The Human Body Adapts
There is a reason we see seemingly opposite diets working for people- from keto to carbitarian at the extremes. And it’s because the human body is incredibly resilient. Our body can adapt to use a wide variety of fuels and foods.
But there are a few principles that underlie success with any diet.
- For fat loss, the basics are a calorie deficit that’s not too extreme while eating enough protein to maintain muscle mass.
- For performance, it’s eating enough total energy to fuel exercise and recover. Plus ideally eating enough carbs to match your training intensity and volume.
- For muscle gain, it’s eating a calorie surplus with adequate protein and carbohydrate while doing hypertrophy focused exercise.
Any training and nutrition programs that achieve those simple underlying principles will work.
For Consistency, Choose A Diet That Fits Your Lifestyle
The main problem is that people tend to try diets that don’t fit their tastes and lifestyle, or diets that restrict their favorite foods. This leads to diet inconsistency, and therefore, inconsistent results.
I’ve actually coined a name for the worst case of inconsistency, and that’s what I call the Consistency Crisis. It’s the most common manifestation of being inconsistent with diet and exercise.
And, it goes something like this:
- You are good all week. You meal prep, go to the gym, get to sleep on time.
- But then the weekends challenge you. You reward yourself with “cheat meals”, get pressured into overeating in social situations, eat most of your meals at restaurants or skip meals.
- All of your habits from the week go out the window.
Unfortunately, if you’re an all or nothing kind of person, at the first sign that today is going to be a cheat day- you write the day off and go off the rails. Cheat day turns into a cheat-kend. Now, all that effort you put in over the week is undone over the weekend.
Worst Kind of Diet Inconsistency
This is the worst form of inconsistency because it’s not like you aren’t trying. You’re doing everything right during the week. However, the weekend, travel, and social situations undo all of your focus.
You put the work in, but a few bad habits are making it so that your results are nowhere to be found!
It’s such a mental drain if you have a fat loss goal, you prep all your meals for the week and have things dialed in for 5 days. You see the scale go down, and then just loosen the reigns a little bit over the weekend only to see your weight shoot back up when you step on the scale Monday morning.
Inconsistency itself ruins motivation which creates a negative feedback loop leading to even more of the willpower trap “screwititis”. Why keep trying if “you already screwed up”?
Your Body Isn’t As Linear As You Think
The problem comes down to this. Your body doesn’t see your week in a binary “you hit your macros” 5 days “you didn’t hit your macros” 2 days. If you hit your macros 5 days and blow them out two, that doesn’t mean you’ll get 3 days worth of progress. Blowing out on the weekend can undo all 5 days of being on point.
Days Vs. Nights
This version of the Consistency Crisis also shows up with nighttime binges instead of just weekend undoings.
A common one I hear, from females in particular, is:
“I do so well hitting my macros all day, and then at night I end up losing self control and binge-ing.”
Again, this version of the consistency crisis is frustrating because it’s not like you aren’t putting in the work to change your body. You’re prepping your meals, making the right choices all day, and then it feels like someone else takes the wheel at night and pulls you way off course.
Long Term Diet Consistency
The third way I learned inconsistency shows up is the root cause of yo-yo dieting. It’s the fight, flight, and freeze response all wrapped up into one.
- You find a plan and commit for a month to 12-weeks.
- You FIGHT to stay on the plan. (Even though it’s a full 180 degree shift from what’s normal).
- After a month of feeling restricted or overwhelmed you take FLIGHT as far from that way of eating as possible.
- And, then you FREEZE back in your comfortable and unproductive old habits. (While being paralyzed by the seemingly million different miracle diets and pyramid scheme tea and shake gimmicks people are talking about on social media).
This is another unfortunate situation because usually people who fall into this diet consistency crisis have made a desirable change to their bodies. You might have lost a decent amount of weight. But, you never learned how to maintain it– and, like a boomerang, end up right back where you came from.
Now, not only did you restrict yourself for weeks only to end up back where you were at, or worse… it’s actually harder to lose weight after you’ve lost it and put it back on. The ideal path if your goal is weight-loss is to lose fat, keep it off, and put on more lean mass.
Luckily when it comes to muscle gain, it’s a little easier to maintain your progress. And, progress towards performance goals is dictated more by your consistency with training than eating.