What makes a diet successful?
A better question you should ask yourself is: what makes you successful in a diet?
All diets are intended to work the same way – they somehow reduce the amount of food you are eating so that you can successfully lose weight. How this occurs varies for each diet. You could eliminate an entire food group like carbohydrates which in turn makes you eat less. You can count your macros, calories, or points to track that you are eating less. You could limit the time frame in which you eat your foods which may cause you eat to less.
They all operate under the underlying principle of getting you to eat less calories than your body needs to maintain its current state. But which one is the best? How do you ensure a diet will work for you to receive the results you want?
Let me breakdown what I believe makes a diet successful.
Adherence – There isn’t one universal diet that works for everyone. If there was, a lot more people would be able to lose weight easily. Instead, we have to start thinking about what will work for you. Not for your best friend. Not for Bob down the hall from your office. For you. The most important thing to realize is that the only way we can get results is if we stick to something consistently, no matter what the task is. If you are choosing a diet that you can’t see yourself staying on for months, not just 30 days, then you might need to re-think your strategy. This means, if you love carbohydrates, perhaps don’t do Keto no matter how much you hear it is the “perfect” diet. If you find yourself hungry a lot throughout the day and are successful eating a lot of small meals, maybe intermittent fasting isn’t for you. Find a way of eating that you can enjoy for a long time, not just for the short-term.
So, before you jump into your next diet, ask yourself:
Can I see myself being successful following this way of eating for a long period of time? If not, there are plenty of other methods that you can use to reach your goals that may be a better fit.
Calorie balance – Every single diet has the same goal in mind – put you in a calorie deficit so you can lose weight. Whether this be tracking your calories, macros, or restricting certain foods from your diet - they all work the same by putting your body in a state that is burning more calories than it needs. Most diets have rules or restrictions that help you do so. Keto removes carbohydrates to decrease calories since most people tend to overeat these. Intermittent fasting sets rules to eat in only certain times which usually helps you eat less. Macro and calorie counting focus on specific counts that you must reach to meet your calorie deficit. In the end, if you’re eating in a way that is less than the energy your body needs to maintain its weight, you will lose weight.
Macronutrients – Macronutrients aka “macros” are the types of food that supply energy to your body. They are broken down into proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. All macronutrients contain calories. Protein and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram. Fats contain 9 calories per gram. You can lose weight without worrying much about macronutrients as long as you are consuming less calories than you burn. However, macronutrients can play an important part to your success of any diet. For example, incorporating higher amounts of protein can help decrease hunger and appetite, build and maintain lean muscle, and help maintain a healthy weight. In a fat loss diet, 200 calories of protein may help you feel more satisfied and less hungry to help you stick to your goals. Whereas, 200 calories from a Snickers bar might leave you feeling just as hungry as before you ate it. This is where the type of macronutrients could play an important role towards your success in any diet.
Micronutrients – Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals you get from the foods you are eating. Eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, and quality foods will ensure that your diet is well rounded with the vitamins and minerals you need. I’ll keep it simple: if you’re trying to eat healthier, eat your fruits, vegetables, and whole food sources.
Meal timing – Meal timing is the timing in which you eat your meals. Perhaps you’ve heard that fasting for 16 hours and only eating within 8 hours is the best. Or perhaps you’ve heard that smaller meals every 2-3 hours is the best to “stroke” your metabolism. Whatever way you decide, the best will only be what is best for you. If you are a super busy person and know you’d struggle trying to eat every 2-3 hours, then don’t. If you’d rather not wait 16 hours to eat your food, then don’t. There is no right or wrong answer as long as your total calories throughout the day is within your goals. Whether that be one meal or 20 meals, the choice is yours.
Supplements – Supplements are supplementing a need to your diet that you currently don’t get through the foods you are eating. They are not necessary for a diet to be successful. If you find that you need a protein shake to meet your protein goals, cool. If you want to take any vitamins like Vitamin D or fish oil to ensure you are getting the necessary nutrients that you need, also cool. But if you feel that you need 4 protein shakes to reach your goals then maybe you should re-think your dietary choices.
Figuring out a way of eating that you actually enjoy that puts you in a calorie deficit is the key to any successful diet and getting results. It sounds simple and easy but how often do you actually think about what you like before starting a new diet? We usually jump into something new because it is the latest fad, or we know someone who was successful following a particular way of dieting. We think what works for others will work for us but that is far from the truth. We are all individual, so we all need to start thinking individually.
Besides figuring out what style of eating will work for you, there is a lot of mental aspects that go into being successful.
Find out next post what the biggest mental hurdle is and how we can improve it going into a new diet!