Making a sustainable and effective diet plan that supports long-term weight loss can seem pretty tough if you’re not equipped with the right information.
It can become very frustrating and confusing trying to get the right information on dieting for weight loss with the plethora of false, misleading information available to us (e.g, the internet is filled with useless, impractical garbage built around fad diets and gimmicks which promise quick and flashy results but never deliver long-term success).
If you have been the culprit of this misleading garbage you’re likely fed up with consistently trying and failing.
You’re tired of dieting and are near (or at the point) in which you don’t trust anyone claiming to have the answer.
The good news is that your failing has NOTHING to do with you and EVERYTHING to do with the information you have been following.
It is the way you’ve been taught to go about losing weight that has caused you (and so many others) to continually fail.
If you skip the fad diets, gimmicks, and quick fixes and focus on the fundamentals (i.e, building long-term eating habits) you will make progress that lasts (albeit not as fast as you may want, and that’s something you HAVE to accept and prepare for right now).
Below are 4 key aspects of making an effective AND sustainable diet plan that will bring you long-term success.
The 4 key aspects of making an effective & sustainable diet
1. Creating a Caloric Deficit and/or Controlling Calories:
In order to lose weight you have to be in a caloric deficit.
In order to maintain that weight loss you need to be able to control calories thereafter.
So, before worrying about anything else, we need to calculate an appropriate deficit (500-1000 calories below Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and ensure that however we go about doing so is sustainable long-term (i.e, the strategies to cut calories needs to be adopted as habits and also allow us to control calories once the weight is lost).
All diets work in the short-term if they place the individual in a caloric deficit. The issue is that because these diets are not sustainable the individual is unable to control caloric intake after they have lost the weight and therefore they regain it.
Regardless of what you’ve been told “matters most” for losing weight, caloric deficit is king.
No caloric deficit = no weight loss, regardless of the diet.
For this reason, your first priority (when aiming to lose weight) is to ensure that you are in a caloric deficit and controlling caloric intake once the weight is lost.
The next tip is going to be a very useful tool in controlling calories without depriving yourself and/or following some excessively low calorie diet.
2. Eating More Whole Foods while Minimizing Fast/highly Processed Foods:
Many focus so much on special/superfoods, removing a macronutrient altogether (such as fat or carbs), crazy eating patterns, etc instead of just focusing on eating more healthy, nutritious whole foods.
Time and time again studies show that diets do not work for long-term weight loss.
People cannot seem to continue them long-term.
Instead of trying to simply eat better and less (improving quality and controlling quantity) many continue to seek specific diets and meal plans that 9 times out of 10 lead them right back to square one.
Whole foods are more satiating (filling) and much more nutrient dense (a lot of nutrients in a smaller volume of food compared to processed foods). So, not only will you likely eat less but you will be getting in the necessary nutrients your body needs to function effectively with the same amount of calories.
Fast/highly processed foods are much higher in fat, sugar, and sodium while usually having insufficient amounts of other nutrients. Because of this higher amount of fat, sugar and sodium they are much more pleasing, and therefore easier to overeat.
You end up eating more of the food, feeling less full, and taking in more calories.
This strategy does not sound flashy nor does it provide quick results, so many continue to skip past it and focus on some fad diet, gimmick or supplement promising effortless results.
There is more than enough evidence (both scientific and anecdotal) to support the fact that such methods are useless for successful long-term weight loss (or really at producing much of anything at all).
Do yourself a favor and ignore the fad diets, gimmicks, and specific meal plans and focus on increasing the amount of whole foods in your diet. Foods such as; lean meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, etc.
This may not produce quick, impressive results but it will most definitely produce lasting results if you are successful at making the new behaviors habitual.
3. Taking in Sufficient Protein:
Protein is known to be very satiating (compared to fat and carbohydrates, not including fiber) as well as to aid in the preservation of muscle mass when dieting.
Achieving fullness more quickly and preserving muscle are two key aspects of effective weight loss.
Protein is known for its ability to help you achieve fullness quicker (high protein meals and/or foods being more satiating than high carbohydrate and/or high fat meals/foods).
The quicker we achieve a feeling of fullness the less food we are likely to eat and the more full we are overall the less we will likely eat over the course of the day.
And as mentioned earlier, eating less calories/creating a caloric deficit is crucial for weight loss so using such a strategy can be extremely helpful in the overall scheme of things.
Obviously, other tips such as eating more slowly, eating an adequate amount of fiber, and possibly using smaller plates and/or bowls will need to be implemented with this adequate protein intake to have the greatest effect on satiety.
We must remember that no one strategy will produce big results, but rather it is the effects of multiple practical strategies compounding together overtime that will.
As far as muscle preservation goes, the more muscle we can maintain while losing weight the better our overall body composition will be in the end (and the goal is to be lean not skinny).
Things such as very low calorie diets, skipping resistance exercise, insufficient protein intake, and excessive cardio lead individuals to an unfavorable and ineffective weight loss.
By that I mean, they lose just as much (if not more) lean tissue as they do fat tissue and therefore are left with a body composition not much different than before.
A smaller body, but still a poor body composition.
For more on this topic, see these articles:
4. Making changes Slow & Gradual versus Large & Drastic:
Most of us (arguably all of us) prefer to avoid change (i.e, we like when things stay “normal”). The less “normal” something is to us the more likely we will head back to our old, more familiar ways.
For this reason (among others), it is best to make small, reasonable changes to your diet instead of quick, abrupt ones to increase your chances of long-term sustainability.
As hard as it can be to take things slow, more often than not, it will lead to greater chances of long-term success.
You have to continue to remember the big question; would you rather lose (insert goal weight) lbs in 2 months just to gain it back within weeks or months (because the methods used were not sustainable) or lose the goal weight in, say 4-6 months through developing healthy habits and therefore keep it off?
Sustainability is a key aspect of a diet because as soon as the diet stops, the results it produced will go with it. And 9 times out of 10, small steps that are as “normal” as possible are the way to go for long-term success.
Some key points on what matters most when creating an effective weight loss diet?
- Creating a caloric deficit and/or controlling calories
- Focusing on whole foods while minimizing fast/highly processed ones
- Taking in sufficient protein for its muscle sparing effects and satiety factor
- and making small sustainable steps to ensure consistency
Many waste years focusing on all the wrong things when it comes to dieting for weight loss.
Maybe you’ve wasted some years yourself. The good news is that with the information provided above you can be put on the right path and start making some real, lasting progress.
I hope that you’ve found this article helpful and I appreciate you taking the time to read it.
Please feel free to like and/or share if you enjoyed it and/or feel someone you know may benefit from reading it.
Best of luck with all your fitness goals and keep pushing forward towards that leaner, stronger, healthier version of yourself.
Disclaimer: Never make changes to your diet before running it by your physician and/or a registered dietitian. This information is for healthy individuals, not in any disease state and for informational purposes only. Always put your safety first!