Do you want to hear the big fitness secret? Do you want to know which diet makes you lose weight? Well, I’m going to tell you.
The diet you can stick to.
How often when we start a diet – and I’ve started more than a few! – do we stick to what the diet says, for a consistently long period?
Speaking from my previous experience, I’ve lasted anywhere between two days to four weeks.
So I need more motivation and willpower to stick to a diet?
This inability to stick to a diet isn’t because we lack motivation or willpower. I’m sure we all desperately want to be in shape.
It’s because the eating plan given to us is so restrictive and far from what we usually eat and enjoy. We take the positive, empowering experience of weight loss and turn it into something negative and frankly, miserable.
Our lives don’t stop because we’re losing weight. Bills need paying, jobs need doing, friends and loved ones need caring for. With all of that, you are going to have days where your weight loss will not be a priority. If the program we’re on is fundamentally negative, those are the moments when we’re going to quit.
Motivation and willpower are – by their very nature – short lived. While You need some motivation to start, it’s unreasonable to expect willpower or motivation to carry you right through a long term diet plan.
How do I stick to a diet?
You either find a diet that fits your lifestyle, or you design one yourself.
Losing weight is supposed to be about taking control. About self-improvement. It’s meant to be about feeling good. Sadly, this point seems to be missed by the vast majority of us when starting out on the road to health and lifestyle improvements.
We give up all control of our eating habits. We follow plans that detach us from the food we’re eating, and we replace our knowledge of food, with knowledge of “the program”. Moreover, we accept restrictions on the things we enjoy. It’s this detachment and this restriction that causes the biggest issues with us sticking to diets.
I am here to tell you. Right now. That restriction and lack of control is just not necessary.
Where does this idea of detachment and restriction come from?
The first is product marketing.
The fitness industry is estimated to be worth over $83 billion globally. Therefore, any shrewd marketer looking to get a piece of that lucrative pie has to give you something no-one else can. They have to come up with a new “advanced” system that takes food, and calls it something else. In doing so they “add a step” their step – which they charge for – into the process.
This unnecessary step has the effect of distancing you from choosing and eating your food.
The second is a “no pain, no gain” mentality.
We have Jane Fonda and her early 80’s workout videos to thank for this little nugget.
Somehow the mentality has endured for decades. We judge the quality of our workouts on the amount of pain we feel the following day. We also gauge the effectiveness of our diets on the size of the restriction we endure. A juice-fast anyone?
All this would be okay if we were all in super shape. However, despite the billions spent by consumers on diet systems, and the catchphrases coined by celebrities, we have witnessed an explosion in global obesity. The number of obese individuals had doubled since the 1980s when Ms Fonda first uttered those words. Moreover, this crisis is still ongoing.
It’s clear the current model doesn’t work and has to change.
The diet that works
Eat for a week or two. Weigh In. Adjust your food intake accordingly. Repeat.
The above formula is foolproof in getting your weight to where you would like it to be.
Well, what about all of the “bad” foods I eat? What about meal timings and keeping my metabolism fired? What about my five a day? What about super foods? What supplements should I be taking? What about exercise?
Wow. That’s a lot of reasons to not act, isn’t it?
Some – not all – of that stuff has a part to play. However, when you’re just starting out – so far as possible – you need to disregard it all and just get to know yourself. Get to know your eating habits and find out exactly what a day eating a comfortable amount means for you.
This process is about you and you alone.
How do I gauge my eating habits?
You weigh yourself, then just focus on the below for at least a week:
- Rest / sleep
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat until you’re full
- Keep a food diary
- Rest / sleep
- Drink plenty of water
Before I get emails informing me of a glaring typo I want to let you know water, rest and sleep appearing twice, it isn’t a mistake. It is just that important.
The amount, and quality of sleep we get, and the amount of water we drink has a direct effect on our hunger levels. This isn’t some vague belief of mine. This is backed by science, I’ve seen it in people I’ve supported, and I have experienced it first hand in my own weight loss journey.
Your hunger levels are considerably higher when you tired and dehydrated. Therefore when gauging your intake, you must look after these things first, or at least alongside any other changes.
So. Weigh yourself once. Get your rest. Drink your water. Eat until full and record the whole thing!
Weigh yourself again and see what happened.
Weight stayed the same or increased?
Consult the food diary you kept. Over the course of the next week or two, improve just one thing per day.
And I mean improve, not cut out.
Gradually. Very gradually, make small improvements or reductions to your food until your weight begins to drop.
Many people find it helpful to split food sources into “on-plan” and “off-plan sources.
On plan foods
We all have different ideas of what counts as on plan depending on what our plan is. For me “on plan” counts as any meal that meets all four of my basic rules below:
- Must contain a decent amount of fruits and 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 butter are used in moderation and from a variety of sources.
Reducing “on plan” foods
We tend to have the most control over our on plan foods. As a result, it’s easy to fall into the trap of making severe cuts from the amount of on-plan foods you consume.
However, try to avoid falling for some of the common pitfalls.
For instance cutting out fat is often the first place people go. However, as we have covered in What Are Macronutrients?, fat plays a huge role in helping with meal satisfaction.
Therefore you could end up cutting 200 calories of fat from a meal. Make that meal completely unsatisfying. Then end up eating a further 500 calories from other sources.
Remember. On-plan calories tend to be the ones we would eat all of the time if we could take a magic wand and banish all cravings. Cut them with care.
Off plan calories & cheat meals
For me off plan calories are all meals that do not meet the above criteria.
An off plan meal consumed in a reasonable quantity is in itself unlikely to have a particularly negative impact on your goals. Despite this, we are often conditioned to believe that anything remotely off plan is a terrible thing. It isn’t. It really isn’t.
Reducing “off plan” foods
There is a HUGE debate raging within the fitness industry about whether we should or shouldn’t “cheat” and if so is it a cheat meal, day or even week!
I see cheat meals as absolutely necessary.
There are occasions when I don’t want to spend my time preparing a meal and want convenience. There are times when I’m run down and need something less than perfect and rest. There are also times when I want something off plan simply because I want something off plan, and that’s it.
Improving my nutrition and health isn’t a punishment. It’s a method of improving my life and sacrificing the things I like seems counterproductive to that end goal.
As a result, I see off plan calories and cheat meals as equal to success as on plan sources. So if you’re looking to improve your diet, then it’s worth cutting down but not necessarily cutting out those moments of indulgence.
You’ve made the improvements, and you’ve seen your weight drop, what now?
While your weight is dropping, just let it drop. Don’t try and fix a problem that isn’t there. Don’t try to speed things up. Don’t try to get all “hardcore”. Simply ride that weight loss wave until the weight loss levels off. Then improve further.
If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this post, it’s this.
There is no complicated mystery to weight loss. Like any other situation, change comes from doing something different. Want to lose a little weight? Improve your food intake a little. Want to lose a little more? Improve your food intake a little more.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with following the types of food plans you find in popular diets. But please remember, if you’re unable to stick to one of their plans it’s the plan that’s wrong. Not you.
Enjoy this post? Why not let me know in the comments section.
Sign up for our monthly newsletter and receive your free Healthy Habits For Beginners e-course by clicking here: Subscribe.