Sussex Performance Centre

How To Actually Stick To A Diet

One of the key components to achieving a successful body transformation is to remove as many of your limiting factors as possible. 

These are the obstacles that may come up which could knock you off course.

If you can create a clear and easy path to the end goal, you are far less likely to have trouble getting there.

For some of you reading this, short hard sprints may be the best way to get there based on your personality type. For others, a slower and less extreme approach may be more appropriate.

You might even need a mixture of both approaches – but even if you go hard at the start, you need an exit strategy that doesn’t leave you back at square one six months later.

I have always found that consistency, sustained effort, and doing the right thing, day in, day out, in a manageable way will always trump a short-term, all-or-nothing approach.

It may not be right for everyone, but usually the harder you go, the greater the risk of crashing.

What does this mean in practical terms? 

To understand this first, we need to understand what the most common limiting factors are when starting a new diet.

  1. Creating an extreme change in habits can often be met with a considerable amount of mental and physical pushback.
  1. Trying to force yourself to eat foods that you don’t even like because you think they are what is necessary to achieve your goal.
  1. Trying to remove a huge number of calories to lose fat quickly thinking that the more you take away the faster things will happen.
  1. Trying to go zero carb when you’ve spent the last year eating next to nothing but carbs.

Now, of course, there are many more that I could mention, but for the sake of this discussion we will keep it simple.

There is also merit in some of the points above, but they are not for everyone and need to be applied appropriately.

What are the solutions to these issues? 

1. Educate yourself on nutrition and clean up your diet 

Start off by planning based on your current position and your current habits – have an honest discussion with yourself about what you are capable of.

If you have very little practical knowledge of the basics of nutrition (understanding at the very least what protein, carbs and fats are, what foods they are in and roughly in what quantities) do you think it’s a good idea to go into a hardcore bodybuilding-style fish and greens diet?

Probably not.

A better alternative at this stage may be to start off with a longer-term transformation in mind and improve your habits. Educating yourself about the correct foods and choosing them over the junk that you have been eating previously will likely have a hugely beneficial effect on your body.

It will also lay a strong foundation for you to be able to maintain your new physique for life and not simply lose it when you are no longer paying for a trainer to manage your diet.

If you have a sound knowledge of the foods you eat, and you are currently eating a nutritionally-balanced diet of foods rather than products then you have already established a good baseline and you can take the next step into tracking your calories and macronutrients to ensure that you are moving towards your goal, whatever that may be.

If you are at this stage, then again, we can plan our journey based on our start point. If you’ve been eating great quality foods but without any control over your calorie intake, then start by tracking what you are eating currently to establish an average weekly intake.

Most people will be at or around their maintenance calories – i.e. maintaining their current weight and body fat.

This means that if you simply take away between 250 and 500 calories from this amount you will almost certainly begin to lose fat with little to no difficulty or pushback from your body because there are no extreme changes occurring.

If however, you just jump straight into a really low-calorie diet without any idea of where you started, you could well create an excessively large deficit which will result in a lot of dietary pushback.

Both your brain and your body will be begging for more food because the change has been too severe.

Immediately, your risk of failing on your diet and the negative psychological associations that come with that start to take effect.

Create a smaller deficit initially, simply clean up your food choices within your calorie deficit and minimise the risk of falling at the first hurdle because you took things to extremes.

2. Make your food choices as varied as possible. 

The second factor that we need to look at is food choices. When starting a diet many of you have got into your minds that the only thing you can eat is white meat and fish with a side of broccoli. It’s hardly the most appetising dish to be eating four or five times a day for a prolonged period.

It’s simply not necessary – you should eat the same large variation in great quality foods you were eating before you began only this time tracking your calories to ensure a deficit. This means you can still get to enjoy all of the foods you love whilst getting leaner and feeling healthier.

Obviously, the caveat in that is that you do need to be eating good quality foods to start with. It is not as simple as calories in calories out. We must pay attention to nutrients in order to give the body all of the things it needs to operate optimally.

By eating a broad range of food, you will ensure that nothing is missed nutritionally, and you are not left with cravings for foods that contain nutrients you’re missing through a voluntary restriction in food choices.

A greater range of food means a greater level of satisfaction, it will hugely reduce your cravings for certain foods, and it will prevent boredom, dietary fatigue and the feeling of mental restriction.

Most importantly, it will ensure that you are fully nourished making the whole journey easier for you even if your calories are a lot lower.

3. Be smarter with your carb consumption 

Finally, we touch on one of the fitness world’s favourite subject – carbs.  

They are not the devil, they just need to be used correctly, in the right amounts and at the right times for best effect.

Before you begin, there is a good chance that you have been eating excessive amounts of low-quality carbohydrates which have resulted in your less-than-desirable body composition.

Now although there are benefits to removing carbs entirely for a short period of time, that does not come without an equal amount of risks.

The more you take away the more your body is going to ask for you to put back in and unless you have extremely strong resolve very often this will result in early failure.

Simply cleaning up your carbohydrate choices and managing the quantities is very often enough to optimise not only your fat loss but also your compliance to your plan. By taking in good, clean carbohydrates, you are not feeling restricted either physically or mentally.

If, however, you choose to go from one extreme to another – from excessive eating to stripping out all of your carbohydrates overnight – you will inevitably experience some retaliation from your body.

Cravings will occur, especially late at night when you are tired, bored, or habitually used to eating carbohydrates. The difference being that despite your best efforts because you have restricted yourself instead of reaching for a bowl of oats which could have been planned into your diet you end up bingeing on pizza and chocolate.

To finish, as I’ve mentioned a few times here, you need to understand where you are and what you are capable of committing to and that will dictate the level difficulty you should set yourself.

We are all different but if you are reading this having failed again and again on your diet and are left scratching your head then touch base with us for a discussion. Maybe we can help guide you into a better approach based on your current habits and abilities.   

If not, this should certainly be food for thought if any of these limiting factors sound like familiar barriers.

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