Before you start dieting, there are three crucial things you need to consider to make you’re able to stick to it for the long haul, and actually achieve the physique you've always been chasing.
(Don't worry, this isn’t one of those “Take our Personality Quiz to Find Your Perfect Diet!” articles.)
When you coach with us, we personalize your nutrition in a number of ways, by taking into account things like...
↦ Diet preferences
↦ Habits & lifestyle
↦ Training style
...I could go on, but you get it.
We go to the extreme to customize your nutrition to you, because we know adherence is the most important aspect of a nutrition plan that actually gets you results that stick around for a lifetime.
So while an unfortunate 95% of dieters will gain the weight back, gaining a deeper understanding of how your personality influences the way you should diet is the antidote.
Today's blog shows you how to design a diet that fits into your lifestyle, and will allow smooth sailing to the body composition you've always wanted.
Let's dive into the 3 unique traits you must consider to create a successful diet.
PERSONality Trait #1: What are your compliance foods and trigger foods?
Figuring out your compliance foods and trigger foods can make your diet easier to adhere to, help you keep calories under control, and make it far more enjoyable.
Compliance foods are anything that helps you stick to your diet. The base of your diet (about 80-90%) should be made up of nutrient-dense, whole foods. (Think: foods that grew from the earth, or had a face at one point... a.k.a. protein and produce.)
But I recommend the other 10-20% come from things that you identify as your compliance foods.
Compliance foods will be different for each person based on your preferences and taste. Most people skew more toward either sweet or salty foods they enjoy, and more toward either carbs or fats.
Of course, these always taste best mixed together, but think...
“Would I rather have potatoes (carb) or cheese (fat)?"
"Nuts (fat) or berries (carb)?"
"Salty or sweet?”
Whichever of these you have a preference for, you can add that salt, fat, starch, or sugar as a supplement or condiment to your base of protein and produce to help you enjoy them enough that you’re not craving other foods.
Examples of real-life application of this concept:
↦ Cheese on your salad
↦ Cream and/or sugar in your coffee
↦ BBQ sauce with your chicken
↦ Ketchup on your burger patty
↦ A chocolate square after dinner
You get the picture. These are things that add enough pleasure to your food that it makes sticking to your planned foods enjoyable, but not so enjoyable that it makes you want to overeat it.
On the other end of the spectrum, the foods that are so overly palatable that they create an urge to binge or overeat would be your trigger foods.
These are things that you probably shouldn’t keep around the house, or should likely only keep in pre-portioned containers.
Trigger foods will be different for each person, but they're most commonly foods that mix salt, fat, sugar, and/or starch. Things like chips, cookies, ice cream, pizza, doughnuts.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should never have these foods.
Keeping your diet flexible is about increasing the ability to enjoy meals with friends and family, and allowing foods that you love. But allowing these hard-to-control foods in your house will make it harder to maintain this lifestyle long-term. (Check out The Ultimate Guide To Flexible Dieting for more of the lifestyle-based nutrition strategies we use with online clients.)
I would encourage you to make a list of your compliance foods and a list of your trigger foods.
This is something our online clients have had great success with, and a strategy I recommend to most.
We recommend all of our clients stick to whole, unprocessed foods (a.k.a. “bro foods”) 80-90% of the time. That other 10-20% is made up of less nutrient dense foods, but the things that make your diet enjoyable.
I would venture to say almost every lean insta-fitness-model you see eats in a similar way to this.
You may think they’re eating nothing but dry grilled-chicken salads, but everyone needs just a little something added in to make their way of eating sustainable, and enjoyable enough to stick to for the long term (which is what is required if you want to have a lean physique for the long-haul.)
PERsonality trait #2: Are you an abstainer or a moderator?
The concept of classifying yourself as an abstainer or a moderator came from author Gretchen Rubin. As soon as I read about this concept I started using it to help clients design their environment to help them diet more easily.
The names are pretty self-explanatory:
↦ Abstainers do better with abstinence (e.g. mostly avoiding a food).
↦ Moderators are able to moderate more easily (e.g. consistently having a food available to eat In moderation).
Gretchen Rubin describes them this way:
You’re an abstainer if you…
– Have trouble stopping something once you’ve started.
– Aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits.
You’re a moderator if you…
– Find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure and strengthens your resolve.
– Get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something.
For moderators, having a small piece of chocolate after dinner makes their diet so much more enjoyable so it’s easier to stick to that diet. They have no problem stopping after one small piece.
For abstainers, one small chocolate after dinner is just enough to piss them off and make them want 20 chocolates.
You probably already know at this point which type you are, but let’s dive in further.
Have you ever decided you’re “never having ____ food again!”?
Whether that food is sugar, alcohol, bread, cheese, or anything else you’ve sworn off... think about your immediate thoughts following that declaration.
↦ If it is relief, you’re an abstainer.
↦ If it is anxiety, panic, or craving for that thing, you’re a moderator.
Another example that may help is Halloween candy (or any other type of food you find yourself with an abundance of at some point.)
↦ If you’re the person who can have one or two pieces daily and it lasts until Easter, you’re a moderator.
↦ If you’re the person who either eats 10 pieces at once or throws it all away so you don’t eat 10 pieces at once, you’re an abstainer.
It’s also important to point out that you can be an abstainer with some foods but a moderator with others.
Using myself as an example, I’m a moderator with most things, but an abstainer with trail mix, and some other salty and sweet mix snacks. You have to find out for yourself what you’re an abstainer with and what you’re a moderate with.
So based on what we've discussed here, a few strategies we use with online clients to help them design their environments for success based on their types ↴
↦ Decide which foods you want to keep around that will help make your diet more enjoyable.
↦ Have small amounts at whatever interval you decide on, and log it in your food log. (Example: I’ll have one Hershey’s kiss after lunch and one after dinner. Log it in MyFitnessPal before anything else.)
↦ Don’t attempt any diets that completely cut out any one food or food group.
↦ Don’t keep treats in your house, rather go out for them when you want them.
↦ Plan for less frequent but more substantial treat meals.
↦ Don’t cut out entire food groups, but design your environment so that the harder-to-control foods aren’t near you at all times.
Considering these qualifiers, which type are you?
One final exercise I like to have clients use to find their moderation foods, and their abstainer foods is creating a RED-YELLOW-GREEN LIST.
STEP 1: I’ll have a client write down 3 columns with the titles Red, Yellow, and Green.
STEP 2: Under the “red” column they’ll write down all foods they...
a.) Have a hard time eating small portions of
b.) Don't find digest well
c.) Don’t think will take them closer to their goals
d.) Find makes them feel worse after eating
STEP 3: Under the “green” column, they’ll write down all foods they...
a.) Can have in small portions without craving more
b.) Digest really well
c.) Think will take them closer to their goals
d.) Feel great after eating
e.) Love the taste of
STEP 4: Under the “yellow” column, they'll write down foods that fall somewhere in between. These may cause a small amount of bloat but are healthy (brussel sprouts are here for me), or they can have a small portion and leave the rest but it’s not taking them closer to their goals.
With your Green foods - I recommend buying these each grocery trip, keeping them stocked in your fridge and pantry at all times, and creating meals centered around these.
With your Yellow foods - I recommend buying these in pre-portioned packages, keeping them in opaque containers or out of sight in the pantry, or just buying on occasion.
With you Red foods - I recommend not keeping these in the house. These are things that are better off kept as a treat when going out specifically for that food. (Example: I love ice cream, but never keep it at home. We’ll go out and get a scoop when we want it together as a family.)
This has worked really well for a lot of clients - one in particular that comes to mind that dropped 12 pounds in 12 weeks JUST by doing this and focusing on more protein.
Personality trait #3: Motivation should determine diet speed
I always preach that motivation will come and go, it’s more of an emotion than a thing you can acquire.
But you can determine how aggressive you should be with your deficit based on previous experience.
If you have a specific performance goal or aesthetic goals, like a powerlifting competition or a physique show, those should take precedence over your motivation type, but if you don't fall into these categories, use it to your advantage.
↦ If you’ve tried the longer slower diets in the past and you get demotivated by slow progress, you may need a bigger deficit to start seeing some quick progress.
If you're someone who is motivated by quick progress and doesn’t need a lifestyle approach to work around social events and the like, you might start your diet out at a 20-30% deficit.
It will be a really aggressive diet and will be harder to stick to, but you’ll see quick progress and can get in and out of the diet faster.
Someone using this approach whose maintenance calories are around 2000kcal/day would start out anywhere from 1400-1600kcal/day using this approach.
Going back to the other personality traits, this is an approach where you may have to cut out even some of your compliance foods because there just isn’t enough wiggle room in your macros for them. You may also need to use more of an abstainer approach, even if it’s against your nature.
↦ On the other hand, if you’ve tried aggressive diets and get burned out by the steep deficit, you may need a longer slower approach. This person would start out in a 10-20% deficit.
Someone using this approach whose maintenance calories are around 2000kcal/day would start out anywhere from 1600-1800 kcal/day using this approach.
Someone who wants to use a slower cutting approach will be able to keep more compliance foods in their diet, and can work around more social events, but will need to have more patience to see slower progress.
Too many people try to shoehorn themselves into a diet that doesn’t fit their personality or their lifestyle (which is exactly why so many diets fail).
A moderator probably shouldn’t try Whole30.
Someone whose daily latte brings them joy probably shouldn’t cut out dairy or coffee.
This is a factor we take into account with every client.
Because some people will need that extra flexibility in their diet for lots of weddings, parties, or weekend drinks.
But others will need to see the scale drop quickly for a bit in order to really get excited about the process.
There are no right or wrong answers here, only different understandings about your to use to your advantage in your diet.
You have to decide for yourself (or with the help of your coach) how to balance these and individualize these into the diet that fits you best.
If you're sick of guessing when it comes to your nutrition, and are ready to start the process of truly achieving your best physique ever, click here now to apply for online coaching with our team.
We apply proven, science-backed nutrition & training methods through individualized coaching to help you get the body you want, and teach you on how to keep it for a lifetime.