Supplements — most are utter horseshit.
Apple cider vinegar — tastes like a mixture of gasoline and varnish remover and makes no difference in weight loss.
Keto — “teaches your body to burn fat for fuel instead of sugar,” some will say. Bullshit.
Waist trainers — how many of your lean friends owe fit and healthy bodies to waist trainers?
Juice cleanses and detoxes — make you shit out all of your guts and unless you consider it an important life skill, it’s, again, bullshit.
HIIT — no better than steady-state cardio for fat loss (Steele et al., 2021).
Burpees and German volume training — rhyme with pointless.
Intermittent fasting — overrated and should be called “skipping brekky.”
This is how most people try to lose weight. These are the options that are presented to us by quacktacular diet gurus and social media shmucks calling themselves CarnivoreJoe.
But I’m here to tell you that you have ways to make dieting easier, sustainable, and more enjoyable. Here are five strategies that will keep you from going through yet another cycle of yo-yo dieting:
1. Instead of trying to be “perfect” focus on being consistent
Jordan Syatt said this in his Instagram post:
It’s okay to go off track every so often. It’s okay to occasionally go over your calorie target to enjoy a few cocktails with your friends. And it’s fine to miss a workout.
Most people are occasionally “perfect” — they make drastic and unsustainable changes overnight, can’t keep up with them to the tee, and then quit until the next wave of motivation hits:
Instead, they should focus on being consistently good enough:
Yes, you should be eating nutritious foods, controlling calorie intake, having protein with most if not all meals, and lifting weights. But this doesn’t mean you can’t have some goddamn cake and a glass of wine with your significant one.
Assuming you eat three times per day, you have 1095 meals in a year. Being 80% consistent with your nutrition means 876 calorie-controlled, nutritious meals. This leaves you with 219 meals that you can enjoy pizza and wine guilt-free and still make progress.
Look at my client’s progress tracker:
On some weeks, my client missed calorie, protein, or daily movement targets. One week — didn’t log calories and protein at all. And still made progress.
So the next time you fall off plan, acknowledge it, get okay with it, and get back on track right away because remember — consistency always beats the living crap out of occasional “perfection.”
Also, see this?
My client lost almost 3 pounds that week. Huge progress, you say? It is on the surface. Until you find out that she has been sick and ate less than a guinea pig that week.
So that’s another tip — don’t compare your progress to someone else’s because you don’t know how they lost weight. They might have spent months on a miserable diet consisting of meal replacements, low-calorie pig penises, and no social life.
2. Instead of looking for a quick fix focus on long term behavioral change
“Don’t ask what you can accomplish in a week, ask what you can accomplish in a year” — said someone. Google it and DM me who said it ‘cos I have no idea. Anyway, it fits the topic perfectly.
People want to lose weight NOW because fuck it, why not? Who wants to diet for a full year? And because of that unnecessary pressure to get results quickly, they turn to unsustainable measures — detox, juice cleanses, meal replacements, and diarrhea teas.
Listen, if you don’t spend enough time building healthy and sustainable habits, you will go back to what you did before — detox, juice cleanses, meal replacements, and diarrhea teas. The sooner you realize this and start developing sustainable habits instead, the sooner you will achieve lasting weight loss.
Paixao et al. (2020) investigated successful weight losers who not only lost weight but also maintained it later:
They found that long-term weight loss success was highest among people who focused on building systems that allowed them to make long-term behavior changes.
The most frequently reported behaviors and habits were:
Interestingly, the least reported behaviors were those that most people worry about the most:
Your head must be swiveling like a periscope after seeing the above because that’s exactly how most people try losing weight. They do everything that successful weight losers don’t do.
There are no quick fixes, shortcuts, tricks, or hacks so hyper-focus on these:
- Have a consistent day-to-day diet structure (meal frequency and timing).
- Have at least 20g of protein with every meal.
- Eat fibrous vegetables with most meals.
- Eat a few servings of fruit per day.
- Drink more water.
- Eat without distractions (no TV and IG scrolling).
- Enjoy “fun” foods in moderation (guilt-free).
- Take more steps.
- Lift weights 2-4 times per week.
The ability to lose weight for good has less to do with quick fixes and more to do with the healthy habits you practice regularly. Behavioral changes/habits + Consistency + Time = Lasting weight loss.
3. Instead of stressing over weight loss focus on losing fat and preserving muscle mass
Weight loss shouldn’t be your main goal. Losing fat while maintaining muscle mass should.
I wrote probably like a million-word article on how to lose fat and maintain muscle mass. I think I blacked out in the middle of writing it. Now it hurts my brain to think that I might need to write about it again. So let’s move on.
Read this if you want the weight loss to come mainly from fat.
4. Instead of eating random calorie intake quantify your food intake
There are three main reasons why people don’t lose weight even though they think they are doing everything right:
- They are not in a calorie deficit.
- They are in a calorie deficit until the weekend comes and they eat an entire cow.
- They think they are in a calorie deficit but they are guestimating their portions.
At some point, you are going to have to quantify your food intake to ensure you are in a calorie deficit. Whether it’s tracking calories and protein, taking photos of your meals, measuring portions with your hands, keeping a food journal, or whatever strategy seems the least stressful to you.
Even if you think calorie tracking isn’t for you, I still recommend doing it for a month. If you don’t like it after that, fine, stop tracking. Just by trying it for a month, you will create awareness around how much you are actually eating each day.
Layne Norton, Ph.D. in nutrition science, wrote:
Now, if you try tracking calories and you experience increased obsession and neurosis with food, it’s not for you. Or you are doing it wrong. Read this article to learn the right way to track calories.
5. Instead of always being in diet mode take diet breaks
For purposes of description, picture yourself standing at the starting line for a marathon. Right before you start, you hear me saying “Alrighty, this will take around 5 hours to finish. I know, I know… it hurts to process in the brain but deal with it. Run as fast as you can. Off you go. Bye.”
Or I could say “Listen, this will take around 5 hours but you will be having a 10-minute break every hour to hydrate yourself and energize with carbs.”
Not a single person in the world would be sufficiently moronic to say that the former would be more enjoyable than the latter.
The same goes for dieting — if you have a lot of weight to lose, structure your dieting phase in shorter blocks. Blocks eating at maintenance will alleviate the psychological fatigue that comes with consistently being in a calorie deficit.
A 2021 study by Peos et al. found that a 1-week diet break after 12 weeks of dieting caused lower hunger and irritability, and higher sensations of fullness and satisfaction.
One of the first studies on diet breaks by Byrne et al. (2017) took 51 obese men and divided them into two groups. One group restricted caloric intake for 16 weeks straight:
And the other group alternated 2 weeks of calorie deficit with 2 weeks of maintenance eating:
Guess what? The diet break group lost more weight per week of dieting (also, maintained it better later down the road):
Those of you who blacked out for a sec and missed what I said in the second point — don’t ask what you can accomplish in a week, ask what you can accomplish in a year — will say “Yeah, Egis, they lost more weight but it took the diet break group 30 weeks to get 16 weeks of calorie deficit.”
Correct, taking diet breaks will make the whole process longer (can you sense a big hairy BUT lurking somewhere around the corner?) BUT it’s a good thing because during those diet breaks you also practice weight maintenance. People always forget that maintenance of results is the ultimate goal even if they aren’t at their goal body weight yet.
Recently, my client texted me saying “This last month, I feel like I’ve been dragging my feet.”
We texted back and forth and we decided to take a diet break. I went “OK, Thanksgiving day is November 25th. So how about we have a diet break from 21st to 28th? You’ll have a break from everything including calorie counting and some extra calories to enjoy your time with friends and family. What do you think?”
And she loved the idea. So should you. Not only diet breaks will reset your body and mind and prepare you for the next dieting phase but also remove the unnecessary pressure to lose weight NOW.
If you don’t want to feel disgusted with your life while dieting…
- …Don’t try to be “perfect” but rather consistent.
- …Don’t look for a short-term solution. Go for long-term behavior change instead.
- …Don’t try to lose as much weight and as quickly as possible but rather focus on fat loss and muscle preservation.
- …Don’t guestimate your food intake. Quantify it.
- …Stop wanting to lose weight in a month and start taking diet breaks between weight loss phases.
You do those and I guarantee you will start seeing more progress.
Originally published by me on Medium on November 28, 2021