If you’re at all involved in the gym and fitness lifestyle, the chances are you’ve been bashed over the head (repeatedly) with the phrase ‘diet forms 70% of fitness”. Usually delivered by smug, six pack owning instacelebs, this statistic may not be scientifically sound, but it would be ridiculous to suggest that diet isn’t an intrinsic part of achieving your fitness and health goals, especially if you’re trying to get where you want to be before the end of this century.
There are more diets out there in the big wide world of the internet than there are metaphorical hot dinners- and every week there seems to be a new strategy that promises to help you get lean or jacked, quickly. However, I’m not here today to talk about fad diets, or the best strategies to get you more cut than a scalpel factory. A common phrase I hear from clients is “I just don’t get why I’m not seeing progress with my diet”. Well- today we’re going to go over a few reasons you don’t get the results you’re working so hard in the gym for:
1) Are you being totally honest with yourself?
Let’s get one thing straight. It doesn’t matter which diet you are on, every fat loss diet comes down to the same thing: eating in a caloric deficit. If you haven’t heard the term before, it’s a fairly straightforward concept. In order to lose fat, you need to be eating fewer calories than you burn off with exercise. Let’s say your PT figures out your daily calorie requirement is 2000 calories, to maintain your current body weight. This will be based on a variety of factors including how active you are, your height and your age.
In order to actively lose weight, you NEED to be eating fewer calories than your maintenance level. The actual calorie deficit you use depends on how aggressively you want to pursue your fat loss goals (more on this later) but can be anywhere from 5-25% to fall into a ‘safe’ zone.
So how does this relate to your personal integrity? Well- truthfully, most clients don’t realize they are cheating on their diet. A teaspoon of peanut butter here, a cookie there, a glass of cola… when you’re not used to categorically tracking the foods you eat, you sometimes forget that everything that goes down your throat that basically isn’t water will have some form of calorific value.
Though it might seem trivial to track something as small as a square of chocolate, or an extra squirt of ketchup, these things all add up- and at the end of the week you might end up shooting yourself in the foot and putting yourself outside your deficit. “Well Raiph, that’s awesome advice bro, but how am I going to stop myself from forgetting stuff I won’t remember…” I hear you ask.
The solution, luckily, is fairly simple. Get into the habit of tracking EVERYTHING using an app like myfitnesspal, or physically writing it all down in a food diary. This is also applicable to people who follow more complex diets which rely on you tracking things like your macronutrients on a daily basis.
2) You take the term ‘cheat day’ farrrrr to literally.
Ok, nobody is a saint. I get it. You can’t live every single day of your life eating chicken and brown rice with a side of dust and a generous helping of bitter sadness and food envy. In fact cheat meals have been shown to actually increase the efficacy of stricter diets by like, scientists and stuff (so you know it’s true). However, there is a marked difference between having a cheat meal, or day, where you relax a little bit and enjoy a pizza or a burger, and a full on eating competition where you attempt to break the world record for McDonald’s consumption in a 24-hour window.
Coming back to that caloric deficit… remember that it doesn’t matter HOW many calories you deplete from your maintenance during the week if you’re going to make up the numbers in one sitting on a Saturday afternoon down the local KFC.
Solution: Change your cheat day into a cheat meal. Ok, again the key word here is meal… not binge. For me, personally, setting aside an entire day to cheat on your diet is too tempting. Instead, allow yourself a cheat meal maybe 2x a week, this makes it a lot easier to manage what you consume. If you DO find yourself going over your weekly calories, simply try and make it up in the next week’s deficit (so long as it’s within a safe range of calories).
3) Your diet doesn’t fit your lifestyle.
Sometimes I have to sit down with clients and have difficult conversations. It’s one of the most disheartening, frustrating parts of my job. The reason for this is because some clients simply do not have realistic expectations… Let me give you an example of how one of these conversations would go:
Me– “So when we talk about your goals, what would you like to achieve in the next 12 weeks?”
Client– “Well, I’d like to lose 20% bodyfat, get absolutely huge, increase my bench and squat by 50% and basically look like this one model I saw on instagram”