Direction Requirements

The direction you get should include a menu plan, diet rules, contingency plans, and weekend/holiday guidelines. Direction must be binary, meaning there cannot be any uncertainty about what a diet requires of you at any given moment.

The “Right” Diet

People fall into the trap of thinking that success is about finding the right diet. Success is actually about sticking to a diet, regardless of what the diet is. Diets may seem different from each other, but all diets are essentially the same; a set of rules designed to get you to consume fewer calories than you burn. (I.e., create a calorie deficit). 

The two basic ways of creating a calorie deficit are:

1- Limiting your calories (e.g., Weight Watchers).

2- Limiting your carbs (e.g., Atkins). All diets out there may sound different but fit into one of these categories. Some diets are a hybrid of both these categories. Any “new” diet fad is simply a variation of an existing diet. (E.g., keto is similar to Atkins). 

Limiting carbs gets you to create a calorie deficit by increasing the number of calories you burn. Low-carb diets still make an assumption about the number of calories you will consume; limiting carbs doesn’t get you to burn an infinite number of calories. Limiting carbs gets you to burn about double the calories you would have burned otherwise. The policy on a low-carb diet may be that the food is unlimited, but the diet assumes there is still a limit on the number of calories you will end up consuming.

Whatever dieting technique works for you won’t necessarily work for someone else because people have different strengths, weaknesses, schedules, preferences, and personality types. Most people do better with a diet designed to limit calories over limiting carbs, especially children and females.

Diet Rules

A diet can have any number of rules. Diets that limit carbs (e.g., Atkins/Dukan/South Beach/keto/etc.) will typically have just one rule; “Eat only these specific foods and nothing else.” A diet based strictly on calorie counting may also have only one rule; “only eat “X” number of calories per day. Most diets, however, even if the science behind it is just to get you to limit calories, have many rules. 

No Easy Answers

Fad diets don’t work in the long term because you don’t even lose the weight you think you are losing. You lose water weight temporarily and gain it back. Diets that completely eliminate carbohydrates, eliminate solid foods, severely limit calories, or sound wacky for any other reason will result in some fat loss. Still, much of the weight loss is from manipulating water out of your body. Water loss is only temporary. 

Need for a Plan

Losing weight is a matter of following a plan. It’s a common belief that if you eat less than you used to, without following a specific plan, you will lose weight. That is false. If you eat less than you used to, you may gain weight, maintain weight, or lose weight. A person needs a diet that provides them with enough calories to function but creates enough of a deficit to lose weight. 

You need a specific food plan because: 1- To hit the target, the narrow line that's enough calories but not too many calories. Without a plan, you will either end up having too little or too much. 2- So you can plan ahead 3- So you don’t have to constantly make decisions. 4- To be motivated, you should feel you are doing something good when you eat. When you don’t have a plan, every act of eating feels like a bad thing, or at best, questionable. 

So-called “bad” food (e.g., cake) should also be planned. When food is planned, it won’t trigger more bad eating habits. Spontaneous, impulsive eating causes people to lose control after eating a so-called “bad” food. 

Contingency Plans

You need to have contingency plans for situations that make it difficult to follow your food plan. An example of a contingency plan is if by a wedding you plan to allow yourself unlimited fruit by the smorgasbord, even though that is ordinarily not on your plan. A contingency plan should be realistic, yet at the same time not set you back too much. If a contingency plan is found to work well, it should become your policy for future similar situations/events.

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