9 Tips for Structuring a Successful Diet
When it comes to getting leaner and healthier with nutrition you’ll generally try to take on more change than you can handle in the long run.
Trying to walk before you crawl with with nutrition is a surefire path to overwhelm and returning to your old habits.
If you haven’t taken the time to build the right habits, and structure your diet in a manner that works for your lifestyle it’ll eventually fall apart.
For many just like you the name of the diet changes, but the end results are always disappointing and fall short of expectations.
I’ll have you consider that your success with nutrition has very little to do with the actual diet itself.
We know many different diets are successful in helping people get healthier and leaner, so there is no magic bullet when it comes to dietary approaches.
The real magic is in creating sustainable nutrition habits that aren’t overly restrictive, too complicated and stress you out.
In this blog post you’re going to learn the 9 tips for structuring a successful diet that will help you get leaner and healthier without the restriction and rules of most diets.
Tip # 1: What’s your why?
There’s a distinct reason that tip number one has nothing to do with food, it’s because your reason for changing will determine how successful you are.
Let’s be honest, anyone who said that dieting for fat loss is going to be easy was full of shit, and likely trying to sell something.
You’re going to hit fat loss plateaus, mental and physical challenges, and it’s going to take longer than you thought to get the results you’re after. These are some of the top reasons that people will give up before they even achieve their goal, everyone wants results yesterday.
To help you overcome these challenges I have a simple question for you to answer; why is fat loss important to you ?
Obviously you want to look better naked or fit into an old pair of jeans, but there is a lot more to this story.
The deeper you look at why getting lean is really important, you’re likely to end up addressing some aspects of who your life or who you are that you’re not happy with.
That requires a level of honesty most people don’t venture into willingly.
The deeper down this path you travel the more uncomfortable it can get, but this isn’t a bad thing, it’s a sign of progress.
The “5 Whys” is a powerful exercise I do in person with every one of my nutrition clients. We use it to help them get honest and clear about why their goals are important.
Without fail the clients who choose to go all in, and get really honest about why they desire fat loss see greater success in the long term.
I once sat in my office while a client who was in tears explaining an instance when he was so out of breath playing with his kid for a few minutes that he thought he was having a heart attack.
He immediately feared whether he’d actually be alive to see his daughter graduate high school, and had another kid on the way.
You may not have a fear of heart attacks or even have any children like my client, but I’d bet there’s an underlying emotional reason you want to achieve your goal.
It’s going to take some honesty and self examination to find what your why is. It’s going to sting when you reach it, but use it as fuel for the tougher times on your journey.
Sit down with some time and a pen/paper or you laptop and ask yourself:
- Why you want to lose body fat ?
- Why does that matter ?
- Why is that important ?
- And why that last answer ?
- Keep asking until you’ve arrived at an answer that truly matters, and motivates you.
Be patient with the process and understand this might be the most powerful thing you do to reach your health or fat loss goal.
Tip # 2: Assess How Ready You Are To Change
Before you start to think about what dietary approach to take, you need to take a look at two factors that have nothing to do with food choices, but will greatly impact your success with your diet.
The first factor is how ready you are to make a change ? If you don’t really want to change or are trying to make a change for the wrong reason you’ll cave at the first sign of resistance.
The second factor to consider is how much change you can realistically handle in your life at the moment.
The amount of pre existing stress you have in your life from work, relationships and finances all require energy to manage.
By trying to stack too much dietary change on top all those, it only adds to the burden and makes it harder to manage them all.
By assessing and being realistic about the amount of change you can currently manage you’ll be able to commit to habits that are appropriate for you.
You’ll build the capacity to handle more change by letting smaller wins add up in the beginning, and learning to enjoy the process rather than dread it.
Right now you may only have the room in your life for small changes, but those small changes will add up and are far better than not starting at all.
As Gary Vaynerchuk says “ One is greater than zero” and this absolutely applies to your nutrition habits.
Tip # 3: Eat Adequate Protein
People in the united states have a tendency to undereat protein, while consuming excess calories from processed carbohydrates and fats in hyper palatable foods.
When going on a diet for fat loss protein is one of the most important dietary factors for helping people to preserve lean mass and curb cravings. That’s not all protein does either.
We’ll be looking at a few of the ways consuming enough protein will help you structure a more successful diet.
Protein is very satiating and helps to keep you fuller for longer, while also helping many people to curb their food cravings.
Out of all the macronutrients protein has the highest thermic effect of food (TEF) which means your body has to burn more calories to digest and absorb it than carbs and fats.
Eating enough protein helps to preserve muscle mass when dieting, and by doing so you’re able to burn more calories as muscle mass is a more energy demanding tissue to maintain.
Many people go on a diet and end up looking skinny fat, which is never a good thing. By retaining as much muscle as possible with strength training and adequate protein you will have a better looking physique.
Lastly getting enough protein in mixed meals with fats and carbs helps to better regulate blood sugar levels.This helps you to avoid the blood sugar roller coaster that drives cravings and unnecessary snacking.
If you’re someone who tracks 0.7-1.0 grams per pound of bodyweight is a good place to start, for people who want to make it really simple 1-2 palms worth of protein at every meal.
Tip # 4: Do You Enjoy Eating More Fats or carbs?
You want to organize your diet so that it’s more inclusive than exclusive of the foods you enjoy. No you can’t use this as a justification to only eat doughnuts and pizza because you enjoy them, but good try!
Now that we have protein taken care of let’s turn our attention to t carbohydrates and fats.
People try to demonize both carbohydrates and fats, but neither one of them is inherently bad for you.
When carbs and fats are consumed in reasonable amounts, and come from minimally processed foods they both play a significant role in your health and well being.
In reality there’s a ton of different diets that all work extremely well including both low carb and low fat diets.
If you have a strong preference for either fats or carbs you can structure your diet to include more of them, and less of the other.
For example if you enjoy more fatty foods but don’t really care about carbs all that much a lower carb higher fat diet may be easier for you to follow.
On the opposite side maybe you love denser carbs, in which case a higher carb and lower fat approach would allow you to eat more foods you enjoy while dieting.
If you like a balance of both carbs and fats, you’d take a more moderate approach and split carbs and fats more evenly in your diet structure.
If you have a strong preference for more carb dense or fatty foods allow your diet to reflect that. Eat less of macronutrient you’re placing less emphasis on, and make sure you’re keeping overall calories in check.
A caveat to this would be people who do a lot of high intensity training, or have multiple training sessions in a day.
You’ll need denser carbs in your diet to fuel training and recovery. Otherwise you run the risk of of hurting performance in the gym and breaking down muscle tissue to provide glucose to fuel training.
Tip #5: Eat Your Vegetables and fruit
Any diet centered around health or losing body fat has plenty of fruits and vegetables as a keystone part of it .
No matter what approach or diet structure you follow you should be eating at least 4-8 servings of vegetables per day. In reality there is no upper limit to daily vegetable intake though.
If you want to measure your vegetable intake focus on getting two closed fist portions at every meal. You can also use the half plate rule where half your plate is always filled with vegetables.
Try branching out and eating one new vegetable or preparing an old favorite in a new way each week to keep things interesting and ensure you get some variety in your diet.
When it comes to fruit shoot for 2-4 servings of fruit each day. By getting a wide variety of plants in your diet it’s a good insurance policy for getting as many vitamins, minerals and enzymes from food as possible.
Vegetables and fruits are very low calorie foods that are packed with fiber and water which helps them to take up a greater volume in your stomach keeping you fuller for longer on fewer calories.
Tip # 6: Keep foods simple
When you keep food and meals simple it helps prevent food related decision fatigue by limiting food choices, and having to constantly decide what you’re going to eat.
After a long stressful day at work when you’re hungry and headed home is when you’re the most susceptible to making poor dietary decisions.
When you have a few simple go to meals that are easy to make it allows you to stay on track with nutrition without overthinking it.
These could be easy meals like a salad, egg scrambles, a super smoothie or even pre cooked foods in the fridge.
An additional benefit of keeping meals simple is it reduces the hyper palatability. When we eat foods that mix a ton of flavors it can stimulate the reward center in our brain, and create an urge to eat more of those foods.
By keeping foods and meals simpler it helps to reduce the hyper palatability of meals, and allows people to stop eating when they’re no longer hungry, rather than stuffed.
As humans we’re naturally horrible at estimating food portions and the caloric content of foods. The more complex a meal gets the more difficult it is to tell how much you’re actually eating.
By keeping foods simpler it will be much easier to know how much you’re eating, and eyeball portion sizes.
Tip #7: Pick A Meal Frequency That Works For You
The idea that you have to eat 6-8 smaller meals a day is more folklore than it is fact but some myths like this just seem to stick around.
The amount of meals you eat in a day has no effect on your metabolism or ability to lose fat.
The idea that smaller more frequent meals boosts your metabolism comes from the thermic effect of food (TEF) which is the amount of calories your body has to burn to get energy from food.
People thought the more frequently you ate the more calories you would burn and boost your metabolism leading to greater fat loss.
What we’ve learned over time though is at the end of the day total calories, and amount of protein, fats and carbs matter far more than how you choose to break that food up throughout the day.
As an example if you were eating 1,800 calories a day with the macronutrients matched, your body would expend the exact same amount of energy to digest that food whether it was broken up into 3 x 600 calorie meals or 2 x 900 calorie meals.
What matters most when it comes to meal frequency is what works for you as an individual and suits your lifestyle the best.
As a side note most people do have a harder time managing their appetite when they eat less than two meals per day or more than six meals per day.
Tip #8: Reduce snacking
Most people tend to snack out of habit, boredom or because of the environment they’re in at work or home. Unfortunately those calories add up and can make a serious dent in your fat loss efforts.
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve seen take control of their snacking habit by simply making sure they are adequately hydrated.
Clients of mine who were lifelong 10am and 3pm “snackers” were able to ditch the snacks within two weeks by drinking a few glasses of water and taking a 5 minute walk when they would normally snack.
Nope it’s not magic, and I’m not a magician, Many people are snacking all day long because they’re chronically dehydrated and are mistaking a high level of thirst for a low level of hunger.
The good news is even if you’re an avid snacker you can retrain your body and brain to get hungry at different time.
We have a hormone named ghrelin that stimulates hunger, and we can retrain ghrelin when to spike and make us hungry by changing our eating pattern.
Anyone who’s changed their work schedule, or tried intermittent fasting and delayed their first meal to later in the day has retrained ghrelin to spike at a new time.
When someone spends all day grazing and never actually gets full at meals it tends to make you more food focused, you end up thinking about when you’re going to eat next.
The calories from those snacks could be added to your meals to create greater satiety and leave you feeling much fuller for longer.
If you’re an avid snacker start reducing the size or frequency of snacks and add those to meals. Over time try to transition to 3-4 larger meals with minimal snacking.
Tip #9: 80/20 principle
As we bring this blog post in for landing I’ve been saving the best for last, and that is the idea that your nutrition should be flexible, and still include things that you enjoy eating.
We all know that diets built on deprivation of foods never last. Even worse these diets usually lead to restricting, binging, shame, guilt and frustration.
To avoid this cycle use the 80/20 principle of flexible dieting. This means that 80% of your diet is made up of minimally processed whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, quality protein, starches and healthy fats.
Once you have the 80% whole food nailed down, then you have some room to kick your heels up and enjoy some more indulgent foods.
Keep in mind the 20% doesn’t have to be junk food either, it can be something like a fattier steak with mashed potatoes and a beer or sushi and sake out at a restaurant.
Regardless of what you see on Instagram flexible dieting isn’t about eating as much junk food as you can.
It’s about freeing yourself from rigid dieting, and creating a sustainable diet structure you can stick to and enjoy.
The psychological freedom to know that your plan has no off limits foods, and actually accounts for guilt free indulgences makes long term adherence easier because you’re not always trying to start over again when you eat a “bad” or “off limits” food.
Flexible dieting provides a more balanced approach to nutrition and helps remove fear of certain food groups like fats or carbs.
It also makes people rethink the idea of “good” or “bad” foods in the context of their overall diet rather than isolated instances.
Lastly this flexible framework makes people realize that one single meal isn’t going to make you lean in the same way that one indulgent meal won’t make you fat. If one of these is true, they both have to be true.
As you can see there’s a number of ways that nutrition can be made much more complicated than it needs to be. Sexy ideas sell, but the basics gets results.
In the end what people can do on a consistent basis that fits their lifestyle, and dietary preference is far more likely to succeed than an overly restrictive rigid approach to nutrition.
When you implement the tips in this blog you can see they’re meant to give you a starting point, like a framework.
Filling in that framework is up to you, and great coaches at Vigor Ground to customize.
Try tackling one of these tips every two to three weeks so you can focus on mastering one habit at a time before trying to take on another.
Too much too soon is a recipe for overwhelm and returning to old habits.
You’ll need to try a few different approaches before you find what works the best for you in terms of nutrition, so be patient with the process and you’ll take your body and mind where you want to go.
Nutrition can be challenging at times, especially when it comes to making a sustainable change and taking control of your eating for good. If you’re frustrated with the ups and downs, diets, and feeling like you just can’t get a hold of your nutrition and lifestyle to get you to the body, feeling and performance you’ve always wanted – let us show you how we can help you get there without the overwhelm and strict diets.
Fill out the application below and we’ll set up a call or meeting (whatever you prefer) to go over a blueprint for your success. We do this to help show you the steps it takes and customize it towards your body and lifestyle and there are no strings attached. Like many other clients, if you feel we can help you moving forward with coaching we can see if the right fit both ways and move forward from there. Click HERE or on the banner below and fill out the application and we’ll talk to you soon.