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For looking lean, diet is the only answer. If you’re diet is out of line, I don’t care how hard you train, you’ll only ever get part way there. Diet is also one of the greatest sources of confusion. It doesn’t help that mainstream diet advice promotes processed crap and foments protein-phobia. Even when you do get good advice, breaking old dietary habits and embracing new ‘foods’ (or lack of food) can be a great challenge. But the surprising thing I’ve noticed is that whether you stick to a diet or not often makes a whole lot more difference than what diet you choose. In the end, if you can’t stick to the diet, it doesn’t matter whether the diet would be effective or not. But the great thing about a good diet is not just the results, but that it is formulated to be easier to stick to from the get go. So this article, we’re going to look at some of the dietary mistakes people make that doom them to failure from the start. Now if you have no idea where to start I always recommend checking out Codex of Leanness and then going through our different diet articles. Otherwise, read on for some tips and tricks that can mean the difference between a flat belly, and going up a few sizes.
Here’s the typical situation a lot of people find themselves in:
It’s quite easy to think you can survive on less calories than a baby when you just came off a 4000 kcal meal, which is when most people decide to change their ways. But avoiding starvation is key to avoiding binges and backlash fat gain. First things first, you don’t need to cut a ton of calories to burn fat. Remember when you ate everything in front of you, did little-to-no exercise and at worst maybe slowly gained weight? Now with exercise and a few less binges you should, in the worst case, maintain your current weight. Your body doesn’t like extremes; think what happens when you jump into a cold shower: it’s pretty much intolerable. Now if you start with warm water and slowly make it colder, you’ll barely feel the change.
Lesson: Make small changes on a daily basis–cut some sauce here, a slice of bread there. Focus on making healthier choices in general.
A lot of people say that calories don’t matter as long as you’re eating the right foods. This is kind of misleading, because calories do matter, it’s just that when eating right, most people are incapable of calorie surplus. Many will even “naturally” lost fat simply by increasing protein and veg intake, and decreasing junk food, simple carbs, empty cals, etc. But this article is for difficult losers. So first, clean up your diet, eat about 40% of your calories from protein, take green vegetables at every meal, and don’t eat “crap.” But if that doesn’t make you lose, or if loss stalls, take stock of calorie intake. Just because you are eating clean doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want. Fat loss is difficult for most people. Eating clean is just meant to make it a bit easier and healthier.
Lesson: Eating clean is not a license to overeat
“I need a huge kitchen and expensive ingredients to spend hours making healthy foods palatable!” That’s patently false, it’s true that it helps if you know how to cook but you can live off convenience food and still eat well. I prefer that most of your diet come from whole, unprocessed foods, but in reality some people find it hard to manage. First off, an apple or some carrot sticks fit that definition, and they don’t take any time to prepare. Whole wheat couscous and Kraft Mac & cheese both come in a box. One is clean, and also easier to prepare.
Most people already know that buying in bulk saves a ton. Choose unseasoned meat, like chicken breasts, and add some frozen veggies. You can toss those two into a pot with a few spices, and with minimal accompaniments, create everything from fajitas to fake Chinese or a hearty, country-style stew.
In a real bind, you can also get takeout if you learn how to do it smart. Look for protein-heavy foods with no breading and light dressing, paired with veggies. Be wary of breads, pastas and dressings, even though they have their place, they are very far from being a staple. Avoid breaded items and anything labeled “fried.” For example, you can get the grilled chicken sandwich from burger king, ask for double meat, and easy on the mayo, take the top bun off and you have a reasonable sandwich. Subway offers salads to which you can add as much meat as you want. Use only half a packet of dressing and that’s a decent choice. There is also the new “Kentucky Grilled.” If you’re near a supermarket, pick up a rotisserie chicken and a bag of salad mix. Nab a roll or some salad dressing from the deli, and you’re good to go. In fact, you could feed a small family on that.
The most important part is to skip side orders like fries or onion rings since (as most people already know!) they contain huge amounts of empty calories. The same goes for soda, but if you find it impossible to resist the urge, drink diet. In the worst case, mix 1/4 regular with the rest die, so you get the same taste for a fraction of the calories. Also, be wary of salads. What should be healthful and diet-friendly often comes smothered in hundreds of calories worth of dressing and other red flags like croutons, fried wontons and bacon bits.
Lesson: You can eat fast food but learn to make good choices that fit into your meal plan.
Almost every person who is seriously overweight or obese has a disdain for green veggies, plain, unprocessed meat and other healthy foods. After years and years of habitual binging on sugar and additive-drowned foods, they literally have desensitized their taste buds. Even a lot of individuals that qualify for healthy body weight have trouble eating without a soda, or some sort of heavy dressing. It only takes a couple of days/weeks but your body will adjust and you will start actually tasting, and believe me, food will taste completely different. Being able to taste more can actually help you to achieve satiety sooner and eat less.
Lesson: Train your taste buds not just your guns
A good diet takes into account real life and is one you can maintain for a long time. Losing weight doesn’t mean you need to achieve the discipline of a Tibetan monk or bear the hunger pangs of a mountain plane crash survivor. A good diet should feel challenging but doable. Make small changes but listen to your body. If you feel starved then you probably are. On the flip side, just because something has ‘diet’ written all over it doesn’t give you carte blanche to eat it all day. Find a balance, but most importantly, experiment and find what works for you.