Diets Suck, Here's How to Never Do One Again
Diets Suck— Be Boring Instead
Everyday we are affronted with almost (and oftentimes truly) overwhelming numbers of “Diets” that REALLY work while all others are snake oil.
Let’s be real, they’re all snake oil.
In this article we’re going to go over how we craft an actual healthy diet.
Let’s get started with the one sentence that throws every single “diet” in the trash.
“Temporary change produces temporary results”
We’re going to break it down even more, though.
What Even is a Diet?
The actual definition of “diet” is:
The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.
That’s it. It’s just what you eat regularly. A social movement altered the perception of the word “diet” to be understood as something restrictive and miserable you do to lose weight. You see the problem? The very perception of a “diet” sets most people up for failure. The idea of “going on a diet” is a completely constructed, and even unhealthy, notion.
We hear it all the time,
“Yeah I did Keto a couple years back, I lost like twenty pounds!” But here they are right back where they started.
“I didn’t eat a carb for six months, I was exhausted but my arms felt so toned! Although, I just got so tired, I had to quit and gained about 15lbs.”
See the common trend? It all comes back to the same sentence: Temporary change produces temporary results.
So What Are We Gonna Do About It?
We’re going to be smart, that’s what.
The big advertisements and fake testimonials in the health and diet industry are designed to play on our insecurities and validate our desire for instant gratification. We want it now. We want 20lbs off and we want it now.
But! We aren’t going to fall for the messages designed to take advantage of our weaknesses, because we know better. Any diet that actually gets your weight down 20lbs in some ridiculous time frame, will only lead to you bouncing back and gaining back 35lbs. (Not to mention the metabolic damage huge diet swings do to your system)
Instead of jumping from fad to fad, we’re going to fall in love with the process of being healthier. That doesn’t mean never eating sugar, fast food, or soda. In fact, it means the opposite! We’ll craft our day to day eating habits to accommodate the occasional (or even semi-regular) nutrition discretions.
Okay...Sounds Pretty Good, But How Do We Do That?
First things first: Keep it Simple.
If you’re envisioning meal prepping every night after a long work day for the following day’s meals, you’re probably biting off a little too much to chew.
Our goal in building a healthy lifestyle is to be boring. Yep, boring. We want to be so boring, that even our coworkers know what we ate for breakfast.
We want to build our diet around a few healthy, tasty and satisfying meals for the most stressful parts of our day. For most, that is breakfast and lunch.
You never want to get caught having overslept and not know what to do for breakfast, so you just grab something convenient on the way. In that case, then lunch rolls around, and you weren’t able to pack anything for that either, and so you get sucked into another “convenient and quick” meal. In most cases, this means fast food on the go. This isn’t always the worst thing, but it easily becomes a habit.
Our boring is going to be constructed around 4 principles:
These are the heavy hitters of our meals:
Protein: Our top priority
Our bodies use protein to rebuild your muscles and keep you strong.
Protein also keeps us full and satisfied without being a massive bomb of calories.
Carbohydrates: They get a bad rep
Our bodies use carbs for fuel and fiber. In the right portion sizes, they can be integral to your diet.
They also help your muscles and liver refill glycogen stores (energy tanks) after they’ve been depleted, typically from a workout.
Fats: They also get a bad rep
Fats give your body energy and promote muscle growth.
They also help you absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones.
Our goal in creating the “boring” aspects of our diet, is to get these balanced for our goals. Let’s take breakfast for example. These below are examples of a macro-balanced breakfast:
Oatmeal with a few scoops of PB2
Baked breakfast egg muffins: (egg, turkey sausage, etc..)
Greek yogurt and granola
All of these meals above lead us into our next step of a “boring” diet…
All of the meals above have a risk of going disastrously wrong, from a diet perspective. All meals run that same risk.
That’s because we’re all kind of bad at estimating appropriate portion sizes.
To fully drive home the point, let’s look at avocado toast. A serving size of fat is about the size of your thumb. Yet, when you get a piece of avocado toast, it comes out looking like this:
There ends up being about an avocado and a half on massive slices of bread. Avocado toast (especially with egg) can be a wonderfully healthy meal...but not when you’re downing an entire avocado in the process.
The same principle goes for any meal: Oatmeal can be a great source of carbs, protein and fat, or it can round up to be 750-1000 calories. Grilled salmon smothered in 1000 calorie sauce is still over 1000 calories, even though it’s grilled salmon.
A few easy reminders for portion sizes:
Protein: about the size and thickness of your palm, or about 4oz uncooked (3oz cooked).
Carbohydrates: about one cupped hand uncooked, or about a half cup (two cupped hands cooked, about a cup).
Fat: about the size of your thumb, or 1 tablespoon (1oz).
Take a look down at your hands for a second, and see just how big (or small) those portions really are. Many people struggle with they’re goals, saying “I cook all my food, I work so hard and I only get quality foods, I just don’t understand why I’m not losing weight!”
In 8 out of 10 cases it all comes down to portion sizes.
In an ideal world, we could eat all farm raised chicken, cooked fresh everyday with homemade this and that for all three meals and we’d all be perfectly happy and healthy and Santa Claus would come by for dinner.
Sounds great right? But also kinda like a pipe dream, yeah? That’s because it is one.
You’ll see people with all the money in the world, with private chefs and personal shoppers, and they still can’t make that lifestyle work.
We have kids, jobs, families, commitments, workouts, financial constraints, stress, humanity and any other number of things that keep us busy.
There are many perfectly balanced meals that are just too far to reach for on a weekday. That’s why convenience makes our list. Our diet shouldn’t ever take anything away from our day, and should never add stress.
This is why we adopt the “boring” mentality. At least two of your meals should be something you can buy in bulk, prep the night before or make quickly in the morning, and you know ahead of time how much you need to eat.
We structure the “boring” diet this way to also store up your willpower, the fewer decisions you have to make in a day, the less you have to tap into the extremely finite resource. If you already know what you’re having for breakfast and lunch, that’s two less decisions to make and two less things to take up brain space during the day.
Last, but most certainly not least, taste. Taste is one factor that is notoriously overlooked in most quick burst “diets,” and that’s a big reason as to why they’re not sustainable.
Food is ranked as one of the most pleasurable human experiences. It is naive to expect, when looking to change up what you eat, that you’ll be just fine eating flavorless meals. Lacking satisfaction in what you eat on a regular basis also leads to big cravings of classic “feel good foods,” like desserts, heavy pizza, mac and cheese, etc. These foods are fine in moderation, but you’re much more likely to binge eat them, and do so more often, if you lack satisfaction in your normal habitual nutrition.
Make your “boring” foods something you enjoy! I eat oatmeal with a few scoops of PB2 thrown in almost everyday, because I enjoy it, not just because it’s also healthy. Your foods should feel like the healthy factor is an awesome bonus to a meal you already enjoy.
When you keep at least two of your three main meals a day “boring,” you automatically build in consistency that keeps what you eat flexible. You know how much you’re eating for most of the day, and you know you’re not going to blow X amount of calories before 2:00 P.M. You know you it’s not a big deal if you eat dessert tonight, or go out for dinner one day.
For example: Let’s say your greek yogurt, berries and granola comes in at 350-400 calories, and your (macro-appropriate) tuna salad with crackers some fruit comes in at another 350-500 calories, that is still at MOST 900 calories. You still have dinner to eat, another snack if you get hungry, and still have somewhere around 1100 calories left in the day (depending on your size and goals).
This way, you already have a calorie buffer built into your life. You can also take some of the stress out of food, and just enjoy eating what you like!
Luckily, we don’t need them. We have our own awesome and delicious habits that also give our bodies everything they need.
Please, reach out with any specific questions you have, or about other topics you want to hear about!