blog article

Earned Fat-Loss

Many people come to me looking for the same thing: they want to go on a diet to lose weight and reveal a firm and toned physique.

Let’s stop and make a few distinctions here.  

  1. Your “diet” is, by definition, what you eat habitually. In order to lose weight, you need to be eating in a caloric deficit (consuming fewer calories than you expend).
  1. Losing weight is not the same as losing fat. Most people desire the latter.
  1. Muscle, not weight loss alone, is what inevitably creates that firm and toned appearance.  

Logically, you may assume that these people should enter into a caloric deficit in order to lose fat to reveal muscle. They should drop right into what we call a fat-loss phase. And new clients often present me with this request. The thing is, no one ever asks me if they’re ready for the fat-loss phase, and the majority of them are not.

Let’s talk about a few things we need for a truly successful fat-loss phase.


Muscle is what gives our bodies their shape. Having toned a *insert body part here* is going to require that you have muscle in that area. If you don’t already have the muscle, shedding fat will simply result in you being thinner, not necessarily firm and toned. (Trust me, I know this from experience.) Many people overestimate the amount of muscle mass they actually have, resulting in an underestimation of the amount of fat mass they have.

To add to that, being in a caloric deficit will naturally put you in a catabolic state which leaves you much more prone to losing muscle. When executed properly, a strict fat loss phase will prioritize maintaining muscle mass but you certainly shouldn’t expect to build any muscle during that time.


These two go hand-in-hand and you can’t have one without the other. Ideally you want to begin a fat-loss phase after months, possibly years, of improving your metabolism by way of enhancing your nutritional intake, awareness and habits. This will ensure that your maintenance calories (number of calories you consume that would not cause you to lose or gain weight) are at a relatively high starting point.

If your maintenance calories are low to begin with, it is much more likely that you will experience the negative side-effects of being in a caloric deficit and that you will begin to experience them much sooner. Some of these side-effects include:  

  • Fatigue
  • Digestive issues
  • Loss of menstrual cycle (for women)
  • Muscle loss
  • mood swings
  • & more

Your metabolism and your hormonal function are not fixed. Focusing on improving both is the best way to ensure a successful fat-loss phase.


Anyone can follow a meal plan, the same way anyone can follow a recipe. But following a recipe doesn’t make you a good cook. Time, experience and a deeper understanding of the methods behind the cooking are what make a good cook.

Having, at the very least, a fundamental understanding of nutrition and the way it impacts fat loss will inevitably make the process much less complicated and much more enjoyable. To know the ‘why’ behind what you are doing will give you a great deal more flexibility and freedom as well as more incentive to adhere to the plan.

What happens when a good cook is missing an ingredient in a recipe? They find a suitable substitution. Why won’t a good cook simply bake things at a higher temperature to cook them faster? They know the end result will not be the same as if they remain patient and bake at a lower temperature. Being able to call an audible when necessary and having the motivation to stick to the plan even when you’re tempted to do otherwise are both benefits of knowing the ‘why’.

The more you educate yourself and the more time and experience you have, the easier and more intuitive the entire process becomes. You don’t need a PhD in nutrition, but having a basic understanding of energy balance as well as macronutrients and the way they impact your body is going to set you up for both short and long term success.  

If you aren’t too savvy when it comes to nutrition, hiring a coach will be an invaluable investment. Of course, having a coach to guide you will take most of the guesswork out of the process, but a good coach will aim to educate you, instilling a better understanding of nutrition along the way, establishing a foundation that will allow you to continue to make progress autonomously.  


This concept piggy-backs off of #2. You cannot have a healthy metabolism and optimally functioning hormones without living an overall healthy lifestyle. You could bust your ass in the gym, hit your macros perfectly every day and still fail to see the results you desire if you aren’t addressing other life factors that dramatically impact those results.

Some of the biggest things you can do to improve health overall?

  • Get 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Drink at least a gallon of water each day.
  • Consume nutrient dense foods that promote healthy digestion.
  • Prioritize rest and recovery.
  • Minimize stress.

Of course life doesn’t always go the way we plan and we won’t always be able to check off every one of those boxes. The most important thing is to remain consistent.

Are you ready?  

If you can read through 1-4 and say, “I have all of these things!”, then you are most likely ready to begin a fat loss phase. Congrats! Otherwise it may be best to address whichever area in which you feel you are lacking. Starting with a solid foundation will always lead to better results.

Other considerations  

While much of fat loss is driven by physiology, there is also a psychological factor that cannot be ignored. Restricting calories and being fastidious with your food intake can take a mental toll and is certainly not for everyone. Prior to starting a fat loss phase you need to make sure that you are mentally prepared for the inherent difficulties that come along with fat loss like being hungry, tired, tempted and unmotivated.

Dropping fat takes time and money. Of course, if you truly want the results, you’ll make it happen even with a busy schedule and tight budget. Just know that the results you seek will require investing a little extra of both.  

What if we changed the way we looked at fat loss? What if we put more of an emphasis on putting in the work before the fat loss in order to produce better results? Sure, you want to start the journey to fat loss but . . . Did you earn it?