I’ve shared techniques so you can feel good in your skin right now, even if you’re still working to achieve your fitness goals. If after thinking about that you still would like to lose weight, or go steps further and significantly lean down (get “ripped” or “cut”) I want you to know what’s really involved in going that route. Here I’ll explain body fat percentages, what’s considered healthy, and small steps you can take today to start getting leaner. In Part Two I’ll outline how getting really lean or “ripped” is a lifestyle of it’s own. You can decide how far you’d like to go, and I’ll be with you along the way!


The two biggest misconceptions I see about weight loss are:

  • Thinking that in order to lose a bit of weight or “get fit”, you have to go to 6am bootcamps every day of the week and track every calorie you eat.
  • Thinking that going from a healthy weight to 6-pack abs involves just one more class a week, or some crazy infomercial device, or magic drink or pill.

Neither of these is true.


The reality is that, depending on how much weight you have to lose, what you do to lose your first 10 pounds may not be enough to lose your next 10 pounds. Once you get to your “healthy” weight, dropping down into really lean, fitness model fat percentages will be more difficult. But if you’re ok not being the next cover model for “6-pack Abs Monthly,” small adjustments, over time, will likely add up to noticeable, sustainable results that could change, and even save, your life.


Body fat percentages:

It’s important to know what healthy levels of fat are. Most men can be healthy somewhere between 11-22% body fat. For women, it’s usually between 22-33%. Right now in the U.S., the average man is about 28% fat, and the average woman is 40% fat.

body fat percentage cartoons

Body Fat % Benefit Trade-off How to Get There Restricted
Men >20%, Women >30% -Easy

-Not much thought or work

-Poor health

-Low energy level

-Poor life expectancy

-May need medications to control various conditions

-Eat processed foods

-Eat quickly

-Eat big portions

-Exercise of any kind

-Eat fewer whole foods

-Don’t bother balancing your meals

-Sleep less

-No stress management

Men 15-20%,

Women 25-30%

-Improved health, energy and sleep

-Exercise is easier and more enjoyable

-Requires some thought and planning

-You’ll look good, but not super lean

-Eat slower, stop when “satisfied” at least 50% of meals

-Be thoughtful about including more lean protein and veggies in 1-2 of your meals every day.

-Exercise 3-5 times per week, anyway and anyhow you prefer.

-Eat fewer processed carbs, but don’t reduce carbs drastically

-Drink fewer caloric beverages, but don’t reduce drastically

Men 13-15%,

Women 23-25%

-Fairly easy to maintain once reached

-Will likely be able to reduce or eliminate many medications

-Requires some planning and may require the occasional social sacrifice (choosing exercise vs going out to the bar with friends after work)

-May require effort and attention to maintain needed sleep

-May require time and effort to focus on stress reduction

-Eat slower, stop when “satisfied” at least 75% of meals

-Be thoughtful about including more lean protein and veggies in 2-3 of your meals every day.

-Exercise 30-45 minutes per day

-1-2 exercise sessions per week should be working hard, breaking a good sweat

-At least 7 hours sleep per night

-Practice some stress management techniques

-Desserts and processed carbs 3-5 times per week, within reason

-3-5 caloric beverages per week, within reason



This chart helps us understand plateaus, and consider whether we are willing to make the changes needed to overcome them, because:

  • If you want to make further changes to your body, you’ll need to make further changes to your behaviors.
  • The leaner you want to get, the more of your behaviors you’ll have to change.


Fitness with Rachel Pep Talk:

Numbers, charts, percentages – Oh my! The good news is that it’s not that hard to go from over-fat to the higher end of “normal”. You can do it with a few relatively small, easy-to-implement changes.

For instance:

  • drinking less soda or alcohol each day
  • not overeating desserts and fast foods (just eating a reasonable amount)
  • taking a daily walk or adding a yoga class


If you make a few small changes like these, and do them consistently, in six months to a year, your body fat percentage will drop into a much healthier range. At first, not every change will feel simple or small. You’ll need to put a some extra effort into making those changes happen every day. But if the changes are small enough and you are consistent, you’ll find that they become part of your regular routine. In fact, one day in the future, you might even say, “I just don’t feel like myself without my daily walk!” Having a trainer or a coach support you and hold you accountable will help you feel more confident and on-track.


Please don’t feel intimidated! I usually fluctuate a few percentage points around 25%. Getting lower than about 23% simply isn’t worth the dietary changes required. I’m happy with my lifestyle and I feel good. Now take a computer break and go take a walk – and have fun!