You've lost a bit of weight and it was great, for a while. But…
Paul Revelia recently posted a video on YouTube here, explaining two very common but very important diet mistakes that most people make when trying to lose weight. They are seemingly very obvious, but I realise that maybe I take them for granted and overlook them sometimes, and I think our attention needs to be drawn towards them to ensure we don’t make them ourselves.
These mistakes are the classic things that lead to short-term progress, but also to sabotaging behaviour in the long-run. Seeing as we want to stop this needless cycle of ups and downs and we want to be lean forever, let’s see if we can gain some insight into the problems and solutions from this video.
Number 1 – Failing To Have Any Structure
This is obviously a huge diet mistake, as most people overweight don’t really know how to eat properly to lose weight…otherwise they wouldn’t be overweight. Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?
I talk a lot about dietary freedom and freedom of choice, but this comes with a couple of caveats:
- The person is eating an appropriate amount of calories for their goal (of sustainable fat loss)
- They have an idea of what they are going to eat, and at what time in the day
You need these BASIC strutures in place, otherwise you’re at the mercy of the outside world, your stress levels and your temptations/cravings. Clearly, this is a recipe for up-and-downism. Terrible for motivation and long-term success.
When I talk about dietary freedom and maximising freedom of choice (and how most diets are too restrictive), this is within the context of a baseline level of structure and discipline. You must be eating sensible quantities of food and you must have a plan.
A goal without a plan is just a wish.
Please remember that.
Paul then goes on to say that the best way to create this structure, is to eat the same foods every day. Great advice. I don’t necessarily agree that this is the first step – having a proper schedule and time management system in place comes first, but assuming you already know when you are eating, you can ensure the content is consistent. As the diet progresses and you start getting bored, you can switch out your food sources, but until then, consistency is key.
To ensure that the content is consistent, you MUST prepare this food in advance. Again, if you’re overweight, you have no idea how to eat properly, and will be at the mercy of the external world if you don’t do this. Other people may not need to, but you do. Paul gives the following benefits of meal prepping:
- When it’s time to eat, there is no thinking involved – no stress, no decisions
- Prevents poor decision making
- Prevents stresses from impacting you
Number 2 – Not Including Things You Enjoy
Basically, these are sources of “relief”, or things to look forward to. I’ve written before about how to drink alcohol when dieting, and the 80/20 rule. The reason most diets are too restrictive is because no treats are allowed and this makes people go insane eventually.
Sugar is addictive, so I don’t recommend “cheat days” and this mentality, because you will end up taking this too far and lose self-control, become depressed blah blah blah. Paul is a little too robotic here and assumes people are capable of controllong portion sizes when it comes to cake, some people can but most can’t.
I don’t ever recommend having cheat meals. Instead, if you’ve been dieting for a while and desperately need a cheat meal then I would rather see you take a 1-2 week diet break, rather than have cheat meals (another diet mistake) that end up ruining an entire week’s worth of dieting progress.
I do recommend having some low sugar snacks in the evening, every evening. I just think cake and ice cream goes too far and is too addictive. There are plenty of other snacks you can have that aren’t so dangerous to your psyche and willpower. They also provide plenty to look forward to, especially if they’re every evening – just watch the portion control.
To be fair, he does mention that frequent, smaller treats (I prefer very low sugar ones) are FAR SUPERIOR to once-a-week cheat meals. This is a very destructive, scarcity-based mindset and we want to avoid this at all costs. I agree with this, and you will be far happier using this approach.
In summary, Paul is saying that you MUST have some base level of structure, otherwise you’re fucked before you even begin. BUT, you also need some level of fun and freedom so that you don’t blow your brains out or get super-strong cravings. You need structure and freedom for sustainable fat loss. Both.
The only difference between him and I are our stances on the evening treats. I don’t think it’s realistic to say to a client “Yes you can have 375 calories of cake this evening”, and expect them to actually stick to that every single time.
Now, as some lower-comprehension readers have tried to say in the past – I’m not saying people aren’t capable of controlling themselves and everyone has the emotional fortitude of a child. I never said that. But I am saying that we’re only human, and humans, like all organisms, are going to struggle when fighting against their own damn biological instincts over a significant period of time.
I don’t recommend cake (or anything addictive) when in a calorie deficit. We’re not robots, and it’s just asking for trouble.
If you enjoyed this article and are motivated to lose weight, feel free to check out my coaching services here. Thanks, I appreciate it.