“The diet starts on Monday.”
“It’s time to start dieting for my summer bod.” (Or vacation, wedding, reunion, or any other major life event)
“I can’t wait to start my new diet.”
Too many people spend their lives starting and stopping diets.
Or so they think…
Our culture has grown to view ‘diet’ as a temporary phase or style of restrictive eating and we’ve forgotten its original, and true, definition.
Merriam-Webster’s primary definition of the word diet is as follows:
“Food and drink regularly provided or consumed.”
It isn’t until the FOURTH definition of the word diet does it mention weight loss.
So, when you start a diet, you’re actually just moving from one diet to another.
Here’s my challenge to you and the entire health and fitness world – why don’t we find a diet that we can stick to long-term?
How can we stop hopping from diet to diet and find something that can be adjusted for whatever season of life we’re in?
It’s through a dieting structure that’s fit to our lifestyle.
It’s called The Lifestyle Diet.
The Lifestyle Diet is designed to fit the following:
Schedule – The amount of time you can commit to tracking and meal planning as well as when and how often you can eat in a day.
Daily Activity – How much you move for your day-to-day activities and your workout schedule and style.
Desires – There are some things you just can’t live without, so instead of restricting and eliminating them The Lifestyle Diet INCLUDES them in a healthy and manageable way.
Goals – Of course it must be designed to help you lose weight, change your body composition, or achieve whatever results you desire.
85 to 90% Whole, Minimally Processed Foods
In the world of super-sized meals and buying in bulk, it is VERY easy to overeat these days.
What’s worse is that it’s even easier to overeat low quality foods.
That’s why I recommend all of my clients start their journey with a focus on their food choices.
Our first step is to eliminate the majority of the high- and ultra-processed foods (more on these later) and replace them with whole, minimally processed food sources.
It’s amazing to see the results clients get with this simple switch, but when you break it down, it’s not actually that surprising.
Whole, minimally processed foods have a higher nutrient quality, and these nutrients enter the body in a more usable and readily absorptive form. Simply put, the body doesn’t have to work as hard to digest, absorb, and redirect these nutrients for use. When this takes place, your digestive system (and body overall) are less stressed, and better able to support other processes, like weight loss.
But what makes something whole and minimally processed?
Well, as a general rule of thumb, here’s what I recommend:
If it swam in the ocean,
Walked the Earth, or
Flex the skies
You’re free to eat it.
If you want more information on the benefits of whole, minimally processed foods, check out this video from the Nutrition Know How Series.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the specifics around the make-up of these whole, minimally processed foods.
Protein is the most satiating nutrient, and quite honestly, the average American does not consume ENOUGH protein, and research has found those most successful in losing weight and building lean body mass followed a HIGH protein diet.
Now, don’t think I mean you’ll be nibbling on chicken and pounding protein shakes all day…
As part of The Lifestyle Diet, I typically work with clients to gradually increase their protein intake to a 0.8 to 1.0 gram per pound of bodyweight. I recommend evenly spreading that protein intake across your meals throughout the day. If you’re following a macro prescription, divide your protein intake by the number of meals you plan to eat in a day, or just make it a goal to consume between 20 and 35 grams of protein at every meal.
Getting a little more specific, I recommend lean sources of protein to prevent you from racking calories from other macronutrients.
Here are some recommendations for lean sources of protein.
Check out more information on protein in ,The Protein Guide I’ve put together!
Fats are essential in the human diet. They are the primary contributor to hormonal production while also ensuring the body has sufficient vitamins, minerals, and fatty-acids to prevent deficiencies.
Yet no matter how essential it is, it’s one of the toughest macronutrients to program for clients.
Fats are the most calorically dense macronutrient, which means that the more fats recommended in a macronutrient prescription, the less overall food you’ll be consuming.
When it comes to satiation, fats are far less satiating when compared to proteins or fibrous carbs; therefore, in The Lifestyle Diet, I don’t typically recommend 30 to 40% of calories be set aside for fats. Anything above this, and clients tend to rack up the calories.
The amount of fat consumption is important, but like any food, source is always trump. In The Lifestyle Diet I encourage clients to prioritize consumption of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and limit the consumption of saturated and trans fats.
Here’s a look into some Do’s and Don’ts around fat consumption.
Now, fats are not something to be feared or avoided just because of their high caloric content, but if you’re uncertain check out these two blogs I’ve put together to find out more information on the make-up of fats and the right percentage of intake for you:
Nutrient- & Fiber-Dense Carbs
As a coach, I’m rarely concerned about a client eating enough carbs because these days carbs are hiding in nearly everything, and not necessarily the good ones…
When I write a macro prescription, carbs are last and given whatever is left for your total calories. It’s not because they lack value and importance, but because proteins and fats are simply more essential for survival.
You can get all you need to know about carbs in this blog (Do I REALLY Need Carbs?) I previously wrote, but know that carbs improve your training performance, energy levels, and recovery.
When it comes to the specific source, I recommend nutrient- and fiber-dense sources. Not only does this eliminate a large number of unhealthy sugars and additives, but promotes digestive health and adequate stores of vitamins and minerals.
Nobody gets lean or loses significant weight by accident…
With the way our food is produced these days, nobody accidentally eats 85-90% whole, minimally processed foods either…
If your goal is to lose weight and tone your body, then there needs to be some type of preparation.
Preparation looks different for every single one of my clients, but here are some of the top strategies my clients use to fit The Lifestyle Diet:
- Plan Now, Prepare Later – These clients map out their entire week of meals, but cook or prepare meals as needed throughout the day. This works great for those who work from home or have the ability to go home for meals.
- The Leftover Plan – These are the clients who add a serving or two to a meal being prepared so leftovers can be used for future meals. This works well for a busy family meal prep or those who work out of the home and need to eat at work the following day.
- The Semi-Weekly Plan – This plan means you prepare meals every 3 to 4 days. These clients are the ones who enjoy variety throughout the week, don’t mind dedicating two separate times for meal prep, or who have a job with a stretch of on and off days (doctors, nurses, line workers, etc.)
- The Bulk Meal Plan – Through this strategy you prepare meals for the entire week. This works very well for the clients who work out of the home Monday through Friday, live an on-the-go lifestyle, or who want to only dedicate one day or time for meal preparation.
Hydrate (With Water)
Despite having fresh water available to us pretty much at all times, as a society, we’re dehydrated.
We love our coffees (especially with the cream and sugar additions), fruit juices, pops, and alcoholic beverages. These drinks are LOADED with sugars and unwanted calories that add up quickly to slow your progress with weight loss.
Not to mention, these products have some MAJOR dehydrating properties.
Drinks containing caffeine or alcohol act as diuretics within the body. When caffeine or alcohol is consumed it prevents the absorption of other liquids as it pulls them along through the digestive tract. Your increased sensation to go to the bathroom makes most feel they should not consume anymore liquids, like water, when instead this is EXACTLY what should be consumed.
Then there are the sweet sugary drinks…
These hurt your body’s ability to absorb water, thus leading to dehydration. Fruit juices and sports drinks are often praised for their electrolyte and mineral content while the sugar content is ignored.
It’s not that you CAN’T have them as part of The Lifestyle Diet, but the consumption of them cannot take away from your water consumption.
Here’s my general rule of thumb for clients:
1 Cup of ‘OTHER’ Drink = 1 Cup of Water
Not only will you be promoting proper hydration of your body, but you’ll be saving yourself A LOT of calories by limiting consumption of these.
Use 10 to 15% of Your Intake for Flex Meals
So, if 85 to 90% of your intake is to be filled with whole, minimally processed foods, what do you makes up the other 10 to 15%?
This is where you get to experiment with some freedom because no matter how disciplined of a person you are, you still want and need to enjoy your life!
The remaining 10 to 15% of your intake is designated for flex meals or foods that full under the #IIFYM category (for those that are not up to date on their Instagram lingo, that means If It Fits Your Macros).
In simplest terms, that means that 10 to 15% of your calories can be filled with WHATEVER you want without your results and health taking a hit.
Pizza, ice cream, s’mores, chips and cheese, beer, wine – honestly whatever you desire or can’t live without.
“How does that not totally blow my results?”
It all comes down to moderation and energy balance.
Specifically, weight loss (and eventually maintenance) is all about energy balance, better known as the appropriate balance of the calories in vs. calories out relationship.
Notice I did NOT say weight loss is all about eating clean, whole foods and giving up everything we love – because it’s NOT!
Yet, unfortunately so many of us live under this belief that in order to lose weight we must ONLY ever eat whole, minimally processed foods. This is where a restrictive mindset is developed and eventually leads to stress eating, binges, and weight regain.
If you make those food and beverage choices fit to your calorie and macro goals, your results will not be affected.
Neither will your long-term health or the maintenance of your results.
I spent YEARS believing that results came via restriction, so one of my favorite things to do as a coach is to help my clients learn early on that they CAN and SHOULD enjoy the foods they love without sabotaging their results.
Make the Best Possible Choice
One of the biggest keys to success in The Lifestyle Diet is to let go of the All-Or-Nothing Belief.
You will eat protein that’s not the leanest and carb sources that aren’t nutrient or fiber dense.
You will go out to eat, have drinks with friends, and encounter food as part of social gatherings.
You will screw up your 85:15 whole foods to whatever you want ratio.
It’s called life, and nobody lives it perfectly.
But if you want to get as close to the perfect life and physique as possible, then you’ll do this one thing:
MAKE THE BEST POSSIBLE CHOICE.
If you commit to making the best possible choice for your body, you’re going to do alright in The Lifestyle Diet.
When you go out to eat understand and acknowledge where you’re at for the day and week. Because as badly as you want to Juicy Lucy with French Fries, tonight the best possible choice might be the Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken.
BUT, I don’t want to discredit the other side.
Maybe you’ve been perfect throughout your busy week and you FINALLY get a break to spend some much-needed time with family. The best possible choice for your body might be family pizza night.
When I say make the best possible choice for your body, I mean your entire body.
Mental & Emotional.
Because the key to making The Lifestyle Diet successful is by making it fit to ALL of your lifestyle.
Be Honest & Realistic
Now there’s one last thing you need to do to successfully implement The Lifestyle Diet.
It’s be honest and realistic.
As humans we are this incredibly confusing body of work.
One day we’re beating ourselves for having that light night bowl of low-calorie, low-fat, bland vanilla ice cream.
The next we’re rationalizing with ourselves. We’re complimenting ourselves for all of our hard work on this diet and claiming that the hard work plus the stressful day you just had means you totally deserve the entire Ben & Jerry’s tub of ice cream.
WHAT. THE. HECK.
The key is to be honest and realistic.
Honestly and objectively assess your efforts.
If the scale isn’t moving in the right direction, take an honest and critical look at what you’re eating.
Are you accurately measuring and portioning food?
Are you adding things to recipes, dishes, or snacks that could be causing you to rack up some additional calories?
Have you been training as hard as you think you are in the gym?
Are you really THAT stressed, or could you find another outlet besides food?
If you can’t honestly and objectively do it yourself, then ,hire me as a coach. I’m not going to sit there and criticize your efforts but help you to recognize where you’re hiding some added calories and disturbing your energy balance.
Then there’s the other side of the coin – the unrealistic expectation that you’ll never go off plan which leads to the internal beat down.
Be realistic with yourself and know that those foods you love and desire will probably always be a part of your diet and life.
This is exactly why you get 10 to 15% of your caloric intake to eat WHATEVER YOU WANT.
If this is a major struggle for you then I again recommend you ,hire me as a coach. I’ve spent years in your shoes, and I don’t want that for you. I want to help you establish a positive food and body relationship so you can love the body you’re in and the foods you eat.
Stock Your Cupboards with Boxes & Cans
As part of the ‘Do’s’ you learned that 85 to 90% of your foods should be whole and minimally processed as part of The Lifestyle Diet.
Do you know what’s NOT whole and minimally processed?
Canned and boxed foods.
Now, it’s not to say that EVERYTHING that comes in a box or can is BAD. What I am saying is that the overwhelming majority of these products are heavily processed with a number of additives.
Canned and boxed foods almost always fall under the high- and ultra-processed foods category.
Not only do these canned and boxed items not fit into the 85 to 90% you’re asked to adhere to in The Lifestyle Diet, but here are a few other reasons to consider reducing your intake of these foods:
- These foods are very calorie dense.
- There is a greater room for error on the food labels, so we’re never certain on what or how much is in them.
- These foods have been dramatically altered from their natural state.
- These foods have been stripped of the majority of their nutrients or have unnaturally added them back in.
- These foods have numerous additives for preservation that are linked to poor digestion and gut health.
So you get it, these aren’t the best for you, but why can’t you have them in the house?
When you’re working to form new habits, you need to make it as hard as possible to revert to old habits. The removal of these foods from your house is removing the convenience factor.
I coach my clients to put as many obstacles between them and their old go-to foods.
It’s like creating a catch system.
Is it easier to say no to chips and salsa when they’re out on the counter or put away in the cupboard?
Is it easier to say no to pizza in the kitchen freezer or the freezer way out in the garage?
Is it easier to say no to ice cream when it’s in the garage freezer or at the store that’s a 10ish minute drive away?
You see, the more obstacles you put in between you and your desired food, the better!
You are WAY less likely to stop what you’re doing, grab your keys and wallet, head to the store, buy the food, and come back home to eat it!
There are just too many obstacles in the way that slow you down and remind you of your goal and snap you back to reality.
My philosophy is that if you made it through all of those obstacles, then you probably really wanted that food in the first place, and it can fall into your 10 to 15% of whatever you want.
Load Up on Liquid Calories
Do you know how easy it is to load up on liquid calories these days?
Did you know there’s 240 calories in a Starbucks Vanilla Latte?
Or that the average glass of wine contains 200 calories?
That’s 440 calories!
That’s the equivalent to an ENTIRE meal!
Or how about this image…
If you drink a latte and glass of wine every day for 7 days, you’re taking in enough calories to gain 1 pound!
“Oh, but I don’t do that every day!”
You might NOT do that every day, but what does the weekend look like?
How about when you go out to eat or to the bar with family or friends?
Or what does Friday night look like at the end of a really stressful week?
My guess is more than just 1 glass of wine….
And just remember that these statistics don’t even include cocktails or loaded coffees.
The point is that it is SO EASY to load up on liquid calories without even realizing it.
You know the cliché – “Everything in moderation.”
- Here are some simple rules to limit your liquid calorie consumption:
Try black coffee.
- Sub Regular Milk for Almond Milk.
- Drink more water.
- Cut out the sugar additives.
- Opt for the smaller size.
- Drink more water, maybe add fruit for flavoring.
- Remove energy drinks or use lower calorie options.
- Set a drink window or limit for the week (Ex. No alcohol Monday through Thursday or 4 Total Drinks for the Week)
- Drink more water.
- Switch to wine or liquor (You can drink A LOT more beer).
- Swap pops for diet sodas or waters.
- Oh, and drink more water.
Rely on Supplements
Here is one of the most common things I see in a clients’ food log:
Or my personal favorite:
My response to these is the same – any guesses as to what it is?
EAT REAL FOOD.
Remember, your goal is to follow a diet of 85 to 90% whole, minimally processed foods.
Do you know what’s incredibly processed?
I mean come on, have you EVER found a protein powder plant?
A tree that grows protein bars or cookies?
If you have, you better show me where those things are growing!
Jokes aside, supplements are meant to do exactly as their name implies – SUPPLEMENT the diet.
They are not meant to make up for the fact that you’d rather shake your protein than cook it.
They are not meant to fill in the gaping nutrient holes because you don’t want to actually eat your veggies.
They are meant to fill in holes, serve as a last resort, or improve the diet.
Supplements are not meant to make up the majority or be relied on in your diet.
Think MORE (which is actually less) Is Better
If you want to lose weight then you must manipulate the Calories In vs. Calories Out relationship in a way that favors those results.
The best ways to do that is by eating less, working out more, or a combination of both.
These things create a calorie deficit.
But here’s where people go wrong…
People see great results in a mild deficit, so they begin to think about what more they could achieve if the deficit was BIGGER.
More is NOT better.
Adding time and intensity to every workout does not mean you’ll see better results.
Dropping further into a calorie deficit does not mean the weight will just fly off.
Because again, more is NOT better.
A few reasons:
- You’re starving your body of vitamins and minerals essential to functioning.
- You’re depriving and depleting your body of its fuel sources
- You’re increasing your risk for injury.
- You’re causing a dramatic fluctuation in body hormones and damaging your hormonal profile.
- You’re preventing your body and metabolism from adjusting to a lower intake.
- You’re reinforcing the IMPROPER belief that losing and maintaining weight comes at an unhealthy cost.
If you’re working with a quality coach, trust him or her as well as the process so you don’t just see results, but live healthy enough to enjoy them.
Forget This Is A Process
The last and probably most important thing you should NOT DO as part of The Lifestyle Diet is forget that this is a process.
You are going to have days where you’re darn near perfect on your intake, but that day might be followed by a completely imperfect day.
There will be weeks where the weight seems to just fly off your body no matter what you eat or drink, and others where no matter how well you adhere to your diet, you can’t lose an ounce.
There will always be good and bad days.
Some days will be influenced by things completely out of your control, and others will 100% be a result of your doing.
Not a single part of this process is linear!
And that is perfectly okay because you are more than a process or plan, you’re a human living in this crazy life.
Celebrate the birthdays and holidays.
Go out for drinks with friends to catch up.
Savor every bite on Family Pizza Night.
Treat the little ones in your life to ice cream.
The point is that no matter what type of day it is, that it’s another step in the right direction.
Find the lesson in every day and always be looking for ways to improve.
After all this is called The Lifestyle Diet and life is not meant to just be lived but enjoyed.
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.