Getting trapped in a dieting cycle that sucks the fun out of life is all too common. From rookies to elites we look for the one diet to end them all and opt for extremist fad cults while overlooking the more reasonable and sane approaches. We kid ourselves into thinking we just need to find that one right diet to solve all problems. Even though this has been repeated what seems like a thousand times, humans seem to have this voice inside saying – “but if I just do this juice cleanse and extreme exercise program I’ll be happy..”
The one way dieters that think everything paleo, gluten free, vegan, “clean” or *insert diet cult* is going to save us all. Most of us at some point fall for it, until we realise it doesn’t work or is so extreme that it makes us hate life itself. There’s still always that one guy that ignores all demonstrable evidence and says “well it works for me”. We must remind ourselves that just because we do things a certain way and it seems to work, there are so many variables when it comes to fat loss that we cannot enforce a strict inflexible regime on everyone and expect great results.
Sometimes it may be hard to differentiate between quick fix or fad diets and reasonable ones. Some claim to be a “lifestyle change” and not a diet. Usually the ones that claim you can eat as much as you want as long as it’s on the “special food list” seem more reasonable. Too often they deprive us of important nutrients or simply do not produce the results long term. You need to be getting a good balance of nutrients without severely under or overeating for long term results. Excluding whole food groups is usually a sign of an extreme diet that is not healthy or sustainable.
Which diet is best? A diet that you can stick to long term while staying sane for the most part. One that fits your lifestyle. One that is tough and requires discipline and opting for better choices at times, but flexible enough that it is still enjoyable to eat towards your goal. So many bikini competitors starve themselves from day one, not realising that the whole process will be more manageable and work better if they took a more reasonable approach. But reasonableness is hard to sell.
I am a strong believer in tracking macros. I enjoy looking at numbers, weighing and counting things, making the math of dieting work in my favour. At the same time I realise this would be hell for some people. That’s why i don’t recommend it to everyone. I simply look at where they are at and through small daily habits and working together we steadily reach a goal. My clients always know that there is no “falling off” the diet. Their behaviours are simply feedback indicating what habits we need to work on.
Those who tell dieters which specific foods to eat and which ones to avoid without informing them of the bigger picture aren’t setting them up for success. Giving rigid meal plans that don’t account for people’s personal preference and schedule is often counter productive. A perfect meal plan isn’t perfect if no one can actually stick to it.
The most freeing point of my weight loss journey is knowing that no food was evil and everything can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. I can do intermittent fasting or have your standard 3 meals a day and get great results. I don’t have to rely heavily on overpriced supplements to be healthy. The less I obsessed about my diet, and more I focused on the habits that actually got me results, the easier life became.
Rather than just looking at what food to eat and when, I looked at the bigger picture. I considered stress, sleep, exercise, and all factors that have a huge impact on body composition. By focusing on what you do well, and prioritising things that have the biggest impact, you can break the dieting cycle that gets you nowhere.
So what should we be focusing on? If a carb free diet isn’t the be all and end all? If diet soda isn’t the reason I’m overweight? If a detox tea really just makes me shit more?
There are many things you can choose to focus on. By keeping a diary of food intake as well as any poor habits that you want to improve on, you can create a road map of where you need to go next. Don’t forget to pay attention to what you are currently doing well so you can keep that good habit going. Limiting yourself to adding just 1-2 habits a week will get you further than trying to do everything at once. Choose from these examples to get you started in the right direction.
– any habit that helps you stop mindlessly overeating (eg not eating in front of the tv, mindfulness, meal prep)
– a regular eating schedule that work with your lifestyle
– eating enough protein & splitting that protein intake evenly into 3-5 meals a day
– prioritising fruit and veg intake every day
– staying hydrated
– having more whole foods and homemade meals
– increasing NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis)
– managing stress
– prioritising sleep
– meal prep even when you don’t feel like it
Stop trying to take a giant leap forward and ending up ten steps backwards. This isn’t a race, you’re in this for the long haul. Daily habit building may seem longer, but will get your closer to your goal than the extreme diets that cause weight to rebound and you to give up all hope.
If you want long lasting results, you need a long lasting plan, not a short-term disaster of a meal plan.