In my last article, you learned all about why dieting hasn’t been working for you.
You learned the stuff that actually matters for fat loss, and how to cut out the stupid stuff that’s been distracting you.
Really though. Read part one first. The following will make a lot more sense.
Part two (this) will address different ways to actually structure your diet.
People tend to think lose weight you must either:
1. Track macros
2. Eat clean
The truth is…
A plethora of different eating/tracking methods will get you to the same goal (fat loss).
You don’t have to spend months following dietary structures you hate.
Let's talk some different dietary systems and structures I employ with clients to make fat loss as easy as possible.
First, if you’re new to all this, joining a “diet camp” (paleo, vegan, keto, etc.) might make things a bit more challenging.
These diets aren’t “bad”. They’re just more restrictive.
You’re new to dieting. A restrictive plan just means it’ll be harder for you to eat within your restrictions/ adhere to your diet.
Eat outside your restrictions, and you feel like a miserable failure who can never stick to a diet. You fall off the wagon. And once again, your adherence will suck.
People will also tell you these diets having some type of magical fat loss property, exclusive to this style of eating.
They’re just different ways of making you eat less (calorie deficit).
Before moving on, I wanna reiterate that none of the strategies are “bad”. Just potentially harder to adhere to, and less flexible. If you feel one of ‘em is the best fit for you, go for it!
A common issue is the belief that your diet should be entirely “clean foods”. Think- broccoli, chicken breasts, and tilapia.
Now, the foods themselves aren’t an issue at all. Most of your diet should come from unprocessed, whole foods.
When dieting, you have to deal with being hungry a lot.
Highly-processed foods are literally engineered to make you want to eat more. They’re “hyper-palatable”. Not ideal when you goal is eat less.
Eating mostly unprocessed, whole foods helps you be hungry less.
They keep you full longer. Plus, they’re packed with nutrients. They make ya feel good.
So eating 80-90% whole foods will make your diet much easier, and you’ll feel better throughout.
Problems arise through the belief you need to eat strictly “clean foods” to achieve health and good body composition.
You start labeling foods as “good” or “bad”.
Foods exist on a scale of more or less healthy, sure. But once you start calling ‘em good and bad, you’ve developed a strong “feeling” related to each food.
Thing is, you’re not gonna be able to avoid “bad” foods for the rest of your life. When you do eat a “bad” food, you’ll likely either:
1. Be plagued by an overwhelming sense of guilt (not fun, detrimental to your quality of life)
2. Binge (also not fun, detrimental to your quality of life + body composition)
It’s been proven by studies that you can quite literally eat strictly Twinkies and the like, and still lose weight. Seriously. The professor inthis study ate strictly Twinkies and the like for 10 weeks.
Homie lost 27 lbs, while eating strictly highly-processed, sugar laden foods. All he did was maintain a calorie deficit. (Again if you’re confused by all this calorie deficit talk, read part one HERE.)
Do I recommend just eating whatever you want, as long as you hit your calorie goals? Absolutely not.
Your health will be awful. You need the various nutrients from whole foods to function properly. To feel good.
What I am saying:
If you’re eating primarily whole foods (80-90% of your diet), adding in less nutritious foods you enjoy is perfectly fine.
As long as you’re able to stay within your daily intake requirements your progress and health won’t be affected.
You understand to lose fat, you need to create a calorie deficit.
You know that adherence is key. You need to find the strategy for creating a calorie deficit that works best for you.
You know that to feel your best, you need to eat mostly nutrient-dense foods.
Let’s talk some different strategies for creating a calorie deficit.
1. Whatyouate app
Whatyouate is an app where you take pictures of all your meals, and state whether they were “on” or “off” track for your goals.
The biggest thing we’re focusing on here is creating more awareness- really getting you to think about what you’re eating, and how it’s affecting your body composition and goals.
This is a good place to start if you hate the thought of tracking or prepping ahead, and have very little experience following a structured diet.
Our main focus here will be reviewing your weekly food intake, and making suggestions for swaps or foods to add in the following week.
We determine whether a meal is “on” or “off” track by how well you apply some basic principles of nutrition. E.g. protein source at every meal, mostly whole foods, etc.
2. Tracking Calories
I like this a lot. That being said, some people absolutely hate tracking (which is fine!)
The first few weeks you track, it’s fairly time consuming, taking up 15-25 minutes total of your day.
If you’re willing to make this trade-off, you’ll learn a huge amount about the actual number of calories in food. You also gain a much better understanding of what foods are really good sources of protein, carbs, and fat, as well as how to manipulate your diet to get more of each.
Tracking also allows more flexibility in your diet. It shows you how you can still eat foods that you enjoy, but likely label as “bad” and lose body fat. This goes a long way in developing a healthier relationship with food, and not labeling things as “good” or “bad”.
To the above bullet, and to reiterate an earlier point: I do encourage you to get 80-90% of your food from whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods for a reason. If you’re filling your daily calories with primarily highly processed foods, you’re gonna have a much harder time. Highly processed foods have much higher calories per the volume of food you eat and are designed to be hyper palatable. They’re literally engineered to make you hungrier (and more likely to go over your calorie goal). So when tracking, focusing on eating primarily whole foods, with the occasional treat is the best strategy.
Measuring your food accurately (discussed in depth in part one) is also super important here.
3. The Handful Diet
If all the talk of tracking really turned you off, this is a solid option. (Kudos to Precision Nutrition for this one.)
Although there is prep work required, and the diet doesn’t allow for a lot of flexibility, you don’t have to track anything, and only have to measure with your hands.
If you don’t mind the prep work (1.5-2 hours per week), it works great. I highly recommend choosing 1-2 “prep days” per week, to make all your food. This is a huge time saver, and if you’re not prepped ahead, you’re not gonna be able to stick to this diet.
Your only measuring tool will be your hand, used to determine your portion sizes.
Protein: palm sized portions. (Roughly 20-30 grams of protein)
Veggies: fist sized portions.
Carbs: cupped hand sized portions. (Roughly 20-30 grams of carbs)
Fats: thumb sized portions. (Roughly 7-12 grams of fat)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Everyone’s intake needs are going to be different, and we’ll tweak your intake down the line. But your starting point will be…
2 palms protein dense foods each meal ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
2 fists vegetables with each meal
2 cupped hands carb dense foods with most meals
2 thumbs of fat dense foods with most meals
1 palm protein dense foods with each meal
1 fist vegetables with each meal
1 cupped hand carb dense foods with most meals
1 entire thumb fat dense foods with most meals ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
This is just a baseline. If you’re losing fat, stay the course. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
If you’re not losing fat…
Drop 1 handful of carbs and/or 1 handful of fat from a few meals a day. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Drop 1/2 handful of carbs and/or 1/2 handful of fat from a few meals a day.
4. Tracking Calories + Protein
The next step up from simply tracking calories. Calories are king. If your calorie intake isn’t aligned with your goals, you’re not going to make progress.
The next most important factor after calories? Protein.
Protein helps you build more metabolism boosting muscle. It keeps you full longer than any other macro (incredibly useful, as fighting hunger is the hardest part of dieting). It also has the highest thermic effect- meaning it takes more calories for your body to digest than any other macro. By eating a larger percentage of your calories from protein, you’re going to burn more calories daily.
Here, your goal is to eat X grams of protein, while still hitting your daily calorie goal. (For most, protein goals will be somewhere between .7-1 gram of protein/lb of bodyweight daily.)
5. Tracking Macros
When tracking macros, I’ll assign you a goal daily intake for each macronutrient.
150 grams protein
200 grams carbohydrates
65 grams fat
Your goal is to be:
Within 5-10 grams of protein goal daily
Within 5-10 grams of carb goal daily
Within 3-5 grams of fat goal daily
This is by far the most accurate method, basically ensures that everything is on point.
When tracking macros, you’ll notice a disparity between your calorie totals in Myfitnesspal (e.g. your macros are on point, but you’re 110 calories under your goal.) Food labels actually round to the nearest 10 (e.g. label says 80 when food actually has 84 calories). Although small, this can still add up to 50-100 calories per day. Macros on labels are much more accurate. Which makes tracking your macros the best way to go for quick results.
Tracking your macros is also a bit more time consuming, as hitting your goals on the head usually requires planning ahead (and potentially prep), until you become a seasoned vet.
If I have you tracking your macros, you’ll be filling out a “macros” spreadsheet in your accountability sheet daily, so I can ensure you’re on point.
These are far from the only way to do things. Just the strategies that have worked best for my clients.
Measuring your average food intake in some way, shape, or form is hugely important.
You have a baseline to make changes from when progress stalls, instead of just throwing stuff at the wall and hoping it sticks.
Questions about application of any of this? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to help!