Mindful dieting will pay off efforts
Diet adherence is obviously important. If you can’t stick to a diet, you’re not going to be very successful with your goals.
we know all diets can help you lose fat as long as you can stick to it. And it’s not what diet you follow but how well you can adhere to the diet that matters most.
In one study, researchers noted how well participants adhered to a diet was strongly associated with weight loss in one of four popular, yet varying, diets: Atkins, a low-carb, high fat diet; Zone, a more balanced diet consisting of 40% of calories from carbs, 30% of calories from protein, and 30% of calories from fat; Ornish diet where you eat a very low fat (<10% calories from fat) and non fat diet products like milk, cheese and yogurt. and Weight Watchers, which uses a ‘points system.
Ok, so diet adherence is important. Cool. But how can you actually improve diet adherence?
Here are a bunch of suggestions to help you stick to your diet:
- It should fit your dietary preferences
As I noted above, all diets–regardless of their macro composition–can induce fat loss (as long as you’re adhering to a calorie deficit). What matters most is how compatible it is with your dietary preferences.
Now, to be clear, if your ‘standard’ diet consists of McDonald’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner then you probably need to sort that shit out. The point here is: you shouldn’t unnecessarily restrict foods or eat in a way you don’t enjoy.
Do you enjoy eating carbs? Then going full-blown keto is probably a bad idea. Do you like the taste of spinach but despise kale? Then eat spinach and rest easy knowing you’ll never have to eat another bite of kale again. HOORAY.
Don’t make dieting harder than it needs to be. By eating the foods you enjoy, you’ll find sticking to the diet easier.
- Get real with your expectations
Thanks to a lot of the nonsense spouted by the fitness mainstream, people have severely unrealistic expectations of how long it will actually take them to achieve results. And when there’s a mismatch between expectations and reality, the likelihood of giving up is higher.
In this study, over 50% of participants who had unrealistic expectations of their goals dropped out within a year of starting their diet.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set lofty goals for what you can achieve. Need to lose 100 lbs? Ok, set that as your big goal and then be realistic with the amount of time you’re going to need to get there. (0.5-1% total body weight loss per week is a good target to aim for.)
- Set up your environment for success
Change your environment and your environment will change you.
People downplay how important one’s environment is to their success or failure. If your house is filled with high calorie, hyper-palatable foods, there’s a very good chance you’re going to eat them even if you have healthier alternatives available.
Simple solution: don’t keep tasty, energy-dense foods in the house. If you’re serious about your goals this is the simplest thing you can do to set yourself up for success.
- Track your progress
One of the reasons people give up on their diet (and fitness goals) is because they feel like they’re not making progress. And the reason for this is because they have no tangible way of quantifying progress.
Oh, you “feel” like you’ve stopped making progress? Sorry to burst your bubble, buddy, but feelings aren’t data. Instead:
- Weigh yourself every morning.
- Take bi-weekly or monthly progress photos
- Take body measurements
- Keep a training log so you can see your strength increasing
Having quantifiable data will give you a better insight into whether you’re making progress or not.
- Identify your hunger window
For example, you may not be hungry at breakfast but you’re ravenous at dinner–skip breakfast and push the majority of your day’s calorie intake to dinner. Conversely, if you find that you do better with breakfast, but you’re not hungry at lunch–eat breakfast and skip lunch.
Eating more when hunger is high and eating less (or not eating) when hunger is low or non existent is a simple way to stay on top of your calorie intake.
A good night’s sleep can make you feel on top of the world, A poor night’s sleep has the exact opposite effect. Not only does it make you feel capital S shitty it also makes self-control harder (sauce) because it increases hunger and cravings and impairs decision-making.
So how exactly does a lack of sleep affect hunger? There are two hormones that control appetite: ghrelin and leptin.
When ghrelin levels increase, it triggers a strong sensation of hunger; conversely, when leptin levels increase, it blunts appetite.
- Set a moderate calorie deficit
Yes, I know, you want to be lean like yesterday. Unfortunately, you can’t force fat loss, and the more aggressive the deficit, the harder it becomes to stick to your diet.
Start with a moderate calorie deficit, ~15-20% below maintenance. So, if your maintenance intake is 2500 calories, this would mean a reduction of ~370-500 calories.
- Focus on your weekly calorie intake
Have you ever had one bad day of eating then decided everything is ruined and instead of getting back on track, you keep eating like an asshole until Monday comes around where you start the cycle all over again?
Well, this strategy will help you stop doing that.
Instead of a daily calorie approach–hitting a certain number of calories every day; use a weekly calorie approach–staying within a certain number of calories by the end of the week.
So, if you require 1800 calories per day to lose fat, you’d multiply this by 7 to get your weekly calorie target. (1800 x 7 =12,600 calories).
Focusing on your weekly intake versus daily intake stops the all or nothing mentality to your diet and helps you see the bigger picture.
For example: let’s assume you’re dieting on 1800 calories. You have an unexpected work dinner and end up eating 2500 calories. Even though you went over your target calories by ~600, if you get back on track the next day–you’ll still be in a calorie deficit by the end of the week.
Or, if you know you’ll be going out on the weekend and it’ll be hard to accurately track your intake–you can adjust your calories leading into the weekend to keep your weekly calorie totals in check.
- Watch out for Cheat Meals