We do need to make one thing clear from the start: calories do ultimately matter for weight loss. The pertinent science has made that decidedly clear.
If you eat less calories than you expend over time, in other words you have a calorie deficit, you’ll lose weight. If you don’t, then you won’t – it doesn’t matter how “clean” your diet may be.
But how do you know if you’re *actually* eating less calories then you’re burning?
Tricky indeed… which is in fact the major upside of calorie counting as a weight loss strategy: you get certainty and peace of mind.
When you actually count up the calories, you’ll know the calorie deficit is present, and you’ll know you can rest easy and not have to think about the diet anymore once the daily work is done.
But, as does anything in life, calorie counting has its downsides too, namely said daily work – it’s a sufferable chore at best, or perhaps more often it’s an insurmountably frustrating attempt that’s given up on after a few days and fist fulls of pulled out hair.
Overall, I’m actually a strong proponent of calorie counting. Despite it being decidedly out of vogue by the mainstream (for mostly bad or incorrect reasons, mind you), it’s actually the optimal weight loss strategy in a lot of cases. That’s how I did it, and it worked great for me.
In fact, I also wrote a complete guide on how to, alternatively to here, count calories for fat loss and make it as simple and easy as possible. You can check that out here.
But I’m also a realist. I understand that many people are simply never going to consider counting calories, ever. Other people simply can’t – a college student on a dining hall meal plan comes to mind. I also understand that those who do successfully lose weight by counting calories don’t necessarily want to keep doing it for the rest of their lives if they don’t have to. I certainly don’t.
So, then, is it actually possible to effectively lose weight, achieve leanness, and maintain it… without counting calories?
Here’s the answer: YES. Absolutely.
But only if you do it the right way.
And the problem is virtually all “how to lose weight without counting calories” information shows you how to do it the wrong way.
So, I wrote this here post to be a comprehensive guide on how to do it right.
Clickable Table of Contents by Section
- The Current Problem: Most “No Calorie Counting” Information Sucks
- The Solution: An Explicit Weight Loss System
- Preliminary Step 0: What Are The Actual Worst Weight Loss Stalling Behaviors?
- Step 1: Pick The Rules For Your (Initial) System
- Intermittent Step 1-B: What If The (Initial) System Doesn’t Work?
- Step 2: BE CONSISTENT
- Step 3: Assess Your Progress Periodically
- Step 4: Adjust As You Go, As Needed
- Putting It All Together
The Current Problem: Most “No Calorie Counting” Information Sucks
Just about every “no calorie counting” weight loss article out there, at least that I’ve seen, is essentially nothing more than a random list of overly general tips, for example:
- Eat more quality protein
- Eat more fiber
- Eat more green vegetables
- Lift heavy weights
- Eat less refined sugar
- Eat “clean”
- Eat what our paleolithic ancestors (allegedly) ate
And so on…
All these vague laundry list articles have the same glaring problem: a random slew of weight loss quick-tips doesn’t explicitly outline how a calorie deficit – the singular hard requirement for losing weight – will be assuredly established.
The reason calorie counting is a viable weight loss strategy, contrarily, is that it does do that – you literally count the calories up to assure the deficit is indeed present.
In order to make a non calorie counting weight loss strategy viable too, it must do the same thing: it must explicitly outline how a calorie deficit will be established.
But how can you do that if you’re not actually counting calories?
The Solution: An Explicit Weight Loss System
The reason calorie counting is a viable weight loss strategy is that it’s an explicit system for establishing a calorie deficit.
An explicit system has two essential components:
- The rules you must follow are clearly defined.
- Why those rules will produce the desired outcome is also clearly defined.
Calorie counting is as straightforward as any explicit weight loss system gets:
- Define the rules: eat x calories per day.
- Define why that will produce weight loss: if you calculate that you burn more than x calories per day, you’ll know that you have a calorie deficit, thus you’ll know that you’ll lose weight.
To lose weight without counting calories, you must create the same kind of explicit system, only it will work a little bit differently in this case.
How so? Well, let’s jump ahead a bit by considering an example of an alternative no calorie counting explicit weight loss system:
- Define the rules: switch to diet soda, and no more mid-morning snack.
- Define why that will produce weight loss: assuming you were maintaining your weight before (caloric maintenance), you know those changes will lower your caloric intake into a deficit, thus you know that you’ll lose weight.
Here’s the key – any effective weight loss system always works in the same fundamental way: you follow an explicit set of rules that will assuredly conduce a calorie deficit, and thus will assuredly conduce weight loss.
The only difference between a calorie counting and no calorie counting system is one detail: the former directly focuses on the calories themselves, and the latter indirectly focuses on behaviors that invariably influence the calories.
Now that you understand why any weight loss strategy must be an explicit system in order to be viable, as well as what the one difference between a calorie counting and non calorie counting explicit system is, we’re going to outline how to actually set the latter up.
Preliminary Step 0: What Are The Actual Worst Weight Loss Stalling Behaviors?
Per the prior definition, the first part of any explicit system is clearly defining the rules which you must follow.
If you’re calorie counting, the singular rule is as straightforward as it can get: eat x calories per day, which is a modest percentage less than the y calories per day that you expend.
With a non calorie counting system, though, we’re instead focused on behaviors that influence the calories rather than directly on the calories themselves.
That degree of separation makes things a little less straightforward – which behaviors actually influence the calorie balance equation the most and thus deserve focus?
This is a vitally important question, but it’s admittedly tough for a layperson to answer. After all, we’re perpetually bombarded with flavor-of-the-moment weight loss tips. There are perhaps millions of them now, and we obviously can’t worry about them all, so which ones, if followed, will actually produce a significant enough positive result to be worthwhile?
Better yet, what are the absolute best of these tips to follow? The tips that will produce the biggest positive difference while simultaneously requiring the least amount of thought and effort? In other words, which tips have the highest return on investment (ROI)?
There’s no singular answer to that question, truthfully. After all, every person is unique and has a unique lifestyle.
However… in general, the worst offending weight loss stalling behaviors which are also the easiest to change can be identified and ranked in order of ROI.
I’ve put a lot of thought and research into doing this, and in my flagship book, The Straightforward Fat Loss Handbook, I coined The Ten Fundamental Laws of Simple and Easy Weight Loss. These laws address the ten most common weight loss saboteurs.
Any person’s trouble with weight loss is almost always explainable by their breaking of one or more of these laws.
They each address a common behavior that, one, has large negative impact on the calorie balance equation, and two, is simultaneously fairly simple and easy to change.
They are numerically ranked in order of importance, and are as follows:
Constant snacking is by far the worst habitual weight loss saboteur. If you’re constantly popping morsels of food into your mouth, it’s just way too easy to inadvertently eat way too many calories. Limit your food intake to real sit-down meals.
Liquid calories, like soda or sugar laden “health” juices, have the same problem as snack food: They make it way too easy to consume far too many calories.
The truth is that liquid calories of any kind are completely unnecessary for the vast majority of people. This includes sports drinks. The only people who truly need liquid calorie sports drinks are endurance athletes who are doing extended bouts of aerobic exercise for 60 minutes or more at a time.
The worst nutrition myth is that one must eat small frequent meals to “stoke the metabolic fire” to prevent “starvation mode.” Not only does science show that this claim is utterly bogus, but erroneously adhering to it winds up being ironically counterproductive because people simply eat too much, mostly because they’ll often eat despite not actually being hungry. This runs into the same problem as constant snacking per law #1 has.
I recommend only eating 2-3 real sit-down meals per day. That’s how our ancestors ate – commercialized health & fitness didn’t exist back then, yet obesity was also a nearly unheard of condition just a few generations ago.
“Poorly balanced” is a vague descriptor on purpose. Most people have the common sense to intuitively understand what a “decently” balanced meal looks like. A third healthy starch, a third healthy protein, and a third healthy vegetables – something like that, give or take.
Potato chips with a side of cheese whiz, on the other, is not a decently balanced meal.
Use your common sense and make the meals that you do eat decently balanced. I like the 80/20 rule. 80% “decent,” with 20% permissible “less than decent” junk in moderation.
Harsh truth: we’re too hungry for our own good. Our hunger mechanism is still calibrated to prehistoric times when, for millions of years, a defining aspect of life was caloric scarcity and starvation was a primary survival threat. For most of our history, we needed to eat big when we could, because who knew when the next meal would come?
Then the world changed in a relative blink of an eye, and our ancient way-too-turnt’-up hunger is now inundated with available calories 24/7.
An unfortunately crummy trade off of enjoying modern civilization is that most of us will simply have to be actively mindful of our excessive hunger and of not overeating. There are two simple things you can do that will accomplish this: eat slower, and stop eating when you’re 80% or so full.
Research actually shows that doing those two things will increase satiation with less calorie intake . Most people find that the remaining 20% extra hunger wasn’t even a real thing and goes away once 30 minutes or so passes after the meal anyway.
Sugar in and of itself isn’t inherently toxic or obesogenic, but excess calories are, and the problem with sugar is that it’s just way, way too easy to overeat. Brad Pilon said it best: carbs make us fat because they’re awesome.
The thought of putting down 3000 calories worth of steak and vegetables is kind of… gross, but 3000 calories worth of cookies, candy, and ice cream? Just about everyone has gone off the rails and done that at least once.
Some junky sugar is perfectly fine in moderation – remember the 80/20 rule – just not too much.
Protein, contrarily to sugar, is conducive to leanness for two key reasons:
- Protein is more satiating than both carbs or fat are .
- Protein can actually (modestly) enhance weight loss even when calories are controlled for. [3,4,5,6,7]
Protein isn’t magical – it’s simply metabolized ~15% less efficiently than either carbs or fat. That means we can get away with eating a little more of it, to the tune of 100-300 calories worth per day. Adding the increased satiation factor to that, and it’s easy to see how simply eating more quality protein can significantly move the needle in the right direction.
Make it a point to include a serving a high quality protein with each of your meals.
On the calories in vs out balance sheet, alcohol gets categorized as reckless spending – it adds to the caloric bottom line, quite a lot so if you’re not careful, while offering essentially zero satiation or nutritional value in return.
If you’re not exercising, just start. Do literally anything, in any amount, as that’s better than nothing – whatever you can stick to. I’ll leave it at that.
There are two really, really important things you must understand about realistic and sustainable weight loss and staying-lean maintenance:
- Progress doesn’t require perfection, it only requires good enough.
- The only thing that matters is what you’ll actually do.
This is why I’m such a strong proponent of the bare effective minimum. The simpler and easier any strategy is, the more likely it is that you’ll actually do it and actually stick with it long enough for it to work.
And there you go – those are the ten laws. Chances are the highest ROI behavioral changes that you can make to start losing weight are captured by one or more of them.
Now that you’re armed with that knowledge, it’s time to actually create the rules of your explicit system.
Step 1: Pick The Rules For Your (Initial) System
At straightforwardfatloss.com, the efficient bare effective minimum is the name of the game. Said again, it’s basic logic that the simplest and easiest strategy is the one you’re most likely to actually do and stick to, which is the only thing that ultimately matters.
Besides, even if you *could* do more work than is actually necessary, why the hell would you want to?
In applying the bare effective minimum modus operandi to this guide, there are two main things we want to accomplish with your system:
- Minimize the total number of rules.
- Choose the rules that will yield maximal efficacy with minimal effort (high ROI).
Firstly, why would you want to use a 100 rule system when an alternative 3 rule system could get the same results?
And secondly, why would you want to run 60 minutes a day on a treadmill to burn 400 calories when you could achieve the same thing by simply consuming 400 less calories with a switch to diet soda?
I’m not saying that these or any other specifics matter – no choices are inherently superior to others. I’m simply trying to get you thinking: how can I make my system as simple and easy as possible?
(while making sure it still works, of course)
The whole point of the Ten Laws is to help you answer that question.
Now it’s time to actually create your no calorie counting explicit weight loss system. Remember, an explicit system has two essential components:
- It clearly defines the rules you must follow.
- It clearly defines why following those rules will create the desired outcome, which in this specific case is a calorie deficit.
Secondarily, said again, a bare effective minimum version of such a system does the following:
- It uses the least amount of possible rules
- It uses rules that have the highest ROI (maximum results, minimal effort)
The reason why “stop snacking” and “stop drinking liquid calories” are the top two laws is because, one, many people will drastically reduce their caloric intake by adopting them, and two, simply abstaining from snacking and drinking soda requires literally zero time or effort. After all, not doing something, by implied definition, doesn’t ever require any time or effort. Huge ROI with changes that require literally zero time or effort is exactly the kind of thing we’re after here.
Putting all this together, your task is to consider the ten laws, then to think about your own normal behavior, then to then pick a few rules to adopt as part of your new behavioral system.
The rules you decide on don’t necessarily have to come from those ten laws. The laws’ purpose is to merely give you a decent idea of what the usual worst offending behaviors are. Use the Ten Laws as a thought springboard.
Here is a great example of a starting system which, in all honestly, could solve the vast majority of people’s weight problem if they were to adopt it:
Part 1 – the rules:
- Rule #1: only 3 solid food meals per day
- Rule #2: no liquid calories
- Rule #3: no snacks in between meals
Part 2 – why it will work for losing weight:
- If I was maintaining my weight before, and I adopt those new rules, my calorie intake will invariably go down, I will invariably drop from caloric maintenance to a calorie deficit, and I will thus invariably lose weight.
That’s it – pretty simple actually, right? Just because explicit systems are vitally important doesn’t mean they necessarily have to be complicated. They can be very simple, actually. And of course per our bare effective minimum end goal, the simpler they are, the better.
To create your own explicit system, here’s what to do:
First, considering the ten laws, think about which of your behaviors that, if changed, will have the biggest positive impact on the calorie balance equation and will also be the simplest and easiest changes to adhere to.
Second, make the firm commitment to adopt those behaviors. Make the commitment deliberate – write out the system on a piece of paper if you have to. Chances are it will fit onto a post-it.
Third, just stick to the system and see what happens.
That’s it. That’s all you have to do. Also, notice how I did not say anything regarding whether or not the system actually works. That’s not an error on my part, because for now, whether the system works or not doesn’t actually matter. The next section explains why, but before we get into that there’s one more thing I want to cover here:
I strongly implore you to be a pessimist when starting out. That is, it’s better to negatively under-commit to just one or two rules that you’ll knock out of the park rather than over-optimistically attempting all ten laws, getting overwhelmed, then giving up.
I know it’s tempting to think you’ll easily knock out all ten laws, but self talk is cheap, especially now when you’re sitting here all hopped up on feel-good inspiration from reading this post.
But now’s not when it counts. Actual decision time is when it counts – the home stretch of a long work day, inspiration conveniently nowhere to be found, and you’re standing in front of the vending machine deciding whether to get a diet soda or a regular soda.
It’s much better to initially underestimate yourself and end up sticking with a few rules that, maybe it turns out, are a walk in the park, as opposed to getting overwhelmed by too many rules and giving up.
(Again, don’t worry about the chance that you initially don’t do enough and things don’t work – that doesn’t matter yet)
The pessimistic approach, besides maximizing your chances of actually sticking with the new system, will also ensure that you don’t do any unnecessary work – remember: our goal is the bare effective minimum.
Maybe it turns out that cutting soda is literally the only thing you need to do start effectively losing weight. If so? Great! Why do more than that if it’s working?
Intermittent Step 1-B: What If The (Initial) System Doesn’t Work?
Said again, it doesn’t matter, so don’t worry about it.
Calorie counting, believe it or not, isn’t actually expected to work either at the outset.
The purpose of the initial system is not to figure out what works. Rather, the purpose is to merely create a starting baseline of consistency so that we can adjust off of that, little by little, until things do start working.
In fact, it’s actually better to undershoot at the outset because that will ensure that you’ll dial in on the bare effective minimum by upwardly adjusting to it.
If your initial system works, that’s great, but it might turn out that you’re doing more work than you actually need to do, which would be a bit of a bummer.
Step 2: BE CONSISTENT
That’s in all caps because I cannot emphasize enough how important consistency is.
Being consistent with whatever you do is the most important takeaway of this entire guide.
Why? Because consistency is the purpose of an explicit system – if you’re consistent with your behaviors, then you can make meaningful adjustments as you go, which will inevitably end you up on a system that works.
Contrast that to your typical willy-nilly laundry list tip dieter – he’s eating paleo today, cutting gluten tomorrow, doing cardio the next day, then going low carb the next. He doesn’t lose weight. Question: why?
Answer: he has no idea why, and that’s the glaring problem – he can’t know why because there’s no way for him to actually isolate the problem with indiscriminately random behavior.
Contrarily, if you follow this guide and are consistent with your behavior, then you can make a meaningful adjustment to it if things aren’t working (or stop working).
Examples: Maybe you limit yourself to two beers a week instead of six, or maybe you reduce your 3 meals per day to 2 meals and a smaller snack. Again, the specifics don’t matter – what does matter is that adjustments like those are quantitatively meaningful because they’re specific and based off of specific prior behaviors. Drinking 4 less beers per week will definitely lower caloric intake. So will turning one of your meals into a smaller snack.
On the other hand, saying things like…
- “ugh I need to drink less”
- “I should work out more”
- “I need to eat cleaner”
…are essentially useless because they aren’t a system – they don’t explicitly dictate how the desired positive change will actually occur.
Let’s recap – here’s the jist of it all, so far:
- Pick an explicit system with a clearly defined set of rules
- Follow it consistently
- See if it works
- Is the system working? Great. Just keep doing it. Or,
- Is it not? What to do then is what’s covered in the next two sections.
Step 3: Assess Your Progress Periodically
The reason explicit systems are essential for weight loss success is not that they necessarily work on the first go around. Rather, it’s that they allow you to make meaningful adjustments to your consistent behavior until things are working.
You likely now fundamentally understand that if you follow this guide – if you’re consistent and you adjust as needed as you go – it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually start effectively losing weight.
To adjust as needed, you need to know when you actually need to adjust, obviously. You make that determination by periodically assessing your progress to see if your system is actually working or not.
Don’t worry – gauging your progress is a simple task that takes maybe five minutes a week of your time.
Here’s what to do:
- Take a front a side picture of yourself, shirt off (or naked for those so inclined).
- Weigh yourself
I recommend doing this once a week, though as little as once a month is permissible. Daily is excessive and unnecessary.
Be sure to always do it at the same time and state, for example every Monday morning right after you go to the bathroom and before you eat/drink anything. We want to control for variability as much as we can.
To gauge your progress, sit down once a month and compare your current pics and weigh-ins to those going back a month. If you’re progressing optimally, you should see two things:
- A visible improvement in body composition.
- A numerical improvement in weight to the tune of (around) 5-10 pounds lost.
Here’s an example of my own such progress over the course of 4 months:
I don’t recommend scrutinizing pics or weight between the course of weeks, and absolutely not between the course of days. Weight loss progress is rarely linear, and things can fluctuate enough in the short term to hide the long run trend – it’s like the stock market. Zooming out to month long increments, though, is generally enough to minimize this variance enough to see the long run trend.
Upon analyzing your previous month, did you see progression per those two metrics? Great – just keep doing what you’re doing.
If not? no a big deal, especially at the start. All you need to do is think about your system and how to meaningfully tighten things up with an adjustment. How to do that is covered in the next section.
Further Reading: for a complete guide on realistic expectations for weight loss progress, read my full guide on that here.
Step 4: Adjust As You Go, As Needed
Making meaningful adjustments is the keystone of this guide’s strategy. It’s the entire reason we use an explicit system to facilitate consistent behavior – consistency is what’s required for making meaningful adjustments.
I actually advise people who are counting calories to do the exact same thing that’s outlined in section 3. In that case, though, any adjustments are made directly to actual caloric intake (or expenditure). For example, maybe you lower your intake to 1800 from 2100 if you’ve stopped making progress in the last month.
In the case of this guide, though, we instead adjust by making changes to the behavioral rules we’ve set as part of our initial system. We can either add additional rules or make the existing ones stricter.
Example: let’s say your starting system was to simply cut out liquid calories. Maybe it wasn’t enough to make progress, or maybe it was at first but now you’ve stalled. After an adjustment, maybe your new system is to cut liquid calories and to only eat 3 solid meals per day. Or, maybe you add riding a stationary bike for 20 minutes a day.
It doesn’t matter what the specific adjustment is – all that matters is that whatever you do deliberately impacts the calorie balance equation in an increasingly positive way.
But remember the ten laws – The best strategy, generally speaking, is to focus on high ROI changes so you get maximal results with minimal additional effort.
A good general strategy is to start off with a few of the Ten Laws, whatever you’re handily comfortably with, then keep adding the next one in, one by one, until you start making optimal progress.
(the odds that you can’t lose weight while adhering to all ten laws is astronomically small – a rare enough scenario that it’s not worth addressing here, but I might talk about this issue in it’s own post.)
Again, the specifics of the system itself don’t technically matter – there are a million different plausible ways you can lower caloric intake or raise caloric expenditure. What does matter is that, no matter what, you’re consistent, and that the adjustments you do make are meaningfully progressive increments. You cannot make meaningfully incremental progressive changes if you’re not consistent in the first place.
If you do all this right – and in all honestly the whole thing is fairly simple – you’ll inevitably end up with a system that gets you to your desired weight and body composition and is also the most sustainable it can be since it’s as simple and easy as possible.
Putting It All Together
Here are the summarizing points of this guide:
- Calories are what ultimately matter for weight loss. You need a calorie deficit to lose weight, whether you count it up or not.
- Most “no calorie counting” weight loss advice is terrible because it misses the singularly important part of any *viable* weight loss strategy: how to systematically dial in a calorie deficit.
- You accomplish #2 with an explicit system, which has two components: one, it clearly defines the rules; and two, it clearly defines how following those rules will produce the desired outcome (which is a calorie deficit in the case of losing weight).
- An efficient explicit weight loss system utilizes the bare effective minimum. Basic logic tells us that the simplest and easiest strategy (that still works) is the one you’re most likely to actually do and stick to, which is ultimately the only thing that matters.
- The bare effective minimum utilizes behavioral changes that get maximal results with minimal effort, e.g. high return on investment (ROI).
- The Ten Fundamental Laws of Simple and Easy Weight Loss are, generally speaking, the highest ROI weight loss behavioral changes. A person’s weight problem is almost always explainable by one or more of these laws being violated.
- Set up your initial system by picking rules which you feel comfortable adopting. It’s better to be pessimistic and start with something that’s too easy than to be overly optimistic, get overwhelmed, then give up.
- It does not matter if the initial system actually works or not – it’s purpose is to merely establish consistent behavior. Consistency is required for being able to make meaningful adjustments as you go, which is the key to why this guide (or any viable weight loss strategy) works.
- BE CONSISTENT – that’s in caps because it’s so important – make the firm commitment to your initial system for a month or so, and see if it works.
- To verify that it’s actually working (or not), you assess your progress once a month using weekly front and side pictures and weigh-in data.
- Is it working? Great, then simply keep doing what you’re doing.
- Or, If it’s not working? No big deal – simply apply an adjustment the system by adding in another of the ten laws, or by adding any other such meaningful behavioral adjustment.
- Try the new system repeat points 9 and 10 until 11 is true.
End-Result: Simple and systematic weight loss, escape from corpulence, profit.
By now, there’s a good chance you realize that the purpose of this arguably long winded post is more to convey an important idea than it is to provide (hopefully foolproof) detailed instructions on how to effectively lose weight without counting calories.
This idea is that successful health & fitness – and just about anything else in life for that matter – is simply an effective system: you follow some rules consistently, see if doing that produces the desired outcome, and adjust as needed if it doesn’t until it does.
The corollary idea – and the thesis of this blog – is the very commonsense yet astoundingly understated notion that the best system is generally the simplest and easiest system that still works, for two reasons:
- People are more likely to actually do stick with something that’s simpler and easier.
- The bare effective minimum is great, because no one likes to do extra unnecessary work.
All we’ve done in this guide is outline how to take a systematic approach to no calorie counting weight loss. As it turns out, it’s not much different than calorie counting is, which I’ll say again is itself a great strategy in many cases – the only thing I *actually* care about is what best gets you from point A to point B.
The third and final idea I’ve hopefully conveyed is that, if you pick and choose wisely, small and easy changes can compound big results.
Health & fitness is not an elusive task reserved for the ostensible elite or the people with white knuckled spartan resolve who resign being miserable. Not by a long shot…
Improved health & fitness – good health & fitness – is accessible to anyone who’s willing to commit to a few key behavioral changes that can meaningfully move the needle in a positive direction.
You do not need to completely overhaul your lifestyle to lose weight and get healthy – truthfully? that is honestly total overkill for almost everyone. Rather, you merely need to optimize a set of habits to efficiently conduce weight loss. This can be orders of magnitude less involved than a health & fitness lifestyle™ is.
Just commit to an explicit system, be consistent, then adjust as you go until it starts working. None of that requires complexity or magic – many people do find that simply changing one or two things is enough to get the job done.
Feel free to give me suggestions and feedback in the comments – I plan to keep this a living and breathing document, as I do with all my other guides.