) repeat X 5 = 30 minutes
If during the High Intensity phase you push you burn up to (8 cals/min)
During the Rest you rest (1 cal/min)
Total: (25 X 8) + (5 X 1) = 205 calories
Compare to a lower but manageable intensity for 30 minutes.
(30 X 6) = 180 calories
The Caloric Difference:
The difference is 205 – 180 = 25 calories (or 2 jelly beans)
This doesn’t even consider that towards the end of your interval training, it’s hard to match the same effort. You probably wont have the same energy as the first couple intervals, less effort means less calories.
Interval training does have a role increasing VO2 max, helping your cardio increase, but as far as fat loss goes, it’s just another fat loss myth.
Fitness Simplified: HITT isn’t a shortcut, it’s just another workout.
How To Use: HITT can be fun to mix up your workout. Incorporating a total body circuit with recovery will help you burn slightly more calories(slightly.) But the bulk of your caloric burn with come from constant activity. Steps, activity and eating the correct number of calories.
Hormones are a touchy subject and probably used the most to prey on females. It’s a convenient excuse for weight gain. It’s a hands-off approach and others choose to sell you their product of choice to help these hormones. If you want to see for yourself google “Weight gain and hormones” and immediately it isn’t your fault. The problem is hormones don’t cause weight gain. Eating more calories than your body needs causes weight gain.
Hormones Don’t Cause Weight Gain
While hormones, sleep and stress can cause other issues. The main issue is eating too much, I know it hurts to tell you. But it’s true. I’ve personally helped many clients who had thyroid issues or other hormonal imbalances. And while these issues are real, when it comes to weight gain it just isn’t the case. Menopause is another area where muscle loss occurs lowering the metabolic rate, but again not enough for weight gain. Weight gain only happens when the hormone imbalance causes you too eat too many calories. If you can control the urges, fight the temptations and stick to your plan, you will succeed.
Fitness Simplified: Hormones alone can’t cause weight gain. Eating too many calories, and not moving enough causes weight gain.
How To Use: If you feel hormones are really slowing you down, then perform what I call I a “Deep Caloric Audit.” Figure out exactly how many calories you’re eating (especially weekends) and figure out your activity level. Follow these numbers religiously for 2 weeks and look for either the caloric surplus or the caloric deficit. Energy is energy, and when your body intakes more energy than it needs, it will store the extra energy as fat regardless of hormones.
This fat loss myth can cause severe harm to females. Females produce estrogen. Estrogen weakens bones, lowering bone density. Resistance training keeps bones strong. Lifting weights is only a form of resistance training. You can also use machines, bands, balls and your body weight to get the same benefits. Any external resistance (weights included) will provide the stimulation needed for bone and muscle growth.
Fitness Simplified: It’s more valuable for females to do resistance training than men.
How To Use: Focus on workouts that you like, but focus on the total body. Ladies tend to avoid the weight room and focus on crunches and booty work. Although this is awesome and I thank you. It will provides minimal results because you’re missing the biggest muscles in your body. And bigger muscles burn more calories, getting you skinny faster.
“You need to run to lose weight, you need to push to lose weight faster. I’ve heard this one a lot. And the facts are true. While you burn more calories during a cardio session, you don’t burn nearly enough to offset a poor diet. Cardio is a form of movement, but only lasts a small duration (usually 30 minutes.)
Your day is 24 hours, 1,440 minutes. That means your 2% of your day, your burning more calories. But what about the other 1,410 minutes 98% of your day?
You will burn more calories during that period, but not as many as you would like. Cardio keeps your heart and lungs strong. Cardio focuses on the cardiorespiratory system, it will strengthen your heart, but it will not speed up fat loss.
Fitness Simplified: Cardio helps your heart and lungs. But it won’t speed up fat loss. Focus on total caloric expenditure (total movement matters more.)
How To Use: Don’t count on cardio for fat loss. Count on cardio for heart strength. Count your steps. Steps represent movement. More movement means faster fat loss. Track your resting heart rate, as your cardio increases your resting heart rate (RHR) will decrease.
We’ve all heard this myth in the gym, especially by trainers (myself included.) I fell for the bait. I thought as long as I lift weights, I can eat whatever I want. Turns out, if I eat whatever I want I gain weight.
But what about this fat burning muscle machine I was promised?
At rest, muscle does burn more calories than fat. But not much more, not enough to give you free pass at the buffet. The data is clear. A pound of muscle burns six calories per day while a pound of fat burns only two. Yes, it’s three times more calories, but how much is that?
Let’s say you weigh 200 pounds and your bodyfat percentage is 20%, and your muscles burn 20% of the caloric burn.
You work hard to lose 20 pounds, and add 1 pound of muscle (muscle is very hard to add, but that’s a story for a different day.) You drop your bodyfat down to 15%
Your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate: the calories your body uses to keep you alive.) Brain (20%), heart (15-20%), liver (15-20%), kidneys, lungs, fat, tissues(10-15%) and muscle(20-25%).
Weight 200, Fat = 40 pounds, Lean Body Mass(muscle, bones, etc.) = 160. RMR Would be roughly 2000 calories, with 20% burn with muscle. This will be 400 calories/day.
Weight 180 pounds, Fat = 27 pounds, LBM = 153 pounds. You add one pound of muscle and increase your caloric burn to 21%.
RMR= 1800 calories, Muscle 378 calories from the increased muscle.
So you added one pound of muscle, lost 20 pounds of fat, and increased caloric expenditure by… (-22 calories?)
Correct, contrary to the popular belief. Adding muscle, getting fitter, makes you an efficient machine, not a calorie burning machine. When you’re lighter, fitter, and stronger, it takes LESS energy to move. It takes LESS energy to run. Become fitter makes movement easier, and easier movement burns LESS calories.
Weight Lifting Research:
- In 1995, researchers at the University of Limburg in the Netherlands published a study in Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise on 21 male subjects and determined that weight-training “has no effect” on RMR
- In 1994, researchers at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Denmark compared 10 bodybuilders with 10 lean subjects. Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the report found that intense weight-lifting did not result in any measurable EPOC.
- In 1992, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin compared intense weightlifting with intense aerobic exercise on 47 males and reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that “RMR did not significantly change after either training regimen.”
Fitness Simplified: Lifting weights is important but doesn’t mean you can eat anything you want.
How To Use: Lifting weights can change how your body looks, but only if you execute on your diet. 90% of how you look depends on what you eat.
As we discussed earlier, metabolism is the process of converting food into energy. Your body wants to live, so it will always convert food into energy.
Age has no bearing on metabolisms.
Metabolism and Fat Loss Myths
The body will always convert calories into energy in the same way. But as we age, we lose some muscle mass and are far less active. A metabolism is defined as the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. The metabolism doesn’t change. When you read articles about “speeding up” your metabolism, they’re referring to total calories burned. And we all know how to burn more calories, move more.
Age and Fat Loss Myths
As you get older, the amount of muscle tends to decrease and fat accounts for more of your weight, slowing down calorie burning.
Fitness Simplified: Your metabolism doesn’t ever slow down. Don’t slow down your activity, less activity as you age, means less calories burned.
How To Use: Always burn more calories, than you eat to be lean forever.
You possess the knowledge to beat the 15 most common fat loss myths. I wish there was an easier way, but with hard work and common sense you can accomplish all your fitness goals. The fitness game can be unnecessarily confusing. Focus on the fundamentals, be patient and you’ll be successful.
Free Fat Loss Myth Checklist
I put this valuable list together in a convenient PDF, you can have the checklist for free. This will help your arguments 😉
What are some fat loss myths you’ve heard? Please share in the comments below. Maybe you can help someone avoid falling for fat loss myths.
Best Selling Author, Get Me Skinny
NASM Master Trainer (OPT, MT)
Weight Loss Specialist (WLS), Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES),
Sports Fitness Specialist (SFS), Behavior Change Specialist (BCS)
- Center for Disease and Control, “Childhood Obesity Facts” https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html
2. American College of Sports Medicine, Sawka, M. N., Burke, L. M., Eichner, E. R., Maughan, R. J., Montain, S. J., & Stachenfeld, N. S. (2007, February). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement [Abstract]. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 39(2), 377–390. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17277604
3. Hansen, Julieann. “The Science of Sweat”. American College of Sports Medicine. Archived from the original on 2013-09-21. Retrieved September 19, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9303999
4. Sparks, Dana. “Dehydration can lead to serious complications”. Retrieved September 19, 2019 from https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/dehydration-can-lead-to-serious-complications/
5. William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR. “Medical Definition of Carbohydrates”. Retrieved September 19, 2019 from https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=15381
6. Center for Disease and Control, “Diabetes.” Retrieved September 19,2019 from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/index.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fdiabetes%2Fhome%2Findex.html
7. Merriam-Webster. “Definition of Metabolism.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metabolism
8. Merriam-Webster. “Definition of Calorie.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calorie
9. Cleveland Clinic Center for Consumer Health Information: “How Does Exercise Improve Depression?”
10. American Psychiatric Association, Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depression, 2000, and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR, American Psychiatric Pub, 2000.
11. National Academy of Sports Medicine. “HIIT, HVIT, or VIIT: Do you know the difference?” Retrieved from https://blog.nasm.org/sports-performance/hiit-hvit-viit-know-differences/
12. UCLA Health. “What is Menopause?” Retrieved from http://obgyn.ucla.edu/menopause
13. US National Library of Medicine. “Hormones” Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/hormones.html
14. Melinda Ratini, DO, MS. Web MD Thyroid Symptons Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/women/ss/slideshow-thyroid-symptoms-and-solutions
15. Clark, M.A., Lucett, S. C., & Sutton, B. G. (2012). NASM Essentionals of Personal Fitness Training (4th ed.). Wolters Kluwer.
Happy New Year!
I love the New Year, it’s the only time everyone is motivated to make a change. To start and finish your fat loss program, to change your life. Maybe your goal is to quit smoking, earn that promotion, close that big deal, listen to what she says… even if you’re tired… and have work… so she doesn’t get upset and you can spend the weekend with your friends without any judgement. You know, the normal resolutions we all have. Smell the air, the optimism is euphoric. Welcome to day one, the first day of a new beginning. A new chance for success.
Day one, means we begin the road to fat loss. Losing fat can be tough, but thankfully many of us were gifted the tools of success during the holidays: a new gym membership, a yoga mat, some dumbbells, or even a fancy elliptical machine that is currently… still in the box, waiting to be assembled. And while our ambitions are at an all time high, they’ll soon fall if we’re not properly equipped. Not just with tools but the RIGHT tools for success.
Before you start make sure you know what to do. Take our Fat Loss Quiz to see if you know the right stuff.
Fat Loss is Like a Marathon
We’re all on the start line right. We know the finish line, but our nerves are on high alert. If we don’t pace ourselves, we’ll give up and fail. Trust me, I know this all too well. At the start line of every marathon, my training partner Tony and I, always had a plan. I would repeat this plan over and over again.
“Remember Robert, take it easy in the beginning, get a rhythm, and then set your pace. You got this!”
The race starts and the plan goes straight out the window. I’m darting down the course as if I’m being chased by a pack of wild dogs. I can’t tell you how many times Tony has caught up to me and reminded me of our trusted plan.
I always let the start line excitement get the best of me. Unfortunately, that’s how most of us are with fat loss. We sprint like a madman, only to be pulled back to reality. Our minds know what to do, but once the gun goes off, logic disappears. We’ve all done it. We’ve started 90-day workout programs, only to give up after 7 days 🙁 We’ve meal prepped for an entire week, only to throw away most of the food by Friday. We take off sprinting and forget we still have 26.2 miles to go.
Quick shameless TBP plug. Starting off too fast isn’t the only fitness fail people make during the new year. If you haven’t already, check out TBP’s ANIMATED VIDEO on fitness fails. It’s hilarious and oh so true!
But just because we aren’t sprinting doesn’t make it easier. We still need the right tools to get us to the finish line. I’m getting tired of these marathon metaphors, but last one, I promise. The tools below are the ones you need before the race even begins. Without them, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s called the MAD PLAN.
These are the three most important tools needed to successfully lose fat. Simple, direct, to the point. But much like that elliptical machine still waiting to be assembled, many of us will leave these tools in our box waiting to be assembled.
Number one is MOTIVATION
Why the hell are you doing this?
Ask yourself this question. What’s motivating you? What’s going to make you get up early, stay up late and put in the necessary work? Don’t give me the classic BS excuse: I just want to be healthy? No, you don’t. There’s something else driving you. All of our motivations are different. You may want to look sexy in that dress that doesn’t fit. You’re sick of asking yourself, “Does this make me look fat?” You’re sick and tired of feeling and looking sick and tired…
Maybe you don’t want to be a 232 pound fatty being made fun of because his suit is too tight at the wedding of your close friend who hasn’t seen you in a few years and comments about the fact that you can’t button your suit. Yup, that’s me! Look at those chipmunk cheeks.
Whatever your motivation, it must be deep enough to inspire you to not give up. Find your BIGGER BURN.
Number two is ACCOUNTABILITY
Nobody can climb Mt. Everest alone. We need Sherpas, a team of other climbers and a crew at base camp telling us about the storms coming ahead. Losing fat is the Mt. Everest of health. We can’t do it alone. I repeat, we cannot do it alone. Once you’ve found your MOTIVATION, it’s imperative we have supporters who are part of our Accountability Alliance.
Who’s going to help you?
These are people who will hold your feet to the fire when times get tough. When you want that pizza slice, who’s going encourage you to make a better choice? When you want to go out for beers, who’s going to remind you about that 232 pound fatty that… You get my point. It can be a friend, a family member, or more importantly, your significant other. If your partner isn’t on board, your fat loss success diminishes. The reason why TBP clients are successful is because we hold our clients accountable, weigh-ins, measurements, pictures. It allows us to gauge our success in short periods of time, in order to reach our long term goals. Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint. The stronger your alliance, the higher likelihood of success.
Number three is DISCIPLINE
Making the correct decision, even when you don’t want to. Easy peezy? YEAH freaking right! We’re bound to slip up. Sunday brunch? Happy hour? We’ll fail, because if it was easy, everyone would be a Victoria Secret model (my dream, not yours). We won’t be perfect all the time, but we have to listen to that little voice inside our head.
Listen to your little voice.
You know the one. That voice that creeps up and says don’t do it when you’re driving home and you’re a little hungry. You have everything you need for a perfectly good sandwich waiting for you, but you inexplicably pull into an In-N-Out drive thru, order a triple-triple (yes, those exists) with animal fries, pay, while asking for a box with a lid to keep everything warm (I knew it was a problem when the cashier knew me by name). That voice needs to be your guiding light. It can be trained to be powerful armed with the right Motivation and supported by strong Accountability Alliance. Your little voice can take over your choices and automate decision making. Discipline is limiting the decisions taking us away from our goal while maximizing the decisions moving us towards our goal.
If you’re still reading, first off, thank you. It means what you’ve read makes at least a little sense. You’ve found your true motivation and have people in mind for your Accountability Alliance. You even promised yourself to try harder to listen to your little voice. What I’m about to ask of you next requires you take a leap of faith with me. And you can’t laugh. Ok, you can laugh but you have to keep an open mind. Deal?
Get the Right Tools
I need you to fill out a workbook. And not just any workbook but the Master Trainer, Tony Arreola’s Secrets of the Skinny workbook. Go ahead, finish laughing, I’ll wait. Before you brush this off, we’ve used this workbook as homework for our individual personal training clients and it really works. Trust me, when Tony first sent it to me I was a skeptic. But it works because it teaches the secrets you need to master before you step foot into a gym.
Stop Being Fooled
Are you still with me? I told you I needed you to trust me. If this sounds silly, it’s probably because you’ve been taken advantage of before. The fitness industry has tricked you into believing you can lose, 10 pounds in 10 days. Juice cleanses that jump start your metabolism. Or the top 5 fat burning exercises. As a member of the fitness industry, I’m sorry we lied to you, and this workbook is our mea culpa.
Use the Right Tools
If you have failed to lose fat in the past, it wasn’t because of lack of effort. You weren’t equipped with the right tools. Now you have them. Use them and more importantly learn from others mistakes including mine. We want to make your fat loss journey as easy as possible. Take that leap of faith. If I can do it, you can too. Capitalize on the motivation before it goes away.
What goals do you have this year? Please share with me in the comments. I promise to try and help as much as possible.
NASM CPT, WLS, BCS
- Clark, M.A., Lucett, S. C., & Sutton, B. G. (2012). NASM Essentionals of Personal Fitness Training (4th ed.). Wolters Kluwer.