How to Eat to Lose Fat
Below you’ll find a complete system for eating to achieve your goal of losing body fat and staying in great shape for the rest of your life. It’s a system that I’ve developed over more than 10 years while traveling and living in different cities with different food options. I created it because I wanted to develop a simplified and easy way to stay in great shape, no matter where or how I was living. Using this system, I’ve been able to maintain 10% body fat for over 10 years. I’ve seen it work wonders for many others, and I’m sure it will work for you too.
Update: Be sure to download the accompanying excel sheet and pdf to use yourself at the bottom of the article.
My advice is to start by first reading the entire content, from beginning to end. Once you have fully understood how it works, come back to the beginning and using the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that accompanies this book, create your own diet plan using the step-by-step process.
Always remember: Failing to plan is planning to fail.
The most important aspect of successfully eating healthy is having a realistic plan in place that you know you can follow and that will work. The plan needs to consider your food preferences and your current life situation. Having a plan eliminates indecision and doubt later and basically eliminates the need for you to ever think “what should I eat now?” This book takes you through the process of creating that plan. The process of creating your own plan may take an hour or two of your time now, but it will save you countless months of frustration, confusion, and lack of results later.
When creating your eating plan, always remember to think about your work schedule and the type of life you want to live. It is extremely important to define an eating plan that matches your life and that you can realistically follow.
Reference Diet and the 80% Rule
The eating plan we’ll create is based on the concept of a “reference diet” and the 80% rule. A reference diet is defined as the perfect diet for you, your goals, and your situation. If you follow it, you will get lean. That is fact.
Throughout this book we will be creating your personal reference diet. However, after we create it you don’t need to follow it 100% of the time. You know as well as I do that following anything 100% of the time is not realistic. As much as we plan, and as much as we will try to anticipate things that will screw up our plan, we will never be able to follow the reference diet for 100% of our meals. And you don’t need to try to.
Firstly, it would be boring as hell to even try and secondly it is not at all necessary to be 100% consistent. If you follow the diet 80% of the time or more then you will see good results.
If you follow the diet plan 80% of the time what does that look like in the context of a week?
This essentially means that you can eat anything you want up to 4 times a week and still achieve good results from your diet.
You will go out drinking with friends, or eat an entire pizza occasionally, or eat chocolate cake at a coffee house on a date. That’s fine and that’s life. The reason we define your reference diet is so that after you have those big nights out or dates you know that as long as you are following the diet 80% of the time, you’ll be fine. You just get back to your reference diet. Just get back on the train. And keep making progress.
Now let’s go through the steps needed to create your reference diet.
Step 1: How to Define Your reference Diet in Terms of Calories and Macronutrients??
First, you need to define the number of calories per macronutrient you need to eat per day that makes sense for your goal. There are several calculators available online, in which you can enter your weight, height, sex and even your body fat percentage and activity level and you will get a good estimate of the amount of macronutrients and calories that you must consume to lose weight.
Just remember that any calculator or table will only give you an estimate of where to start. Once you start living your diet, you will need to calibrate the number of calories and macronutrients for your daily consumption based on the results you are seeing (more on this later).
To facilitate this step, I have included a macronutrient and calorie calculator for you to use which you can find in the Excel spreadsheet that accompanies this book. It takes as input your height, weight, age and general activity level and outputs the calories per macronutrient you need to consume to lose fat. It takes inputs in metric units. However, if you think in imperial units, I’ve also included an imperial to metric converter on the same sheet.
Here you see sheet 1 of the calculator included with this book.
I suggest that you use the calculator to get a more precise recommendation. However, to give you an immediate general reference I’ve calculated the following tables for you. These tables show the recommended calorie intakes for men and women of various heights and weights. They are based on moderate daily activity levels.
Tables 1 and 2 provide the amounts of macronutrients per calorie per day for an ideal diet with the goal of reducing body fat in men. Tables are organized by weight and height.
Tables 3 and 4 provide the amounts of macronutrients per calorie per day for an ideal diet with the goal of reducing body fat in women. Tables are organized by weight and height.
Using the tables or the calculator in the Excel spreadsheet, you have access to the information needed to define your reference diet in terms of macronutrients and calories.
Take, for example, a 36-year-old man, 80 kg, and 175 cm tall (5’9” and 176 lbs.). Using the calculator, we find the recommended quantities of calories per macronutrient he should consume per day.
This man will set up his diet so that he eats 633 calories from protein, 480 calories from carbohydrates, and 806 calories from fat a day.
At the end of this step you will know your calorie and macronutrient references, this is great. But we don’t eat macronutrients, we eat food.
So, the next question is how do you convert your calorie and macronutrient information into food?
Step 2: How to Define Your reference Diet in Terms of Food?
Step 2a: Create an empty sample meal plan table
The first step here is to create an empty table, as shown below, which will be filled with food items, quantities, and calories from macronutrients. Microsoft Excel spreadsheets work well for this and for that reason I created empty tables ready for you to use in the accompanying Excel spreadsheet.
You have your blank table ready. Now the next step is to define what foods you will insert into it.
Step 2b: Make a List of All the Healthy Foods You Are Willing and Able to Eat
First, what do I mean by healthy foods?
Healthy foods include but are not limited to: vegetables, fruits, beef, fish, poultry, eggs, pork, whole grains, potatoes, beans, lentils, legumes, natural oils, and seeds. The point is that healthy foods are real, natural, and unprocessed foods. Below, I’ll give you a basic list of common foods that I consider healthy.
To help you evaluate foods not included in the list, here are some simple rules:
- Processed food = Unhealthy
- Food with refined sugar = Unhealthy
- Food that comes in a package = Almost Always Unhealthy
- Food that grows in nature = Healthy
- Food that eats what grows in nature = Healthy
Any food that is not healthy can be eaten during the 20% of meals that you decide to not follow your reference diet. But those unhealthy foods should not be included in your reference diet and hence should not be eaten 80% of the time.
Also note, when consuming food with labels, carefully observe the ingredients and other information that can give the false idea of ??being healthy. It is quite common to be deceived by the food industry. For example, food that says it has no sugar, but has “maltodextrin”, cheeses sold in packages that try to hide the word “processed”, flavored yogurts, which almost always have sugar.
Using the foods in this reference table as well as any other healthy foods you want, make your list of healthy foods that you will include in your reference diet.
My list might look like this.
- Green peppers
- Black beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Olive Oil
Most importantly, when making your list only select healthy foods that you will actually want to eat, and that are available in your local area. This is meant to be a realistic list. If you know that you won’t eat broccoli for example don’t put it down. If your local grocery store never has avocado don’t list it. The list is meant to contain only foods you are willing and able to eat.
List your healthy food items in the accompanying Excel spreadsheet.
Step 2c: Look up the Calorie and Macronutrient Data of All the Foods on Your List
After your list is complete you need to look up the calories per macronutrient breakdown of the foods on your list.
I’ve already listed the calorie per macronutrient breakdown for many common foods above as well as in the accompanying Excel spreadsheet.
For any other foods not in the table above you can find their macronutrient breakdown by going to the following website.
At this point, with the list of foods you made, the reference chart and website above you have everything you need to start to populate your blank table with foods, quantities, and calories per macronutrient.
Note: You can populate your table using macronutrient grams or macronutrient calories. Whichever is easier for you. The excel sheet I use is populated by macronutrient calories. If you need to you can calculate the macronutrient calories of each food by noting that:
- 1 gram of protein has 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat has 9 calories.
Step 2d: Populate Your Blank Tables with Food and Quantity
Now is the fun part. It’s time to populate your blank diet table with foods, quantities, and calories per macronutrient. You can enter any of the listed foods in any quantity. You decide what to eat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You decide which foods to put together in the same meals and which to separate. However, just make sure that as you populate the table it is realistic for you and your lifestyle. I will keep saying that. This is your ideal diet. It is custom for you and you are responsible for creating it in a way that you can actually follow. If at any time you look at it and feel like you may not be able to follow some aspect you need to change the food/quantity/combinations immediately. It must be realistic for you in your current situation. Take your time and do it right.
Keep entering the foods and changing the quantities until you achieve your calculated ideal macronutrient and calorie numbers. You won’t get the numbers to be perfect but try to get within 5% of the ideal and you’ll be fine. To be honest when you are eating in the real world you won’t be able to perfectly measure your food quantities anyway so there will always be a small margin of error. A 5% margin of error is not a problem.
I use 100 grams as a reference frequently. If you’d like help to visualize how much food is equivalent to 100 grams.
100 grams is equal to …
- just under half a cup of butter
- half a medium-sized apple
- 1 medium sized banana
- 3/4 cup of flour
- 1/2 cup cooked rice
- half a medium-sized baked potato
- 1 medium sized tomato
100 grams fits in the palm of your hand easily.
Another useful reference to know especially when thinking about oils, butters, nuts, and seeds is that one tablespoon = 15 grams.
Here is the completed table for our sample 36-year-old, 80 kg, and 175 cm man (5’9”, 176lbs). I filled out his diet for 2 days. You can create as many days as you like. I personally don’t need much variety in my life, so a day or two of different meal plans is enough. I’ve already created 3 blank tables for you to fill in the Excel spreadsheet. If you want more days feel free to create more tables.
After filling out your own tables you will have defined your reference diet in terms of food and quantities.
You now have a diet that will take you to your goals. It is made up of foods that you have access to and that you will actually eat. Following this diet 80% of the time you will get the body you want.
Step 3: Take a Photo of Your Plan and Keep It in Your Phone
Now, take a photo of your reference diet tables with your cell phone so that you can always refer to them quickly before going to the grocery store or having a meal to remember what to buy and what to eat.
This is very important. This reference diet will accompany you in 80% of your meals. To achieve this you need an easy and quick way to consult it at the supermarket and before eating. Having a photo on your cell phone helps a lot.
One quick note about falling off the plan and getting back on.
As we talked about above. If you can stick to this plan 80% of the time you will be successful. In fact, we only plan to stick to it 80% of the time.
That being said there will be times in life (vacations, holidays, etc.) where it is difficult to even be 80% consistent. Don’t worry about this. The reference diet plan is here and always will be. After you finish your vacation or other life event you can always get right back on the plan and it will always lead you towards the lean body you want. You don’t need to feel guilty when life happens. Just start fresh tomorrow morning and start making progress again towards your goal. This is a long-term strategy.
Step 4: Track Your Progress and Update Your Plan as Your Body Changes
One thing that is absolutely critical for your success is that you measure your results and make changes to your diet based on those results. Everyone is slightly different and the results you get over time will be unique to you. However, a reasonable rate of fat loss is 1-4 pounds in the first week then 0.5-2 pounds every week after that.
By taking your weight measurement every week and your waist and other measurements every month you will know 2 things.
- Is the plan working?
- Do I need to change anything?
If the plan is working that’s great, keep at it. Just remember that as your body changes over time you will need to update your meal plans to reflect the needs and goals of your new body. If you started at 80kg (176lbs) you will have started with a specific calorie and macronutrient plan. If you have now achieved a body of 75kg (165lbs) the macronutrient and calorie intake you need to keep making progress will be slightly different and will need to be recalculated. Change the quantities of certain foods in your tables as you like to reflect these changes.
In the Excel spreadsheet that accompanies this book I’ve included a template for you to use to track your progress over time.
What if the plan isn’t working?
If you’re taking your measurements and not getting the results you want, you need to stop and ask yourself why. Are you following the reference diet more than 80% of the time? If not, no worries, try better next week. Maybe swap out some foods you thought you would like but didn’t end up liking. Sleep better. Hit your workouts and keep going.
If you are not losing fat or losing fat too quickly and you are following the plan more than 80% of the time. Maybe your lifestyle is a bit unique. Adjust the calorie intake either up or down 200 calories and see what happens next week.
The process of changing your body is just that.
- Put together a plan based on science and good results from other people. (reference diet)
- Follow your plan and measure your results weekly
- Modify your plan little by little according to your results
- Eventually, you will reach your goal
I have used this diet plan in many different situations with great success in the past 10 years. Others who have adopted this plan also have seen very good results. Now it is your turn. You now have everything you need to get the healthy body you want. Start, refine, continue, but never give up.
And don’t forget. Use the Excel spreadsheet that accompanies this book. Go back through the book step by step and fill in the spreadsheet as you go.