Making a sustainable and effective diet plan that supports long-term weight loss can be really tough.
Everyday we are bombarded with dozens of quick fixes and hacks promising quick results.
While there is good information available to us, it is usually piled underneath mounds of nonsense.
You’re promised quick and effortless results but you never see long-term success.
If you’ve fallen victim to this 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 LESS to do with you and MORE to do with the information you’ve 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 quick fixes and focus on the fundamentals you will make progress that lasts.
In this post we will go over 4 key aspects of making an effective AND sustainable diet plan.
The goal is to help you make this dreaded process simpler and more effective.
Let’s get started!
The 4 Keys to Making a Sustainable & Effective Diet Plan
1. Creating a Caloric Deficit and/or Controlling Calories:
In order to lose weight you have to be in a caloric deficit.
It is truly the most important aspect of a weight loss diet because without it you won’t lose weight.
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.
But, it isn’t as simple as just eating less and/or creating a deficit.
Maintaining that weight loss requires you to be able to control calories thereafter.
In other words, we need to develop a sustainable way to control calories both during and after our weight loss.
So, before worrying about anything else, we need to calculate an appropriate deficit (500-1000 calories below Total Daily Energy Expenditure). We also must ensure that however we go about creating this deficit and/or controlling calories is sustainable in the long-term.
Regardless of the weight loss strategy, you must remember this; If the methods cannot be maintained neither will the results which they produce.
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 in the long-term.
So, while they were able to lose weight the lack of sustainability in the long-term prevents them from keeping it off. The strategy that produced weight loss is stopped, and therefore the results which it produced are lost.
Look, it truly does not matter which diet that you follow as long as you are able to;
A) Create a caloric deficit in the short-term and
B) Control calories in the long-term
For this reason, your first priority is to ensure that you’re altering your diet in some way which lowers calories.
The next thing to do (which sometimes is a trial-and-error thing) is to determine whether or not this is a sustainable strategy for YOU in the long-term.
I find intermittent fasting to work great in helping me control calories. However, it took me some time to find the best way to make it sustainable for ME.
If you are able to skip a whole meal (e.g, breakfast) you will likely create the necessary deficit to lose weight. Now, while that sounds good in theory many overeat during their eating window, negating this skipped meal.
Remember, no deficit = no weight loss.
The other issue is that even if the diet pattern was able to create a caloric deficit, it must be sustainable. And for many individuals it is not.
Again, the key is creating a deficit and controlling calories in a way that works for YOU.
See, I succeeded because I didn’t allow myself to be taken off the course of sustainability trying to follow intermittent fasting as some fake guru pitches it.
I took a concept and applied the principles of a caloric deficit and sustainability and made a eating pattern that works for me and my lifestyle.
Now, will what I do work for you? I don’t know. Probably not, at least not the same way that works for me because, well, you and me are unique individuals!
Key takeaway: Find an eating strategy that helps you create a caloric deficit and/or that helps you control calories which fits great into your life. Often times this is as simple as making small, gradual improvements to your diet.
You don’t need some fad, hack, etc. It took me a long time to pound this truth into my own mind.
I tried intermittent fasting and many other diets without considering this key truth; All diets will require you to eat better foods and control portions.
Forget the nonsense that people pitch to you and focus on what works best for YOU!
What is the best way for YOU to create the necessary deficit in the short-term and control calories in the long-term.
The next 3 tips are going to be strongly based around this one. They are going to more or less provide useful tools 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 hard on “special foods”, removing a macronutrient, crazy eating patterns, or some other strategy which does nothing but make the process MORE complicated.
As I mentioned earlier, I was stuck in this trap for a while.
The ironic thing is that most of us know exactly what we need to do.
We have to focus on eating healthier foods and control our overall calorie intake.
That one tip alone could create such huge results for those jumping through hoops trying to lose weight.
Time and time again studies show that diets work very poorly in producing long-term weight loss.
While all diets work in the short-term (if they create a caloric deficit) 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 over-complicated nonsense.
9 times out of 10 they are right back where they started after several weeks or months. I know I was.
So, what are the key benefits of this simple strategy?
Well, whole foods are more filling and much more nutrient dense when compared to fast and highly 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.
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.
Now, this strategy isn’t new, cutting-edge, flashy nor does it provide quick results. Because of this many continue to skip past it and focus on some fad diet, gimmick or supplement which will “blast the fat off”.
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.
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. That is all I want you to do right now. Start making small, gradual improvements to the quality of your diet.
This can be as simple as slightly increasing a portion of a healthier food on your plate and slightly decreasing that of an unhealthier one.
Foods that should make up most of your diet; lean meats, eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk products, 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.
If you need any help implementing this step or want some help getting started on the right path, visit this link here to sign-up for a FREE 15-30 Minute Online Consult aimed at helping you get on the right path to successful long-term weight loss.
3. Taking in Sufficient Protein:
Protein is such a powerful macronutrient, providing so many benefits when it comes to losing weight.
It is known for being very filling as well as for aiding in the preservation of muscle mass when dieting (1).
And these are 2 key aspects of effective weight loss.
Let’s start with proteins high satiety factor.
Protein is known for its ability to help you achieve fullness more quickly (high protein meals/foods being more satiating than those high in carbohydrate and/or fat).
The quicker we achieve a feeling of fullness the less food we are likely to eat at a particular meal. Also, 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.
Now, to maximize your results you will need to pair this with other effective strategies, e.g, eating more slowly, eating an adequate amount of fiber, and possibly using smaller plates. Using all of these strategies together can really make a huge difference in your overall feeling of fullness throughout the day.
We must remember that no one strategy alone is the answer. It is the effects of multiple practical strategies compounding overtime that make the difference.
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.
Our muscle mass also strongly influences our resting metabolic rate, which makes up around 60% of our overall total daily energy expenditure. You can learn more about your metabolic rate here.
On the other hand, poor strategies can lead to ineffective weight loss and a poor body composition.
Things such as very low calorie diets, skipping resistance exercise, insufficient protein intake, and excessive cardio.
These individuals lose just as much (if not more) muscle as they do fat. They’re left with a body composition not much different than when they started.
Now, while we say that we want to lose weight, what we really want to lose is fat. I’d say that the majority of individuals do not want to be skinny but lean.
I don’t really want anyone to just lose weight. My goal is to help them become a leaner, stronger, healthier version of themselves.
And a moderate to high protein diet can definitely aid in doing exactly that!
For more on protein and weight loss you can read the articles below:
4. Making Slow, Gradual Changes Versus Large, Drastic Leaps:
Most of us prefer to avoid change. The less “normal” something is to us the more likely we are to revert back to our old familiar ways.
The key to making lasting changes is keeping things as easy, simple, and as normal as possible.
This can be done by making small, gradual changes to your diet instead of quick, abrupt ones.
The changes are so small that you don’t feel uncomfortable, deprived, or like your world is altering in a big way.
It isn’t long before these small changes compound and produce changes in your overall lifestyle.
Remember: Change the actions and you change the outcome. It is a poor lifestyle which promotes an unhealthy body weight and which needs to be changed.
Most of us attempt large leaps in the hopes of huge returns. The issue is that when things change so much we tend to feel “off” and go back to what we are used to.
It is a cycle that never ends for some. Huge leap, revert back to old behaviors, huge leap, revert back. Impatience and the desire for instant gratification destroys the goals of many of us.
Logic tells us that making small changes to our diet is likely the best route. However, those little changes can take months to make a difference. We don’t want to lose weight next week but right now!
Although we have failed dozens of times we rationalize that this time will be different. Surprise, surprise, it never is.
You can learn more about impatience and how it hurts your fat loss goals here. However, the biggest takeaway from that article is that you have to accept and respect the process. You have to set realistic goals and develop realistic plans on how to get there.
9 times out of 10, the goal is absurdly large and the path is based on large leaps. This never ends well.
I went a little off track there but I truly feel it was necessary. The bottom line is that we are led to large leaps by our impatience.
If you want to be successful in the long-term you have to focus on small improvements vs large leaps.
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 remember the big question in times of impatience; would you rather see large, short-term results or create lasting changes which keep you lean and healthy?
You have to defeat that quick result seeking mindset and focus on the long-term.
Sustainability is a key aspect of dieting for weight loss that many of us overlook.
And it is small, gradual improvements [that keep things as normal as can be] that produces this sustainability.
Creating a sustainable and effective diet plan for weight loss can be tough.
Our desire for instant gratification and the plethora of quick fixes on the internet keeps us going down the wrong path.
It is crucial that we keep the path clear and simple. We do this by focusing on only the most crucial aspects.
And as we have covered in this article they are as follows;
- Creating a caloric deficit and/or controlling calories in a sustainable manner
- 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, gradual improvements to ensure sustainability
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 in this article you can move forward in the right direction.
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 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 is for educational purposes only.