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I Wish I'd Known This Sooner

Today, I'm sharing something with you that I wish I'd known sooner. Something I wish one of my coaches/trainers had told me earlier in my lifestyle change journey.

It's the idea that you can't - and shouldn't - be trying to lose fat forever. That you will reach a point at which:

1. Your body/metabolism needs a break from a calorie deficit; and

2. Trying to lose more body fat/get leaner is not only unnecessary, but counterproductive.

Just this week, I had conversations with two of our advanced clients (they just completed our new 6-week Maintenance program) about how THEY ARE THERE:

➡️ They've reached a body composition that's lean and healthy. (More on what that looks like in a minute...)

➡️ They look great (amazing actually...)

➡️ And more importantly, they FEEL great. Their appetite and cravings are minimal, and they're crushing their workouts and sleeping like babies.

In previous articles (like this one), we've covered the importance of not using the scale alone to measure your progress, and how body composition (aka body fat percentage - the ratio of lean mass to fat mass on your body) is a much better Indicator of your overall health and progress.

So what DOES a healthy body composition look like? How do you know when you're in a good place for your health AND your physique?

Here are a couple different resources we use with our clients: one from the Academy of Sports Medicine and one from the American Council on Fitness.

Does is surprise you that the LOWEST numbers on these charts are in low double digits?

That 10-13% body fat is ESSENTIAL for women? Essential fat is the level of body fat required to maintain key bodily functions like protecting our organs, immune system function, insulation, and reproductive health.

Setting a Body Composition Goal

In 10+ years of coaching and training women, I've seen that most of our clients are THRILLED with how their bodies look and feel once their body composition is in the low to mid 20s (i.e. the "Fitness" category on the ACE chart above.)

Of course, some women prefer to be a little leaner (in the high teens), and some women are happier in the high 20s. It varies by individual, and there is no ONE RIGHT NUMBER. These charts gives you some ranges to shoot for, and they are a helluva lot more useful than arbitrary scale weight numbers:

Like trying to weigh X lbs.

...because that's what you weighed in college;

...or when you got married;

...or before you had babies, etc.

The BEST part about these charts and numbers is that they give you actual metrics to reach HEALTHY, attainable goals.

What I Wish I'd Known Sooner

When I was DEEP in my group fitness career working for a big international fitness company, I worked with a number of trainers and coaches on my personal goals, which mostly boiled down to:

"Lose fat. Get leaner."

At one point, when I got down to my lowest at 15-16% body fat, I remember seeing photos of myself teaching at an event and thinking, "But I've worked so hard. Why don't I look any different?!"

None of my coaches or trainers ever said:

"You can stop trying to get leaner now. You're good. It's time to take a break from fat loss and focus on building muscle."

But I wish they would have.

Instead, I kept pushing. Teaching more classes. Doing more workouts outside of my classes. Keeping my calories too low for my activity level for too long.

It all came to a head in late 2018/2019 with gut problems (an intestinal infection), fertility issues (two miscarriages), and chronic fatigue. My body was exhausted, stressed, and inflamed, and it took a long time (and a lot of money) to undo all that damage.

What You Need to Know

Pushing to get your body fat percentage lower than ~17-18% will require a restrictive diet where all food is precisely weighed and tracked, and it will require a lot of hours in the gym. And if/when do you reach this level, your metabolism will start "pushing back" with elevated hunger, more powerful and frequent cravings, and poor sleep quality and workout recovery.

I'm telling you all of this because I want you to hear it from someone who's been there:

  • Fat loss is not a HOBBY.

  • It's not something you should pursue forever.

  • It comes with a cost if done recklessly or for too long.

Set healthy, reasonable, attainable goals. Take your time getting there and avoid extremes with diet and exercise.

And once you reach your goal, know when to leave well enough alone.


Do you know your current body fat percentage? Do you have a healthy goal to shoot for? Or are you still playing the weight loss game, using a scale to measure your progress and setting a "goal weight"? Our favorite tool for tracking body composition is the InBody Scan. Find one in your area and get this data in your life!

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