Losing Fat Doesn’t Require Perfection

Eugene Adams


How close to perfect do you need to be to lose fat?

That is precisely the question Precision Nutrition tried to answer. They analyzed data collected from 1,000 clients over the course of 12 months.

The results found something interesting. Perfection is not necessary when it comes to losing weight and becoming healthier.

Small Habits Stack Up

The basic philosophy of Precision Nutrition is to take one or two small healthy habits and do them consistently. Then, add another small habit.

And another.

And another.

Then, before you know it, you will have made a significant change.

Examples of habits

  • Drink a glass of water with every meal
  • No alcohol
  • 10,000 steps per day
  • Eat more whole foods
  • Eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  • Eat until 80% full

As you can see, habits do not have to be particularly difficult. You can (and should) start with small, easily achievable habits. You can increase the difficulty later if your goals call for it.


10–49% Consistency (Less than 50%)

Before reading Precision Nutrition’s findings, I thought that less than 50% consistency would lead to little or no results. I could not have been more wrong.

It’s important to note that even though these clients performed less than 50% of their habits, they still completed the full one-year program.

After one year, the women lost, on average, 6% of their body weight while men lost 5%.

To put that in perspective:

6% of 150 pounds = 9 pounds
5% of 250 pounds = 12.5 pounds


What exactly does 10–49% consistently look like?

One of the first habits I always recommend people build first is to eat vegetables with every meal.

Let’s assume you eat 21 meals a week. (3 meals a day) If you eat vegetables with 10 of your 21 meals, that is around 48%, which puts you at the higher end of the 10–49% range.

Even someone who hates vegetables can manage that.

50–79% Consistency

Clients who successfully executed their healthy habits 50–79% of the time also saw great results. They lost, on average, 7% of their body weight in a year.

7% of 150 Pounds = 10.5 Pounds
7% of 250 Pounds = 17.5 Pounds


Walking 10,000 steps per day is a great habit for people who are just starting their weight loss journey. However, the problem with a daily goal is that sometimes life happens. Kids get sick, problems arise at work, etc.

If you succeed 5 out of 7 days per week, that puts you around 71%.

Even with random life difficulties taken into account, most people can achieve a healthy habit for 5 out of 7 days.

80–89% Consistency

80–89% consistency for a whole year is quite an accomplishment. The clients’ results reflected this achievement. On average, the women lost 9 % of their body weight, and the men lost 11%.

9% of 150 Pounds = 13.5 Pounds
11% of 250 Pounds = 27.5 Pounds


There is a lot less room for error in this bracket. However, you still don’t need to be perfect. Completing a habit 6 out of 7 days per week puts you at roughly 86%. So, even clients in this category have room to account for life's emergencies.

90–100% Consistency

This level of consistency is incredibly difficult, which is why the results were so great. The women in this group lost, on average, 10% of their body weight while the men lost about 13%.

10% of 150 Pounds = 15 Pounds
13% of 250 Pounds = 32.5 Pounds

This level of consistency is not for everyone. But, the good news is that it is also completely unnecessary for most people. If you want to lose a couple of pounds and get in better shape, you can get the results you are looking for in the 80–89% or even 50–79% range.


One powerful habit that I recommend my clients build once they master the basics is to eat until you are roughly 80% full.

A client who eats 3 meals a day would need to successfully eat until 80% full 19 out of 21 meals in the week.

That does not leave a lot of room for error, but it does not require you to be perfect.



To be clear, I am not saying that one small habit will lead to similar results.

I am saying that small habits stacked on top of each other for a long time (around a year) will.

Real-world examples

Every client starts in a different place and progresses at a different rate. Below is an example of Habit Stacking that I have used in the past.

Note: I start with one habit and add another every 2 weeks if I am happy with my success rate. I aim for 80–89% success, but you should choose whatever success rate is realistic for you and gets you to your fitness goal is. Also, I have no health issues that I need to consider when thinking about my diet or exercise plans. Remember to start with an easy to achieve habit first. You can increase the difficulty as you go along.

Diet example

1)Drink water with every meal
2)Eat fruits and/or vegetables with every meal
3)Eat some form of protein with every meal
4)Eat something I cooked 19 meals a week (i.e. not from a restaurant)
5)Eat slowly (or at least not in a rush)
6)Eat until 80% full

Physical activity example

1)Park at the back of the parking lot and take the stairs
2)Walk 7,000 steps per day
3)Walk 10,000 steps per day
4)Weightlift 2 days per week
5)High-Intensity Cardio 1 day per week
6)Weightlift 3 days per week
7)High-intensity Cardio 2 days per week

Note: The habits stack on top of each other they do not replace each other. For example, when you get to step 4, you still walk 10,000 steps a day.


Losing weight is not easy. However, it does not require perfection, not even close.

So just get started, don't wait for a ‘better’ or ‘less busy’ time.

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Certified Personal Trainer | Certified ESL Teacher |I mostly write about all things Southern California, but I also cover national topics.

Los Angeles, CA

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