I’ve always found diets far too restrictive and inflexible in the past, that being said my recent attempt at diet design has seen me slowly slip into bad habits. A middle road is needed and I hope that by introducing clear criteria and compliance levels I can tackle this issue.
So I’m coming up to the end of my sixth week and up to now I’ve lost roughly a pound a week. I’ve done this by trying to mostly eat right and any time I overindulge I adjust my calories (fancy talk for skip a meal) a little later in the day. While this is a perfectly reasonable approach particularly when starting out the whole thing doesn’t feel very structured, also the meal skipping approach to balancing calories leaves me massively open to falling into a feast and famine cycle that just throws up its own set of issues.
Funnily enough this time around the issue hasn’t come from the fact my diet design is too restrictive, rather it’s that the structure is too loose meaning it’s become quite difficult to say whether I’ve stuck to the diet design or not. This has had the effect of me slowly slipping over the course of the six weeks to the point where I’m not even 100% sure what I’m doing any more. If I do continue to lose weight doing what I’m doing it’s likely to be more by luck than anything else. As a result it’s time for me to try to introduce a little more structure and accountability. This involves eating what I would broadly consider healthy balanced meals at regular times throughout the day and monitoring how often I deviate from the plan.
Meal Timing & Frequency
What feels right for me is to split my daily meal plan into four pretty substantial meals. If I do this right it means I’m not too hungry during the early evening when I’m at my weakest mentally. I know this isn’t right for everyone and many people will do well on eight meals and some on three or even just two meals per day. It’s definitely worth experimenting with this to see where your own ideal levels sit with regard to satiety and compliance. Generally speaking my meal timings look something like this:
- 7am – Breakfast
- 12pm – Lunch
- 4pm – Afternoon Meal
- 8pm – Dinner
You may feel the dinner is a little late, however between getting the kids to bed and perhaps squeezing in some exercise this is the earliest I can reasonably expect to eat on a regular basis. In the past I’ve tried to go from lunch until diner with nothing in between and I’ve inevitably ended up snacking on convenient but counter-productive treats. I genuinely feel this is exactly the kind of flexibility that I need to make any diet design work.
What Is A Healthy Meal
In the interest of keeping things broad and flexible, a healthy meal in this instance is defined as satisfying all of the below criteria:
- Must contain a decent amount of fruits or vegetables.
- Have all three of the nutritional macro nutrients represented.
- Protein and carb sources are as close to their natural state as possible (pork chop and jacket potato instead of sausage and chips!)
- Fats such as oils and butters are used in moderation and from a variety of sources.
The balance of macro ratios of the meals created using the above criteria will depend purely on what ratios offer me the most satisfying meal for the lowest calories.
The intention is to aim for somewhere around 90% compliance. Why 90% and not 100%? Because one of the things that is really important for me to avoid is punishing myself for a small slip up. I’ve lost count of the amount of times the slightest deviation has sent me off on a ridiculous downward spiral ending with me throwing it all out the window and “starting Monday”. If I’m going to give myself the space to make mistakes then it has to be targeted, as without some sort of specific limits it’s too easy to slip into persistent bad habits without even realising it.
There are four meals a day, seven days a week giving 28 meals per week total. 10% of 28 is 2.8 meaning that in any week no more than 3 meals can go off of the plan. Provided I stick within these limits I’ll consider myself 90% compliant to an acceptable limit.
Rather than set my portion size and calorie intake according to arbitrary numbers it will be determined almost entirely by my fortnightly weigh in. If the numbers are going down then all is good. If the numbers stall then a review will be needed to see if either my portions need adjusting or if the 10% of meals where I’m not compliant have got out of control.
Looking forward to getting started on these adjustments. As ever I’ll be tracking all of my diet and activity through MyFitnessPal and Fitbit and posting my meals in my Progress Reports so feel free to follow to see how I’m getting along.
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