How do you move a big, hairy bull?
By letting it make the choice to move.
If you try to push the bull, you will be met with unmovable force and an unbreakable will, and possibly receive a hoof to the face. Instead, you gently show it the way and let it decide "Yeah, I want to go this way".
When you choose to do something, you're more likely to do it and enjoy doing it. Why shouldn't you? It was your choice!
If you're anything like the bull (or me for that matter) and don't enjoy being told what to do, diets can be incredibly hard.
Without the knowledge to understand nutrition, you have to rely on someone to tell you what to eat and when to eat it, as well as trust that they know what they are doing.
For dieting, the best one is the one you can stick to. If you choose your own method, you're more likely to stick with it. Even if it's out of sheer stubbornness!
A diet will work if you can maintain a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, and there are many ways to create that calorie deficit.
That's why I always offer the 3 ultimate options...
Option 1: Count Your Calories And Macros
For those of us who like to be in control, counting calories and macros is a good way to ensure everything is in order. It is easily the most accurate approach, but also the most difficult, as it requires precise measuring, tracking and logging of all food and drink every day.
For most people, this amount of accuracy isn't needed. But for some (like me!), it's exactly what we want.
All foods contain calories and the amount of calories you eat every day will determine whether you lose or gain weight.
You can calculate your estimated calorie level by using this formula. If you're wondering what a calorie really is, read this.
Body weight in pounds x 14-17 (depending on activity level and muscle mass)
So a 90kg man (~200lbs) would maintain his weight at 2800-3400 calories per day. He would need to eat less than this to lose weight.
These calories are made up of macros - proteins, fats and carbs. The ratio of which you eat these will impact your body composition, so we can set targets for the optimal amounts to consume.
Protein set a 1 gram/lb of bodyweight
Fat set at 0.4 grams/lb of bodyweight
Carbs make up the rest of your calories.
So for our 90kg man, his targets will be:
(based on calories of 2500 as he wishes to lose weight)
Protein - 200g
Fat - 80g
Carbs - 245g
These targets are golden, as hitting them almost guarantees success in body changes. This method is drenched in science and research, the guys in the lab coats have put in the hard yards to prove this method will lose weight.
It's not the simplest, nor is it the easiest, but it works wonders when paired with a little effort.
Option 2: Eating Based On Habits And Behaviours
If measuring and counting stuff is not your bag of tea, you can use a habit based approach to dieting. This is much easier to follow and stick with in the long run, although not quite as accurate as counting calories and macros.
Here, we use habits, behaviours, portion sizes, guideline and knowledge to base meals on. It's a very flexible approach. Slowly we would implement one habit and behaviour at a time until it becomes the new way of eating. No rapid changes and no overly complicating anything.
1. Eat protein with every meal.
2. Eat vegetables with every meal.
3. Eat carbs around your exercise sessions.
4. Eat healthy fats with every meal.
5. Drink 8 cups of water a day.
1. Eat every 2-4 hours
2. Eat slowly
3. Eat to 80% full
That's the general brunt of it. A super easy and sustainable approach. Just add one habit/behaviour and do it until it becomes the norm, then add another. Soon healthy eating will become so natural there's no need to even think about it. THAT's the goal and your body and mind will thank you.
Option 3: Don't Eat Like A Jerk
The third option is pretty straightforward - make an effort to eat better. With all of the information out there, I can guess you already have an understanding of what a healthy diet looks like and what an unhealthy diet looks like.
As there are no direct rules to follow, it comes down to you. If you really don't like people telling you what to do, this is the ideal diet.
The one guideline would be the 80-10-10 rule.
80% of your diet should come from whole, nutritious sources. This is your meat and veg.
10% can consist of questionable stuff. Here, we're talking protein bars and prepackaged snacks.
10% can be foods you know aren't super nutritious. Like some Ben & Jerrys or a deep fried Snickers bar
Nobody is an angel who can do no wrong. Indulgences happen. So make it part of the diet. But, make that intentional effort to eat better.
You know protein is important for your physique - so eat more lean meat and fish.
You know that pint of ice cream isn't good - so only have one scoop.
You know vegetables are good for your health and energy - so choose the salad over fries.
In addition to a well-rounded exercise plan, making the effort to eat higher quality foods can be all you need to do to make some great changes in your energy, physique and health.
No counting. No habit changing. Just don't eat like a jerk.
In the end, the best diet is always the one you can stick to. A 'diet' imposes that you are doing something different in your life, so you shouldn't be on a 'diet' forever. Eventually, the diet must become your lifestyle.
Choose which works for you. You can even work down the options, from 1 to 3, as 3 is the easiest to follow in the long-term.
If you have any questions, or would like any advice, join the free Facebook group where all the shenanigans go down. It's a great group of supportive and like-minded people!
This article was inspired by Mark Fisher, who I met at the Strong Pro Summit 2017. Awesome message from an even awesome-er guy.