The 10 Commandments for Simple Fat Loss

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I promote training for performance as a great way to achieve a healthier, stronger, and leaner physique. I encourage individuals to stop thinking about fat loss, even if that’s their primary goal, and instead focus on getting stronger or improving their performance with their workouts.

Now, I understand that some people just want to know how to achieve fat loss in the simplest, and easiest, way possible. Bottom line – some people just want to lose some excess fat, and want specific guidelines to achieve that goal now. So, if you’re an individual who thinks, “Yes, I know to focus on performance, but I really just want to lose some fat,” then this article is for you.

If you’re going to truly focus on fat loss for a period of time, you might as well follow the KISS principle — Keep It Super Simple (thanks to a reader for suggesting that little tweak!). If something is simple, it’ll be less stressful and you’ll be able to apply the guidelines daily with ease than if you followed something strict, rigid, and overwhelming.

If it ain’t simple, don’t do it. Now let’s dive into The 10 Commandments for Simple Fat Loss.

1. Thou Shall Stop Training for Fat Loss

You didn’t think I’d leave this one out, did you? Your main focus should still be on improving your performance whether you’re lifting weights, running hill sprints, swinging a kettlebell, or any other strength training component you utilize.

When you’re in the gym, or outside sprinting, focus on your performance, not burning calories. You’ll be more motivated if you’re concerned about getting an extra rep or running an extra sprint than about working yourself to complete and utter exhaustion.

Oftentimes when people train for fat loss, they perform grueling workouts that leave them huffing, puffing, and crumbled into a delirious heap of sweat on the floor. Just because you finish a workout exhausted or nauseous does not mean it was an effective or productive workout.

The value of your workout is not determined by how tired you are afterwards, or even how sore you are the next day.

You should follow a sound training program that emphasizes improved performance to achieve your fat loss goals.

2. Thou Shall Master the Basics of Training & Nutrition

All too often people attempt a complete diet and training overhaul in a single day. They drastically change their eating habits and start exercising daily (usually via crazy workouts that leave them exhausted as discussed above).

While this drastic change in diet and exercise may produce some immediate results, most people give up a couple of weeks into such a demanding regimen.

The solution is to focus on, and master, the basics of nutrition and strength training.

Before I elaborate, I have to share one of my all time favorite quotes that I post on occasion.

“I think many of us think this way: If it’s free or simple or easy to understand, it can’t be as good as something that’s expensive, complicated and difficult to figure out on your own”. ~Dan John

So — don’t poo-poo the basics or simple principles.

Nutrition Basics

1. Eat real food at least 90% of the time. Real food = items such as grass fed meats, wild caught fish, free range eggs, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds.

Yes, I’m well aware that it’s possible to lose fat and improve your health by bending, or breaking, that guideline. However, I recommend following this guideline because most people can get away with not counting calories, weighing their food, etc by doing so.

Seriously. Do it.

2. Eat your protein. This will help with satiety, meaning you’ll feel fuller longer. I go into more detail about this in 3 Steps for Hunger Control and Fat Loss, but somewhere around, at least, .75 grams per pound of bodyweight is a good target.

I’ve seen it numerous times – women will go on a “diet” to lose weight and they cut back on foods they think are not fat loss friendly. Oftentimes their protein intake plummets, and many end up consuming only around 40 grams of protein for an entire day.

This isn’t optimal for fat loss, in my opinion, and these women are usually ravenous. All. The. Time. From just bumping up their protein to approximately .8 grams per pound of bodyweight, they start losing fat easier and aren’t plagued with constant hunger. Who wants to feel like they’re starving all the time? Eat your protein.

I should also mention that the majority of your protein should come from whole, real food sources like meat, eggs, dairy (if you tolerate it) and fish. Protein shakes are fine for convenience and/or post workout, but strive to get most of your protein from real food.

Strength Training Basics — Beginner Strength Training 101

1. Strength train three to four days per week. If you’re going to train three days per week, I highly recommend total body workouts. If you’re going to train four days per week, go with an upper/lower training split.

If you want detailed training programs that range from beginner to more advanced training, then check out Beautiful Badass. That will get you going in the right direction.

2. Focus on compound exercises. If fat loss is your goal, don’t waste your time with isolation exercises like biceps curls and lateral raises. Use compound exercises that recruit the most muscle mass possible and allow you to lift heavy weight. That means squats, deadlifts, push-ups, rows, chin-ups, presses, lunges, or similar alternatives.

3. Thou Shall Adopt Simple, No Nonsense, Stress Free Nutrition Habits

Nutrition is definitely the area where most people struggle, and it’s also the most important factor for losing body fat.

Other than encouraging people to eat real food, first and foremost, I don’t really care what eating pattern they adopt. You should, however, do what you enjoy and what fits easily into your lifestlye.

Some people prefer to implement various methods of intermittent fasting because they’re simple and easy to follow on a daily basis.

Now, as much as I like IF, it’s not some “holy grail”, and it doesn’t work for everyone. Others enjoy eating several small meals throughout the day. Some people prefer to just listen to their bodies and eat when they’re hungry. Some people like tracking calories and macronutrients.

There isn’t really a right or wrong way, in my opinion, as long as you do what works for you.

For more nutrition information, refer to the Beautiful Badass Nutrition Principles.

4. Thou Shall Accept and Learn from Set Backs

Nothing will ever be perfect, and you will have bad days. You may miss a scheduled training session, and you most certainly will have days where you eat some junk food.

Don’t view these instances as the end of the world or a huge detriment to your fat loss goals.

If you miss a workout or end up eating too many cookies, accept it and move on. Don’t dwell on it or be riddled with guilt. That does absolutely no good and doesn’t change a thing.

Also, don’t compound those small set backs. For example, if you miss a training session you were supposed to do on Friday, don’t take the whole weekend off and “start new on Monday”. Get back in the gym the next day and get on track once more.

Likewise, and this is the area most people mess up, when you eat more junk food than you planned, don’t keep eating more junk food! If someone eats a piece of pizza or too many cookies, they usually think, “Well, I blew it already so I might as well keep eating crap” and they go on a binge. Don’t do that!

Accept the situation, but get back on track. It’s really no big deal.

5. Thou Shall Stop Comparing Thyself to Others

Don’t have the goal of looking like the latest airbrushed model on the cover of a magazine or lingerie catalog. Instead, focus on becoming the best you possible and forget about trying to achieve some “ideal image” as dictated by society and the popular media.

Focus on what you can do in the gym and be proud of your abilities. You may not be the strongest deadlifter in the gym, and you may not have the body of a Victoria Secret model, but you do have natural qualities, gifts, and abilities.

Highlight and improve upon your natural abilities and talents. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

6. Thou Shall Lift Heavy Weight 

High reps (15+) can have their place and be beneficial for fat loss, but too many trainees use them exclusively when training for fat loss. Neglecting heavy lifting (5-8 reps) when training for fat loss is a big mistake for experienced trainees, and it’s even worse for female beginner strength trainees.

If you don’t have a good level of strength, like most beginners, then you’ll be using super light weight for high rep sets. That does very little for increasing strength and taxing your muscles. For example, a beginner would use very little weight for high rep squats, maybe around 45 pounds or so. However, someone who’s been training for years could use 115 pounds or more for high rep squats. That’s a large difference.

Bottom line – don’t neglect heavy weight lifting on your fat loss journey.

7. Thou Shall Not Rely Heavily on Cardio

Flip through a popular magazine and cardio is usually the first topic discussed for fat loss. Most people have visions of people plodding along in zombie-like fashion on treadmills, ellipticals, and stair steppers.

Focus on  nutrition first, and put 100% into your strength training sessions; that’s where the majority of your fat loss results will come from. Other than that, feel free to incorporate some brisk walking into the mix a few days of the week. Or, you can also do some higher intensity work like hill sprints.

Don’t fall victim into thinking you’re required to spend hours a week on a machine. It just ain’t true.

8. Thou Shall Not Obsess over the Number on the Scale

That link will lead you to an important article you should read if you’re self-worth is determined by the number you see on the scale.

When it comes to fat loss, I strongly encourage people to train to achieve the look they are after, and not a number on the scale. You may think you want to weigh 125 pounds because that was your high school weight, but you may feel and look better weighing 140 pounds. Go by look — not a number.

This has also been covered in a Case for Staying off the Scale and Not Weighing Yourself.

9. Thou Shall Not be Motivated by Negative Thoughts & Emotions

Training for fat loss should not be fueled by negative thoughts like, “I hate how I look” and other negative, self-loathing comments.

Train to improve yourself, for sure. But train because you want to see how strong you can get. Train because you are proud of what you’re body can do. Train because you want to test your physical and mental capabilities. Train because you want to highlight your unique  qualities and abilities.

Always have positive thoughts to fuel your workouts.

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10. Thou Shall be Patient and Consistent

No one gained 20 pounds overnight, and so you shouldn’t expect to lose it all overnight either; if you’re on a mission to lose body fat, then acknowledge that fact right now. This isn’t about a quick fix you can’t sustain — it’s about achieving results that you can maintain forever.

Rapid fat loss methods don’t work, so stay the course each day and week and be sure to savor and celebrate the small victories like setting a new personal record in the gym, trying a new recipe or healthy food,  eating more protein, and moving around more.

And know this — building a great body is about consistency, not perfection.

Time for Action!

Don’t let this simple list overwhelm you if you’re currently applying just one or two of the “commandments”. Keep things super simple (remember?) and begin by applying a few of the easiest guidelines first. Once those become habits, incorporate a couple more.

It’s more important that you develop habits that are easy to maintain over a longer period of time as opposed to employing a drastic change overnight.

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  • “I freaking LOVE this info! I'm determined to be a Beautiful Badass!” -Tina V
  • Kristen

    AAwesome article! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Xarmayne Helen M. Freeman

    Am saving this for my Diet Collection!!

  • Olivia

    This is a great and super simple article full of valuable information. Congrats Nia. 

  • Chrysta

    Really awesome solid advice. Loved this!

  • Julliettekallip

    Great article Nia, and thank you for helping me deal with my body image issues the past month. I admire ur strength and that of the girls gone strong girls as this has changed my focus from comparing myself to others but now to getting strong. Being strong. And keeping healthy not just on the inside, but mentally. Xxx

    • Nia Shanks

      I’m thankful to know I’ve helped you in some way. Thanks for sharing, and I wish you all the best.

  • Gordon Watts

    Your article is well-balanced (thank you for showing both sides to the issue, Nia!). For example, your last point #11, about not staying on the ‘fat loss’ bandwagon forever is an excellent point:

    Fat (in moderation, and within healthy limits) plays a vital role in many biochemical functions for health (such as uptake of fat-soluble vitamins, cellular functions of EFA’s, energy stores, and protection from cold, -and as a means to temporarily dilute
    & buffer toxic poisons, etc.)

    Athletes –and Joe Average Citizen –can be healthy, happy, and attractive so long as they eat healthy/whole foods & exercise hard in the gym! (MANY excellent athletes are out there –even in the Olympics, for example –who are either a bit heavy or a bit light, so don’t get discouraged if you’re not exactly average.)

  • Mandy

    I actually love your e mails.  

    • Nia Shanks

      Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/alanamorales Alana Morales

    Great article! I’m curious – why do you think the fitness arena is having so much trouble ditching the “less cardio” mantra? Is it just money? I’ve been heavy lifting for 6+ months and am STILL having trouble stepping away from the treadmill. Keep up the great work!! :)

    • Nia Shanks

      Well, I think there are several reasons. One — it’s how gyms make money since they have all the fancy cardio machines. Two — it’s easier than lifting! Three — it’s still popular and appeals to women who unfortunately still believe the myth that weight lifting will make them big ‘n bulky. We’re working hard to change all this, though. Thanks for the support!

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  • Cd Salmon

    Very Encouraging article.  I look forward to start my training.. 

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  • Vix- Miss Fitness Life

    awesome post full of great advice- I am not sure I could ever fast!, but heavy weights, no reliance on cardio and focussing on the right emotions sounds like the perfect recipie for success!

  • http://www.facebook.com/cecelia.livingston Cecelia Livingston

    Wow… will be referring back to this one on a regular basis. Awesome!!

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  • Candice

    Train to improve yourself, for sure. But train because you want to see how strong you can get. Train because you are proud of what you’re body can do. Train because you want to test your physical and mental capabilities. Train because you want to highlight your unique qualities and abilities.
    I loved that bit. Thats exactly why and how I train. Thanks Nia

  • http://www.facebook.com/CindyNguyen1212 Cindy Nguyen

    These 10 commandments are right on the spot. I think I discovered slowly, one by one, as I progressed with my journey. Seeing them all here confirm that I’m having this liftstyle for better reason and not to look like some models. Thank you Nia.

    • Nia Shanks

      :) Thanks for sharing, Cindy!

  • Marty Freer Ratigan

    Fresh caught fish are a tad hard to come by when you live in a big city!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mellytesta Melanie Testa

    I have just begun weight lifting and am trying to move away from weighing myself. I did go ahead and weigh myself this week, one month ago I weighed 118, this week, I weigh 120+. I knew before I weighed myself that it might go up and that I would need to temper my thoughts and remind myself that I am quite happy with the look of my body right now. I see great initial results, my muscle definition is better, I feel stronger, more balanced, confident in my body, great stuff, really. So #8 is my challenge this week.

  • Anna

    I love reading your emails. It’s gives me more motivation to get on with it. The info is of great insight but very straight forward and easy to understand and to put into practice. Keep it up .xxx

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  • Joe

    Nia, why do you say that the value of a workout isn’t determined by how tired or sore we are? What is? I find it extremely interesting and have never heard it before.

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  • Brian

    First, great information! I have to think the couple of other guys posting sounded like whiners or they were attempting to bait you into debate. It’s the women who are all gung ho! Awesome! Anyway, my wife was injured in a car accident and has upper back issues now. She only has a few pounds in the belly she wants to lose and seems off to a great start just by skipping lunches. Do your lifting programs provide substitutions for things like dead lifts (things she cannot do at this time)? Also, considering your ideas sound like good overall concepts, can men follow your programs just the same? My wife and I used to lift 5, 3, 1 together until she got injured. Our visits to to the gym and our motivation to lift has slowly diminished since we haven’t lifted as a team. Thanks in advance for your time and assistance!

  • Sharon

    So glad and now inspired that I found your site. I’m going to do this!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.goldberg.9279 Apple Juice

    what about post workout meal? carb timing?….preworkout meal?

  • K. Cross

    Thanks Nia! This was exactly what I’ve been perusing forums for. Thanks for validating my plan, and encouraging me to keep it going.

  • James

    Easy site to learn how to lose fat!

    http://c692e1z6v6k7ynf0z4jjw5tgwz.hop.clickbank.net/

  • Kirsten

    Nia, can I put a day for yoga between the days of training, or would it be too much?

  • Louis in DE

    Nia–Allow me to be among the MEN celebrating you for a wonderful, wonderful article that reaffirms my daily fitness activities and has done so much to motivate me. I always say, “the best man for a job is usually a woman” ( but don’t quote me on that part–LOL)