Like a good training program, a good eating program will change according to your needs. This means that from time to time you’re going to be juggling new eating principles. For the well-established gym-goer this will likely be a minor manipulation of macros over the next training period in order to maximise results, but to the new-lifestyle-adopter this can often mean a significant shift in habits, and/or a step into territory they don’t yet fully understand.
It’s easy to step into new habits while the zeal that comes with conversion is fresh within us, but commitment is all about sticking with what you said you were going to do after the mood you said it in has left you. And results are all about commitment. So how can you ensure that you maintain that level of commitment and get the results you need?
Here are six warning signs that your approach may not be effective long term.
1). You opted for the diet plan with the best marketing right now
This is by far one of the easiest traps to fall into. Marketing for diets is becoming ever more sophisticated, because the people paid to come up with ways to sell diets have to find new and interesting methods of saying the same thing over and over again.
Any diet is sold primarily on two principles, simplicity and speed. “You can do it just by adopting these principles and investing in these necessary additions, and the end result will be the body of your dreams almost before you have time to take your “before” photo.”
Since the 90s a third principle has become increasingly important, and that is the health justification. “You need to do it this way because of the following health benefits, everyone who did it another way ended up with scurvy, rickets, and unwanted hair growth…”
Ignore the marketing. Start with what you’re eating, and prioritise whole, single-ingredient foods. As my father always says, “If it looks like bullshit, and it smells like bullshit, don’t let anyone in a suit tell you it’s caviar.”
Ultimately, your diet will need to suit you, your goals, and your activity levels. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so having the same book full of over-riding principles like “never eat carbs” or “replace meals with this milkshake” as everyone else is unlikely to ensure a diet tailored to your needs.
Even if the marketers tell you it is.
2). It’s the polar opposite of what you were doing before
If the guys at the local pizza shop know you by sight, if your order is “my usual, please,” and this same order was how you ended your Sunday, how do you think you’re going to do if you kick off a diet of nothing but cabbage soup on the Monday?
Let’s ignore for a moment the absurdity of the cabbage soup diet, and focus on the yawning chasm that exists between old habits and new. Unless you are the kind of super-willed person that does well at elite-level athletic endeavours because of their never-break mindset, you’re unlikely to stick there on your newly-adopted side of it.
Perhaps a better move would be to adopt your new habits systematically. Start with better breakfast habits, food preparation, better shopping habits, then move forward from there. Think about adopting some foods from this post to help with some of your cravings. You don’t have to become a saint overnight, you could take a month or two and you don’t have to begrudge yourself the time if it means you’re more likely to get there.
3). You’re hungry all the time
This can stem from the issue I touched upon above. Previously you were eating with the mentality of gluttony, jamming every last flavour-rich morsel of your carb-and-fat heavy indulgence into your mouth until your stomach issued a kill order on your hands and mouth. Now you’re attempting to assert a formerly unheard of level of restriction to what you eat, and you’re hungry all the time.
Quantity of food is, of course, a factor, and will have to be addressed at some stage. Right now, though, going from banquet-appropriate volumes of food to surviving on morsels that only look appropriate when viewed through a magnifying glass isn’t going to be sustainable for long. You’d probably drop a whole heap of weight doing it, but a lot of it will be muscle, slowing your metabolism further, and the effort of will required to make this sort of lifestyle leap isn’t sustainable.
Better to gradually reduce your food intake as you change the content of your diet, that way you don’t run the risk of cracking suddenly in the middle of your workday and pursuing a binge that begins with a double helping of every food you’ve been missing and ends with regret, recriminations and a spa-bath filled with chocolate syrup.
4). You don’t enjoy your food
If your old approach to food was purely indulgent, then you’re unlikely to fall naturally into the rhythm of a new diet designed purely for function. You have a relationship with food that’s undeniable, and it’s not going to change instantaneously just because you want it to.
This means that in the beginning you’re going to need to find ways to soften the blow that accompanies such radical changes. This might mean a little forethought, and the preparation of food using spices to make sure it remains the tasty treat you know it as. If you’re prepared to take the time to do a little research, if you’re prepared to put in a little effort, your food can be as delicious and rewarding as it ever was, whilst simultaneously being healthy and nourishing to your body.
Check out The Gorilla Pit Facebook page for a few lean muscle-building recipe ideas to get you started. Once you’ve fully grasped the parameters of your new nutritional habits, you’ll find suitable recipes everywhere you go.
5). You’re lowering your metabolic rate
What if I told you the most common problem I see with peoples diets is that they basically guarantee them to put weight back on further down the track?
If your diet is not supportive of muscle growth, or at the very least ensuring that you maintain existing levels of muscle, then it’s contributing to the breakdown of muscle and a decreased metabolism. If your metabolism decreases, you’re going to store more fat. Why are you changing up your diet? To get rid of fat, right?
Is storing more fat consistent with this goal? No?
Pick a diet that supports the building of lean muscle as well as the torching of fat.
6). You don’t have a plan
If you woke up the morning of the first day of your new healthy eating plan, recalled that you’d decided to “eat a bit more healthy,” but didn’t have a clue what that actually looked like, then I’d say you’ve fallen into one of the most common dietary traps there is. If you went out and bought a lettuce yesterday but now you’re not sure what to do with it, I think I’d probably still have to categorise you as woefully unprepared.
Pick a nutrition program that fits your short and long term goals. Understand how it works and what it’s going to do for you. Prepare in advance both in terms of your grocery shopping and your knowledge. It’s easier to eat the right food if you know why you’re eating that food and how it’s serving the results you want.
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