Most people fail at their diet.
This is often due to oversimplifying things by following rigid fad diets with arbitrary rules that make eating miserable.
Most of these rules are not based on current research showing us what is needed to be successful both short and long-term.
Another reason is complicating the process. One way people do this is by counting calories and macros.
I am NOT saying that counting calories and macros is ineffective, useless, or unhelpful.
When working with clients I actually prefer that they learn to track calories and macros with me. I find it to be a more efficient way to help someone reach their weight loss goals when simplified and done correctly.
However, most people don’t need to get this detailed at the start of their health, fitness, and weight loss (or gain) journey. Tracking calories and macros may not be suitable for everyone, nor is it required to be successful. Based on the majority of clients I tend to work with it’s also not the optimal starting point.
At some point, I do believe it’s in most people’s best interest to learn to track calories and macronutrients. You learn so much about what and how much you’re eating. It also may be necessary for some to take their bodies to the peak physical condition if that is their goal.
My opinion is that most people can get from point A to B without adding unnecessary levels of friction or complexity to their diets by making a few small improvements.
In fact, there are only 4 of them.
These 4 practices when done consistently over time will help most people lose weight and keep it off for a long time. I like to think of these as “dieting big rocks.”
These are very simple, practical, and rational practices anyone can do at any time. Most importantly, they will help you create the calorie deficit needed for weight loss without having to track every single calorie you eat.
Table of Contents
Practice #1: Eat a serving of protein and veggies with each meal
This is important for maintaining muscle when you’re in a calorie deficit and trying to lose weight and body fat.
Protein when combined with resistance or strength training helps to keep your body from using muscle as a fuel source when in a calorie deficit.
This is important because you want to maintain as much lean muscle as possible. It keeps your metabolism high and frankly helps you look better naked. Protein is also very satiating.
When you’re training and reducing calories to lose fat and weight you will most likely be hungry at points. Protein (especially when combined with veggies) will keep your appetite at bay and feel fuller for longer stretches.
Veggies are low in calories and high in fiber and will keep you full. If you eat them first there’s a good chance you’ll eat less at your meal if weight loss is a goal.
But I don’t like veggies (stomps feet and pouts).
I get it. They’re not the most desirable food and can take some getting used to if you’ve never really eaten them. There are a lot of creative ways to make veggies taste great.
Combine: Combine vegetables with other foods to harmonize (or at least tone down) those bitter flavors. Toss some Brussels sprouts into the roasting pan with your sweet potatoes. (Some people who despise steamed broccoli love roasted broccoli.) Mix spinach into your dal or ramen bowl. Add spice, herbs, lemon juice, or a good quality vinegar.
Cushion: Certain flavors can magically turn the bitter volume down. Sweet and fatty flavors, especially, can interfere with your brain’s perception of bitterness. Excellent cushions include honey, maple syrup, olive oil, toasted nuts or seeds, and butter.
Here are a few sample combos for inspo:
- Kale with tahini and lemon juice
- Radicchio with goat cheese, peppers, and honey
- Asparagus with garlic, feta, avocado, and lemon
- Brussels sprouts with bacon and onions
- Broccoli with balsamic vinegar and olive oil
- Endive with mirin and walnuts Not everyone needs to eat the same way.
How about something more visual?
Practice #2: Cook more meals at home and eat out at restaurants/fast food places less
When you cook at home you control what and how much you eat. When you eat out you do not.
Takeaway and restaurant meals also tend to have larger portions and calorie counts than meals you would make for yourself. Casey Neistat created an interesting video for the New York Times about this.
A chef’s job is to make a dish as tasty as possible so you come back. They don’t care about calories or your goals. Nor should they, right? Just make us something awesome 🙂
It makes it way easier to eat enough lean protein to stay satiating if dieting for weight loss. Plus, it’s cheaper.
This doesn’t mean you have to avoid eating out altogether. It may mean doing it a little less while working towards your goals.
- Eat slowly and stop when you’re 80% full. Leave a little on your plate
- If you’re eating apps, skip dessert. Eating dessert, skip the apps
- Focus on protein and veggies with your meals
- Look for some of the buzzwords below
Practice #3: Eat meals and reduce or eliminate snacking
There’s nothing inherently wrong with snacking. Snacks can be a part of your diet and adjusted based on your goals. Before assuming you need to quit snacking, see if it’s counterproductive to your goals. If you find yourself needing snacks during the day because of physical hunger, make adjustments to your calorie intake to fit them in. Essentially, plan to snack.
If your goal is weight loss and snacking is contributing to you creating a calorie surplus, then it may be best to remove some of them or to adjust the amounts.
Practice #4: Eat at regularly scheduled meal times
Eating is an afterthought for a lot of people. Another thing to do on a never-ending to-do list. Skipping meals or not eating enough at meals can lead to overeating later in the day. Regular meal times help to regulate appetite and have even been shown to help stress and emotional eating.
Schedule your meals 4 to 6 hours apart. A range allows for flexibility. The idea is to eat before you get too hungry.
- Meal 1: 8 am-8:30 am
- Meal 2: 1 pm-1:30 pm
- Meal 3: 7 pm-7:30 pm
Take notes of what you notice. Are you getting antsy for a snack around 4 p.m.? Is it related to physical hunger, are you tired, or something else? If it’s physical hunger, maybe this is an opportunity to plan for a light snack. If it’s not, maybe this is an opportunity to try something else.
Yes yes yes. There are other things that are important when it comes to eating healthier more consistently. If weight loss is a goal of yours things like walking, weight training, sleep, and stress management will be important too.
Trying to work on all of these things at once can be overwhelming. I’m confident that these 4 practices will make a tremendous impact in helping you build healthy sustainable eating habits that help you move closer to your goals.