“ I can’t stick to a diet " : cracking the consistency conundrum


I Can’t Stick to a Diet
I Can’t Stick to a Diet

“ I can’t stick to a diet !” 🤬


How many times have you angrily said that?


How many times have you enthusiastically started a new diet only to find yourself wrist deep in a pint of ice cream 5 days in?


Do you just feel like waving the white flag on this whole #weightloss and getting in shape thing?


Well, rest assured...you are NOT ALONE!


In my experience working with hundreds of people over 20+ years, inconsistency, without question, is the biggest reason people fail to realize their #fitness goals. 20%, 50%...even 70%...compliance to a diet fails to deliver any significant results.


No results=no self efficacy and waning motivation to continue


If you can crack the consistency conundrum...you are going to win the battle of the bulge. 👌


However, before you can do that, you have to actually be aware of the REASONS WHY you have been inconsistent in the past, troubleshoot them, and then come up with alternative approaches and strategies to combat and solve them.


So let’s explore the top 6 reasons you (and so many others) have been inconsistent and why you continually scream to the heavens: “ I can’t stick to a diet !"


Reason #1: You May Not Care About This As Much As You Say You Do, You Are Still Too Comfortable With Where You Are, and You Are Not Ready To Do This (yet)


I hate to start this off being “militant hardcore trainer guy", but this is, in fact, the case for many.


The number one reason people can’t stay consistent and stick to a diet is that they frankly just don’t care about and value it as much as they say they do. If they did, their actions would be congruent with their words, and, in many cases…they just are not.


Them: “I just don’t know why I’m not doing this work!”


Me: “Maybe you just don’t want to. Maybe the answer is that easy and as plain as the nose on your face. 🤷‍♂️”


Most who decide to undertake a #fitnessjourney are frankly not ready (yet). They are still too comfortable with where they are and have one foot firmly rooted in comfort and easy and their previous habits and lifestyle. There is still ambivalence towards making dietary and lifestyle changes.


Put another way, they may dislike being #overweight and #outofshape , but they TRULY hate the solution to it and the-often times tedious-work which has to be done.


Until one reaches a point where they hate their problem more than the solution, nothing is going to change.


Sure, one may “like the idea of” being fit, lean, etc., BUT liking the idea of something doesn’t qualify or entitle one to have it. Having the nouns without doing the verbs isn’t possible.


So, many are just still too comfortable. In time-and unfortunately-they won’t be (deteriorating health, more body fat, less energy, less confidence, lower quality of life) and, while still disliking the work and the solution to their problem, they’ll come to see the problem itself is worse and harder than the work necessary to solve it.


So, if you are one who who is woefully inconsistent with the eating right stuff, I’d start here: do you honestly really want to do this and are you really ready?


Reason #2: You have too much variety in your diet, no foundational meals/foods, and you think basic=boring


So let’s say you actually DO want to #getinshape (above) and truly are willing to do what’s required to create change…but you are still having a consistency issue with your #fatlossdiet


This reason is what could be tripping you up.


I’ll address this point by point:


VARIETY


If you struggle with diet consistency, the answer is not to make things more complex and go the whole “variety is the spice of life” route.


What actually needs to happen is you need to remove variety, choice and decision from the process, simplify, and hack things down. You know, the whole “keep it simple stupid” thing. 💁‍♂️


Now, you are probably thinking “Right! I just need a #mealplan !”


No (keep reading). ❌


FOUNDATIONAL FOODS/MEALS


No, you don’t need a meal plan and to eat off a spreadsheet, but what you do need to do is build your diet around 6-8 easily prepared, easily quantified “go to” meals (you can change these here and there) comprised of foods you like to eat which also deliver sound nutrition and macronutrients. ALL successful dieters keep it simple, repeatable, and have a degree in uniformity in what they eat.


Come up with 2-3 breakfast options and 4-6 lunch/dinner options (lunch and dinner are basically interchangeable). Think maybe a dozen total foods (know how easy and fast this makes grocery shopping?).


You can rotate your meals daily if you want, stick with the same meal(s) day in and day out for a while…whatever. Once you get sick of something, choose new sources of protein, carbs and fat and/or switch meals and repeat.


THIS ISN’T A CREATIVE COOKING SHOW OR AMERICA’S NEXT TOP CHEF


While #flexibledieting is great (I’m a big proponent of it), the influencers on social media have gotten a bit out of hand with all the elaborate #iifym meals and their followers have tried to mimic this in real life.


Epic fail. 👎


Understand this, the #inshape influencers you see are not living on these #macrofriendly pizzas, chicken wings, desserts, etc. (they put this stuff out there for views and likes). 90% of what they eat, 90% of the time is very very basic (more on that in a second). Staple meals like:

  • chicken and rice

  • lean beef and potatoes

  • fish and cous cous

  • protein filled wraps

  • big ass salads with added protein

  • stir fry’s with added protein

Believe it or not, they also rely on pre-packaged-often times microwaveable-foods.


They are not crunching numbers, spending an hour on a recipe, and trying to turn tilapia and jasmine rice into cheesecake the majority of the time.


Any you DEFINITELY shouldn’t be trying to pull that off either if you want to stay consistent. No one has time for getting too cute with all of life’s competing demands.


BASIC DOESN’T EQUAL BORING ❌


While I just said you don’t want to get too cute and creative (that’s a time drain), I also have little tolerance for the “I”m bored with my food” crowd.


That is, in fact, a choice.


There are an array of low/no #calories sauces, marinades, condiments-and hundreds of spices-you can use to keep basic meals interesting and flavorful.


My fridge has about 10 actual foods in it and about 30 low/no cal condiments/sauces and add ons. I probably have 50 different spices in my pantry.


You can make chicken and rice, or beef and potatoes, or fish tacos about 60 different ways. There are a plethora of ways to combine protein, carb and fat sources. You can vary your cooking methods (air fry, grill, bake, pan cooked).


What’s more, you can try out different grocers and specialty stores and make an effort to discover new foods, new add ons, new sauces/condiments, plant-based alternatives to traditional carbs, etc. Make it a little bit fun and expand your horizons.


Reason #4: You are not eating satiating/voluminous foods and your protein & fiber intake are too low


The third reason you may find yourself saying “ I can’t stick to a diet “ is you are choosing low volume and non-satiating foods (small amount of food with high calorie density) and/or your protein and fiber intake are too low (and it’s usually both of these things as one plays off the other).


If you are #dieting between 1300-1900 calories a day (pretty much everyone between 120 and 180 lbs.) and the majority of your diet is made up of low volume, non-satiating foods which don’t provide enough #fiber and #protein …you are going to have a hard time sticking to a diet.


I see too many people with a low overall and absolute calorie budget trying to maintain and sustain a #caloriedeficit with a daily diet composed of ⬇️:


  • 100 calorie carb rich “snack packs”

  • Nuts

  • Peanut butter and other nut butters

  • Avocado

  • Cheese

  • Protein bars

  • Protein shakes

  • Coffee creamer

  • Lattes

  • Low net carb” foods

  • Trail mix

  • Granola

  • Crackers

  • Pretzels

  • Heavy amounts of salad dressing

  • Smoothies

  • Juices


Uh, if you are a 150 lb. female trying to #diet on 1650 calories a day…good fricking luck with that approach 👌


Do me a favor and go read my articles “The 10 Best Foods for Staying Full On A Diet” and “How To Stay Full on a Diet"


Those 2 articles will give you tons of tips, tricks and ideas for staying full(er), satiated and controlling hunger.


Also, check out the Satiety Index. Check that out and see what foods rank highest. Then start incorporating more of those 👌


Protein


Protein is a God-send and is a perfect macronutrient, particularly when you are trying to lose fat and are eating in a calorie deficit. It’s benefits and advantages are numerous:


  • It has the highest thermic effect of feeding (the amount of calories your body expends breaking down, digesting and absorbing a macro) of all the macros at 20%, meaning you only “net” 80% of the protein calories you consume

  • It is the most satiating (keeps you full and reduces cravings) macronutrient

  • It has an anti-hunger effect and provides (in most cases) a substantial volume of food for a low/moderate number of overall calories

  • It, when combined with strength training, will help retain lean muscle mass in a calorie deficit


If calories are the right bower in the fat loss game, then adequate protein intake is the left.


You should be shooting for .8-1g of protein PER POUND of your body weight when trying to loss fat and stick to a diet. 150 lbs. and trying to lean up? You need to be consuming 120-150g/day, and, as you lose weight and the diet continues, protein should be raised up closer to 1.1-1.2g per pound to further combat huger and help retain lean mass.


Many will claim they “have a hard time getting their protein in”. Well, frankly, that’s just a CHOICE. It comes down to CHOOSING to prioritize protein and making it the foundation of ALL of your meals. You don’t get more protein in your diet by choosing more of the foods I bullet pointed earlier in this section.


If you are trying to diet on a daily menu of carb and fat rich (not to say you don’t need both of those) foods, it’s just a matter of time before you crash and burn. You will NOT stay satiated and will NOT be able to combat hunger long-term. You’ll stay on the “ I can’t stick to a diet “ merry go round.


For the best sources of protein (and you probably already know), check out THIS VIDEO. Oh, and if you want a delicious, easily prepared, sweet meal which will deliver almost 70g of protein (that’s 30-40% of most peoples daily needs), CHECK THIS OUT.


Fiber

Consuming adequate fiber is a must when trying to stick to a diet. It provides bulk, food volume, has a low number of calories/gram (less than starchy carbs), helps you 💩 which reduces bloat, and is linked to improvements in health biomarkers.


Shoot for 20-30g daily. The best sources of fiber are:


  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Beans

  • Whole grains

  • Low-calorie fiber fortified wraps/tortillas

  • Greek yogurt (in some brands)

  • Cauliflower rice

  • Spaghetti squash

  • Shirataki and hearts of palm noodles and rice

  • Lentils

  • Low-calorie ice cream like Halo Top and Enlightened


If you can consistently hit both your protein (about 1g/lb./day) and fiber targets (20-30g/day), you’ll be amazed how full and satiated you feel on a sub-2000 calorie diet. If you are used to eating 1200, 1500, 1800 calories of carb and fat rich foods when you try to diet, you’ll be absolutely blown away at the difference.


REASON #5: YOU ARE NOT PRE-PLANNING/PRE-LOGGING YOUR MEALS


When it comes to sticking to a diet , better planning and preparation is a pillar of success. The whole “failing to plan is planning to fail” thing definitely holds true when you are trying to lose weight or (in most cases) trying to lose weight again.


One of the things which separates successful from unsuccessful dieters is that successful dieters pre-plan and pre-log their food the day before. In fact, if I could only give you one tip for improving your diet consistency …it would be this one.


Each night, take 15 minutes, think about what food you have stocked up in your house, the circumstances of the next day (maybe you have a lunch meeting at a chain restaurant and should research the menu?), what you want to eat, etc., and map out a game plan.


In whatever nutrition tracking app you use, pre-log the next day’s food in accordance with your calorie allotment. Now, of course, things won’t always go as planned, and you might have to pivot (or your preferences change), but at least you’ll have a loose framework to work from vs. waking up and asking yourself “WTF am I gonna eat today?”


If you find yourself inconsistent, doing this little bit of front end work will have a huge return on investment.


A Word on Meal Prepping


Meal planning is different than #mealprepping , and IMO, meal prep is highly overrated for fat loss.


I get sick of hearing people pointing to their lack of meal prep as their reason for blowing it. No…it’s your lack of PLANNING that’s the issue.

It’s just not that time consuming to prepare nutritious, flavorful #healthymeals on the spot. It’s not. And most people who do the #mealprepsunday thing end up throwing half of it out because, let’s face it, reheated egg whites really ain’t all that tasty 🤷‍♂️


What’s more, I’d say ACTUALLY HAVING THE FOOD YOU NEED AND WANT IN THE HOUSE AND AVAILABLE is a much bigger barrier to consistency than meal prepping. If you don’t have the right stuff on hand, don’t have your foundational foods at home, etc., the pizza guy or Chinese from door dash sounds like a much easier option yeah?


And look, I’m probably unfairly biased on this because I’m self employed, work from home, can cook throughout the day etc. If I had a 9-5 I’d probably feel differently about meal prepping for 5 days ahead of time. But that’s neither here nor there 🤷‍♂️


Reason #5: You are not planning your imperfection and you think everything is a “special occasion"


Those who stay most consistent with their diets , turn into fitness success stories and, ultimately, end up sticking to their diet and keeping the lost fat off “plan their imperfection” (credit to Andrew Coates for turning me onto this term).


They know what a TRUE special occasion is and what is NOT. They know what days and meals are worth breaking their commitment to their health, fitness and physiques.


And this is HUGE.


Because most people find a “special occasion” and a reason to break away from their diet pretty much everyday of the week. ⬇️


  • It’s Monday and you made it through a stressful day at work so you should celebrate the fact you “adulted” with take out Thai and 3 craft beers

  • It’s Tuesday and, hey, Lebron James said it’s “Taco Tuesday” so you and your spouse hit up the local dive Mexican joint with unreal tacos

  • Wednesday? Well, I mean…WINE WEDNESDAY right?

  • Thursday? Your toddler used the toilet by himself for the first time so let’s have a cake.

  • Friday? You have a friend rolling through town who’s going to stay with you and you want to show them a good time

  • Saturday? Your kid’s lacrosse team won the league title and all the parents are going out for afternoon wings and beers

  • Sunday? Well…I mean everyone does #cheatmeal brunch on Sunday right?


And, sadly, this is not an exaggeration and representative of a great number of folks out there who talk about how much they want to get fit and are trying to lose weight but consistently find themselves saying “ I can’t stick to a diet !"


Look, there is NOTHING you have to miss out on and cannot enjoy and celebrate…BUT IT ACTUALLY HAS TO BE SPECIAL AND WORTH CELEBRATING!


If it’s a holiday, vacation, special life event, etc., then have at it, loosen it up and enjoy!


But, in my estimation anyway, these TRUE special days might make up 70-80 days of the annual 365. SEE BELOW ⬇️



These days are worth celebrating and are NOT the days that wreck you and get you fat(ter). No, it’s the other 280-290 days a year where you prioritize your health, fitness, training and nutrition only about 10% of the time which DO!


You in no way have to be-or should be-perfect with all this. But you do need to be ruthlessly consistent and be able to honestly ask yourself: “Is this truly a special occasion and is this worth it for my goals?”


Reason #6: You are using unsustaintainable methods and are hopping from one dumb ass fad diet to the next


Is this your dieting history? ⬆️


I saved this one (arguably the most significant reason) for last because if you've constantly found yourself not being able to stick to diets...maybe it’s because you literally COULDN'T (as in impossible) stick to the diets you’ve tried in the past.


Because maybe the diets you’ve tried before are F’ing dumb and in no way-no matter the willpower-sustainable or likely to be stuck to long-term in the context of a normal adult life. It’s not necessarily (sometimes it is, go back to reason #1 above) a YOU problem...it’s a methodology problem.


And I don’t blame you for hopping (and hoping) from fad diet to fad diet and juice cleanse to juice cleanse and detox to detox. I blame the fitness and diet industries and their unethical marketing. It’s EASY to get lured into quick fixes, “lose 7 pounds in 7 days without counting calories and giving up the foods you love” hogwash.


If your prior diets or diet gurus (mentally check these off and nod in your head as you go along)...

  • Eliminated entire food groups

  • Eliminated entire macronutrients

  • Had you only eating certain foods

  • Had you only eating certain foods at certain times of day

  • Relied heavily on shakes, meal replacements, or expensive supplements

  • Convinced you needed to eat a certain way for your blood type, DNA or eye color

  • Had a timeline or deadline guarantee (“Drop 4 inches in your first week or your money back”)

  • Had a geographic location in the name (“Beverly Hills”)

  • Had you fasting for long periods of time

  • Forbade fruit or dairy

  • Harped on insulin as being the devil

  • Told you calorie balance is a myth (and the diet then puts you in an extreme calorie deficit) and that it’s all about carbs

  • Told you to eat like a caveman

  • Told you the diet could cure hormone problems

  • Etc., etc., etc.

...you were on a crappy diet that was doomed to fail and could not be reasonably stuck to. Period end of story.


I challenge you to ask yourself a very simple question the next time you decide to go on a diet:


Do I see myself doing this and eating this way forever?

If the answer is “no”, then why do it now? Because the idea is to find a sustainable way of eating which is flexible, allows you to reach your goals, and then allows the goals to be maintained (within a range).


Make no bones about it: any diet is going to involve limiting yourself in some way, some for of cognitive restraint, etc. HOWEVER, YOU GET TO CHOOSE THE FORM OF THIS and it doesn’t have to be unnecessarily miserable.


You need to shift your thinking away from “going on/being on a diet” and think more in terms of finding a way of eating which can revamp your habit systems and turn into a lifestyle and new identity. And fad diets are NOT going to lead to that. The sooner you accept this, ditch the over-hyped quick fixes, and realize this is a long-game process which requires patience and realistic expectations...the better.


Because, once you get to where you want to be, you won’t care how long it took you. You’ll be proud of the work you did, the habits you built, and the peace of mind knowing you finally figured it out and won’t have to struggle with this anymore.


There is no deadline or timeline in which you have to “arrive”. If it took you years or decades of poor habits to get you in a bad spot, logically, it’s going to take you quite a while to fix it. The old saying “If you walk 50 miles from home, you better be prepared to walk 50 miles back” holds true. So enjoy the journey and walk the path in a sensible and sane way.


*Want to level up your nutrition, training and fat loss? Want a GPS on your fitness journey? Want someone to take all the guesswork out of the equation and provide daily accountability? Check out my budget-friendly coaching program and apply HERE*