Hey, I'm Candace!
(Phase 1 of my fat loss transformation)
My own skinny fat to fit journey started almost 20 years ago with doing plenty of cardio even though wanted to get toned and look athletic.
I first got curious about lifting by doing random exercises on the machines at the gym. I didn't know what the hell I was doing and my sister described my body at the time as skinny and scrawny. My arms were gangly, my bottom half was swimming in pants because of my pancake butt and I wasn’t getting stronger.
Fast forward years later,
...skipping over the weeks of gym anxiety where I was terrified that someone will approach me in the gym for bad form.
...skipping over the phases of ZERO changes where I was in the gym 5-6X a week with weights and cardio and literally wasted months of hard work because I didn't know what I was doing.
...skipping over the months of eating healthy and feeling the struggle because I didn't look any different while missing numerous opportunities to eat cake (yes my favorite indulgence is cake, pasta, and ramen!)
I finally figured out how to get my body to go from skinny fit to fit by hiring trainers and spending $$$ on books, and courses.
Through this experience my body went through 2 distinct skinny fat to fit changes,
- Phase 1 - from 30% bodyfat down to 22% bodyfat where I added almost 15 lbs of muscle to my skinny frame in early 2000s. (see pics above)
- Phase 2 - from 24% down to 17% bodyfat where I lost 10lbs of fat (see pics below)
(Phase 2 of my fat loss transformation)
So I'm so excited that you're here because I want to share with you everything I’ve learned during my own journey so that you can create your own transformation story. I hope you learn a lot from this guide so that you can finally break free from being skinny fat.
So whether you want to lose your belly fat,
“...in less than 3 months of training I lost 3 inches while building more tone just in time for my 30th birthday” - V. Sridhar
“Over the course of two months I lost 6lbs of fat and 3 inches around my waist while maintaining my lean muscle mass.” - G. Mills
“My legs are more toned and stronger from my workouts. I dropped 2.5 inches around my waist in 3 months and my stomach is much tighter and flatter. For the first time in 4 years I am able to get back into my pre-pregnancy jeans!” - T. Lau
Or reduce your bodyfat percentage,
“I’ve gained ~3lbs of muscle and lost 7lbs of at. I feel stronger, have a more defined stomach with lean abs just in time for my wedding.” - M. Connelly
“So far I’ve lost 2 inches in 12 weeks and my bodyfat dropped from 20% down to 16%.” - Y. Chen
You’re in the right place.
In this 90+ page ultimate guide you’ll learn everything you need to achieve these results.
Chapter 1: Introduction
The number of people who are obese keeps rising every year.
In the United States alone 70% of people are considered overweight which increases their risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases that will lead to a premature death. In the year 2025 it's predicted that more than 50% of global population will be considered obese or overweight.
If you're considered overweight by the general population the Internet is saturated with advice on how to help you lose weight,
- Eat healthier - more vegetables, less fast food
- Start exercising - get to the gym, walk 10,000 steps everyday
- Get on a diet - Whole30, Paleo, Southbeach etc
- Do something!
What happens if you're skinny on the outside but fat on the inside AKA skinny fat?
You’re at 30%+ bodyfat but people tell you that you look great in clothes and that you don’t look fat.
What do you do if you're already doing all of the above and you still have a pooch that you can grab?
Then mainstream traditional advice isn't going to work for you.
You need to fine tune your approach to see results for you because weight loss is not your goal but fat loss is.
In this guide you'll find:
- A complete, step-by-step system to helping you go from being skinny fat to being fit
- The scientifically proven steps that celebrity trainers have used to transform bodies for actors and actresses
- The important mindset shifts you must make in order to be successful during this journey
- The supporting lifestyle habits that will expedite your results from skinny fat to fit.
After reading this guide you'll have the roadmap and skills to burn off that stubborn fat and build tone.
What you won't find in here are recommendations for the best diets, quick fixes, or specific workout plans or supplements for sale.
Why I Wrote This Guide
The health and fitness industry in 2018 was worth $30 billion dollars and is growing at least 3 to 4% annually in the United States.
With obesity becoming a health epidemic it means that most companies are out there trying to make a profit selling you the latest supplement or pill or exercise class. It is in their interest to flood the market with all sorts of information to confuse you and sell you a temporary solution.
Wikipedia lists 100+ different types of diets alone with more than half of them created by a company.
This guide is to equip you with the right knowledge to help you lose bodyfat and cut through all the BS information out there that marketers are peddling to you.
There is a lot of information out there on how to stop being skinny fat but still plenty of women still struggle to find the right information for them and to actually get results. They find contradicting information, try to fit the different pieces of information together but still have plenty of questions.
I wrote this guide because I wanted to make it easy for you to find the information you need and to provide a clear roadmap for you to get from skinny fat to fit.
How To Get The Most Out Of This Guide
The #1 reason why women don't lose any bodyfat or see any results is because they skip a step or two in the skinny fat to fit journey.
For example, if you go straight into the diet section and tweak your calories but don't do your measurements properly you'll get frustrated when nothing changes. Or if you think that you already have a good enough strength training plan so you skip the chapter on what to look for in a fat burning workout and realize a month later you look the same.
Each chapter in this guide creates a foundation for the next chapter. If you skip through any of the chapters sooner or later you'll hit a plateau in the middle of your journey. Instead of skimming through each chapter, focus on understanding each chapter and implementing what you've learned.
Who This Guide Is For
Because I've spent years of trial and error experimenting on my own body, paid thousands of dollars to work with trainers, poured 100+ hours reading the best transformation books out there, and now transformed the bodies of 50+ women as personal trainer myself I'm going to reveal the simplest, most effective strategies to help you lose body fat.
You'll benefit from this guide if:
- You're looking for a complete proven system that works to go from skinny fat to fit
- You want to eat REAL food like a normal person and not rely on supplements or pills to get results
- You're completely committed and willing to work hard to put these strategies into action
- You need to understand the basics around strength training or are already on a workout plan you love and just need help with the 'diet' aspect of fat loss
However, since I couldn't write a guide that will help everyone in their situation here are few instances where you won't find this guide helpful for you:
- If you want a quick fix and quick results, this guide isn't for you because the principles you learn in this guide is to help you create long term changes that require consistent daily action to implement and will take time
- If you're looking for a guide or recommendations on fat burning related supplements or pills, this guide isn't for you, we're focused on sustainable lifestyle changes
- If you're looking to prepare for a bikini competition or get below 15% bodyfat, this guide isn't for you, as having a bodyfat below 15% is cutting into essential bodyfat that your body needs to maintain a healthy function
- If you're looking to build a lot of muscle, this guide isn't for you. I cover a bit of general strength training to build a toned body but if you're looking to build or enhance a specific bodypart then you won't find this information here.
- If you're looking for answers to questions to specific diets, this guide isn't for you, as I don't recommend any diet but cover eating a balanced well rounded diet instead
Chapter 2: Are You Skinny Fat?
Most people get confused between weight loss and fat loss.
Weight loss is a number on the scale while fat loss is measured using either calipers or a DEXA scan. Just because you lost weight doesn't mean you lost fat because weight loss can be a combination of both fat and muscle.
Losing fat is much healthier as it preserves lean muscle mass which is essential to health and can result in some minor weight loss as well depending on where you’re starting at.
CASE EXAMPLE #1
You gained 20 lbs in the last year and you went up several clothing sizes? Then you need to lose weight and fat but primarily weight.
CASE EXAMPLE #2
If you look skinny but you jiggle or are soft in certain places or people tell you that you look great with your clothes on but underneath you can fully grab your tummy pooch then you want to lose fat.
Losing fat is still looking at a number but it's not as easily measured by your bathroom scale like your weight is. In fact, 100% of the time your bathroom scale is inaccurate when it comes to measuring bodyfat even if one of the features of the scale is to measure bodyfat.
To summarize the differences between weight and fat loss,
- When you lose weight through just dieting you become a smaller version of your current self.
- But when you lose fat combining diet and strength training you become a leaner version of your current self with more muscle tone.
The Definition Of Skinny Fat
According to the Urban Dictionary the term skinny fat can be described in multiple ways,
- When someone is thin and looks great in clothes, but is all flabby underneath - Meadow Soprano
- When someone appears to be skinny at first (an ectomorph) but is actually hiding a fat belly (or other body part) under saggy clothing. - Square Piggy
But using a more scientifically accurate description by the Calorie Control Council,
"Skinny fat is defined as being of normal weight, sometimes even being underweight, but lack muscle tone."
How To Know If You’re Skinny Fat
According to the World Health Organization you can have a BMI that is still considered within the healthy range of 18.5 to 24.99 but still be considered unhealthy.
The bodyfat chart below created by the American Council of Exercise, a nonprofit organization that provides fitness training and education for certified professionals, is the most commonly used bodyfat reference chart in gyms.
The range for a healthy bodyfat percentage is between 18% to 28%. If you have a normal body mass index (get your BMI calculated here) but are outside of the recommended bodyfat range for women then you are skinny fat and need this guide.
How You Became Skinny Fat
Skinny fat happens when you’re eating in excess for what your body needs. Your metabolism cannot burn all the calories you’re eating which results in storing extra fat.
The irony is that you store fat differently compared to others so you still look ‘skinny’ and likely have a lot of visceral fat which is fat around your organs, instead of subcutaneous fat which is fat underneath your skin. Visceral fat is associated with a increased health risks for obese diseases and is the unhealthier way your body stores fat.
You can also get to skinny fat by losing a lot of weight in a short period of time.
This happens because you’re losing muscle mass at the same time from eating less and eating the wrong kinds of foods. If you’re not lifting any type of heavy weights during this weight loss journey then it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be skinny fat at the end.
If you yo yo dieted and experienced large weight changes in a short time you will end up with a higher bodyfat percentage than before you started. Science shows that you cannot eliminate fat cells only reduce their size so when you get off your diet your body cannot handle the sudden increase in calories causing your body to create more fat cells to offload the extra energy. You’re more vulnerable to this transition when you have very little lean muscle mass and a slower metabolism.
How To Stop Being Skinny Fat
Transforming your body from high bodyfat to low bodyfat requires a combination of the right diet and strength training plan. Lifting weights is MUST when you want to lose bodyfat because,
- You can only lose so much bodyfat with cardio
- Your body uses energy more efficiently the more often you do cardio so your overall calorie burn is less
- Cardio has diminishing returns...the more you do cardio doesn’t mean the more you’ll burn
- Cardio in excess will cause you to lose muscle mass which is unhealthy and losing muscle mass will slow down your metabolism
- You want to be able to eat so the more muscle mass you have the more you can eat and when you eat extra it won’t be as quickly reflected on the scale or on your waist
Why Your Health Is At Risk Being Skinny Fat
On the outside you look like a normal healthy person but inside you have a high percentage of bodyfat. And having high bodyfat levels means that you are at risk for the same health problems and diseases as someone who is obese. Because you're considered 'metabolically unhealthy' even if you may not look the part you still can develop type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and out of control blood sugar.
BOTTOM LINE: Being thin does not equate to being healthy
Chapter 3: Overview of What It Takes To Lose Bodyfat
In this Ultimate Guide To Go From Skinny Fat To Fit I cover 4 big key steps to being successful at losing bodyfat and keeping it off without relying on diets, fads, or quick fixes:
- MINDSET - What are the key mental mindset shifts you must make at the beginning to lose the bodyfat
- DIET - Why eating healthy is not enough to shed bodyfat and what is
- WORKOUTS - What are the 5 FUNDAMENTAL RULES OF LIFTING that you must follow to build lean muscle and shed fat
- LIFESTYLE HABITS - How to expedite your results and why sometimes even if you have the right macros and you're lifting regularly you still don't see any changes
Before we get into the guide I'll briefly go over each section to give you a big picture roadmap of how to shed excess body fat and take you from skinny fat to fit.
MINDSET - Tackle Your Mindset To Reach Your Goals
The information is out there. Whatever fitness or body goals you want someone just like you has accomplished it. All the tactics fall under the same concepts: eat less, eat healthier, strength train and exercise to burn calories.
How come some of us get there and for others it's such an uphill battle that we end up quitting?
It's not about tactics or implementation because all of it is accessible to us but it's about understanding ourselves on a deeper level and our own psychology. How do the ones who are fit and have the body they want think differently from us? I go deeper in Chapter 4 - The Important Mindset Shifts To Be Successful.
DIET - A Healthier Diet Is NOT Enough To Go From Skinny Fat To Fit
There's a lot more than cutting out junk food and sugar out of your diet to melt fat. You want to retain as much muscle mass as possible during the journey and eat a diet that gives you high energy to exercise at a level to continuously burn off fat.
Another person's diet and general recommendation might not work for you or get you the same results. In Chapters 5 through 8 I walk you step by step and explain how much to eat for your body, when to change your diet, and signs your body gives you that it's time to change your diet and what to change it to.
As a bonus I also wrote an additional chapter on how to break out of plateaus, Chapter 12 - Busting Your Way Out of Plateaus. What happens when you stop seeing changes and what to do about them.
WORKOUTS - Rules To Follow To Go From Skinny Fat To Fit
This guide is too short to cover specific workouts. There are lots of amazing workout programs on the market and instead of making specific recommendations I show you what to look for in an effective fat loss program. This way you're able to find a workout program that you enjoy doing and will stick to for the duration of your skinny fat to fit journey.
I also highlight my 5 fundamental strength training rules that you must follow to see results no matter what workout program you're following.
LIFESTYLE HABITS - The 3 Big Rocks That Help You Expedite Fat Loss
Besides diet and exercise there are a few other supporting habits you can introduce in your life to help you expedite this journey. These are what I call Big Rocks that once you have these in place it'll be an easier journey for you and your body. Plus, once they become habits then maintaining your figure is easy!
Chapter 4: The Skinny Fat To Fit Mindset Shifts You Need To Be Successful
Fat loss is a simple process but it's not easy.
You're going to encounter many challenges that make you question whether you're doing this right and times where it seems like that you're not making any progress. You might even feel like throwing in the towel because it feels like you may never get there. You may also find yourself doing good with your eating for a while and be on track then it all goes down the toilet when the weekend rolls around or when you have a vacation.
With the Skinny Fat To Fit mindset your mind will sync up with your actions that lead to results. The wrong mindset will leave you frustrated and feel like you're trying to push a boulder up a hill.
Let's arm you with the right mindset to make this journey easier so that you can unveil that fit, toned body that is within your reach!
Mindset Shift #1 - Set Small Attainable Goals
If you're reading this guide likely you're impatient about getting the extra fat off ASAP. Maybe you've tried multiple things at once - working out 5 days a week, cutting out sugar and sweets cold turkey, saying no to drinking and pasta all in the same week.
Then all of a sudden you miss a day at the gym, you give in to your sweet tooth late at night , or you sneak in a couple bites of pasta at dinner and now you feel like a failure. Now that you've fallen off the wagon you feel like this isn't for you and you go on a food binge making you feel worse than before.
Repeat this cycle a couple of times and you start sending this message to your subconscious mind: "You failed. You're a failure. You have no control. You can't do it. You're doomed to be stuck in this body."
You don't have to feel this way.
Overhauling your life and your habits is hard work and doing it all at once can be mentally exhausting.
Instead start small and accumulate small wins that you know you have no problem of accomplishing. These small wins gets you excited, builds confidence, and motivation to keep going. It's important that you feel accomplished and these small wins build a can do attitude that will help you overcome any future challenges.
Here are other suggestions for starting small,
- Instead of cutting out sugar cold turkey set boundaries and decide ahead of time of when you're going to allow yourself to have sweets.
- If you're brand new to meal prepping don't start prepping lunches for 5 days aim for 2 days and one of them can be leftovers from dinner and that can be an automatic win.
- Haven't been to the gym in a long time? Start with once a week because it's almost guaranteed that you'll make it and you'll feel accomplished. Then gradually increase the number of times per week.
- I rather have you start small and make it to the gym consistently one month, six months, and years from now versus going all out for 2 months and never going till New Year rolls around.
Staring small will raise your self-esteem and self-confidence that you can do this. Stick with it long enough and you'll start seeing results, feel good about yourself and then you can start setting bigger goals.
Mindset Shift #2 - You Are Responsible For Everything In Your Life
When it gets tough and we start feeling the struggle all of a sudden things start to fall apart.
We struggle with consistency because we're busy taking care of everyone else and neglect ourselves. You start off strong then you miss one day and it's all over. You do well with eating during the week then when the weekend rolls around you're completely thrown off
How come people who are busier and have more going on make it look like it's easy?
Why are they getting results but you're still stuck in the trough of despair and you just struggle?
The difference is that they have taken responsibility for everything in their life.
Good things and bad things happen to all of us and we have no control or get to choose those events.
What we CAN choose is how we respond to what's happening.
You cannot change your circumstances until you believe that you are in control. Taking responsibility for what happens will give you that sense of control that you can change your response to what's happening.
Stop asking "Why did this happen to me?" and instead ask "What am I going to do about it?"
- Had to skip your workout today because work meetings ran over? Instead of feeling like you failed, pull out your calendar and reprioritize events in your week so that you can find time to fit in a workout some other time.
- Accidentally went overboard with the sweets at the party? Instead of focusing on why you always give in to temptations focus your energy on how you can get back on track with your next meal.
- Have a work trip coming up where you know that you'll be hungry right when you get off the plane? Think about getting some healthy snacks delivered to your hotel room so that you can eat healthy.
You have more control over your food choices and your health than you think. You just need to make a decision to choose it.
Mindset Shift #3 - Focus On The Process NOT On Results
I know this sounds counterintuitive because the numbers we measure is ultimately what counts.
But you can easily duplicate someone else's results when you focus on the mastering the steps they took. Instead of looking at the end point of your goal focus on the steps and focus on the process.
One of my favorite productivity books is called The 12-Week Year where it challenged you to compress a year's worth of goals into 12 weeks. The chapter called 'Keeping Score' helps you get clear on the actions you need to take to reach your goals.
Reaching your goal is a byproduct of doing the right actions repeatedly. Focusing on the process means repeating the necessary action on a consistent basis so that the end result is your desired goal.
Use your energy and focus on being consistent everyday instead of looking at the mirror or doing measurements and the results will come.
Below are some examples of some specific actions you can measure that when done daily will produce fat loss results,
- Eat 30 grams of protein for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Do 1 hour of strength training at 5 PM on Mon, Wed, Fri
- Do 30 minutes of a HIIT workout at noon on Tue and Thur
To reach the goal is simple. To be consistent with your action is not. Trust that when you have the right actions in place you will automatically reach your goal.
Chapter 5: Tracking Your Fat Loss and How To Do Measurements
Now that you have the right mindset on how to go from Skinny Fat To Fit your mind will sync up with your actions so that the extra fat will start melting off.
When you start with jumping into actions without addressing your mindset you will struggle and block yourself from achieving the results you want so badly.
Let's move on to getting the right measurements so that you can measure your progress. Often times not knowing how to do measurements or doing them wrong leads you down the wrong path because you don't know if you're headed in the right direction.
Starting with the right measurements and taking measurements along the way will give you data on how to change your diet and workouts if you need to.
When To Do Measurements And How Often
The best time to take measurements is right when you get up in the morning and after you use the bathroom. Take measurements at the same time every time you do them and ideally under the same circumstances so that the measurements are accurate.
When you first start out take measurements every 2 weeks. Don’t do it more often because it'll drive you crazy that nothing has changed yet or change is happening very slowly. Especially when you start a new diet or do a new calorie adjustment it takes your body about 2 to 3 weeks long to adjust in order for you to see the changes.
What Kind Of Measurements Should I Do?
For the most accurate picture of how we're doing on I'm going to cover three types of measurements,
- Waist circumference
- Bodyfat percentage
Take a measurement tape and measure the circumference of your waist at the height of your navel. We use the navel as a point of reference so when you do additional measurements it's more accurate as oppose to the narrowest part of your waist which can change over time.
Taking a waistline measurement is an important point of reference for bodyfat measurements versus relying on other methods like using your bodyfat scale or a handheld bodyfat analyzer.
These devices measure bodyfat by sending an electrical signal through your body calculating fat and lean mass.
The problem with this is that the instrument is very sensitive to the hydration levels in your body. If one day you're well hydrated you'll get one reading and the next you're dehydrated measuring at the same time the reading will fluctuate.
If you are going to be using a handheld device or your scale to measure bodyfat you MUST do a waistline measurement to supplement. This removes the variable of your body's hydration level to give you a more accurate reading.
When your waist measurement has decreased you have lost bodyfat regardless of what the bodyfat analyzer said.
There are two different ways to measure your bodyfat that are more accurate than your scale they are calipers and the DEXA scan.
Calipers are the old school method of measuring bodyfat and it's the most widely used method today. The drawback with using calipers is that it’s reliant on the experience of the person measuring you. If you’re not measuring in the exact same place twice it can throw off your reading.
But buying a set of calipers is cheap and you can measure your bodyfat at home at your convenience.
The second method is doing a DEXA scan.
DEXA scans are the gold standard for measuring bodyfat and bone density. What's great about doing a DEXA scan is not only do you get an accurate bodyfat reading but you can find out how much bodyfat you’re holding in the different areas of your body.
Because it's one of the most accurate methods out there you can find DEXA scans offered at hospitals and clinics in your city. The cost per scan averages at $100 depending on where you live and some places offer a package rate that makes it cheaper.
What's going to come in handy when you measure your starting weight is you'll be able to find out how much muscle mass you've gained and how much bodyfat you've lost over time. For those who love tracking and seeing how their body changes you will definitely want to include this metric.
Just like measuring your waist you want to weigh yourself at the same time every time and under the same circumstances AKA in the morning after you've used the bathroom.
Record the number and weigh yourself every 2 weeks.
Chapter 6: Bloat Versus Bellyfat
Bloating can be one of those unsolved mysteries that happen to us and throw us off track because we don't know what we did to cause us to be bloated.
It's an uncomfortable but common phenomenon that happens to every woman no matter what age and what their diet. If you're bloated most of the time let's address it before we continue to the next chapter because bloat can skew your measurements.
Common Symptoms of Bloat
Everyone has been affected by bloat at one time or another but in case you're not sure if you're bloated below are common symptoms of bloat,
- Excessive gassiness
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Nausea and vomiting
- Feeling full very quickly
The main sign that you have bloat is when the size of your stomach gradually expands throughout the day even if you didn't eat that much food. By the end of the day you have quite a pooch that lasts for hours. This is known as a distended stomach that is caused by excess fluid buildup and gas.
What Causes Bloat?
Bloat can happen for many reasons.
If you're eating too quickly and swallowing air you've got bloat. If you accidentally made the mistake of eating a second serving of food you can also get bloat.
Eating foods that are classified as FODMAPs can cause bloat and when you eliminate foods that have these specific sugars you can reduce your bloat.
Even if you're eating super healthy you can still get bloat. Yes, a clean healthy diet doesn't mean you're not going to get bloated. Healthy foods that are high in fiber when eaten in large quantities can cause discomfort, bloating, and constipation.
If you've done an elimination diet of the foods you think are causing you to bloat but you're still bloated then you have a lack of digestive fire in your gut.
Digestion of your food starts in your mouth from the chewing and the enzymes in your saliva to break it down. When you have large pieces of food that are undigested by your stomach it makes its way into the small intestine where a trillion bacteria will get ahold of it and break it down. The byproduct you get from using bacteria to break down your food as opposed to enzymes is the production of gas.
The bacteria ferment the food and hold on to it to break it down. During fermentation you get the production of gas.
As you continue to eat your meals throughout the day the volume of undigested food grows and so does the accumulation of gas. This is why your stomach size gets larger at the end of the day compared to the beginning.
Bloat is not something that can be solved by probiotics which are live bacteria and yeast that aid digestion. Due to the acidity in our stomach most bacteria contained in probiotics will need to make it past our stomach acids into our GI tract in order to have any beneficial effects1.
What Can I Do To Get Rid Of Bloat?
You can support your body's digestive fire by taking digestive enzyme supplements. There are lots of different digestive enzyme supplements that you can purchase on the market to help you eliminate bloat.
In the ingredient list look for enzyme supplements that contain at least these three enzymes: pepsin, protease, and amylase. These enzymes will be able to easily digest the spectrum of different foods you’re eating.
Another thing you should look for on the enzyme supplement box is that it's GMP or Good Manufacturing Practice certified.
This label means that the facilities in which the digestive enzyme supplement has been manufactured in has been inspected and follow FDA guidelines and regulations. The label also ensures that the final product is free of contaminants and that the manufacturer is producing consistent goods in a controlled manner.
If you are bloated everyday address your bloat before you get started with the skinny fat to fit diet. Day to day fluctuations due to bloat will give you false measurements making it difficult to know if you're actually losing bodyfat.
Chapter 7: Skinny Fat To Fit Diet Introduction
If you're already eating pretty healthy and you're still skinny fat or your results have plateaued then this chapter is for you.
Eating healthy is just NOT enough to help you lose bodyfat. Unless most of your previous diet consisted of processed junk food and fast foods then a healthier diet will help you lose weight because of calories. But, again because of calories, eating a super healthy diet is not going to be enough to help you lose bodyfat.
Eating 101: It All Boils Down To Calories
Everything you eat and drink has calories. In order to keep you alive and functioning your body needs energy and food is a source of energy that is in the form of a calorie. Calorie is a unit of measurement for energy.
Processed foods are more energy dense and have more calories per volume versus whole, natural foods. If you compare the calories of eating a bag of potato chips versus eating a potato then you'll know that potato chips have more calories but is less filling compared with eating a potato.
How Did You Gain Excess Fat?
Eating more energy (calories) than your body burns is a guarantee for weight gain and fat gain. Your body stores the extra calories in the form of fat cells which can be multiplied in numbers when there is an influx of too many calories at any one time. Once these fat cells are created they can change in size but can never be eliminated without surgery2.
Our body's inability to eliminate and decrease the number of fat cells without surgery is why almost 90% of us regain the weight in a much shorter time than it took for us to lose it. This why yo yo dieting hurts our body composition in the long term, we end up becoming fatter than when we first started!
The key to fat loss is to eat fewer calories than your body needs to burn. This is called eating in a caloric deficit.
Figuring Out Your Caloric Deficit
There is no shortage of calculators and equations online to help you figure your the appropriate caloric deficit for you to lose. What you'll figure out is that you each method won't give you the same numbers because they are based on different equations and take into account different variables.
How do you know which one is the right one?
I'm going to address how to deal with this in the next section.
Another thing that confuses people when using a calculator is whether they should eat the calories calculated or be eating less. If you have this question then you need to understand two commonly used terms in the diet world.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
The first term is BMR AKA Basal Metabolic Rate.
Your BMR represents how many calories your body is burning at rest. Let's say your BMR is 1200 calories, this means that when you're sleeping all day your body requires 1200 calories to maintain your current weight
You can get your BMR calculated here or if your bodyfat is quite high 30%+ bodyfat then most calculators don’t take into account lean muscle mass and the BMR calculations become increasingly inaccurate.
To get a more accurate estimation of your BMR use one of the formulas below,
BMR = (12 calories*lean body mass (lbs)) + (2 calories*fat mass (lb))
BMR = BMR = (26.4 calories*lean body mass (kgs)) + (4.4 calories*fat mass (kgs))
(formula borrowed from The Women’s Book by Lyle McDonald)
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)
The second term is TDEE AKA Total Daily Energy Expenditure.
Your TDEE gets calculated by using a multiplier that accounts for the different activity levels EG. walking, intense exercise, labor intensive job etc.
TDEE is also known as your maintenance calories. Using your BMR # you calculate your TDEE using the appropriate multiplier (see chart below for multiplier).
Your TDEE is how many calories you need to eat to maintain your bodyweight and bodyfat percentage. The more active you are the higher the multiplier and maintenance calories.
Lightly Active = BMR x 1.2 (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week)
Moderately Active = BMR x 1.35 (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week)
Very Active = BMR x 1.5 (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/week)
Extremely Active = BMR x 1.7 (hard daily exercise/sports and physical job)
(multiplier chart to calculate TDEE for maintenance calories)
Setting Your Caloric Deficit From The TDEE
Once you know your maintenance calories (TDEE) then you need to create a deficit in order to lose bodyfat. You can set 3 different levels of deficits,
- Small - 10 to 20% deficit
Creating a small deficit is a relatively easy change to make. Starting with small changes makes it more manageable and leads to long term adherence to the deficit. A small deficit is perfect for women who are under 25% bodyfat because it preserves lean muscle mass. But if you’re over 25% bodyfat the rate of fat loss is going to be slow.
- Medium - 25 to 30% deficit
A medium deficit only requires a slightly greater reduction in calories but produces bigger fat loss changes. This is great for keeping you motivated because you’re seeing progress and is recommended for women who have a bodyfat greater than 30%.
- Large - 40%+ deficit
A large deficit is is hard to maintain. For women a 30% deficit in calories is probably the maximum amount of calories you can reduce without encountering menstrual issues down the line. This deficit requires enormous changes in lifestyle and results in the largest fat loss possible.
If you hate doing the math then there are a lot of calorie calculators that will calculate your TDEE and help you figure out the appropriate caloric deficit,
Which TDEE Is The Right One For You?
What happens if you have 3 different TDEEs from 3 different places which TDEE should you start with?
TDEE numbers are not an exact science but simply represent a best guess estimate on how many calories you're burning based on scientific equations. Whether they are too high or too low or just right is something you have to figure out.
Remember those measurements you took in Chapter 5?
You will use that as a piece of data to track whether you're going in the right direction with your TDEE number or not.
Day 0 represents your baseline and your current measurements. Track your TDEE calories as accurately as possible and come within 90% of your TDEE calories over a weekly average.
On Day 14 take new measurements. If you find no changes keep the same TDEE and take another measurement one week later. A week later because that day you can have an off day or it may be around the time of the month where our bodies are just bloated so it's inaccurate.
If Day 21 is the same as Day 14 then reduce your TDEE by 100 calories.
Tip: When trying to figure your TDEE calories don’t make more than a 10% calorie adjustment at any given time. For instance if your current TDEE is 1500 and at Day 21 your measurements are the same then reduce your calories no more than 150 calories at a time.
Repeat this process until you start seeing changes in your measurements consistently every 2 weeks. Once you start seeing changes then that is the accurate TDEE for you
Track your food intake and be as consistent as possible to come within 90% of your TDEE on a weekly average.
Some great apps that can help you track your TDEE calories,
If you use MFP turn off the Step Tracker. Go to 'More' -> 'Steps' -> 'Don't track steps'. You turn this off so that MFP won't add back calories burned during exercise.
In addition I find that the MFP food library database can be very inaccurate because the data is based on community input. If you use MFP use Calorie King as your food library database.
If you have a fitness tracker Lose It is an app that can sync everything in one place for you: your goal weight, calories burned, and food tracker. It has a pretty cool function that it can estimate the calories from your food based on a picture.
Hate having to type in the nutrition information for packaged foods? Lose It supports a scan function that will automatically input the data for when you take a picture of the bar code.
This is a similar food tracking app but it incorporates reminders for habits and healthy behaviors. If you find you need accountability and reminders to help keep you on track the Noom app might just be the right fit for you.
What If You Want To Lose Fat AND Build Muscle?
This is a very common question. We want to reduce our bodyfat percent, lose the belly, and look lean and toned at the end. If being in a caloric deficit causes us to lose fat but we want to build muscle and need to eat above our maintenance calories then how many calories should you be eating to get there?
To answer this it all depends on your current bodyfat level. If you have a lot of bodyfat to lose eating in excess to build muscle will only make you look bigger and add to your overall bodyfat which is unhealthy.
A high bodyfat level is unhealthy to begin with so you don’t want to add to it. A good starting point is if your bodyfat is at least 30% or greater focus on losing fat first. Having a high bodyfat percent means your body can convert that energy into building lean muscle even if you’re in a caloric deficit. So a caloric deficit works in your favor to lose fat AND to build muscle when you’re eating enough protein in your diet3,4,5.
Once you get under 25% bodyfat then recalculate your TDEE to support your goals whether to continue losing fat or start building muscle.
To avoid gaining back extra bodyfat in this bulk phase gradually introduce more calories into your diet to support muscle growth and make sure your workout aligns with your goals.
To optimize muscle gains and minimize fat gain only add about 5 to 10% more calories over your maintenance calories. This should come to be about 200 to 300 calories/day MAXIMUM to optimize muscle gain while minimizing fat gain6.
Nutrition 102: Macros To Go From Skinny Fat To Fit
Macros are a highly debated topic with strong opinions. Look up a macro Facebook group and you'll find 50+ groups that have the word macro in their group title. Eating the right macros will definitely make a difference in helping you go from skinny fat to fit but their precise ratios do not matter as much as you think.
What Are Macros?
Macros are molecules our bodies use to extract energy from.
There are 3 types of macros: protein, fat, and carbs.
Your macro ratio impacts a variety of body functions including body composition (your bodyfat percentage), energy levels, sleep quality, and even your moods. Everything you eat and drink have some combination of macros and depending on what the combination is and how much of it is present determines how many calories that food has. This is because not all macros are created equal.
Protein and carbs are worth 4 calories a piece per gram while fat comes in at a whopping 9 calories per gram. No one macro is responsible for your fat loss or is 'better' than the other. Your body needs all three macros to function and to keep you alive and sane.
Protein - The All Too Familiar Macro
This macronutrient gets all the love and attention from dieters so let's start with this one first.
Protein is made out of building blocks called amino acids which your muscles need to grow and repair itself. In total there are 20 different amino acids and our body has the ability to manufacture all but 9 amino acids. These 9 amino acids are called essential amino acids and can be found in a variety of animal products and even plant sources like tofu and quinoa.
A protein is considered 'complete' when it contains all 9 essential amino acids. Complete proteins mainly come from animal sources while 'incomplete' proteins come from plant sources.
A diet insufficient of protein means that you'll be quite hungry while eating on a caloric deficit. Making sure you have enough protein in your diet helps to keep you satiated, builds and retains muscle, and slightly increases your overall caloric burn.
Wait What About Protein Shakes? Do I Need Them?
There are a lot of unnecessary supplements on the market that do nothing for you. It’s just marketers and companies pushing their products to sell more to you with claims that it’ll get you faster, better results while taking your money.
Most supplements especially protein powders are filled with fillers, have an inaccurate nutrition label, and don’t have half the protein they claim they do.
If you are meeting all of your protein needs through your diet a protein shake is not going to change how quickly you’ll get results. You’re just flushing money down the drain. However, if you’re struggling hard with getting enough protein, you’re super busy, and on the road all the time a good protein supplement will help you reach your goals.
Because the supplement industry is worth billions there is a lot of BS on the shelves that doesn’t work. I strongly recommend you do your research and check that the brand you’re buying is 3rd party inspected, the label is accurate, and you know what you’re buying.
For additional details read my article Choosing A Healthy Protein Shake In 3 Easy Steps before spending your money.
Carbs - The Macro We Have a Love Hate Relationship With
Our most favorite macronutrient after protein but also the one most hated because who doesn't love to eat carbs?! We associate carbs with getting fat and it's like a love hate relationship. Every woman I have worked with says she loves eating carbs followed by a comment along the lines of but I know I should cut back.
Carbs are not essential and we can function without them AKA keto diet anyone? But if carbs are in our diet it's the preferred source of energy for our body. Carbs come in many forms like fruits, vegetables, pasta, bread and rice.
Fiber falls under the category of carbs but when eaten performs a different function within the body because it cannot be completely broken down. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Eating a sufficient amount of fiber in your diet is essential to maintaining good health.
Fat - The Macro No One Talks About
Fats are essential for a healthy body and we want to make sure we have enough of it in our diet but not so much that we exceed the total calories in our caloric deficit. We require fats for proper hormone function, vitamin absorption, cholesterol production, and as a storage reserve for energy.
There are two main types of fats, saturated and unsaturated. In the unsaturated category the classification of fats can be further broken down to monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
And we also have trans fat which should be avoided at all costs.
Because testosterone is a fat hormone that's required to build muscle we want to keep our fat intake at an optimal level. A diet that is extremely low in fat will decrease your testosterone level which will negatively impact your muscle growth.
When you want to build strength, retain your lean muscle mass, and even build muscle mass consuming enough fat in your diet is important for long term weight loss maintenance6
Chapter 8: Skinny Fat To Fit Diet - Setting Your Macros
While there is no perfect macro ratio I lean towards a more balanced approach for my clients. Understanding their diet preferences, lifestyles, energy level, and sleep all play a role in determining an ideal set of macros for them.
To lose bodyfat it's important that you're in a caloric deficit because it forces the body to find energy elsewhere AKA burn fat AND you're eating enough protein. Protein helps keep you satiated especially in a caloric deficit when it's expected that you will be experiencing hunger.
All is well and exciting to be on a fat loss diet till hunger strikes and all bets are off.
How To Set Your Protein (g)
Making sure you are eating enough protein helps with keeping hunger at bay, retaining lean muscle mass, and helping you build muscle.
Currently the recommended dietary allowance for protein is at 1.76 g/lb of bodyweight or 0.8 g/kg of bodyweight) . If you don't know any better you're probably thinking we're eating too much too protein!
However, if you do a little research then you'll find that the RDA is the minimum recommendation you need to prevent sickness and to be in good health, not for building lean muscle mass.
When calculating your macros start with determining your protein intake first.
For skinny fat women I recommend eating between 0.8 - 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight (lb). If you've never tracked how much protein you eat I recommend to start on the lower end of the range at 0.8 grams/bodyweight (lb).
If you want to be aggressive with your diet because you have a deadline and you have big caloric deficit, 25%+ below your weight maintenance, start on the higher end of the range 1.2g/bodyweight (lb) and above.
WARNING: It is not advised to go an aggressive caloric cut that is more than 30% of your maintenance calories. Yes, you will lose fat faster but at the same time muscle too. Eventually this large caloric deficit will prematurely slow down your metabolism, increase your hunger, and decrease your energy levels.
As you get leaner you will find yourself becoming more hunger which is why the recommended protein intake rises.
My protein intake recommendations for my clients generally start with at least 100g of protein. If I find that they struggle with eating that much protein then I start a little lower and we gradually work our way up to eating more.
Working together with many clients who are classified as skinny fat I find that there are many opportunities to add more protein to their diets, especially with the first meal of the day where most of us lean towards a carb heavy meal.
Out of all the macros to meet for your diet protein is the MOST IMPORTANT.
When you're eating in a caloric deficit and not meeting your protein requirements not only you will lose weight but your bodyfat % will increase too because you're lighter. So keep tabs on your protein intake and meet your daily requirements.
How To Set Your Carbs(g)
How many carbs to eat is highly debatable and I've had clients lose inches with high carbs and low carb diets. Even the definition of 'high carb' and 'low carb' varies from person to person and it’s all relative to their current diet when they started working with me. Figuring out how to set your carb levels is based on your awareness of your energy levels, mood, and appetite awareness.
For macro calculations the type of carbs I refer to are starchy carbs and fruits. Examples of starchy carbs include,
- Pasta (whole wheat and regular)
- Rice (brown, black, white rice)
To determine what is the ideal amount of carbs to eat to go from skinny fat to fit below are some telltale signs that your body will communicate with you about eating carbs.
If you eat a meal without carbs or go carb free do you feel,
- lethargic, low on energy
- irritable, cranky, or lightheaded
- experience cravings for starchy foods or sugar
These signs indicate that your body is more carb sensitive and to not go below 100 grams of carb per day.
If you're unaffected and don't notice any changes when you skips carbs and do fine at the gym then your body is less dependent on carbs. In this case, you can pick how many carbs you want to eat and base it a personal diet preference.
How To Set Your Fat (g)
The last macronutrient is fat and if your diet is relatively healthy then you might struggle to eat enough fat in your diet. Eat out a lot or do takeout? Then you're probably exceeding your fat requirements.
Below are a few reasons on why I would assign a higher fat diet for my clients as oppose to a low fat one,
- Pre-diabetic or diabetic
- High blood sugar or insulin sensitive
- Client finds that she feels fuller with a higher fat diet versus more carbs
- Client enjoys eating healthy fats and prefers fat over carbs (yes, this is a legitimate reason)
In these cases I opt for a higher fat diet for them. Keep in mind that 1 gram of fat is equal to 9 calories which is more than twice the calories of carbs or protein. This means on a calorie level you'll be eating fewer grams of fat.
I know almost all of you reading this loves your carbs but that doesn't mean should dial your diet to extremely low fat so that you can eat maximize your carb intake. At a minimum you want your fat intake to be at least 20% of your total calories.
Examples Of Calculating Exact Macros For The Skinny Fat Woman
Here we're going to get down to the nitty gritty and crank out some numbers so you can see how to personalize your own set of macros for you
Client A Profile
- 35 years old
- Height - 5' 4"
- Weight - 140lbs, 35% bodyfat
- Strength trains 3-4X/week
Based on the calculations from Calorie.net we get the following TDEE and caloric deficit information,
I usually start with taking the average between mild weight loss and weight loss to set the caloric intake at 1650 calories. This is because I want my clients to get results but not have them hungry enough that they cannot sustain the diet.
In this case even if the calculator says ‘weight loss’ it can also mean ‘fat loss’.
Because of the nutrition assessment I did with Client A I know she's not eating enough protein so I automatically set protein intake at 100 grams to help her get into the habit. Eventually seeing how she progresses I want to bring her daily protein intake up to 1 gram/bodyweight (lb).
100 grams protein x 4 calories/gram = 400 calories
We have 1250 calories left to divide up and we want to make sure that fat makes up 20% of our total calories which comes out to be 37 grams. Since Client A loves to eat carbs and she gets cranky in the afternoon without eating carbs I assign the rest of her calories into carbs.
37 grams fat x 9 calories/gram = 333 calories
1650 calories - (400 calories from protein + 333 calories from fat) = 917 calories/(4 grams/calories) = 230 grams of carb
Client A macro profile to help her lose bodyfat - 100 g protein, 37 g fat, 230 g carbs.
Let's do another example.
Client B Profile
- 49 years old
- Height - 5' 8"
- Weight - 187 lbs, 20% bodyfat
- Strength trains 2X/week and hikes on weekends
Based on the calculations from Calorie.net we get the following TDEE and caloric deficit information,
After my initial assessment with Client B I found out that she's pre-diabetic and her doctor recommends a low carb diet. She also doesn't notice a difference in her energy levels when she just eats protein and vegetables and has a vacation coming up in 2 months.
Her goal is to get her bodyfat below 20% and lose 3 inches around her which she just developed this year.
Because of the time crunch I'm going to start with closer to the 1lb/week weight loss calories or 1600 calories.
In this case I will set the protein to start at 130 grams because of big caloric deficit and her bodyfat is much leaner than Client A so I want to help her retain as much muscle as possible.
130 grams protein x 4 calories/gram = 520 calories
Client B is pre-diabetic so I want to make sure that carbs make up less than 25% of her total calories. So let's calculate grams of carbs next,
(1600 calories*0.25) = 400 calories/(4 grams/calorie) = 100 g carbs
What's left is 680 calories to be divided for fat,
680 calories/(9 grams/calorie) = 76 grams fat
Client B macro profile to help her get under 20% bodyfat - 130 g protein, 76 g fat, 100 g carbs
The Role Fat And Carbs Play In Fat Loss
Fat loss is a slow journey and the more consistent you are with your diet the faster your results. Remember Mindset Shift #3?
Macro ratios are very subjective and based on personal preferences. You can go from skinny fat to fit on a low carb/high fat diet AND on a high carb/low fat diet but you cannot get there if you're not eating a sufficient amount of protein.
Muscles cost a lot of energy to maintain and if you're on a caloric deficit it'll be the first place your body taps into for energy if you're not eating enough protein for your body to maintain it.
In fact, if you're still trying to figure out how to set your carbs and fats because you're after the 'perfect' macro ratio for you you can rest assured that there are numerous studies examining this concern.
In a meta analysis of the different studies that looked at keeping calories and protein the same but varying the percentage of carbs and fats they found that no one diet is superior to the other. The amount of fat lost on a low carb/high fat or high carb/low fat wasn't that big of a difference when protein was kept the same.
The two most important variables to track for bodyfat loss are total calories and grams of protein in your diet.
As you make progress on your skinny fat journey come back to the calculator and make adjustments to your calorie intake.
If you start to lose weight because the bodyfat is melting off you will need to eat fewer calories to keep the momentum going. If your measurements plateau for a few weeks your calorie intake should be one of the first things to check.
Chapter 9: Choosing The BEST Fat Loss Workout For Skinny Fat Women
You need to strength train, strength train, strength train. It's possible to lose weight without exercising but impossible to go from skinny fat to fit and fit. Muscle is what gives that firm, toned look that many women are dying to have. If you're worried that lifting weights is going to make you bulky then you need to get started to prove it to yourself that it's not going to happen.
Here we go….
Strength Training Guidelines For The Skinny Fat Woman
The absolute minimum that you should be lifting heavy weights a week is two days. One day is not going to do anything but get you frustrated because you're not going to see enough results to keep you motivated.
Twice a week minimum for at least 45 minutes to an hour each. Your workouts should comprise of full body, compound movements. Three days a week of heavy strength training full body workouts is optimal. Four days or more is unnecessary unless you have a lot of time on your hands or enjoy working out.
Until you reach training at least 4 days a week I would not worry about body part splits or any complicated routines. Keep it simple, train hard, and recover well.
Which Workout Programs Are The Best For Fat Loss?
There are so many great workout programs out there that I'm not going to choose favorites and instead will give you guidelines on what you should look for in a workout program so you can pick one for yourself,
It's appropriate to your skill level
If you're an absolute beginner I would recommend starting with dumbbell workouts as oppose to barbell workouts in which form plays a much bigger role in getting the most out of the exercises.
It's better to choose a workout program that you're confident in being able to do then pick one that you're not sure you can do all the exercises in because you want to stay injury free and safe
It focuses on the entire body
To burn the most calories and get overall body tone look for workouts that cover the 5 fundamental movement patterns: hinge, squat, upper pull, upper push, and a loaded carry.
If you're not familiar with these terms or not sure what kind of exercises fall into this category read The Best Compound Exercises For Beginner Lifters where I cover this in more detail.
The workout is challenging.
Your body responds and adapts to hard work. If your workout is not challenging your body will not change. To know whether it's challenging for you evaluate the workout on a scale of 1 to 10. One is zero challenge and ten is extremely hard and difficult. Aim for around a 7 and the last 2 reps of each set is hard.
It's a workout designed around free weights instead of using machines.
Relying on machines for your strength training is one of the biggest mistakes I made when starting on my skinny fat to fit journey. There are more limitations and drawbacks then benefits with machines.
If you're curious on why you should stay away from machines then read my story My #1 Mistake That Stopped From Seeing Results In The Gym otherwise find a workout centered around free weights.
Rules For Lifting - Go From Fat To Fit
Now that you have your workout in hand now we want to make sure you're getting the most out of it! Nothing like spending months in the gym to only see no changes in your appearance and getting frustrated. My tips below will make sure you see results with your workout program no matter which program you're on,
(If you don't like any of the workouts you see online or prefer to design your own but don't know where to get started check out my 5 Best Compound Exercises For Beginner Lifters article where I teach you the fundamentals
Building Muscle Tone Rule #1 - Gradually Lift Heavier Weights
This is by far the easiest rule to keep making progress and build muscle tone
You can either pick up the weight or not. The feedback is clear, it’s either a ‘Yes’ I lifted it or ‘No’ I missed the rep.
When I’m at the gym, I notice there are two types of lifters in the gym when it comes to free weights,
- Lifter 1 who is standing around doing exercises with extremely light weights or squats on an upside down Bosu ball. Mostly women fall into this category but men are the ones who are doing the ridiculous exercises
- Lifter 2 who is lifting far beyond what they're capable of. These people are incredibly strong but their form is horrible. Their ego has taken over and they are using weights that are beyond their capacity to maintain good form.
My tip here is to be Lifter 1.5, the women who picks up weights that are challenging for the exercise she's doing while maintaining good form.
For example, if your goal is to achieve 6 reps you want the last few reps to be challenging.
If they are easy you need to increase the weight while being able to keep good form. If your form starts to crumble even before you’ve reached the halfway point lighten the weight and work on your form
I emphasize good form because you want to make sure you are engaging the right muscles, you’re not compensating with other muscles that are not supposed to be involved in the movement and you want to stay safe
You don’t want to pull a muscle or strain a tendon which will keep you out of the gym for weeks.
Building Muscle Tone Rule #2 - Increase The Tension In Your Lifts
Let’s do a little exercise.
First let's start with a relaxed first. Feel the muscles in your forearms. Feels loose and relaxed right
Now tighten that fist by 50%, curl your fingers in a little more. Then feel your forearms. Do you notice that imminent bulge that has now hardened
Finally let’s take it up a notch and squeeze your fist even harder. White knuckle it like you’re about to punch a wall. Really squeeze it TIGHT
Now feel your forearms. Do you feel how hard it’s gotten and solid like a rock
Can you feel how many more muscle fibers are involved with white knuckling your fist as opposed to just making a fist
This is an example of creating tension
It’s one of the most overlooked aspects of building muscle because we’re so focused on lifting as many reps as possible instead of the quality of reps. When you hear people say it's better to do one good rep than a bunch of crappy reps creating tension is part of that one perfect rep
You can lift less and spend less time in the gym and keep building muscle if each rep you did was quality and high tension. Increased tension in your lifts has multiple benefits,
- Involvement of more muscle fibers for growth
- Creates more microtears triggering muscle repair
- Increases the number of calories burnt
- Expedites muscle growth
For example, you can apply more tension when you’re performing a squat. Focus on these steps,
- Make solid contact with the ground and drive your weight into the ground and grip the floor with your toes.
- As you start standing focus on feeling your thighs start to contract as you start to straighten up.
- When you reach the top squeeze your thighs and make your butt rock solid.
You can easily apply this to biceps curls as well. How hard can you make that bicep
When you’re doing a lat pulldown how hard can you contract that back muscle when you complete a rep?
Maximizing tension is key if you want to make the most of every rep.
Building Muscle Tone Rule #3 - Activate Your Muscles
This tip is somewhat related to Tip #2 but are your muscles turned on when you're working out? Do you feel it working
Many times when I see people lift weights they are going through the motions without thinking of what they’re doing.
You know the ones that are spaced out while doing their reps or they are doing their reps so fast and sloppily that you know they’re not focused. They just want to get the exercise over with and be done so they can move on to another exercise
Of course they are just wasting their time in the gym because it’s not about reps but more about the QUALITY of the reps
What’s the point of doing a gazillion reps if you don’t feel your muscles are working?
Let's take doing your first pullup to illustrate muscle activation.
When most people do a pullup, the ultimate back exercise, they initiate the movement with their arms instead of their back muscles thinking they are using their back muscles. The next day they only feel sore in their arms and their back is barely sore. In this case you know they didn’t use their back muscles properly to get you up the bar.
Yes, your arms are involved but they are just levers and are secondary muscles involved not primary ones
To ensure proper muscle activation think about what muscle groups this exercise is targeting and focus on feeling it work. Work on building that mind-muscle connection so that you feel your muscles fire when it's suppose to
If you cannot feel it working it helps to tap that area you want to focus on to help your brain make that connection
Building your mind muscle connection helps you to think about what muscles you’re using and to increase their tension. Proper muscle activation is a game changer because if you cannot feel your muscles working, it’s not going to grow.
Building Muscle Tone Rule #4 - Perform Big Movements
There is a reason why people say the squat is king. It's the exercise that involves the entire body and recruits the biggest muscles in your body from your calves, thighs, glutes, back, to your abdominals
If you only had to focus your workout on a handful of the most effective exercises to get the quickest results in the shortest time focus on the Big Five movements:
- Upper body push
- Upper body pull
- Loaded carry
Why these types of movements and what benefits are there to sticking primarily with these Big Five movements?
- You’re using the biggest and most dominant muscles in your body
- You burn more calories
- You’re creating more testosterone for muscles growth (yes, women have testosterone but not as much as men which why it’s impossible for us to get bulky and big)
- Those exercises automatically recruits the smaller muscles
The Big Five are also functional movements which mean they are movements that our bodies use everyday. If you look at babies and kids under the age of 5 they perform all these movements (well except a loaded carry) and they do it perfectly.
Below are common example exercises from the Big Five Movements,
- Squat – back or front squat, a goblet squat, dumbbell squat, lunges, Bulgarian/elevated lunge
- Deadlift – barbell deadlift variations, kettlebell deadlifts, single leg deadlifts
- Upper Body Push – bench press, pushup, military press, overhead press
- Upper Body Pull – dumbbell rows, barbell rows, seated cable rows, pullups, lat pull downs
- Loaded Carries – pick up dumbbell or kettlebell and walk different distances with it then switch sides
If you're short on time in the gym and you want to get the most out of your workout make sure that day's workout includes one exercise from the Big Five and you'll be well on your way to leaning out, getting strong, and burning more calories.
Building Muscle Tone Rule # 5 - Use Proper Form
This is the final tip but first let’s start with a truth and general gym observation.
Most of us are inherently lazy in the weight room. We are lazy when it comes to maintaining proper form throughout the entire workout. We rather bust out 10 heavy set reps with poor form then bust 6 reps with less weight and perfect form.
Mostly this is due to ego and because no one taught us proper form or we never asked for proper guidance in training so we don’t know how to do it correctly.
Proper form is an IMPORTANT one to follow because the last thing you want is to get hurt or injured, and have to rest for a few weeks.
The quickest way to get strong, get lean, and build muscle is to not get hurt.
Proper form ensures that you stay safe and injury free in the gym. When you're performing reps take each rep to the entire range of motion to strengthen the muscle and the supporting tissues. Half reps and not locking out your joints only puts strain on the joints, ligaments, and tendons.
Exercise with proper form is not suppose to hurt. If it does you're not doing it correctly and find out how to correct yourself.
When you’re doing the Big Five movements they are supposed to be hard. Stress on your muscles is what makes them grow and if you lift progressively heavier with proper form your muscles will grow to meet the demand.
Using improper technique and having the wrong form in the weight room will lead to injuries and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.
This is a common scenario when you use the wrong form in the weight room,
- You workout consistently for a few weeks or months but don't see the results you want so you get frustrated and eventually lose motivation and quit.
- When you don’t see the results you might want to double your efforts in the gym and overwork yourself leading to a tweaky knee, a kink in your back, or some other injury.
Then you’re out of the gym for weeks at a time and starting from ground zero when you do get back.
USE PROPER FORM especially if you’re new to the weight room. You want to form good habits and reinforce that mind muscle connection.
A great place to learn the basic movements and proper form is to follow Mark Rippetoe, one of the leading industry strength expert for over 30 years. His book Starting Strength is a great resource that covers the biomechanics of the fundamentals and proper form.
Chapter 10: Cardio To Melt Fat
Which is more important for fat loss - exercise or diet?
Some say fat loss starts in the kitchen or more specifically abs are built in the kitchen. Others say exercise is more important and then we've got the 80/20 crowd - 80% diet, 20% exercise.
I say that both are important but that's because you need both to maintain a caloric deficit until you reach your fat loss goals.
We've all heard 'eat less and move more' and some debate it's not that simple or it just doesn't work for some people. Well the secret to fat loss is being in a caloric deficit.
If you need to diet to create a caloric deficit then do it. If you can create a caloric deficit with just exercise then go with exercise. The most important thing is to be in a consistent caloric deficit.
Does Cardio Even Matter If You're Lifting Weights Frequent Enough?
Being in a caloric deficit works for fat loss. You shrink the fat, your bodyfat percentage goes down and you're happy. Totally possible. The only problem? Well you become a smaller version of yourself.
Lifting weights solves this problem so that you become a leaner, stronger, more toned version of yourself. Weight training is great for keeping your muscles healthy.
Then what about cardio?
Well if I could give you a tool that'll help you burn fat faster would you use it? You'll be in better health, have improved endurance and stamina, and a healthier heart. Cardio helps to accelerate fat loss by increasing your overall daily calorie deficit. There are only so many calories you can cut out of your diet before you start starving so we need to look at the other side of the fat loss equation and start burning more calories instead.
How Often Should I Be Doing Cardio?
A good baseline is to do three days a week depending on your schedule. Remember you want to be consistent. You'll find in the next chapter that your body craves consistency and the more consistent you are, the easier it is to form a habit because it's about focusing on the journey not the results.
Three days is a good starting point to improve your conditioning especially if you're just starting out going from skinny fat to fit.
You can totally speed up your fat loss by simply increasing the length of time you're doing cardio and the intensity. Up to a certain point you will continue to see results but your body will adapt and soon become more energy efficient at cardio such that doing more cardio won't proportionally increase your caloric burn.
When you're just starting to add cardio to your workout schedule remember to set small attainable goals so work your way up to ideal number of cardio days. You don't want to burn yourself out or get injured by doing excessive amounts when your body hasn't physically adapted yet.
How Much Cardio Should I Be Doing?
Depending on what type of cardio you're doing will determine the length of time you're doing cardio for.
For moderate intensity cardio 30 to 45 minutes is a good start. For more intense HIIT type of cardio up to 20 minutes should be good enough.
You want to find a sweet spot where you maximize your caloric burn for the amount of cardio you're doing because there is diminishing returns with cardio as your body becomes more adapted and more efficient. More is not necessarily better and could lead to repetitive injury.
Intensity and length of cardio time are inversely related. As you increase the intensity the duration that you can keep up at that level shortens.
To help you evaluate intensity of your cardio it's useful to use a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. This helps you rate how hard the workout is on a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being as difficult as sitting on a couch and 10 being all out maximal effort.
With moderate intensity cardio aim for a level of 5 to 6 on the RPE scale and with HIIT type of training aim for a level 7 or 8.
Using your breath is another way to help you evaluate the intensity of your cardio. If you can have a conversation easily while doing cardio you need to increase the intensity. Cannot finish a sentence while running? You need to turn down the intensity.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) - The Best Fat Burner
For those who are not cardio enthusiasts HIIT training is great cardio workout but a killer. In HIIT workouts you alternate between high intensity cardio training where you skyrocket your heart rate and low intensity training which is typically a rest period to help you catch your breath.
HIIT workouts are very flexible and can fit into anyone's schedule. You can adjust the length of the intervals, pick how many rounds you want to do, and adjust the work to rest ratios based on your fitness level and goals.
For an effective fat loss HIIT workout 20 minutes is optimal and you can work your way up to 20 minutes. HIIT workouts can be done with various pieces of equipment, bodyweight exercises, and conditioning drills. For HIIT workouts to be effective you want your RPE to be at a level 7 or 8.
Below are examples of equipment you can use to create your own HIIT workout,
- Med ball slams
- Sled pushes
- Stairmaster interval circuits
- Versa climber
- Battle rope interval circuits
Chapter 11: Essential Lifestyle Habits You Must Adopt To Expedite Fat Loss
Tracking your food and getting your workouts are all great but your health is not the only thing you're focusing on in your life. You're probably a mom with a full-time job, a busy executive managing multiple commitments, or just flat out a busy person with a busy life. How do you get the most out of this Skinny Fat To Fit Journey and what are supporting habits you can develop to make it easier for you
Lifestyle Habit Tip #1 - Sleep 7 to 8 hours Day
Getting enough sleep is crucial for continual fat loss. When we run low on sleep our stress hormone cortisol kicks in and we end up being sensitive to cravings, junk food binges, and store more fat as a result of cortisol.
Another sign of excess cortisol in your system? Belly fat.
In fact if you store most of your fat in your abdominal region as a skinny fat woman you're more vulnerable to the effects of stress compared to women who are generally overweight7 and store fat elsewhere.
The Yale research study showed that lean women who have a 'stress belly' were exposed to higher life stresses and psychological vulnerability to stress compared to women who were lean but didn't have the abdominal fat.
Cortisol is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands to increase blood sugar levels to prepare for a physical battle even if it's just excessive worry over tomorrow morning's board meeting. Your body doesn't know the difference.
Cortisol gets produced when we're stressed and when we constantly have excess sugar in our blood stream it promotes the storage of fat.
One of the most effective ways to combat stress is to get enough sleep and to establish a regular sleep pattern. Getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep resets the adrenal glands to produce the right amount of cortisol for your body when needed.
Tips to help you get a good night's sleep,
- Turn off any electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. Set an alarm to remind yourself when it's time to prepare for your bedtime routine
- Have a notebook or a journal next to your bed and do a complete brain dump of all your worries, to-dos, things you have to remember for tomorrow to free up headspace so that your mind can relax and unwind
- Invest in comfortable bedsheets and comfortable pillows. When your bed feels cozier you'll fall asleep easier and feel more rested.
Want more tips? Check out my article How To Sleep Better So You Lose More Bellyfat.
Lifestyle Habit Tip #2 - Be Like Ground Hog Day
Fat loss is a simple process but it's not easy because we all struggle with consistency. Our body's circadian rhythm is there to keep us on a routine day in and day out. The more days that are more similar than different the easier it is for your body to create a rhythm.
Be like Ground Hog day on repeat.
Variety in meals and meal options can be great for your taste buds but a nightmare for your schedule and another stressor in your life. Instead stick with simplicity and play a game to see how consistent and efficient you can be.
Because fat loss is a journey where instant results doesn't exist.
But remember Mindset Shift #3? When you create a routine that you can stick with, you'll create automatic habits that make you more likely to be consistent and eventually results will be right around the corner.
Lifestyle Habit Tip #3 - Be Friends With Your Hunger
Living in America food is literally everywhere and with a simple taps of a few buttons on our phones we can have food delivered to our doorstep at any time.
Want to know the biggest sign that you're setting your calories too high for your Skinny Fat To Fit journey? A lack of hunger.
If you're not experiencing some uncomfortable hunger it means you're eating too much on your diet. Hunger is a sign that your body is using fuel efficiently and if you're not hungry well then you've eaten too much.
True hunger is when your stomach grumbles consistently for at least 30 minutes. If the churning sounds come and disappear then it's just your stomach doing it's own business and it's not hungry.
Understanding when you're hungry and when you're bored or anxious is an important distinction to make. It can be the difference between seeing noticeable results one month from now or two months from now.
Chapter 12: Busting Your Way Out Of Fat Loss Plateaus
So you've been doing your measurements as recommended and you find that you've stopped making progress.
Is this all the progress you're going to make you ask?
Has your metabolism slowed down?
Did something go wrong with your hormones?
It's perfectly normal to ask these questions, feel frustrated, and lost.
A real plateau is when you've eaten the exact same amount of calories every single day, no cheat meals and you haven't skipped any workouts. If that's a 100% true and you've seen no changes then you're definitely hit a plateau.
Most people do not hit plateaus but think they do because they still have some fat clinging around and their numbers look the same.
Well when nothing is budging it's time to double up your commitment to be more precise with your calorie tracking, revisit the skinny fat to fit mindset shifts and keep going.
Plateaus are just your body's way of adapting to everything you've done so far and now it's at a happy equilibrium. Below are some techniques to help you get out of this equilibrium if you are truly at a plateau so you continue on your journey.
Busting Your Fat Loss Plateau Tip #1 - Adjust Your Calories
Losing fat takes hard work, dedication, and commitment. This is why most people quit halfway or never get there. We've been sold on instant, rapid , easy results by marketers.
As you experience fat loss results what happens is that your body adapts metabolically especially if you've lost weight in the process as well. Your metabolism slows down compared to when you were heavier.
This is why I recommend at the end of Chapter 8 - Setting Your Macros to recheck when you hit plateaus.
If your caloric deficit and activity level has not changed and neither has your measurements it means your body has adapted to the changes. At a certain point below your usual set point for weight your body will slow down your metabolism to adapt to the decrease in calories.
To kickstart your progress again reduce your calories.
When your measurements no longer change it means you're not in a caloric deficit anymore so you need to make another adjustment. Reducing by 100 calories should be enough to reestablish the caloric deficit when you're in the early stages of the program.
Busting Your Fat Loss Plateau Tip #2 - Increase The Intensity Of Your Cardio
Cardio is not just about doing steady state for 30 minutes and calling it a day. You can play with the intensity at which you're doing cardio. It's like a radio dial where you can crank up the level of cardio you're doing.
Were you doing 20 minutes on the Stair Master at a Level 8? Take it to a Level 10.
If you're been doing steady or moderate intensity cardio you need to crank up the intensity and push yourself harder. Play with the different intensity levels - low, medium, and high. You also have the option to change the type of cardio you're doing. By doing this it makes the exercise more inefficient, prevents repetitive injury, and kills boredom.
Are you taking a group bootcamp class? You can crank up the intensity through doing more reps, lifting heavier weights, and shortening your rest periods.
Busting Your Fat Loss Plateau Tip #3 - Improve Your Food Quality
I always believe in eating MORE food even when your goal is to lose fat and hated when diets preached about calorie restriction and cutting back on your favorite foods. To me it's about moderation because that's what works in the long-term not going on a 900 calorie diet.
Sure you can totally adjust your macros so that you're eating more of your favorite foods because it's flexible dieting so you can pick what you want to eat including junk foods. When you're hitting a plateau you're going to want to shift to eating healthier so that you can eat more and feel satisfied.
As your caloric deficit calories drop lower and lower eating better quality foods will allow your body to maximize the nutrition of every calorie you eat. You want to increase the nutrient density of your foods while still staying at a caloric deficit.
In my article How You Can Eat More And Still Lose Weight I show a calorie comparison chart showing you the difference in calories in the processed foods and their unprocessed version. The healthier and less processed the foods, the fewer the calories.
When you're trying to lose the last few inches improve the quality of your food to maximize your calories.
A Quick Favor Before You Go
You made it to the end of this guide!
I hope you have enjoyed reading this guide as much as I loved writing it and that it helped you in your own transformation to go from skinny fat to fit! 🙂
If you enjoyed reading this guide, I want to ask you for one quick favor.
There are a lot of women out there who really struggle with losing body fat and I’d love to have this guide reach as many of them as possible
If you enjoyed this guide, I’d love for you to share this link to the guide with your female friends: www.rhodestostrength.com/skinny-fat-to-fit-guide
You can email it to your friends, send them a Facebook message about it, share it through your Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram account or share with communities that you’re part of.
It would mean the world to me to spread this guide and to reach as many women as possible.
Thank you so much!