Yep I said it.
I know today that is a terrible admission of guilt as everyone knows "diets don't work" because "it's about a lifestyle not a diet."
I call bullshit.
Diets do work and they work spectacularly well if the diet fits with your personal preferences, allows for flexibility, aligns with your schedule, and provides you with what you need for your goals.
Sure they usually aren't a realistically sustainable way of eating for the long-term, but there also not to far off from one either. When done right there more of an exaggeration of how you should and would and normally eat just optimized to move you in a specific direction.
Dieting is more about giving your body the disruptive stimulus it needs to adapt and change and hopefully find a new set point than it is about making sure it's sustainable for the long term, that is separate conversation in my opinion.
What doesn't work is people's belief that they can start and stop a diet and some how retain the health, performance, or physique that was obtained using that diet.
Dieting is a tool.
A tool that can be used to help you make significant progress towards a particular goal whether that be gaining muscle or losing fat.
It's a commitment to eating a certain way to achieve a certain outcome.
The problem is most people do it rather half assed in planning and preparation and even worse in execution.
A well thought out period of dieting is like a expertly designed block of programming.
It exists to move you from point A to point B, and in the case of trying to lose weight, do it in a way that minimizes non-compliance, feelings of restriction, and weight regain.
I am not ignorant though. I understand why dieting has gotten such a bad rap in the last decade. I've seen first hand the toll that ill fitted, poorly designed, and wrongly prescribed diets can do to people, but that isn't really a problem with dieting as a tool rather a problem with the person wielding it.
And while I'd love to be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to make dieting working for you it's impossible for me to do that without knowing who you are, what your life is like, what your values are, and a number of other factors that dictate what and how you should eat to accomplish a particular goal.
I can tell you about how I approach dieting personally and some of the big rocks I focus on when prescribing diets to clients.
As with most things in my coaching practice and life I like to try and simplify things down to the "vital few and the trivial many."
Essentially meaning that I look for the Pareto principle in training and nutrition and as well with dieting.
What 20% of things I do when dieting or having someone diet will bring 80% of the results. The other things are simply there to tweak for optimization and in the grand scheme just aren't that significant.
Once that 20% has been identified you simply get ruthlessly consistent with that 20%.
As in like nothing stops you from making that 20% happen every damn day and anything above it is simply icing on the cake.
In my opinion that 20% in dieting comes down to the following 5 things.
1. Knowing your numbers
I don't care how shitty people thing macronutrients and calories are they still fucking matter and if you want to make sure that you really are moving in the right direction you have to understand what your current needs are and what adjustments need to be made in fulfilling those needs to move you in the correct direction.
It takes a very small amount of time o do the calculations and there are now many online calculators that will do it for you that there just isn't much of an excuse not to have a rough idea of your nutritional needs
2. Tracking your numbers
I am fond of this quote.
And for anyone who has ever made a lot of progress in any area of your life you know how true it is. Most of us can probably speak to the impact of such measuring and managing on something like our finances.
It's impossible to start making head way on serious, life crushing debt until you start measuring how much additional income you'd have a month if it wasn't being spent on range of useless things.
The same goes for losing weigh and fat.
Knowing our numbers tells us where we need to be to stay where we are at, but it doesn't gives us direction as what we need to provide ourselves with nutritionally to move in the right direction for your goal.
That is why getting in the habit of tracking is really important when dieting down because it makes you confident that you are eating what you need to be to be successful
3. Personal preference
The first two priorities are about establishing where you are at when you are trying to diet and what you actually need to do to move in that direction and how to move in that direction with the confidence that it's doing positive things for you.
However while that is all important and what not what is most important after that fact is whether or not you actually stick to doing what you need to do to be successful on a regular and ongoing basis long enough to see improvements.
And again and again the literature shows that the best predicator of individual adherence to a diet is based on personal preference.
Meaning that if you want to be able to diet long enough to get to your goal you have to make allowances for foods you enjoy.
4. Calorie Deficit
In order to lose weight there must be more energy going out than what is coming in to force the body to find energy from within to meet it's demand and ideally this energy from within comes from stored fat.
5. Protein Intake
To optimize the amount of weight lost from fat we want to minimize the weight loss that comes from muscle by supporting muscle mass through adequate protein intake and regular resistance training.
When I lock in the 20% for myself dieting looks like this:
- Calculate my daily caloric needs using my nutritional needs calculator. (Know Your Numbers)
- Track my food intake using the mymacros+ app. (Track Your Numbers)
- Placing no foods on a "do not eat" list, but fitting any food I want to eat into my macronutrient and calorie needs. (Personal Preference)
- Placing myself in a 250 calorie deficit for two weeks and monitoring changes in weight. When weight loss stalls I cut an additional 250 calories for two weeks and continue in this fashion if necessary. (Calorie Deficit)
- Keep protein intake between 0.8 grams to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. (Protein Intake)
- Only diet for 10 weeks at a time. If necessary resume dieting after a 1 week refeed to maintenance macronutrient and calorie intake.
It may sound complicated, but it really isn't especially for someone who has spent many years developing the skills and knowledge to do it.
But just because that is how I apply the 20% of dieting effectively to my life it doesn't mean that is how you should diet.
I do though hope it gives you an idea of how you might structure your own period of dieting.
Remember too that dieting isn't meant to be a long-term and sustainable way of eating, but rather a commitment to a specific way of eating to reach a specific goal. After dieting successfully a transition and maintenance plan can be established.
If you'd like any help with making either happen this is the exact way I create nutrition and training plans for members of "the Process."
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training