What’s wrong with extreme dieting and hard-core fitness plans is that they don’t take into account the rest of your life.
95% of diets fail, so diets don’t work.
… Or do they?
If you take a look at the scientific literature, there’s actually plenty of evidence to the contrary. For example, we know that diets inducing a caloric deficit are effective for fat loss regardless of whether they’re high in fats, carbohydrates, or protein.
In other words, any diet can work as long as it involves a caloric deficit.
The real problem is maintaining the resulting weight loss.
For instance, a review of nearly 30 long-term studies on weight loss and maintenance in the American population showed that more than half of the weight lost was regained within two years, and 80% was regained within five.
For this reason, experts consider maintenance of 5 to 10% of your weight loss “a great achievement”.
But why is it so hard not to put weight back on?
When a new client signs up for online coaching to lose fat, what often stands out to me is their mindset: In their experience, a diet is a short-term, excruciating “eat chicken breast and a green leaf for every meal” endeavour, not an attempt to change their lifestyle for the better in the long run.
After a few weeks or months of this torture, they go back to the same way they were eating before, regain weight, start another diet, and so on.
This vicious cycle is unfortunately common because most diets give you rules to stick to, whether you like them or not, instead of habits that you can incorporate into your long-term lifestyle.
This article is perfect if you haven’t had much luck maintaining fat loss after your previous diets, because it does exactly what those diets didn’t do: It teaches you five habits you need to have in place not only to lose fat, but to keep it off, too.
If you’ve been spinning your wheels with countless diets for as long as you can remember, you don’t want to miss this one.
What are the five habits you need to crush a diet?
1. You need to have consistent meals and snacks within a similar timeframe.
We make countless decisions about food every single day: “What can I have for breakfast? Or maybe I should skip it?”
“It’s 10. Should I have a snack or wait for lunch?”
“Ooooh, someone brought cupcakes! Shall I have one?”
And so on.
All these decisions can drain your mental energy. You might endure them all day, or even all week, but at some point your battery will run out and you might find yourself at the bottom of a peanut butter jar or twelve.
With a consistent meal schedule, you’ll remove most of these decisions and make your diet a million times easier.
A basic meal schedule could look like this:
You can eat more or fewer meals, and you can also eat at different times than those stated.
The important take-home message is that you’re eating the same number of meals at around the same time every day.
If you’re forced to eat differently on working days – for example, if you’re a shift worker – then you can create two consistent schedules, one for working days and one for your days off.
2. You need to have balanced meals and snacks 70 to 80% of the time.
In order of priority, a balanced meal will include:
Leave out one or two of these components when you have a snack.
When designed according to this priority list, your meals and snacks are going to provide you with plenty of important nutrients, so you can keep your energy levels high, smash your workouts, and stay healthy.
More nutritious food also happens to be lower in calories than less nutritious options. Since the amount of calories you eat determines whether you lose or gain weight, this is an obvious advantage when your goal is fat loss.
Take time to write down eight to 10 meal and snack options that you enjoy and that fit this model, then rotate them throughout the week to keep your diet varied and enjoyable.
3. You need to be at least 70 to 80% consistent with your training.
You can lose fat without exercise, but you won’t build any muscle, so you might not look the way you want to at the end of your diet.
So, if you don’t have a well-structured workout routine right now, establishing this from the get-go is going to help you get the best outcome from your fat loss phase.
4. Your sleep needs to be good enough.
Sleep is one of the most underrated components of successful fat loss.
Good quality sleep means that you have more energy to train and to make food decisions that are appropriate to your goals.
What’s good quality sleep for you won’t be the same for another person. For example, not everyone needs the exact same amount of sleep per night. Some people thrive on six to seven hours, whereas others feel groggy all day unless they get at least nine.
So, rather than focusing on what good quality sleep “should” look like in general, ask yourself these personal questions:
If you answered no to two or more of the above, it’s high time to clean up your current sleeping habits.
5. You need to know how to track your food, and be consistent with it.
Tracking food has two fundamental benefits:
You don’t have to track calories in order to lose fat, but you’re unlikely to have a successful fat loss phase if you don’t keep any sort of food record and you’re not already a pro at dieting.
Take at least two weeks to learn what and how to track; to develop consistency; and to nurture a neutral relationship with your food choices.
For example, a lot of people track Monday to Friday, then skip the weekend because they’re ashamed of what they decided to eat.
However, pretending that Saturday and Sunday didn’t happen is only going to make you feel guilty about eating certain foods, so you’ll try to restrict or eliminate them from your diet, even though, in truth, they can have a place in it in moderation.
Over-restriction eventually comes back to bite you in the arse and can cause harmful disordered eating behaviours and attitudes.
On the other hand, if you can include all sorts of foods into your diet – and not limit yourself only to those you consider “healthy” – you’ll be more likely to enjoy the process and therefore stick to it not only until you’ve lost the weight you intend to lose, but for the rest of your life after fat loss, too.
Now you know which habits you need to work on in order to be successful on your fat loss journey. In other words, you have a plan of action!
Which habit or habits are you going to start with? Let me know in a comment.
A personal trainer who likes bodybuilding, superheroes, and bread.
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