You have fat; you are not fat.

The most common question I get from people is “how do I lose my belly fat?” People want a flat stomach with sculpted abs. It’s a fair question and desire, but honestly, it’s my least favorite question to address. If it’s a question you’ve had, here is the answer you’ve been waiting for:

  • You cannot target fat loss.
  • You have to reduce total body fat because your body will lose fat where it decides.
  • You can do this with a slight deficit in net caloric intake (this doesn’t mean eating less. It can mean exercising consistently with high intensity to build lean body mass/muscle to burn more energy at rest).
  • It takes time.

My worst nightmare came true: somehow along the way, I became a weight-loss dietitian. I’m just kidding, but I am a registered dietitian who cannot escape the weight-loss world. It’s easily the most sought after help in the nutrition/fitness world. My biggest fear actually has been that my message to the world has come off as “be skinny”, “be ripped” or worse: “fat is bad”. None of these are my message. 

My core belief and message is simple: love your body and enjoy healthy activity/food. I don’t undermine or judge physical goals. Not at all. I think everyone should have their goals. Many people who are overweight or obese have health issues associated with their elevated weights, which can be alleviated with increased exercise and better eating habits.

However, it’s a tricky line to walk. There’s a high risk that we may fall onto the obsessive side that perpetuals negative language and self-esteem. Our bodies are different. Celebrate them. Instead of worrying about that number on the scale or our body fat percentage, enjoy physical activity and food to fuel our bodies and souls. Focus on the joy of “doing” instead of the fear of “being”. Run, jump, hike, lift weights, cook, do. Anchor your self-esteem to the natural high of taking care of yourself.

Why? Because the number on the scale and our bodies will change. It’s inevitable. However, building healthy and enjoyable habits will last us a lifetime. Remember, you have fat; you are not fat. Just like you have fingernails, you are not fingernails. 


Thomas Ngo RD,


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