Everyone has dieted. Maybe you are a serial dieter. Jumping from one fad diet to the next, wondering, “Why I can’t ever seem to sustain the results?” What is the issue? Why can’t we maintain the results we see from these trendy diets? We tend to place the blame within ourselves — we believe we fail because we are not disciplined enough. That is not true. The truth is most of us do not have the comprehensive knowledge + understanding of nutrition to successfully diet. And without that knowledge + understanding, we also cannot successfully maintain the results. The companies selling these diets leave out key points in their sales pitches (because lack of nutrition knowledge translates to more money in their pocket). Marketing for these trendy, fad diets twist information, quote things out of context, and lack truthfulness.
I have counted calories. I have done the “clean-food-only” diet. I have counted macronutrients. I have done intuitive eating. I have read the articles about the newest fad diets. The low-carb, the high-fat, the juice cleanses, the no-sugar, etc… and there’s things that these diets fail to address… and that’s the basic understanding of how a diet truly works.
First, let me start off by saying — you don’t ever need to diet. You are a human being + food is fuel. You are allowed to simply eat because you want to eat. You are allowed to consume the foods that taste good + make you feel good. There is no shame in eating! Ever, ever, ever.
If, for whatever reason, you are making the autonomous choice to diet, know that no diet is supreme or superior. If a way of eating works for YOU, makes you happy, fits conveniently into your life, and you can maintain it… that is what truly matters. THAT is the diet for you. If you’re vegan, keto, or a macro-counter, it doesn’t matter to me. My only care is that you are in alignment with your Highest self and doing what works best for YOU + your body.
Now let’s dig into the diet basics here, shall we?
A diet only works if it puts you into a caloric deficit.
Eating under your caloric maintenance level (in a caloric deficit) is the only way to lose weight. You can eat only cookies + pop-tarts (not that I’d condone it) for 28 days and if the calories you are consuming are below your maintenance level, you will lose weight. Thus, any diet you try will work, if you’re in a caloric deficit. If you are not in a deficit, you won’t lose weight. Dieting is merely the management of your caloric intake. It’s all about portion control and being conscious of how much you’re consuming.
Eating times really don’t matter if you are consuming your allotted daily calories.
It doesn’t matter if you are eating 1800 calories in 3 big meals or 6 small meals. What matter is that the meals you consume leave you satiated and your meal timing fits into your schedule with ease. If your work schedule isn’t conducive to 6 small meals and you find yourself eating 2 big meals and a snack when you can… that’s okay! If you are getting your calories in for the day, that is the success. Do what works best for you. This same premise goes for Intermittent Fasting. Some are under the impression that you don’t have to adjust your total caloric intake for the day to lose weight with IF, and that shortening the eating window alone will help you lose weight. Wrong. Even with intermittent fasting, you need to be in a caloric deficit to see results. If you’re miserable and irritable in the morning if you don’t eat breakfast, don’t do IF. It’s that simple. If you are never really hungry in the morning and you don’t typically feel hungry until lunchtime give IF a try and see how you like it.
Deprivation is not the way to go. Moderation is key.
Deprivation can result in a poor relationship with food, feelings of shame or guilt, and can also lead to rebounds. Depriving yourself of your favorite foods for weeks at a time typically increases your cravings for those foods, which can set you up for failure when you’re presented with those foods during your dieting window. Instead of deprivation, we should focus on moderation in a diet. As previously mentioned, diets only work in a caloric deficit, so it the portion size of what your are eating matters more significantly than the food itself. Give yourself the grace to have a piece of chocolate daily, if that’s what you typically crave, instead of banning it all together.
Be aware, junk foods are typically higher calories and won’t necessarily leave you feeling full or satisfied. They will probably leave you feeling unfulfilled most days and won’t allow for your other meals to be calorie-dense enough to satiate your hunger. I like to follow an 80/20 rule. Most of my meals come from nutrient-dense, whole foods. A small portion of my foods come from the foods I’m craving on a day-to-day basis.
If you LOVE carbs and you go on a low-carb diet for 6 weeks, do you know what will probably happen after those 6 weeks? You’ll get your first taste of carbs and you’ll be unable to resist the temptation of anything carb-filled. There’s a chance you’ll lose control and put the weight back on. If you love carbs, are happier + more personable consuming carbs (hey, hello, it me!), and have more energy consuming carbohydrates — don’t cut them out of your diet — just pay attention to your portion sizes. Moderation is key — always!
You can have alcohol, sugar, and your favorite foods and still lose weight.
Believe it or not, alcohol and sugar are not the enemy. This is where most diets lose us — they take us to the extremes. They mark certain foods as “bad” and we begin to feel this crazy guilt surrounding our eating choices. This goes back to my moderation point, if you stay in your caloric deficit, you’ll still lose weight — even if you have a cookie or a big ass glass of wine after a hard day at work (please have that glass of wine if you need it, girlfriend).
If it makes you miserable, it’s not maintainable, and it’s not worth your time.
If you are one week into a 28-day diet and you are already hating it, your food is too bland, you are choking down your meals, and you’re drooling over anything that looks like it has SOME flavor… you’re setting yourself up for failure. That diet is making you miserable. It is unsustainable + there’s a great chance you’ll fall off the wagon before the 28 days is over. What are the chances that you keep up these new eating habits when your 28 days is complete? My guess is zero percent, because you’re not enjoying it. If you can’t envision yourself carrying on with this new way of eating past the completion date — kick it to the curb immediately. It’s not worth your time if it’s not maintainable. Find a diet that allows you the flexibility to eat in a way that you can maintain, even as you decide to no longer diet (or increase your calories to maintenance or a surplus). Sustainable dieting + consistency > hardcore restriction for short periods of time.
Consistency is more important that perfectionism.
I find that many of us have an “all-or-nothing” mindset when it comes to dieting. We have no idea how to balance it all. If we mess up and over-eat on one occasion, or consume one “restricted” food, we feel defeated and are ready to throw in the towel. Dieting and your metabolism is a continuum. It balances out over time. If you’re off on one meal (or even one day) it will even out in time if you get right back on track. BUT, if you throw yourself a pity and let one meal trigger you into days or weeks of overeating, you’ll have a lot of ground to make up for.
If you’re consuming 1800 calories per day, and one day you eat 3000 calories. Why do we find eating 3K calories a day for a week a more reasonable response instead of just saying “Oops!” and getting back on the 1800 calorie train?
So, babe, let’s allow the truth to drive our decisions when it comes to dieting. You don’t need to cut carbs, ban sugar, or stop drinking wine. If you are in a place where you are autonomously choosing to diet — to feel better, healthier — whatever the reason, choose the diet that will work best for you. Choose the diet that will be maintainable in the long-run, because we know that consistency + moderation is the foundation to success when it comes to finding a nutrition plan that works. Don’t worry about meal times, labelling foods “good” or “bad,” or cutting out your favorite foods to lose weight. That’s unnecessary stress that you do not need to add to your plate (pun not intended, but I’m actually quite proud of it 😉 ).
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