Can you get lean by eating pizza? Tom Venuto tells you the truth about the calories don't count myth and more.

So how exactly do you get lean by eating junk food? Here Tom Venuto, author of Burn The Fat answers questions about cheating and more.

QUESTION: “Is it possible to get a flat stomach and six-pack abs and single-digit body fat (in other can you get lean and lose bodyfat) while still enjoying your favorite foods like chocolate or pizza?” What’s your take on that, Tom?”

ANSWER: "Of course it’s possible. You just have to eat small enough portions of chocolate or pizza so you’re still in a calorie deficit. In fact, you could eat 100% pizza and 100% chocolate diet and still get lean and lose weight. Heck, if a guy can eat 100% Subway and lose weight, why not 100% pizza?

All you need is a calorie deficit. Of course, I DON’T recommend you eat a 100% junk food diet because that’s going to have a negative impact on your health. I’m just trying to make the point that to lose fat and get lean you must have a calorie deficit.

The Big Get Lean Myth

We have some diet book authors, some of them who even have bestsellers on the top of the charts right now, who are spreading the same myth that diet gurus have been spreading for decades; they’re saying calories don’t count. That’s total B.S.

Calories in versus calories out is stating the first law of thermodynamics, but apparently we have a group of people who claim to have figured out a way to avoid the laws of physics.

There’s actually an explanation of why they say that though. What these guys are usually trying to do is to give you a list of eating rules which makes it almost impossible to overeat. You could say that they’re “tricking you” into eating less. I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing. If the foods you choose spontaneously make you feel fuller on less calories, I might even argue that’s a good thing.

But they’re misrepresenting how it works because there’s a huge difference between saying “don’t count calories” and “calories don’t count” but they’re lumping them together as if they were the same thing.

Do you see the difference between those two statements? If anybody listening doesn’t see the difference, then make sure that you get the difference, because it’s huge.

Suppose I tell you that the only thing you can eat is lean proteins (like egg whites, chicken, fish and green salads and other vegetables), lean plus green and I’ll also let you take in some essential fats and oils, to make sure you get all the essential nutrients.

Then suppose I say, “Don’t count calories; you can eat as much as you want.” I bet you’re going to have a really hard time eating in a calorie surplus, because I’ve removed food groups that are dense in calories, like starches and grains and sugars.

But does that mean that calories don’t count? No. It means that instead of counting calories you were given a bunch of eating rules that usually curb caloric intake automatically.

Calories Don't Count Is One of The Worst Myths Out There

If people don’t understand the calories in versus calories out equation, they’re not going to be able to get past the plateaus that we just talked about and they’re going to start thinking there’s a cause and effect relationship between specific foods and gaining fat.

They’re going to figure, “Eating pizza equals getting fat.” It doesn’t. They’re going to think that eating chocolate equals getting fat. It doesn’t. It’s not a cause and effect relationship where “junk food” automatically turns into fat. Eating too many calories equals gaining fat.

Now if you take a pizza and you load that thing up with triple cheese and sausage and pepperoni and olives and just stack the calories in there, then you have a very calorie-dense food. Even though no food in itself makes you fat, calorie-dense foods, if you eat them frequently, are more likely to give you a calorie surplus.

Or some foods stimulate your appetite or don’t keep you full for long, so you end up eating more of other stuff later, and again, you’re likely to eat in a calorie surplus.

The bottom line? As far as your favorite foods go, my philosophy is that depriving yourself completely of your favorite foods is a great way to make yourself miserable and to be almost certain that you fall off your diet very quickly. My philosophy is allow yourself your favorite foods as long as you acknowledge that calories count and you obey the law of calorie balance.

This is one reason that I don’t prefer the full day off the diet or the free for all cheat day, because some people might interpret that loosely and they may almost feel obligated to see how much food they can eat and how much they can shove down their throats. They say, “Hey, it’s cheat day, so I have to cheat real good. I don’t want to miss out on this!”

They end up in a huge surplus and if they go so far over on the cheat day, when it all averages out over the week, they’re even and they haven’t lost any body fat.

How To Cheat and Get Lean

Your best approach to get lean is to know your calorie target, or at least the ballpark, and inside that calorie target, give yourself a compliance rule.

One that works really well for me and for my clients is 90% compliance. I give you a list of clean foods like the ones that I mentioned before that include high nutrient density foods with all the essentials and I say, “Eat these 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time, eat whatever you want.”

If you look at it from this perspective, then you can see that there’s no such thing as forbidden foods. For most people, in the long run, any diet that gives you flexibility is going to work better than a diet that demands 100% “clean eating.” This is not only my personal belief, it’s also well supported in the clinical nutrition and behavioral psychology journals.

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