Dieting, for most, is often the most challenging part of any health journey. Food is delicious, especially foods that aren’t great for you. I, myself, am a huge doughnut aficionado and will gladly die on that hill. For a lot of folks, dialing in on food is the last step towards longevity, and that step is often more of a leap over jagged rocks. Remember, the whole point of longevity is sustainability, and following plans that are going to get you the greatest result long-term.
Dieting is not an ‘all or nothing’ approach. In fact, I would say that most successful diets are not like that at all. You don’t need to survive on skinless chicken breast, spinach, and egg whites. Trust me, I’ve done it, and it’s just as terrible as it sounds. Most successful diets work on the approach of portion control, and understanding which macronutrients make you the fullest. These diets usually work within the principle of adherence, which is allowing flexibility within the diet to avoid burnout and eventual departure from the diet itself. Furthermore, these plans avoid using nomenclature such as “good” or “bad” to describe foods, and use principles like energy balance (calories in, calories out) to tangibly target weight loss.
In this article we’ll outline LYMBR’s five laws of sustainable dieting for longevity. This may not be the advice you get from a nutritionist or the shredded guy at your gym. Our belief in these principles are rooted in the philosophy of health and sustainable dieting practices, not “bro-science” or elimination diets.
Rule number 1: The key to a successful diet is adherence.
One of my long-time personal training clients hit a snag in his weight loss. He had gotten as far as exercise was going to take him on its own, and he needed to dial in on his eating. He asked me what the best diet was, and if cutting out booze would help him shed a few extra pounds. I get these questions a lot, and I always respond the same way. “The best diet is the one you’re going to stick to, and if cutting out booze makes you double fist pints of ice cream, then please for the love of god, keep drinking.” Dieting is a lot of trial and error and picking the lesser of two evils. This is, in a nutshell, the essence of adherence. It doesn’t mean you’re a regular at Carl’s Jr., but it also doesn’t mean you beat yourself up for breaking your diet in a moment of weakness. Adherence is also a lot of introspection. Make sure to ask yourself if you can stick to a diet before you start. If you love pasta and bread and the diet has you on 0 grams of carbs, then that’s probably going to blow up in your face. The best diet that I have found is a “no diet” diet. Eating less of the foods you already love is a great way to start reducing the overall calories you’re consuming. Calorie surplus is why you gain weight. Simply halving your portions, you are creating a deficit which will result in weight loss.
Rule number 2: There is no such thing as a “good” food or a “bad” food.
Is a piece of cake a bad food? No. Is spinach a good food? Also, no. It’s just food. It doesn’t donate to charity and build schools. It also doesn’t rob the elderly or vandalize churches. They are inanimate objects devoid of feeling. They are not good, nor bad, they just are what they are. Despite this glaringly obvious idea, many apps, companies, and people assign negative or positive attributes to different foods. I’m sure you’ve seen zealots on either side of the aisle spouting “carbs are bad” or “trans fats are bad” which is as untrue as it is unhelpful. There are some really great studies that show this line of thinking is actually very harmful to a person’s mental health, and can result in the formation of an eating disorder. I would encourage you not to look at food as bad or good, but rather to understand the calorie breakdown of those foods. Once you understand the calorie breakdown it’s a matter of deciding whether eating that food is going to push you over your calorie threshold, or if that even matters to you. This is a more objective and cerebral approach to eating, rather than subjective and emotional.
Rule number 3: Start by eating less.
As we’ve covered throughout this article, calories make you gain weight, not carbs or fats but the overall accumulation of eating those carbs, fats, proteins, etc. I would always encourage people to eat more whole fruits and vegetables, but even by eating less volume of the foods you already love, you’re inching towards a calorie deficit. Remember, the whole idea of this article is to show you sustainable diet practices. If you jump into a weight loss journey eating a bunch of foods you hate then it probably won’t last very long. Dieting is hard enough; dieting with food you don’t even like is next to impossible. This may not address the nutritional deficiencies in your diet, but it does address the calories. Once you’ve lost some weight and you’re keeping it off eating things you enjoy, your confidence goes up, and you can start to add in extra things like exercise, fruits and veggies, and more protein.
Rule number 4: Eat a boat load of protein
The best way to diet is to eat foods that make you full. The less hungry you are, the less likely you’ll binge. The less likely you binge, the less likely you regain the weight. Protein has something called “the highest thermic effect of food” which means it helps raise your metabolic rate by 15-30% thereby helping you burn calories at a higher threshold. Protein is also typically the most “satiating”, meaning it makes you feel fuller, longer. Between these two reasons, hiking up your protein intake can be an invaluable strategy for weight loss, more specifically sustainable weight loss.
Rule number 5: Understand the difference between low calorie, and nutritious.
Do you remember that whole avocado phase? It seemed like every influencer and their grandmother was shouting from the rooftops about how good avocados were for you. Don’t get me wrong, avocados are great! Having said that, they’re extremely high in calories. Nutritious? Absolutely, unequivocally healthy. What if I’m trying to lose weight? Not so much. An avocado is 200-300 calories, which may not seem like much, but after you mix it with olive oil, throw it onto a giant piece of sourdough with butter or ricotta, and an egg, that’s an 800-900 calorie breakfast. You can have 4 eggs and 4 pieces of bacon and that won’t even touch 500 calories. So it’s extremely important to understand the difference between low calorie and nutritious. If you’re trying to eat more nutritious foods, then eating things like bananas and avocados is a great way to go. However, if you’re trying to lose weight then you need to be focusing on low calorie. Low calorie foods aren’t always nutritious, but nutritious foods aren’t always low calorie. Understanding that distinction will help you avoid what I call “The avocado toast trap”.
The last piece of advice that I would give you is to enjoy this process. Many people view dieting as restrictive and a chore. Reframe your mindset and perspective about what you’re doing. You’re not restricting yourself; you love yourself enough to create balance in your life. You’re not doing a chore; you’re taking accountability of your health so that you can be the best version of yourself for you and your loved ones. Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, pick something you’re going to stick to, and ignore the white noise around dieting. Unless you’re an elite level athlete, you don’t need a complicated, over-managed program. Eat less volume, eat more protein, and don’t keep the leash too tight. I have used this quote many times in many different articles, but it bears repeating, and I think it’s a wonderful quote to end on: “If it makes your training five percent better, but it makes you hate your life ten percent more, that’s a terrible trade off, and don’t do it.”
Written by Conner Fritchley, LYMBR Master Trainer, Darien Stretch Therapist.