Diet dilemmas got you down? Feeling like you can't stick to a plan, or curb the cycle of over- and undereating? Step away from the skinny tea and stop the "Super-Fast Hardcore Abs in Six Days" program. There is hope for a better nutrition plan, friend.
You're not the only one struggling to maintain consistency while never seeing the results you want in the mirror. The good news is, you can learn from, and reverse many of, the poor approaches and find clarity in the confusion of diet trends.
With over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry, I have seen it all when it comes to nonsensical dieting methods. I've narrowed down the most common problems people have and explain how you can keep them from misleading you in your own nutrition choices.
Some of these might be pretty obvious, yet they are mistakes that are committed time and time again. Dieting isn't super fun to begin with, so don't make it harder on yourself!
Mistake 1: You Choose Diet Plans That Are Unsustainable
We live in an age of instant gratification. People often choose diets that promise immediate progress, but which end up being too restrictive regarding what and how much they can eat. For example, some of these diets will cut out entire food groups or chop daily calories to the bone. This is simply unsustainable over time. Most of the lost weight is gained back within six months; in some cases, additional weight is gained on top of that.
Long-term effectiveness should be the first thing to consider when starting a diet program. Ask yourself whether you can sustain this way of eating over time, and maybe even forever.
Mistake 2: You Engage in Program Hopping
Program hopping is when people jump from one program to another without giving any one program a real chance to succeed. They do this hoping to find faster results or an easier way of achieving the same results. They constantly question programs they start and lose confidence the second it gets hard or results fail to meet their expectations. Another reason they hop: a search for motivation. But the newness and excitement of a program is short-lived and will fade in time, resulting in a vicious cycle.
Success requires more than motivation. Don't get me wrong, motivation is a great in kick in the ass. Just watch this video with Evan Centopani and tell me you don't want to head to the gym right now and crush the weights. But motivation is unreliable. It comes and goes. Discipline, not motivation, is the real difference maker. Motivation sets your efforts in motion; discipline sustains them. It's very important to give a program 100 percent, and that means going the distance. That's the only way to know if it truly works for you or not. If it doesn't, change things up. Many nutrition programs and philosophies will work if followed to their logical end.
Mistake 3: You Are Consistently Inconsistent
This hearkens back to discipline. As many of us know, consistency is the most important factor in any type of success within a nutrition program, regardless of the goal. Following a program, say, 50-85 percent of the time won't cut it. While many dieters believe they are giving it an honest effort compared to their old habitual diet, they are nowhere near 100 percent compliant with their new diet. It's important to follow a program at least 90 percent of the time to get results, and that's provided that 10 percent does not consist of overindulging on cheat meals/days.
Mistake 4: Your Dietary Habits Resemble a Yo-Yo
Yo-yo dieting can be defined in a few ways, but in general it is going from one extreme to the other with calorie intake—in most cases, calorie restriction followed by overeating. This can be days to weeks on a restrictive plan followed by days to weeks of overeating, although in some cases, these swings occur daily. For example, a yo-yo dieter might increase calorie expenditure or cut calories further today to make up for overeating and falling off their nutrition plan yesterday. This usually creates a vicious cycle that is hard to break. It also fosters a poor relationship with food over time.
If you fall off a program, get right back on it. No guilt or negative feelings. The past is the past. The only focus should be what you are going to do next.
Mistake 5: You Set Unrealistic Expectations for Yourself
It's good to set high standards and goals, but only if they can be reached with a reasonable amout of effort and dedication. Making unrealistic expectations for the rate of weight loss or muscle gain will lead only to frustration, disappointment, and ultimately, failure. People end up quitting because they feel the work that they put in is not worth what they are receiving in return. The hard truth with weight loss and lean-mass gain is that it takes place over a significant amount of time, and that can be a hard truth to accept.
That begs the question: What is realistic? A realistic (and healthy) rate of fat loss is 0.5-1.5 pounds per seven days for females and 1-2 pounds for males. Having said that, your fat loss won't always be consistent; it will fluctuate. Some weeks may yield no weight loss despite 100 percent adherence to the plan. That's fine, as long as the broader trend is still headed in the right direction.
For lean-mass gain, the average is around 3-5 pounds of solid lean mass per year. Note the word lean—this doesn't include water or fat. First-year lifters might see faster gains, but over time your rate of gains will naturally slow as your body approaches its genetic threshold. Gaining muscle will become more difficult, but on the plus side, you already will have made major progress. At that point, you're putting the finishing touches on a great physique.
Want to check out more of my nutrition advice on Bodybuilding.com? Check out my articles "The 250-Gram Protein Plan That Costs Next to Nothing!" and "How the Pros Travel During Prep."