Personally, I strongly believe that if you want to make changes in your physique and maintain them over time, you need to work around your habits and culture, rather than going ham all at once on something completely foreign to yourself and inevitably fail in the long run.
What you like and what you enjoy, and finding the sweet spot between that and the progress you wanna make is the only best way to make diets (but also training) work.
This is why I think IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) and Flexible dieting are far superior approaches over every other diet around, and here are a few reasons why:
I mean, even just this one reason could beat your given meal plan diet 10-0.
When people talk about dieting, most of the time it sounds like something they are forced to do or something negative they can’t wait to get off of in order to get back to their older habits and gain all the weight lost, back.
And that itself is actually why your diet won’t work if ever-lasting results is what you’re looking for.
“I mean, why are you even wasting your time on something you won’t be able to sustain for a long time?”
Let's see why this happens:
Regular dieters have no idea how to approach a fat loss phase, and that’s not because they lack some hidden mental ability, but rather because nobody has ever taught them how that actually works.
The amount of misinformation that is spread everyday makes it extremely difficult to know what and where to learn from, because of how bad the media and marketing bombards us with bulls**t all day, everyday.
It’s either “buy this fit drink, or these waist trainers, maybe the AB-Rock solid X machine, and this other bulls**t food”. “Try this ultimate 30 days diet!!!”
Nobody actually takes the time to tell people how easy and “cheap” it is, and I get that. At the end of the day, it’s still a multi-billion dollar business.
Bodyfat... Not really.”
Some people take the chance to actually go to a nutritionist or a dietitian who typically gives them a meal plan to follow, however, this meal plan doesn’t include ALL of the circumstances the regular dieter will encounter during his everyday life.
But I mean, life happens right?
The meal plan doesn’t include your mom/father/friend/girlfriend asking you for breakfast or a meal out, it doesn’t include “this” or “that” food or it actually includes ONLY “this” or “that” food, it doesn’t include the all you can eat sushi your fam has planned for the weekend, it doesn’t include festivities, it doesn’t include your friend’s birthday nor last minute calls to go out and have something with your closest ones. Sometimes it includes “cheat meals” (which typically turn out in binges), and it doesn’t include anything out of that given paper. Basically: it’s either you give up your social life or you’re most likely setting yourself up for failure.
This is exactly what makes people feel like they’re “caged” and that’s why most of the time they quit. Some can keep up with it because they’re the typical “go hard or go home” dude/dudettes, but they still struggle and get drained over time, until they can’t take it no more and quit.
“People simply can’t and won't keep up with a lifestyle that doesn’t fit theirs. Keep this in mind.”
And that’s the most important thing to know if we’re trying to get ourselves through something we want to achieve and be able to maintain for life, especially because you can’t stress about that stuff for ever. It has to be enjoyable in order for it to be sustainable.
Believe me or not, learning how to track calories and macronutrients gives way, and let me say it again, WAAAAY more accurate results compared to the “just eat cleaner if you want to lose weight” statement.
I mean: you get to know how many calories you need to eat everyday to lose body fat, and that’ll give you an asset that will work for ever. If you’re able to lose body fat at X amount of calories (provided that your activity is there), you will always be able to do so. Physics.
On the other hand just “eating healthy” gives you no data: you’ve got no idea of how much you’re eating, if what you’re eating is actually giving you the results you want, if the weight you’re losing is fat, if it’s water, if it’s muscle, why you’re gaining weight if you are, and all that jazz…
…And this naturally takes me to the next point, which is:
Knowledge and awareness:
Yes, I know. All you want to do is lose weight and you want it NOW, not really caring about the science behind it..
But what if I told you that understanding how it works would help you always get there and actually stay there, for good, without relapsing?
People who want to lose weight (fat) and get on a meal plan diet never understand how they lose the weight in the first place, if they actually do. By not being able to control and know WHY and HOW their body is changing, there’s close to no chance of being able to maintain the physique they’re moving towards, and because of that, they usually end up gaining all the weight back while having lost money and patience during the whole process.
They think it’s the “magic” food, or the “diet food”: boring taste and unsustainable lifestyle. They don’t know they’ve lost weight because they’ve been consistently eating in a caloric deficit. Nobody tells them. Again, because nobody takes the chance to educate people.
Tracking your calories and macrontrients gives you a life long lasting asset, because with practice, it teaches you most of the food’s nutritional value and macronutrient composition. You know exactly what that food is made of or you can guesstimate it if you don’t wanna/can’t weigh it, but you’ll still have a rough idea of how many calories and what macronutrients that meal will have, that depending on that, will let you choose what to have later in the day. It teaches you AWARENESS.
It helps you figure out the things you need to eat, and switches your mind into thinking about necessity. You eat because you need to, first, and then you get to spend some “room” of what you’ve got left with what you like the most.
“It makes you become less emotional about it and rather more goal oriented.”
You own it:
Meal plans are usually made up of 5-6 meals: everyday the same things.
You “have to” eat that snack, you can’t skip that meal and you can’t change it with something else.
You like milk? No lactose for you, it thickens your skin. You like grain? No gluten for you, it gives you inflammation.
But I’m not lactose intolerant? I’m not even celiac? Y-yeahhhh…
The worst thing is that those meals literally dictate your day. You have to work yourself around it, and that stresses you up: Cortisol spikes, you gain weight, you hate your diet, you hate life, so you end up going back to square one. If you’re used to have big meals at night you can’t because “they make you fat” or just because you can’t eat carbs at night for some reason.
I don’t know about you but it’s either I get to know people who’re all lactose intolerant and celiac or it’s just the fact that they’ve been taught that milk and grain give them stomacache, “thick skin” or make you instantly fat. I mean come on, no wonder everyone HATES dieting if you can’t eat anything but tasteless stuff.
“We’re the only species who keeps drinking milk even when grown up…”
We’re also the only one species who have invented the internet, airplanes, cars, and the system we live in. We’re also close to travel to Mars, how ’bout that?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you should avoid the good stuff such as veggies, fruits and other vitamin & mineral rich foods, no. That would be stupid and nobody is arguing that. However, don’t eat JUST that. Don’t be black and white thinking. Don’t be an extremist.
Decide and take control of what to eat, when to eat, and in your wished amounts as long as taking everything else into account, while still being able to lose fat or gain muscle and move towards your goals in a very accurate way. You’re not planning your day around your meals, and you can still live your life freely without stressing too much about it: “Win/Win”
It fits your Culture:
What I mean with this is that you can’t pretend to make someone get on a meal plan by giving them foods they’ve NEVER eaten and compromising all of their habits/meals/lifestyle/social life.
Sure, if you want to get a fat person to get leaner you’re gonna teach him/her to eat less and maybe exercise more, or maybe switch to some low caloric high volume foods… but you don’t have to completely change ALL of his dietary approach and make him/her eat things they hate everyday at every meal, for ever. You can’t even expect them to, since it takes quite some time to change & build new habits.
There’s no way you’re gonna help him/her that way, and he/she’s most likely going to quit sooner or later if he’s not enjoying the whole process. You don’t tell people in Kosovo to drink soy-milk or whole wheat low carb high protein oatmeal and tilapia because it’s healthy. Nobody eats that there, and you shouldn’t even try to make them do that. Instead, teaching them what they need to know in order to achieve their fitness goals is definitely a better way to make them continue moving in the right direction.
It doesn’t matter where you are around the world: if you know how to track and tweak your calories and macros in order to get to where you want to, fitness wise, you can eat whatever you want, at whatever time of the day, in whatever place of the world, enjoying every cultural food, while still being able to crush it.
Less psychological stress:
No restrictions: this kind of relates to the reason number one, but let me explain a little more.
It’s shown that humans have just a quantifyable quantity of will power, and if we use it to focus on eating *just* a small variety of foods for a long time, structured in the same way, that’s a recipe for disaster. Being too rigid in diets is shown to be more likely to develop eating disorders  compared to more flexible approaches. You can’t picture yourself using a meal plan given from another person’s habitual diet because 99% of the times you just won’t have their habits when it comes to meal frequency/food quantity/quality/macronutrient composition of the meal, and unless it will feel “natural” to you, it just won’t work. IIFYM and Flexible Dieting accounts for this, which I believe it’s its biggest strength.
Inclusive dieting VS Exclusive dieting
Being able to choose anything you wish while still moving towards your goals completely takes people off the mentality of getting “off track” and increases the ADHERENCE of the dieter to the program.
Not only it makes the dieter continue to be on a diet for a longer time and achieve better results, but it also gives him/her an asset that can be used for ever as a lifestyle.
People believe you can only get lean by consuming a few categories of foods, while in reality it doesn’t work like that.
Q: “Counting calories & Macros isn’t 100% accurate because our body isn’t a bomb-calorimeter, You can’t be accurate with calculating your TDEE with estimations, each amino-acid has a different quantity of calories per gram so it’s a flawed approach.. etc.”
A: Well, 100g of apple will always have X amount of calories that will be processed in the same exact way everytime you’ll eat them. Just like 100g of canned tuna will have X amount of calories.
If you’ve been consistently tracking them as X calories per 100g, and Y calories per 100g respectively, and still getting the results you were looking for, while instead let’s say they had Z calories and W calories for instance, why would that even matter?
Consistency would take into account the % of error. This is why even not being 100% accurate is still being accurate.
CONSISTENCY > PERFECTION
Q: “….I don’t wanna count macros for ever!..Why would I want to weigh and log every single food everyday man..”
A: You don’t actually “have to” track your calories and macros to lose weight, and you obviously don’t have to do it for ever. It’s just a tool you can use to make yourself aware of “how it works”, to make yourself conscious. If you think about it, that mentality is also the reason why our society is more obese now than ever:
People are not conscious of their food intake, so not tracking/weighing it is the very main reason that has made people become fatter and fatter over time.
You don’t have to be accurate with calories & macros but you have to be accurate with calories & macros in case you want accurate results.That’s just the way it is.
But anyway, these are my main 7+1 reasons why you should start thinking about finding a good compromise between the food you like and the physical results you wanna get. Don’t diet on approaches you know don’t fit your lifestyle and don’t be that much of a masochist. I know some people actually like to feel “the pain” otherwise they don’t feel like their diet is working, but it does not work like that.
That’s all for this one, see you next week!