Bulletproof your diet with one simple principle.
Let me paint a picture for you.
You're a fitness junkie.
You subscribe to all the pages on Facebook.
You follow all the stars on Instagram.
You read all the blogs ( hey thanks for coming by! )
You love the shit out of fitness.
And with this love, usually comes a social network of other people who share the same love.
And with this network, comes opinions.
Your mate tells you that sweet potatoes are better than white potatoes. Your gym buddy says the paelo diet is the only diet that gets you lean.
You're more confused than a cow on astroturf.
So, you hire a coach.
Finally someone who can answer all your questions. Someone who can cut through all the noise and tell you the truth.
You pose your first question.
" I keep getting told that i should only eat sweet potatoes and never white potatoes, is this right? Are white potatoes really bad for you? Which ones should i eat?! "
The answer you think i'll give :
" Bro, stick to sweet potatoes, any white carbs spike your insulin and that makes you fat and sick, unless its post workout then you want to spike that insulin, but make sure its within an hour because thats the magic anabolic window and if you don't you'll lose all your gains! "
The answer i'll actually give :
" Which one do you prefer? "
Personal Preference - The key to bulletproofing your diet.
You've probably heard this one before, but i'm going to say it to you anyway.
The best diet is the one you can actually stick to.
Not the one that looks the best of paper, not the one thats trendy right now, the one you can actually do.
Want to know a sure fire way to completely mess up the adherence to your diet?
Basing it around exclusion, rather than inclusion.
What does that mean?
In simple terms, if you follow a diet thats success is based solely on a list of foods you can eat, and a list of foods you can't eat, eventually you'll come unstuck.
Welcome to your life of misery.
As humans we are fundamentally irrational when it comes being told we shouldn't do something, especially when it comes to food. If you know you should not eat something, what becomes the only thing you can think about?
This is a cycle i see all too often :
Food restriction - Food craving - Food Binging ( also masked by some as cheat days )
Or, framed another way :
Aiming for perfection - Pressure for perfection too much - Imperfection to the extreme.
If this strikes a chord with you, then i'll be honest...
You'll probably spend forever chasing your tale and yo-yo dieting.
So what should you do?
Look to base your diet around inclusion and personal preference as prime factors in decision making. What foods can't you live without? What foods or drinks would you crave if you cut them out? What strategy would work best for your lifestyle?
The curry diet. ( Also known as the zero fucks given diet
This is by far one of the best examples i've ever seen of inclusive dieting (1)
Mike, an obese father managed to loose a whopping 10 stone by eating curry for breakfast.
Yes, curry for breakfast.
Here's Mike, calmly giving zero fucks.
Mike said: "I wanted to go about dieting a different way to how you would expect.
"The problem for me is that if someone tells me I can't eat something I just want to eat it even more.
"So I decided I wanted to do a diet that would mean I could eat whatever I wanted.
"The point of eating at six in the morning is that it takes away the cravings for the rest of the day"
Mike has essentially decided that dieting without curry would suck, he couldn't do it, so he has given ZERO fucks and decided to include one every single day while still eating well the rest of the day, achieving a calorie deficit.
Now, of course this is an extreme example, and I won't be recommending this method to my clients, but the basic principle still stands - include the foods you enjoy and moderate them for long term sustainability.
When designing a diet, i use the framework championed by the great Alan Aragon - an 80 / 10 / 10 calorie split.
Your diet should consist of :
80 % Whole, minimally processed, nutrient dense foods enjoyable to taste.
10 % Whole, minimally processed, nutrient dense foods neutral to taste ( vegetables, other slightly boring necessities )
10 % Discretionary calories.
Now, discretionary calories are just that, calories completely up to your discretion.
Want a small bowl of ice cream every night? Check.
Couple of drinks on the weekend? Check.
Meet your micronutrient needs ( vitamins, minerals, fibre ) with the 90% of your diet, and the 10 % can be whatever the hell makes you happy.
Now, admittedly our man Mike above is probably going slightly over our 10% for discretionary calories, but the framework can and should always be adapted to the individual.
Those with a high level of motivation, self control, good eating habits and good body composition will be able to adhere to a tighter structure. Those with low motivation, low self control, bad eating habits and poor body composition will likely need a different split.
Once again however, the principle still stands - your personal preference is extremely important for winning the diet battle, so do not ignore it.
You talk a lot, but do you have any evidence?
At this point, I could sprinkle this article fragrantly with personal anecdotes of how allowing Apex clients to base their diets around personal preference is what " works for me " as a coach.
And, well, that would be true - it does.
But let's put anecdotes and personal experience aside for a minute and get an objective overview on the subject.
A quick look at the research :
In 1999, 223 adult male and female participants took part in a study (2) to test the hypothesis that different types of dieting strategies are associated with different behavioral outcomes by investigating the relationship of dieting behaviors with overeating, body mass and mood.
The subjects were issued questionaries that would measure the level or restraint present in their diet, and its effect on overeating, depression and anxiety.
The strongest correlation was the relationship between flexible dieting and the absence of overeating, lower body mass and lower levels of depression and anxiety.
In other words, those who used a flexible approach to dieting reported less instances of overeating.
In 2002, 188 Women were studied (3) to test the hypothesis that women who utilize rigid versus flexible dieting strategies to prevent weight gain report more eating disorder symptoms and higher body mass index (BMI) in comparison to women who utilize flexible dieting strategies.
Once again, questionaries were completed, measurements taken and mood and behaviours were assessed.
The study found that individuals who engage in rigid dieting strategies reported symptoms of an eating disorder, mood disturbances, and excessive concern with body size/shape. In contrast, flexible dieting strategies were not highly associated with BMI, eating disorder symptoms, mood disturbances, or concerns with body size. Since this was a cross sectional study, causality of eating disorder symptoms could not be addressed. These findings replicate and extend the findings of earlier studies. These findings suggest that rigid dieting strategies, but not flexible dieting strategies, are associated with eating disorder symptoms and higher BMI in nonobese women.
Of course this is all correlational data, but strong and intriguing data all the same.
Finally, in 2011 (4) 122 Women were studied and split into 2 groups to test the effectiveness of a low calorie diet that either did or didn't include bread.
2 groups, exactly the same amount of calories, same exercise routine, 16 weeks, one with bread included, one without.
Findings are very interesting.
104 women completed the study (48.4 ± 9 years, 29.8 ± 3.5 kg/m2). Anthropometric and biochemical markers improved after the intervention without significant differences between groups. BREAD group significantly increased total cereal consumption (3.2 ± 1.3 to 3.7 ± 0.5 servings/day, P < 0.05) and the percentage of energy from carbohydrates (41.2 ± 6.4 vs. 45.9 ± 5.0% P < 0.001) and reduced fat (39.0 ± 6.6 vs. 32.7 ± 5.1% P < 0.001). In contrast, NO BREAD group increased the discrepancy with recommended consumption. NO BREAD group had the most dropouts (21.3% vs. 6.6%,P < 0.05).
So, in other words, both groups had about the same results in terms of weight loss, as expected really with the same calories and exercise in both groups.
The no bread group, however, saw a much larger drop out rate than the bread group.
Of 122 Women that started, 104 finished the full 16 weeks, 4 dropped out of the bread group, compared to 14 from the no bread group.
Considering the inclusion of bread in the diet was the only changing variable between groups, its a safe bet to say the group of women who could not have bread found it way harder to adhere to the diet, compared to those who could include it.
Let's wrap this up.
Think back to your childhood, and imagine all the times your parents told you that you could not do something.
What did you immediately want to do?
That boyfriend / girlfriend you were forbidden from seeing? You saw them anyway right?
And you'll eventually do the same when the diet guru tells you that you are forbidden from eating the foods on their nonsensical list.
There are no foods you should never eat. No foods that will harm your health when consumed in moderation.
So, if you're currently on a diet and finding it difficult to stick to, ask yourself the following questions :
Does this fit my lifestyle?
Does this fit my personal preference?
Do i have a good relationship with food?
Can i go out with my friends without having to constantly worry about food choices?
And, can I actually see myself eating this way in the long term?
If you answered no to all of the above, start considering that it may be time for change.
1 - http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/diets/544002/Curry-diet-weight-loss
2 - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10336790
3 - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11883916
4 - http://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(11)00233-0/fulltext