Last week it was barely just a blur you caught out of the side of your eye as you darted around, rushing to get dressed, getting everything sorted before you hurried out the door for work.
This week, you don’t even glance in that direction as you walk by.
You’ve gotten so good at avoiding it, it’s almost like it isn’t there at all at this point.
Until one day, there it is. One day, you see it, and it can’t be unseen. You stop, like a deer frozen in the headlights in shock of what is before you. You can’t avoid it anymore. It’s there, and it’s real. It’s your reflection.
You used to love posing in front of the mirror. You’d admire yourself in that new suit or dress, maybe take a selfie or ten. You’d sit back in awe of the progress you’d made at the gym.
That was then though. It’s not your fault. You were younger, you had more time.
Now, maybe not so much. Work, kids, life in general. Things just kind of got in the way.
That extra ten pounds you put on after college is looking more like forty now.
The dress from your wedding has been sitting collecting dust in your closet, waiting for you to even gain the courage to try it on and see if it still fits (even though you already know it won’t).
Facebook “7 years ago today” pops up and reminds you of your glory days when you were twenty pounds heavier of solid muscle, and could really fill out a t-shirt with those arm cannons.
Or maybe you were never too skinny. You’re entire life you’ve always had a bit of extra “fluff.” You’ve tried every diet, all the hot new fads, but for whatever reason, they just never stuck. It just didn’t work for you.
Whatever got it into your head, you’ve decided. You may have tried in the past, or maybe this is the first time. Regardless, this is it. You’ve made up your mind. You’re going to… dun dun dun…. to start a diet.
Maybe to slim down, maybe to bulk up. No matter what your goals are though, there are some harsh realities that you are going to have to deal with if you want to use diet to change the shape of your body.
Before you even think about which diet to pick (pro tip: it doesn’t matter), here are some things to keep in mind. These rules will be true no matter the diet, so read them, think about them, understand them, before you embark on your next quest down the demonic diet path.
Dieting requires change
You’d think this goes without saying, and yet here I am.
You’d be flabbergasted (good word right?) at the sheer amount of people who come to me for nutrition coaching, and don’t really get this.
I mean, they come with the notion of change in mind, but they don’t really wrap their heads around just what that entails.
Think about it this way: if you are looking to diet to change your body, I am going to assume that you are unhappy about your body in some way, or at least some aspect of it. Doing what you have done for the last umpteen years, has gotten you where you are. It has gotten you to a place where you are ready to try literally ANYTHING.
I know you’re willing to try anything, because diet is no ones first choice. By the time you’re ready to start a real diet, I’ll assume you’ve exhausted every other resource available to you (pro tip 2: there aren’t many, that’s why it always comes back to diet).
If doing what you’ve always done has got you where you are, and that’s not a place you want to be, then guess what? Doing what you’ve always done is not the answer. You need a new approach.
This seems logical. However, people don’t like change. We fear it. It’s in our nature. Especially when it’s surrounding something that we do so often, like eating. Sure you can change one meal, or one week. But changing the way you eat, every day, day in and day out, forever? That’s a very daunting thought.
What happens is people think they are going to get an easy recipe, a quick fix.
“Just cut out carbs”
“Just fast 2 days week”
“Just balance a diet coke on your head while rubbing your belly and standing on one foot”
Just, just, just.
There is no “just.” That brings me to my next point:
It’s going to be hard
Again, “Duh Paul, I already knew that. That’s why I never diet!”
If that’s what you’re saying, I honestly can’t blame you.
Not to become one extremely long fitness cliche here, but it if were easy, everyone would do it.
“What’s so hard about eating less? I want to change! I can do it!”
Well, kudos to you. I believe in you, and I know you can do it as well!
Just so we are on the same page though, let’s break it down a little further. The next few rules will explain exactly what I mean when I say “It’s going to be hard.”
Rule # 3:
If you are trying to diet to lose weight, you have to be ok with:
Being hungry from time to time.
This doesn’t mean you have to, or should starve yourself. Quite the opposite actually. A good diet will make sure that you are feeling good and full most of the time. This is the only way that you will be able to stick to it long enough to see results.
However, it is still inevitable that you will have to encounter hunger pangs along the way. Weight loss, at a scientific level, is starting yourself extremely slowly. You are eating an amount that is not enough to sustain your body’s bodily functions, so your body must eat itself (hopefully fat stores and not important things like bone, muscle, or organs) to gain that nourishment it is lacking. If you don’t starve it and give it need, it has no reason to go into those stores.
Having less energy
Eating less food means you will have less energy. Food is literally energy, so that makes sense. This becomes especially obvious when you consider that the majority of the time, the foods you will be eating less of the most (my brain exploded writing that) will be carbohydrates. Disregarding the fact that low carb diets are extremely en vogue right now, there really just is no way around it. Protein is the most essential macro nutrient, and we tend to need more of it when we are cutting, not less. Fat can be lowered, but there are certain levels that we should not go below for hormonal and body function reasons. That often leaves only carbs to be cut. Carbs also happen to be our main energy source throughout the day.
Ever see someone on a super low-carb diet, and the just look kind of… dead? They are in zombie mode. This is because they are in a caloric deficit, and their body isn’t being given the proper amount of energy it needs. This causes the person to look and feel lethargic, but it also causes the body to make certain changes.
People on restrictive diets (low carb or not) will see their energy go down, but they will also go through some less noticeable changes. Non-vital functions and movements will begin to be cut sub-consciously by the brain to save energy. People who tend to fidget, tap their feet, walk around a lot through the day, will find themselves doing less of these. Not because they outright chose to, but because their brain is getting rid of the junk while you are taking in less energy.
Losing some strength
As you lose weight, it is inevitable that you are going to lose strength. This happens for a few reasons.
1) As stated above, you are eating less, so you have less energy. Less energy means you aren’t going to be able to work out as intensely, so it makes sense that you won’t be able to maintain the same level of strength.
2) As you lose weight, it is very likely you are going to lose some muscle. What we truly want when we are dieting is not “weight loss,” but “fat loss.” Fat loss is fat loss. Weight loss can come from fat loss, but it can also come from muscle loss, bone density loss, sweating, having physically less food in your stomach, or even a nice big poop. (haha. I said poop.).
Although what we really want is fat loss, as we are in a sustained calorie deficit over time, our body sometimes does what we don’t want it to do, and burns muscle instead of fat. There are ways to mitigate this loss, but some will be inevitable (click here to hop on a coaching call and find out the strategies I use to maximize FAT LOSS, while MAINTAINING MUSCLE MASS)
Cutting back on social events
Social situations, especially ones that involve alcohol, are going to be tough on any diet. Regardless of your goals, dieting asks that you be “dialed in.” You need to be in control of what you are eating, being sure that whatever you are putting into your body, you are doing so to serve the purpose of taking you closer to your goals.
Birthday parties, after work drinks, football Sundays. All of these are super fun events, but none are ideal for the average dieter. Food everywhere, alcohol, everyone else indulging. Even if you have the self control, the urge to eat more can often be compounded by social pressure. No one wants to be “that guy” who won’t have a few wings or beers at the bar during the game. Especially when your friends are literally exclaiming at you “Come on! Don’t be that guy!”.
I’m not saying that you can’t, or shouldn’t be social. Again, losing weight on any diet is about long term sustainability. Not being able to ever have fun with your friends will definitely make that hard to do.
You will have to weigh the pros and the cons. How important to you is your goal? Do you want to lose the weight, more than you want those drinks? Maybe once a week drinks has to become once a month. Maybe you’re fine with going out, but not partaking in the festivities. It’s up to you, but you just need to understand the realities of the situation and realize that the decision is yours.
Eating in more, eating out less
Like the above point, this comes down to control. Can you lose weight eating out all of the time? Sure. However, when you cook and prepare your own food, you know what is in it. You know what you’re eating, and how much of it. Even if you try to go “healthy” when eating out, and stick to traditional diet foods like salads, grilled meats, veggies, etc, you don’t know the details.
You don’t know what they are cooked in, how much oil, the exact ingredients in the dressings, the sauces. The more you know about and can control what you eat, the more you can control your results. I’m not saying to never eat out at a restaurant again, but I am saying that the less you do, and the more you prepare your own food at home, will have a directly proportional relationship with your weight loss.
If you are dieting to gain weight, you have to be ok with:
Being a little over stuffed from time to time
Now I’m not endorsing a “dirty bulk,” or the “GOMAD diet” (yeah, that’s a real thing). However to gain weight, you need to be feeding your body more than it currently needs, so that it has excess energy to store in the form of their muscle (if you are giving it a reason to via strength training) or fat. To some, this may seem like a silly point, but ask anyone who is a “hard gainer,” or has been skinny/underweight their entire life, and I can assure you it is just as hard for them as losing weight is for someone who is overweight.
Losing some muscle definition
Just as losing fat comes along with losing a little muscle, gaining muscle will almost always come along with gaining a little bit of fat. Yes we are trying to “clean bulk,” and only put on good weight, I.e. good, solid muscle. This is incredibly hard to do however, and even the most seasoned veterans will tell you it doesn’t work that way 100% of the time.
To gain muscle, you need to eat enough calories over your daily caloric burn just enough to fuel the production of new muscle being made, but not so much that there are still excess calories left over to be stored as fat. Since it is literally impossible to know the exact number, down to the calorie, of how much we burn each day, or how much we eat each day (even with the most diligent tracking), you can see how this might be a little tough.
And then, last but not least…
Bring your peepers a little closer to the screen, because this is an important one…
Rule # 5:
It’s going to take time.
There’s just no way around it. It is going to take a while. You are literally changing the physical and chemical composition of your body. It does not happen over night. Get into your head now that this is a journey that will take months and years, not days and weeks. It doesn’t sound sexy, and it doesn’t sound appealing, but it is the truth.
The number one reason people fail at diets is because they don’t give them enough time. They think “well I tried, didn’t work.” Really, the problem was you didnt give it time to work. So dig in, and realize you are here for the long haul.
If you can come to grips with realities of what I have outlined above, then you are ready to go. You have set yourself up for success, and you are ready to make real, lasting change.
If you don’t like the way any of that sounds, then maybe you aren’t ready. That’s ok. It’s a big commitment, and if you want to get results, you have to be all in.
There is good news though!
What? Did you think I was just going to rain on your parade, and not even offer you an umbrella? You know should Uncle Pauly better than that!
While the outlook on dieting may seem grim from where you are now, here are a few key things to remember that can help you along your way:
It gets easier.Both physically and mentally. As you diet, you will get used to it. Physically, the hunger and discomfort might not go away completely, but it will lessen, and it will become bearable as you get used to it. Mentally, it gets easier as well. Emotionally, socially, psychologically, dieting can be a bit of a drain, especially in the begging. However all that starts to change once you begin to see progress. Once you see the image in the mirror changing, weight going down, or muscle building up, it makes it much much easier to keep going. It is a win, that can help you justify all of the hard work, all of the missed nights out, the passed on pieces of cake, and everything else. The problem is most people don’t give it enough time to get there. Just stick to it!
Your health and life improve. Let’s face it, most of us diet for vanity reasons. We want to change something in the mirror. That’s alright. Your reasons are your reasons. That being said, whatever it is that gets you to start your diet, the benefits will be far reaching beyond simply “looking better.” Wether it’s fat loss or muscle gain, the result will be a better, healthier, more functional you. As you start to look better, you’ll start to feel better as well, both physically and mentally. When you have less fat on you, and/or more muscle, you will be able to move more and better. Your workouts will improve, improving your health, again improving your movement, which will then allow your workouts to improve. It’s a vicious cycle, but in the best way possible. Your diet kickstarts all of that, so have that in mind when the times get tough.
It ends. Remember that. A diet ends. It has to. You reach whatever goal you set eventually, and then you can return to a more normalized way of eating. The key thing here, is “more normalized,” and not “the way you used to eat normally.” Notice the difference. Ideally, you have a plan in place for once you come off your diet, so as not to rebound and lose the progress you’ve made. This is one of the most key steps, and someplace that most people mess up. If you don’t have plan in place for coming off of your diet, chances are you will go back to the way you were eating in the past. Old habits die hard, you know. If you do that, it is likely that you will lose much of your progress. This is why over 50% of dieters regain the weight once they finish a weight loss diet. This is also why having a knowledgable coach to walk you through not only the diet, but coming out of it, is an invaluable tool that will ensure your success. Click here to schedule a free call to talk one on one with me about this, and how I can help you get out of yo-yo diet purgatory.
Hopefully, this has given you a bit to think about. Dieting is a serious endeavor, and takes serious work and commitment. It is not something to just do, or hop in and out of. If you want results, you have to be ready to put in the work, and the time, and you have to be ready for what is to come.
Just remember, it is worth it. Eat right, train hard, and you will be able to get the results you are looking for! Don’t give up!
As always, if you need any help, reach out to me! Let’s take this on together!
How do you feel about what you just read? Did you hate it? Love it? Leave a comment and let me know, and then share this with a friend and see if they agree!