What’s the most popular line during a breakup?
“It’s not you, it’s me.”
Now think about your last dieting fail.
When you broke up with your last diet did you say, “It’s not you, it’s me.”?
The truth is that it really isn’t the diet’s fault, and there are a number of reasons the diet just didn’t do it for you.
In a world where we have more research and information on weight loss nutrition than ever before, people are STILL failing diets way too often.
You know which foods to avoid, and that eating whole, minimally processed foods makes a big difference.
If you’ve kept up with enough of my content, you probably know that Calories In vs. Calories Out is HUGE for fat loss.
But what you might not know is that the secret to weight loss success actually lies in finding a nutrition strategy you can adhere to long-term.
When it comes to my clients, I like to call it their Ideal Diet.
You see, my entire coaching practice (training and nutrition) was built on the idea that the best program is the one you can stick with and maintain.
I could write the best macro prescription for you, but if you can’t stick to it, what’s the point?
I could recommend a low-carb and high-fat diet, but if some of your favorite foods contain carbs and they are a part of your lifestyle, again, what’s the point?
We could manipulate meal- and nutrient-timing over and over again, but if it doesn’t fit into your personal and work life, well, what’s the point?
You get it, consistency and adherence are prioritized over everything.
We’re all different.
We have different lifestyles, goals, desires, jobs, preferences, and countless other factors that play into which training and nutrition program fits your body and makes you feel your best.
Therefore, if you actually want to achieve your ideal body and SUSTAIN it long-term, then we need to find your IDEAL DIET.
How do we do that?
Well, it depends.
But I’ve helped a number of clients find their ideal diet over the last 5 years, and during our initial meeting or call we talk through each individual’s unique lifestyle.
From that information, I’ve found 5 strategies that work for MOST clients and cover nearly any demographic you could think of.
Together we start in the strategy most suitable for you and make adjustments as we progress and better understand what truly is the ideal fit for you.
Strategy #1: The Whole Foods Diet
This is where the majority of my clients start or at least begin in combination with one of the other strategies.
The reality is that the American culture eats a lot of heavily processed foods. Actually, a 2016 study found that more than half of what Americans is eat is classified as ultra-processed, which is defined as:
“Formulations of several ingredients, which besides salt, sugar, oils, and fats, include food substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular, flavors, colors, sweeteners, emulsifier, and other additives used to imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations or to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product.”
Here’s the catch.
You see, processed food isn’t THAT bad – the simple act of washing your food makes it processed; – however, the same 2016 study found that the ultra-processed food accounts for 90% of the added sugars consumed by Americans.
THAT is the reason why following a Whole Foods Diet is important.
A Whole Foods Diet asks that the majority of your diet be comprised of whole, minimally processed foods. The goal here is to replace the sugar with more naturally occurring, nutrient-dense foods.
The Whole Foods Diet is not easy, its simplicity can translate into some big time, fast results. While it doesn’t ask for food measurements or offer calorie recommendations, a focus on whole foods can offer these benefits:
- Decreased consumption of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial ingredients, trans fats, and refined carbohydrates.
- Reduced overall consumption of food.
- Higher Thermic Effect of Food (meaning you burn more just digesting the food)
- Higher nutrient density
- Higher fiber intake
None of these things touch on your Calories In vs. Calories Out relationship, but these benefits can decrease overall consumption, gut inflammation and improve digestion which has a natural tendency to spark a weight loss.
Perfect First Step for Someone New to Nutrition – This diet is perfect for someone who has never looked at their nutrition. It’s a gradual and low-stress first approach that can really help individuals feel what good foods can do for their body.
Offers a Number of General Health Benefits – On top of the benefits listed earlier, whole foods can improve general overall health of the cardiovascular system, digestive system, and immune system.
Low Stress – The only thing this strategy requires is for you to assess the quality of your food. There’s no tracking or true preparation; only a request to choose the cleanest, most naturally produced food.
Lifelong Application – Regardless of your setting or life situation, this strategy teaches you to identify food quality and equips you with the tools to make the best possible decision for your body.
Lacks Specificity and Individuality – While a great first step, this strategy is very general. Whole foods to you are also whole foods to another and there is no consideration of your lifestyle, preferences, or unique genetic makeup.
Results Stop – Piggybacking off the lack of specificity, after the initial weight loss or change in body composition, results significantly slow or stop. The lack of measurements and focus on your Calories In vs. Calories Out relationship means you’re very unlikely to eat to your appropriate body requirements.
Can Still Overeat GOOD Foods – Just because you focus on eating whole foods doesn’t rid you of the potential to overconsume. Moderation is the key to EVERYTHING, and it is possible to overconsume good, high quality foods!
Strategy #2: The Handful Diet
Did you know a survey released in 2016 found 75% of Americans to believe they eat healthy overall?
So why is it that the rates for overweight and obese Americans is higher than ever before?
I have a theory as to why that is, so let’s play a quick game…
Choose which is healthier A or B.
Grilled Chicken or McNuggets?
French Fries or Roasted Potatoes?
Sour Patch Kids or a Mixed Fruit Cup?
Okay, let’s try a couple of tougher ones…
Jiffy Peanut Butter or Almond Butter?
93% Lean Ground Turkey or 80% Lean Ground Beef?
How did you score?
That’s because knowing which foods are right or wrong is not the problem.
The problem is CHOOSING the right foods and eating in the CORRECT portion sizes.
Let’s say your ratio of whole to processed foods is better than average and you’re looking to lose weight WITHOUT tracking your food.
I have just the strategy for you!
Now, I’m a fan of tracking, but I do recognize that it does not align with the goals or psychology of certain individuals. I want ALL of my clients (and honestly everyone seeking fat loss results) to see success, so that’s where The Handful Diet comes in handy.
You only need one piece of equipment, and lucky for you, it goes with you EVERYWHERE – your hand!
In The Handful Diet, your meals are based on portion sizes determined by the measurements made with your hands.
Yes, all of your hands are different sizes; however, your hand is appropriately scaled to fit your body size, so it works great in establishing a baseline for you.
Here’s how I recommend portion sizes using your hand for measurements:
If you apply this to 4 to 5 meals daily, you’re in a great position to sustain some results.
The size and amount of measurements (specifically carbs and fats) can be easily adjusted based on biofeedback, training performance, weight, and body measurements.
Great First Step into Tracking – If you’re fairly new to nutrition, this is a MAJOR first step in understanding portion sizes. The diet is generally balanced and equips you with the beginning steps for mastering portion control.
Your Tool is Always with You – Aside from any life-threatening injuries you will NEVER be without your measurement tool. You can measure foods on the go, while out to eat, and during travel so you’ve completely eliminated the guesswork.
No Tracking – Like I said, tracking isn’t right for certain people and that is perfectly okay! The Handful Diet is a great middle ground for a number of people to build awareness and better manage their food consumption.
Lifelong Application – How perfect is it to have a tool that travels with you for life? You can use this in restaurants, on trips, and once you’re at a point where maintenance is the focus. The Handful Diet educates you on the right foods to nourish your body AND the appropriate portion sizes regardless the situation.
Less Individuality and Specificity – Yes, your hands are proportioned for your body size, but they’re not a perfect individualized measurement. In my experience, I’ve found The Handful Diet to be great for clients seeking goals for a healthy lifestyle or those who frequently travel, but it’s less than ideal for those looking to see performance or aesthetic results.
Lower Accuracy – While this is a great strategy, it really is just a ballpark estimate. There is a much greater room for error in comparison to the use of a scale or measuring cups. On top of that, the portions can vary greatly from measurement to measurement, and that does create SIGNIFICANT differences in calorie consumption.
Less Flexibility – There are foods you just can’t measure with your hands. Think liquids, dressings, oils, or butters. How about the foods already mixed together? For this reason, The Handful Diet isn’t always the most flexible or most convenient way to measure certain foods and dishes.
Strategy #3: Calorie Tracking
Strategy #1 and #2 are great. They have produced big time results for my clients, and more importantly it leaves clients with the tools to eat well for life.
But, Strategy #1 an #2 don’t take into consideration the second biggest factor for weight loss.
We established in the beginning that long-term adherence is the biggest factor for weight loss, but the second, that’s manipulation of the Calories In vs. Calories Out relationship.
If you’re serious about getting weight loss results, then there needs to be some consideration of calories.
Now, before you skip over the rest of this blog because I’m diving into the world of tracking, hear me out.
Tracking your calories (and macros honestly) provides you and your coach with data. It establishes a correlation between the amount that goes in and your body composition results.
Tracking is a tool for weight loss, one that can be used to tell you what to do next.
Some people reach this point and run for the hills when they hear “tracking,” but if you really are serious about fat loss, then you need to do it, at least for a little while.
Let’s talk calories.
Calories are energy, and because we’re human and run on calories, AKA energy, we need to take calories/energy in. (You really won’t like what happens if you don’t).
The relationship between how many calories you expend and the number you take in determines whether you maintain, lose, or gain weight.
Take a look at this:
So as you can see, tracking how many calories you take in is a great strategy for weight loss. If you monitor this relationship and continuously manipulate it so that you take in less calories than you burn, you can be pretty successful when it comes to weight loss.
Flexible – One of the biggest reasons tracking calories is so beneficial is because it’s just that, tracking calories. Eating becomes very flexible so long as you hit your daily and weekly caloric goal.
Simple – While this strategy does require individuals to look at labels and do some addition and subtraction to meet a goal, it’s still pretty simple. Most people find it’s not too difficult to add to their daily routine and adjust throughout the day.
Results – Like I said, calories in versus calories out MATTERS. If you’re consistent in adhering to your caloric totals, this strategy WILL bring you results. My ,in-person and ,online clients utilize a Daily Accountability Tracker to maintain consistency and boost adherence to their caloric intake goals.
Lifelong Application – Even if you advance into Strategy #4 and #5, this strategy is great to have for a lifelong skill. Once my clients reach their goals, we’ll periodically work them back into this strategy to help stabilize at maintenance.
No Attention to Food Quality – This strategy will flat out get you fat loss results, but with a lack of focus on food quality and caloric make up, it’s possible to miss out on some results. In this strategy calories are just calories, and as long as you meet your goal, you’re properly executing; however, the lack of focus on food quality can hurt your energy levels, gut health, and hormone profile.
Little Specificity or Individuality – The only number Strategy #3 considers is calories, which is not very specific or unique to the individual. Everyone is unique with different intake needs, so the lack of individuality likely will hold you back from your best results.
Tracking – Tracking calories is still tracking, which causes many to roll their eyes. While the learning curve is small, it still requires some attention and time to track and determine what and how much to eat each day.
Strategy #4: Tracking Calories & Proteins
Nutrition gets me excited, and I recognize that I am NOT in the majority on that one…
BUT that’s what makes me successful as a coach and a client myself.
Most people just want to eat and the only thought they want to give to the matter is if it satisfies their desires or not.
However, if your goal is to lose weight, body fat, and get lean, it does require some additional thought and attention.
We can get you GREAT results and establish a simple and sustainable lifestyle by focusing on your overall caloric and protein intake.
Now, before you turn away from this strategy because it requires more tracking, check this out.
Various studies have found that a consistent focus on calories and protein is most important when it comes to yielding body composition results. For example, a 2018 study compared a low-carb to low-fat diet while maintaining overall calories and protein, and found nearly identical results. This goes to show there is no BEST diet for everyone, but that the most important factors remain as adherence, calories, and protein
Flexibility – Tracking only calories may offer MORE flexibility, but this is my personal favorite approach for flexibility AND results. If you’re looking for a more flexible lifestyle because you enjoy going out for food and drinks more often, then this is the strategy for you. The calorie goal allows me to teach you how to strategize where and how to spend your calories for the day at social events, while still staying on track with progress and maintaining satiety comes from hitting the protein goal.
Simple & Easy to Get the Hang Of – There is a bit larger of a learning curve when compared to tracking only calories; however, most of my clients find that tracking protein actually HELPS them better reach their caloric goals. The clients who commit to hitting their numbers find it very simple to reach their protein goals in a day.
Better Results – You are now taking somewhat of a focus on food quality, which means you’re going to likely see better results than with just a caloric focus. My clients have a target protein intake fit to their individual goals, body type, and lifestyle, and so long as they are consistent in hitting adhering to this (and their calorie goal), fat loss becomes very attainable.
Education & Long-Term Lessons – This strategy truly allows me to teach you how to see results in a flexible lifestyle. With my clients, I’m able to take a peek at their food log (because most of my clients share their food diaries in their app with me) and use it as an educational tool to improve food choices, make recommendations on handling social events, and improve various biofeedback markers.
Tracking – It is one more thing to track, and to some, that’s just not appealing. However, don’t knock it before you try it. Many people rule this strategy out because it requires tracking, but very few clients who start this strategy regret their results and lessons learned.
TOO Much Flexibility – There are only two pieces to track, which has a tendency to lead individuals to believe they can eat whatever they want so long as it fits those too numbers. I’ve seen people hit their target numbers spot on while eating candy, pasta, and chips with a side of protein shake. These foods aren’t BAD, but they’re lower quality and bring a room for error in tracking. There is over a 25% error margin on food labels for these processed food items, which means you never really know exactly which ingredients were used, the correct portion-size, and the exact make up. Don’t me wrong, clients have lost weight with this approach, but remember, these lower quality foods are designed to make you crave and eat more.
More, But Still Minimal Focus on Food Quality – Going right off of too much flexibility is the lack of focus on food quality. The absence of focus on the other macronutrients can lead you to believe it’s okay to take in low-quality food items while still hitting your goals. You’ll get some results, but like I’ve said, the lack of focus on quality prevents you from reaching your true potential and can cause some serious energy, gut, and hormonal issues.
Strategy #5: Tracking Macros
This is where you really get a look into how excited I get about nutrition.
We have reached the most in-depth strategy – tracking macros.
Your three macronutrients are protein, fats, and carbs, and in this strategy you are assigned a target intake along with a daily total caloric goal.
Now, it is important to note that all four of your numbers are GOALS. Too often people run away from tracking macros because they feel that this strategy requires hitting these numbers PERFECTLY every single day.
And if you want to avoid being THAT snob, you shouldn’t stress that.
The goal is to be within 10 grams or 40 calories of your target goal for proteins and carbs, and 5 grams or 45 calories of your daily fat intake. In total, that means you can be about 100 to 150 calories over or under on your daily caloric goal.
Specificity and Individualization – You cannot get much more specific or individualized than this. This strategy works great for my clients who have very specific body composition results and want to hit relatively quickly. Recommendations for macros are designed specifically for that individual in consideration of a number of factors like age, height, weight, gender, goal weight, activity level, and lifestyle.
Best & Quickest Results – Now, don’t take this to mean that you’re going to get the results you desire in two weeks, but because we’re controlling more variables in the equation results will come faster. Together we optimize EVERYTHING to achieve the best results and help you reach your goals in the quickest amount of time possible.
Education – This strategy is great for teaching you about nutrition. It equips with you with the tools to better understand the makeup of certain foods and how to combine various foods and ingredients to fit your body and desires.
Body Awareness – Every single one of my clients has claimed to have built better body awareness from tracking their macros even if for a short period of time. Personally, I’ve learned SO MUCH about what foods and in what amounts make my body run and look its best. Clients also learn so much about how to optimally fuel themselves, speed up recovery, and maintain satisfaction in their diet.
Tracking – This strategy does require you to track MORE, and that can be tough if you’re very against tracking. As a coach, I don’t find this to be the best strategy for beginners because I find the learning curve can initially be overwhelming.
Less Flexible – Tracking more variables means less flexibility. It does take more planning and creativity when it comes to social events or off-plan meals; however, most clients are willing to sacrifice flexibility for faster results for a period of time.
Not Necessarily Lifelong – Every time a client begins tracking macros I talk with them about how I don’t want this to be a lifelong thing. My goal is for clients to reach their goals, but to learn in the process about how to appropriately fuel their body and look the way they want to look. Once we’ve reached their goals, the focus becomes maintenance and likely stepping down to one of the other strategies.
Here’s the thing about fat loss, NOBODY can wing it….
If your goal is to lose weight, drop the body fat, and get lean then it WILL require some planning and preparation.
But the biggest thing it requires is CONSISTENT ADHERENCE.
My clients see big time results regardless the strategy they choose because they realize CONSISTENCY IS KEY.
You may be trying diet after diet in search of results.
You may be waiting for that right time.
You may be hoping your schedule clears up, so you can dedicate more time to being consistent.
Wherever you are, there is no better time than RIGHT NOW to start dialing in your nutritional habits, feeling better, getting healthy, and seeing results.
Find the strategy that works best for YOU, but stick to it because you need the structure for consistent adherence.
About The Author
Jordan Davies is the Co-Owner of Complete Performance. Jordan has her B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology, and her M.A. in Holistic Health Studies. She is a CSCS certified strength and conditioning coach, and a PN-1 and NCI-1 certified nutrition coach. She loves to study how the human body needs to be moved and nourished and making that fit to your unique lifestyle. Click Here Now to Apply for Coaching with Jordan.