The 5 Pound Rule – Staying Lean For a Lifetime

I have a rule that I follow that allows me to stay lean year round without getting too obsessed with food and counting calories.

You see, I like to drink beer and eat tasty foods, but I also like to have visible abs and a lean youthful appearance. I will talk about a simple and realistic approach to insure that you never have to worry about racing to get in shape for the summer ever again.
carribean beach vacation
[With the increase in beach pictures, you can probably tell that I’m dying for a tropical vacation. People who live in the upper latitudes like me can probably relate. This picture just sums it up perfectly. Suntanning and swimming. My idea of an ideal vacation.]

So What is The 5 Pound Rule?

It is simply this…never allow yourself to get over 5 pounds over your “ideal weight”. When I talk about ideal weight, I’m not talking about the weight you are at when you have busted butt in the gym for 3 months straight and have dropped every last ounce of fat (this is more of a “event weight” which I will talk about later).

Your ideal weight is a realistic weight where you look great in and out of clothes. You aren’t chubby – you lean and toned, but maybe not a ripped as many movie stars get for their special roles.

Your Ideal Weight Depends Upon a Few Factors

To be honest, your ideal weight is defined by you. What weight does it take for you to be comfortable in a swimsuit? What is the weight where clothes fit really well? What weight does your face take on an attractive appearance? There isn’t a “weight calculator” or formula that will figure out this number for you.

For me, my ideal weight is 190…someone else my same height my look better at 200. You may have to experiment a bit to find out your ideal weight.

Find Out Your Ideal Weight and Stay Within 5 Pounds

Do what it takes to stay within 5 pounds of that weight year round. Once you are 5 pounds over that ideal weight mark, tighten up your diet and do what it takes to work back down to your ideal weight.

As long as you follow this rule you will look great year round. It is as simple as it gets.

This Allows a Lot of Flexibility to Eating and Exercise

This is a way of life for me. I can eat those bar nachos and drink beer on occasion and easily stay within that 5 pound zone. If for some reason I go from 190, up to 195 then I tighten up my diet and increase my activity levels…until I get close to 190 again.

I know that people like to get really complex with measuring body fat percentage, but once you know the weight that you feel is the best or you…then you don’t really need to complicate things.

“Event Weight” is Typically 5 Pounds Less Than Ideal Weight

Certainly 5 pounds is just a bit of an estimate, but if you go about 5 pounds lower than your ideal weight…you will reach what I call “event weight”.

I called this event weight, because this is the weight to reach for vacations, weddings, photo shoots, etc. I wouldn’t call it ideal, because it isn’t a realistic condition to hold year round. It is fun to push your body to the limits now and then, but attempting to do this year round is bordering on obsession.

Eating Healthy is The Goal the Majority of the Time

Even if you could stay lean on a junk food diet, that isn’t the goal. Ideally you want to eat a diet that is largely based on vegetables and healthy whole foods. If 75% of your meals are healthy and full of great nutrients, then you are on the right track.

If You Have More Than 10 Pounds to Lose…

If you have a lot of weight to lose, I would recommend that you work hard and allow yourself to be a bit “imbalanced” for a short period of time.

Seriously, just do what it takes to get down to your ideal weight and then make the point of never having to lose a lot of weight again. Once you reach your ideal weight, then use this more balanced approach and live a little.

Note: I was compelled to write this post, because I don’t want people to get too obsessed with fitness.

As long as you stay within a 5 pound range and not let things get out of hand, you can live a well balanced life and stay extremely fit for the rest of your life.

48 thoughts on “The 5 Pound Rule – Staying Lean For a Lifetime”

  1. This is an awesome post. Just when things start to get obsessive I think this is an important rule for people in good shape to keep an eye on. It also helps people who are aiming for a weight goal as they are allowed to have leeway on their goal……The other great thing about 5 pounds difference is that it allows you to fit the same clothes all year round!

  2. Rusty – I must confess that I feel jealous of you and the people that write here. You are all either in shape or can easily lose weight. I have been struggling for the past 8 years with 30 pounds that I cannot get rid off…and food is not the problem, for I probably eat better than most of the people in your blog (and I am not talking about doing cracy stuff like fasting). I have more or less identify what is preventing me from losing the weight. To my very slow metabolism and slow heart beat (great when I was playing sports like Rugby or futbol), I have to add my age (almost 43), the fact that I moved from Madrid (where I would walk every where) to Florida (you need the car even going to the restroom), and becoming a father (believe me, working out is a hassle even now that my son is 5). When I had to give up the sports I mentioned before due to age and aches, I still would walk 4 hours on the golf course, but here in Florida is impossible (I understand using a golf cart in summer, but the rest of the year?). BUT, I have recently discovered what is really not allowing me to lose the weight: STRESS. No matter how much you work out in the gym or outside, how many days you can go without eating (I still think that doing fasting is cracy), Tabata, Hiit, whatever…with a lot of stress you cannot simply lose weight because one of the first requesits is to sleep for 8 hours and I can’t even get 6 hours of decent sleep. I am 5’10” and I weigh 202 pounds (eventhough if you look at me you wouldn’t think I do)…it seems I have very heavy bones (must be all the milk i’ve had since I was born…hehehe). This past years I have felt very frustrated because I could not lose the weight, but now I know that I am not going to lose it because of the stress, and I won’t get rid of the stress until things get better here and in Spain…or I win the power ball.

  3. Hi Ally, have you tried any online workout programs? I am using a particular online program right now and it has worked for me so far. I am now down to 16.9 % body fat from 25.1%. I could name some programs here but I’m not sure if Rusty would be ok with it.

    Good luck!

  4. Rusty,

    I think you hit the nail on the head with finding your “ideal” weight….or better yet find your ideal “look”. We are all different and hold weight differently….hell I threw out my scale long ago as the real truth was always in the mirror. Now I’m happy just being detached from caring about some number on a plastic piece of equipment.

  5. Rusty,

    This is a great post!

    This should tug at the heart strings of a lot of people who find being fit and healty being a task. It’s really not and it’s best to keep it as fun as you can.

    You can restrict yourself of all the foods that you enjoy and you will lose weight but you will most likely gain it back and more.

    Find out where your “peace point” is with your body and enjoy life as much as you can while hanging around your “peace point”.

    If you get outside of the point you and your clothes will know.

    Donovan “DFitnessguy” Owens

    Busy Womens Fitness Blog

    Hutto, Texas Womens Fitness Boot Camp

  6. 2weeks,

    in 2 weeks with moderate training (3 times per week) and lets say fasting twice per week, you can expect to get some difference, say 3-5lbs down. You will look a bit sharper, but nothing really dramatic.

    Check out my before after pics from last year spanning exactly two weeks apart. All I did was train 3 times per week with body weight circuits at home and fast for 24 hours twice per week:

    Now, you can step it up a notch – you can train 3 times per week with the turbulence training body weight circuits – just search Rusty’s site to find the post with the free workout AND do the fat burning cardio workout:

    Diet wise – fast twice per week AND eliminate all sugars, flours (bread, pasta and so on), rice and potatoes, as well as dairy (some folks don’t digest it well). Basically eat natural unprocessed foods – veggies, fruit, butter, meats, eggs, oilve oiletc..

    This way, you can expect a very noticeable difference.


    it is good you are giving this plan so folks have an easy way to keep tracks of things and not get really obsessed with fitness… unlike us LOL


  7. Rusty,

    This is a great post man! I always refer to the pareto principle when it comes to eating healthy — do it 80% of the time and allow for, be ok with ,and even expect 20% of the time to eat unhealthy — it works for me. I’d agree even 75% will work for most people!


  8. It’s an excellent strategy Rusty, that’s the one i use, and it works very well, Life is to be enjoyed so i can’t stand that obssessive mentality we see a lot in other sites and mags, we are here on this Planet to be Healthy and Happy, and that means enjoy all good things, so your strategy works just perfect for it, those 5 pounds are always easy to deal with it. With summer coming those beach photos are always very inspiring

  9. Rusty – of course things do get a bit more difficult when you are trying to gain muscle, or fear you might be losing it. Temptation is to try to factor that into the equation and the rule becomes harder to follow. I have a set of scales that measure fat percentage and my rule is that I never allow myself to get above 12%. Of course their measurement is a little crude, so I am always left guessing about that too!

  10. Great article. I love how your site never feels too extreme. It just comes across and real and natural. Between your site and Mark’s daily apple I’ve been making some real changes in myself due to my doctor ticking me off after pushing meds (statins and high blood pressure) without even mentioning diet. I took it as a wake up call. Now, after 10 weeks I’m down from 209 to 182 today and my cholesterol is down from 253 to 203. Only 1 point over what it was when I was on statins. Still have a ways to go but I can just barely make out some abs. Thanks for a great site.

  11. Rusty!!

    So I have a question for you, I’m going on vacation in two weeks and, of course, I want to look as great as possible. My body looks pretty good, but I do have some extra untoned flab that I’d love to get rid of. Do you think it’s possible to see changes in 2 weeks? What do you suggest I do? What do you recommend I eat? And what should I do when I go to the gym? Also, how do you feel about diet pills, cleanes, etc? Btw, I’m 5’4″ and 121lbs (would LOVE to lose 4lbs in two weeks – is that realistic?).

  12. I have 27lbs left to be at my ideal weight. And I have been thinking about what my strategy will be to stay down there this time! (Have been a yoyo dieter most of my damn life!) I think you just answered my dilemma!

    I took a month off at xmas and ‘only’ put on 3lbs. That’s with a lot of restaurants, alcohol and no thoughts about calories! But eating healthily when I wasn’t out partying! I therefore think your 5lbs is perfectly reasonable for sustaining a life of healthy, but non-obsessive living.

    Many thanks!

    Tusc 🙂

  13. Good post. I’m grateful for your blog. I started reading your blog about 10 days ago. I’m trying to lose 7-8 lbs (I’m 5’6 and 132 lbs) and already work out a lot, so I bought 12 training sessions at my gym in December. Unfortunately the training sessions (I still have 4 left) which averaged twice a week for a month–in conjunction with 30-60 minutes of cardio about 5 days a week didn’t seem to make a bit of difference. My trainer has no interest in what I do when I’m not with him (like my diet or cardio workouts) other than to tell me to eat around 2000-2200 calories a day for a total of 6 “meals”, and he isn’t willing to help me come up with a plan–nor do I have confidence in his ability to do so.

    I’ve taken a few of your concepts and implemented them and already lost 3 lbs. I do IF a few times a week (for 18 hours), quit doing so much cardio, and have started HIIT 3x a week on a treadmill or outside (jog at 6.5 for 5 minutes, then alternate intervals of running (8.0 to start, increasing by .5 each interval until I hit 11.5) for 45 sec to 1 min with walking for 1/1.5 minutes at 4.5 Then I usually run at around 6.5 for another 20 minutes; sometimes walking depending on how spent I feel. I’ve also quit eating in the 4 hours before my workout. I’ve read your posts on insulin and changed my diet some too.

    I’m just not sure, even after reading tons of your old posts, what exactly I should be doing insofar as weights–specifically which exercises and how many reps. I don’t do legs b/c mine build very quickly, so I’m just concerned with upper body. (I do planks for my abs). My trainer has had me doing tons of reps and lots of different things with the bosu, and it seems really inefficient. Surely I can do what I need to for strength training in less than 2 hours a week. Any suggestions? Thank you for providing all of this information! It’s been exciting to already see changes just after implementing a few of your ideas.

  14. The strategy you outline above is a sound one, and should help a lot of people avoid the pitfalls of yo yo dieting. Oh, and I live in a northern latitude as well. I couldn’t agree with you more about your vacation ideas. Sun, Surf, sound good to me!

    – Dave

  15. Hey Rusty,

    This is exactly where I’m at right now. I’ve pretty much torn down my site and started this “20 Week Sprint” to eternal leanness. I’m attacking it in stages: Sprinting to 15, Running to 10, and Jogging to 9.

    And then stroll my way lower, I guess, haha, if I choose!

  16. Wow, this is a great post and one that I didn’t even think of myself. I like the idea of choosing your ideal weight based on your own observations. This makes it simpler without over analyzation. Thanks!

  17. Dear Rusty,
    I really enjoy reading your articles as always, I know over the years, I have been obsessed with staying in tip top shape, and constantly weighing myself. This 5-pound rule is a great way to keep it off your mind. It gives me a guidline and range to follow without the feeling of guilt that comes with being off just a few pounds. I get so tired of all the typical fitness myths and misconceptions that I read and hear all the time, over and over, through the years. Thanks for sharing your views, and filling that gap in the fitness industry, I don’t read or listen to anything about fitness anymore unless it’s you or Eat Stop Eat.
    Thanks again Rusty
    Patrick, Denver, CO

  18. hey rusty, such a great post cant tell you how much I agree with you. I stay between 165- 170. right now I am 168. I leave in 19 days for my vacation for laguna beach with my best friends. Cant wait senior year in college spring break. Last one! But I read your cardio article on how you do cardio I have a few questions.

    1. Would you do cardio everyday till I leave?
    2. you say warm up 5,
    then 10 mins interval(1 sprint 1 walk),
    then wait 5 min
    then do 20 to 40 mins of low intensity cardio
    Do you have to wait 5 mins and how long would you do u recomend do low the low intensity after sprints for

  19. Cool advice Rusty, and interesting approach. I can see how this would help avoid the obsessive approach to nutrition. It echoes a post I wrote before Christmas about staying within “striking distance” of your comfort weight over periods where you know you’ll be eating more.


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