Some people will say that dieting is bad, that it doesn’t teach you anything, or that it contributes to eating disorders. All those things can be true, but only if you do it wrong.
Before I get to the guide though, you need to ask yourself something. Are you the kind of person that needs a big change, right away?
Why is that important?
Well it turns out, that very broadly speaking, there are two kinds of people when it comes to dieting. Those that need to overhaul everything and those that chip away with steady changes. The former expects to see big changes, fast, but providing they do, will follow any plan to the letter and likely see amazing results. Not only that, but they can sometimes change their long-term behaviours to become more helpful too.
Those that need a more gradual approach are usually characterised by one or more of the following traits:
- A general sense that they could do with making a change
- A hectic and/or demanding work/life schedule
- A history of yo-yo or stop-start dieting
- An unhelpful relationship with food (normally characterised by thinking of foods as good or bad, or feeling guilty after eating certain foods).
- Little knowledge of food prep and cooking/seasoning food
All of the above mean that whilst overhauling your life in the short term may help you make progress in the short-term, it’ll be hard to maintain in the long-term.
Now, onto the guide.
If you’re in the first group, you just need a good plan. Once you’ve got that, follow it and you’ll be fine.
Here are the criteria it should meet to qualify:
- Meets your minimum protein requirements, ideally, from a combination of animal AND plant sources. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, that’s obviously not viable, in which case I’d suggest working with a coach that can account for that, (rather than some face-chewer who says “sure you can have a vegetarian/vegan salad………………. as long as there’s meat in it”, before guffawing loudly and then farting as they pat themselves on the back for being so witty).
- Provides a reasonable amount of fibre from both soluble and insoluble sources
- Meets your minimum dietary fat requirements for the day with limited excess
- Respects your calorie requirements (keep an eye out for the video series coming out on this soon).
- Has food/meals you’ll actually eat and enjoy
- Doesn’t make any food or nutrient out to be the cause or solution to all of your problems
- Allows you some room for a life
But……... if you’re in the more gradually orientated camp, here’s your guide:
- The plan focuses on the next 12 months, not the next 12 weeks (or, god forbid, days)
- You get to carry on eating as you are in the short-term with tweaks and changes over time rather than overhauling everything
- You don’t focus or right or wrong, just better or worse, helpful or not.
- The plan has multiple components that address not just your food, but how you cook it and how you eat it amongst others
- The plan moves at your pace, not some predetermined pace (if you’ve got a change nailed, move on, but if you’re struggling to make it work as is, spend a little more time tweaking it)
- You as the client, need to focus on the journey, not the destination
- You pay attention to the little things
The last two may seem counterintuitive, so here’s the rationale. Changing your health or body-composition for the better, takes time. When you focus too hard on the end result, you can get discouraged by mistakes or a lack of short-term progress, instead of learning from them.
Likewise, focussing on that magic ‘thing’, whether it being anabolic avocados or fat-melting mangoes, or the need for drastic changes, isn’t necessary.
Try paying attention to how you feel at meal-times. If you’re ready to eat, but not starving or balking at the idea of food, then you’re probably in the right space for appetite control. If you’re getting mid-morning hunger cravings, your breakfast may not have served you optimally.
In almost 30 years of coaching people, I can say that hands down, the gradual clients outnumber the overhaul clients. I could have served so many people better if I’d known this and been able to help clients recognise it too. Of the gradual clients, hands down the most successful (by which I mean that even 10 years plus after we’ve stopped working together, they’re still happy with the way they eat and train and it’s still helping them in whatever way they want it to), have some version of the following to say at the end of the process:
- I don’t really remember changing anything
- I know how I ate and it’s drastically different to how I eat now
- I feel much better about food and how I need to eat for my goals
- Food and eating are no longer a source of stress
- I don’t diet any more, I just eat
So, have a think about which camp you fall into. If you’ve tried one approach and it hasn’t worked for you, try the other. Have an honest look at what your goals and motivation are and decide if the juice is worth the squeeze.
And if you still need some help, get in touch.