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Unpopular Truths of Successful Dieting

Consider me your best friend, the person that will tell you the truth, rather than just telling you what you want to hear. I’m not here to appease you and give you a participation trophy for dieting. I’m here to help you get results, and to help you finally understand what really goes into a successful diet - and how you can achieve the same thing with yourself. I’m not here for the ‘tips and tricks’ fluff - I'm getting to the core with this, what truly matters for your success in weight loss.

There is an unlimited amount of information about weight loss, workouts, and diet plans - but you still aren’t able to diet successfully? You’re not alone. Most people that attempt to diet will fail, and will likely fall off harder than before and gain more weight than they started with. Why is that some will diet continuously and continually fail - while others have great success? In my opinion, it ultimately comes down to fighting, or ignoring, the unpopular truths of successful dieting. Rather than fight against these truths and find ways around them, accept them, embrace them, and you’ll find you are much more successful in your dieting efforts.


Let’s get this list started off right, crushing the dreams of specific diet zealots everywhere. There are a million diet trends out there: IIFYM, Keto, Carb Cycling, Paleo, Intermittent Fasting, the list could go on and on for quite awhile - but these tend to be the more popular ones in the realm of the fitness industry. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these diets; in fact - they all work. The most important part of each of these diets isn’t how it’s going to work more effectively than another, but how easy it is for you to stick to. Diet adherence is the number one problem for dieting success - if you’re not sticking to the diet, you can’t really blame the diet.

Before you start on any diet, it’s important to look introspectively and see what is going to work the best for you and your lifestyle. If you can’t make it work in your lifestyle for a consistently long period of time, it’s not the diet for you. To give you a helping hand on your quest to dieting success, I’m going to give a short summary of each dieting type, and an insight into the type of person that may benefit the most from each specific diet.


If you have a sweet tooth, enjoy cooking, and are great with numbers - this diet is for you. The beauty of IIFYM is that quite literally anything that fits into your macronutrient totals (specific protein, carb, and fat goals) is acceptable on your diet. If you need to have a chocolate bar in your diet each day, you just factor it into your daily macronutrient goals. This is different than a calorie goal because each macronutrient acts differently in our bodies. If you’d like to learn more about the basics of macronutrients in your body and the core concepts of IIFYM (or any dieting method here), let me know and I’ll set aside some time for another blog post. The downside to IIFYM? It gets a bit tedious after awhile, and hard to get into. Food tracking apps aren’t always accurate, and weighing every single food source you eat can get old. If the ability to eat almost anything on your diet is appealing, the tediousness may not be of much concern to you.


Keto diets appeal more to people with a saltier taste pallet, as most sweets are essentially gone on a ketogenic diet. If you’re not familiar with ketogenic diets, the basics are: High fat, moderate protein, and virtually zero carbs from all food sources (typically less than 30g per day). This effectively changes the fuel source your body needs to run properly, switching from glucose (carbs) to ketones (from fat). After a period of time your body becomes ‘fat adapted’ and no longer needs carbs as a fuel source (other than a minute amount for brain function, which it takes from amino acids). Some claim they feel better on a ketogenic diet: better focus, less hunger, and better energy levels; but it can take a bit of time to get into ketosis, and you won’t always feel the best. Most common side effects are brain fog and lack of energy, but this passes within a week of strict adherence.

The downside to keto? On top of the fact that getting into ketosis isn’t always a quick and easy process, it’s also pretty easy for one meal to knock you back out of it for a day or more. It is obviously quite restricting in food choices as well because things like fruit, grains, and dairy (milk) are all eliminated during the diet. Ultimately if the feeling of being in ketosis outweighs the food restrictions, it may be worth it to get into. On the other hand, if you know you will need some fruits, sweets, or breads in your diet to stay sane - you’ll want to avoid this diet.


Most don’t know this diet by name as much as they do by the way it is structured. In general, carb cycling is about lowering carbs for a period of time, and spiking carbs up intermittently (could be as little as every few days and as much as every few weeks). Most would know this as going low-carb throughout the week, and having a cheat meal or cheat day on the weekend. While not strictly ‘carb cycling’ in the way it is intended to be utilized, it is still under the same umbrella.

More traditionally, carb cycling consists of a high, medium, and low carb day that is spread throughout the week. When I carb cycle myself, I look at it as: training (medium), non-training (low), and cheat/refeed (high). So I eat separate amounts of carbs on each of the days. Typically I will have 4 workout days throughout the week, and 3 non-workout days. I spread the high and medium days out over the training days, and leave 3 days as low carbs. This helps to keep calories and carbs lower to make fat loss easier, but still utilizing carbohydrates for their advantages in energy levels and boosting metabolic rate.

Typically the food sources on this kind of diet are less exciting. For a lot of people, the amount of variety in a carb cycling diet along with the increased amount of food on specific days is enough reason for them to love the diet. On the downside, food sources are more restricted than IIFYM, and a cheat meal may be swapped more efficiently with a pre-set amount of carbs for the day from your normal diet food sources. For people that love to eat ‘healthier’ or ‘clean’ foods, this diet has a lot of variety and benefits that keep you on track. Falling off and ruining one meal won’t mess up the entire diet, and generally you’ll feel better with the food sources that fit into it. Again, if you have a bad sweet tooth or crave things like fattier meats, you’ll have a trouble sticking with this one as those foods aren’t allowed on a daily basis.


The best way to describe Paleo is simply this: If you can’t pick it, grow it, or kill it - you shouldn’t be eating it. All of the food on a Paleo diet is in its most natural state, unaltered by man. Meals are based around animal protein, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Potatoes (tubers, as they call them) are allowed in smaller quantities, but other grains and seeds aren’t incorporated. Paleo by nature is a great diet for health purposes, and can still lend quite a bit of variety to your diet. It works mostly because it is self-limiting in caloric intake. With something like paleo, none of the food sources are terribly calorically dense (there are a few exceptions) so it’s harder to overeat your calories on a Paleo diet.

If you want something less strict, but with a good variety of natural food sources - paleo is a great choice. On the other hand, Paleo can fail because of its lack of structure (which can be fixed!) and the ability to eat the foods that are calorically dense in abundance. Those that have problems with Paleo are generally eating meat that is too fatty, too many nuts, too many fruits, etc. So while it looks good on paper, there’s still quite a bit of restriction, and the lack of structure can make it hard to see results.


There’s a lot of views on this one, but I’ll give you my view of it and the rigidity I see in most of these plans. Intermittent fasting is quite literally fasting (not eating) for a specific period of time throughout the day. We already do this while we sleep, but we’re basically increasing the length of this fast for hours after we wake up. The general idea in how it works is through boosting metabolic rate, improving hormone levels, and putting your body in a state more likely to burn fat as energy. The benefit during the eating phase, is that you get to pack in a full day of eating into about 8 hours - so you feel much more sated after a meal.

Different intermittent fasting protocols call for different types of food in that fasting window, but the general idea is that it’s harder to overeat in that short window of time so caloric intake is lower. The downside to this is that without specific guidelines or restrictions, it can be easy for some people with a large stomach (me) to overeat and force more food down because their inner glutton calls for it. If the restrictions are met, the other downsides relate to hunger and the fasting window. Over time you get more and more used to the fasting period and don’t feel terribly hungry, but it can be a rough few days (or weeks) at first. The 8 hour eating window may create some inconveniences, during which you may not be able to eat while with friends or co-workers. Lastly, for some, the adherence of the fasting windows is always difficult because they put a focus on not being able to eat. That focus leads to an unhealthy relationship with food, focusing too much on hunger, constantly looking forward to the next meal.

If you’ve made it this far, I hope this gave you a bit more insight into the different types of diets out there and what might be easiest for you to manage. If you can’t stick with the diet long-term, you’ll never maintain results.


As I wrote previously in the sections on Ketogenic, Paleo, and Intermittent Fasting diets, one of the main problems with these kinds of diets is that they are not structured as heavily. The lack of structure can lead to overeating, and guess what: a caloric deficit is always required for fat loss. If you’re new to weight loss, a caloric deficit simply means you’re eating less food than you’re burning up each day. While we may not focus on specifically “calories” in a lot of these diets, the idea is the same. Eat too much, you’re never going to lose weight. It seems like a pretty standard concept and almost like a silly section, but it’s a common problem amongst dieters.

Since the Ketogenic Diet, Paleo, and Intermittent Fasting don’t always put an emphasis on the amount of food you’re eating (at least not in the common way people look at these diets) it can be easy to overeat and take in far too many calories to lose weight. For the people working hard on these types of diets and not seeing results - this is your answer to why it’s not working for you.

Also, for many dieters, the other biggest problem is the caloric content from the food they don’t think about each day. We’ve become grazers and will grab a few pieces of this, a few of that - nothing that’s really substantial by any means. As the day goes on, that adds up. It could be as little as a few hundred extra calories, or even double that. However, it’s enough that it could push you out of the caloric deficit right into a caloric surplus. All the food that goes into our mouths counts towards our caloric total, even the ones we don’t realize we’re eating. To be truly successful with this, we’ll move to our next unpopular truth.


Personally, I find this to be pretty easy - but I’ve done it for well over a decade now. If you don’t know how much food you’re eating, you don’t know if you’re overeating. It gets a little more specific than that though. We like things to be easy - and it’s easy to eyeball something. I’ll let you in on a little secret: you’re not as good at eyeballing as you think. If you truly want to be successful with your diet, you have to get more precise.

Food scales are wonderful, and pretty hard to mess up. Combine a food scale with an app like My Fitness Pal or MyMacros+ (iOS), it’s pretty damn easy to track your food these days. I’ll even scan the barcode of the food item I’m eating and plug the numbers in right there. If you truly want to be successful, you have to know what you’re eating and how to adjust it. Tracking your food will give you more insight into how much you really eat every single day, and will be the biggest step into reaching your long-term dieting goals.


It may not happen for awhile, but eventually you’re going to be hungry. While dieting, you will periodically reach plateaus and have to reduce calories in order to surpass them. With each drop you will notice you’re hungrier than before. There’s a few methods to ease this: supplements (cue Thermogenic Flux), choosing good food sources, water intake, etc - but barring all the tricks, there’s still going to be some hunger.

Let’s be honest, it isn’t nearly as bad as we make it out to be. There are plenty of actually-starving people in the world that know a feeling we will never know. We’re overweight simply out of abundance and convenience, and have to minorly inconvenience ourselves to [typically] feel better about ourselves and improve our health.

First, let’s address something huge about hunger most people don’t know: It is trained. Yep, the hunger hormone ghrelin is trained to release at the different times we typically eat. Remember Pavlov’s dog - the one that was trained to salivate when a bell was rung - our hunger can work in the same exact way.

Of course, that’s not the only way it works; hunger is also directly tied to energy depletion. However, it’s one thing that we have control of and we can manipulate to our benefit. It can take a few weeks, but eventually you can train your body to be hungry at specific times when you wouldn’t normally eat, or to not be hungry at other times when you have before. This would work extremely well for something like intermittent fasting, where you don’t want to be hungry for the first 8 hours of your day until you can eat. On the other hand, you may want to eat more frequently (some people like having 6 meals per day), and the more you eat at those specific times the more ghrelin will release and cause that hunger for you.

Remember, hunger isn’t a bad thing. Being hungry doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you, that you’re wasting away to nothing, or that you’re going to die. Hunger is either a cue from your body that you usually eat at this time or around these stimuli (could be a football game, social event, time of day, etc) or that you are actually depleting energy. Energy depletion is the stage you want to be in because that’s when your body has to start finding an alternative fuel source. Most of us have an abundance of this fuel source - adipose tissue (fat). With that extra fuel, our body can tap right into it and we only have to deal with the minor inconvenience of being hungry - which leads right into my next point.


Up to this point, it may have sounded like I was making dieting out to be something easily accomplished or no big deal. In reality, I know this is something a lot of us struggle with (myself included), and can be a big obstacle to overcome. Even with a diet plan that perfectly fits your lifestyle, macronutrients and calories in the proper range, and accepting there will be some hunger and suffering throughout the diet - it’s incredibly hard to stick with it. We have business lunches, office parties, family gatherings, birthday parties, holidays.. I think you get where I’m going here.

There is always an opportunity to trash your diet and give into temptation. It’s incredibly difficult to say ‘no’ to your favorite food and eat what you have planned - or to limit yourself on how much of that food you’re going to eat if it has been factored into your diet plan. We’re gluttons by nature, and prone to overeating. We love the taste of food and we dwell on it at times.

How many times have you had friends act like you were ‘missing out’ by not eating something? It happened to me just recently when I was in Chicago on business, and I had friends tell me that I had to go eat at specific restaurants. The times that I ate healthier and chose light options at a restaurant, I was ‘missing out’ and they ‘couldn’t believe’ I would go to Chicago and not focus entirely on food. We are an incredibly food-driven society, and the feeling of ‘missing out’ can throw us off our diet immediately.

Luckily, you're not missing much. There’s nothing about eating a specific meal that is going to change your life. We might act like it, and we may act like we never have the chance to eat it again - but what are the odds of that? How would it really affect your life if you didn’t have it? Likely, it wouldn’t change a damn thing. Throw all that brainwashing in the trash, and focus on the one thing that will truly make you successful in all of your dieting endeavors: Discipline.

Why is it we see some people with incredible discipline, while we can barely say ‘no’ to a food we don’t even like much? It’s because discipline is a skill. That’s right, it’s something that can be learned and trained - something you get better with the more you practice it. Hopefully, that’s the best damn news you have heard today. You see, discipline doesn’t come easily to anyone. Take a look at children, they don’t self-regulate what they know they should and shouldn’t do - that’s why we have rules for them. We’re the exact same way, except no one is coming along to forcefully control your food intake and make sure you’re staying on your diet.

Discipline spans virtually everything we do with our dieting and physique goals. Whether it’s the planning stages, preparation stages, the actual eating of the meals, or the aftermath of the meal when the cravings hit. Everything takes discipline, and it’s not easy. Like any skill, it takes practice - a lot of it. We are training the skill of discipline constantly every single day, except it’s normally in the opposite direction.

Like any skill, sport, or hobby - if you practice it wrong, it’s going to hurt more than help. Every single decision we make adds up to our total of how disciplined we are, and the more we make the right choice, the easier it gets. I challenge you to ask anyone you know who sticks to their diet - and has made incredible physique changes - how hard it is to stick to the diet now versus when they first started. It’s much easier once you’ve been practicing it correctly, but it takes consistency.

We all have a lazy side, or an inner “Mr. Hyde” (think back to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) that wants us to give into temptation and do things as easy as possible. It’s an inner voice you can easily recognize coming up with the excuses for why you should do something you know you shouldn’t. He (or she) is the one in your head telling you how good the food is going to taste, how it isn’t going to hurt and you can get back on the diet tomorrow, how much better you’ll feel after you eat, and that you deserve that food.

We all have that inner struggle, and as we feed that voice by giving into it - we’re giving it more power. We become weaker and weaker until we finally break from our lack of discipline and decide we have to get things under control. At that moment, our discipline is great and we’re taking control. It can last days or weeks, but eventually we compromise and that Mr. Hyde starts to take control again and sway our decisions. The more we give in, the less self-control we have and the less likely we are to stick with our plans and accomplish our goals.

The trick here is to recognize that voice, to recognize our inner laziness and the voice inside our head that is trying to get us to give into something easy. Once we recognize that voice and ignore it, the less power it has over us. Continuously choosing to stick with our plan and ignore that voice helps to diminish its power over us and the persuasion it uses.

It’s difficult, but like any skill - the beginning is the hardest part. Once you break through that barrier and continuously acknowledge that voice and make the right choices, the less influence it’ll have.  It will then become easier for you to stick to your long-term plans and be successful with your diet (or truthfully anything in your life).


Exercise isn’t required to lose weight, but it’s only going to make your life easier and your results better. As we discussed previously, weight loss occurs when less calories are eaten than they are burned. We can reduce caloric intake to achieve this, and we can also increase our energy expenditure through exercise. The better the metabolic stimulus for calorie loss, the easier the diet will be. The biggest reason this will help you: metabolisms are adaptive (to a degree).

If you’ve ever been on a diet and had great success only to hit a plateau and not be able to break through it: it’s because your metabolism has adapted to your current caloric intake. There are a *lot* of factors that go into this, but I’ll try and only brush on them briefly. The most ignored factor is that weight loss itself is removing energy requirements off your body. When we remove 20lbs from our body, that 20lbs is like removing a weight vest. Put a 20lbs weight vest on and do your daily routine - you’re going to be a lot more worn out throughout the day and require more calories from simple things like walking around and getting up and down the stairs. As we lose that weight, we lose that extra load on our bodies that helps us burn off more calories, so we are burning less throughout the day. Over time that may mean that we reach a balance where calories eaten are equal to calories burned. We can drop calories further, or increase the energy expenditure through exercise.

Specific types of exercise don’t only increase calorie loss while you’re exercising, they can increase your metabolic rate for days. Working out with weights or doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) puts a stress on your body that requires a lot of recovery and will bump the amount of calories you’re burning throughout the day and even into the next day or two (depending on level of intensity). Simply put - if you want to eat more and keep losing weight, you’re going to want to exercise and you’re going to want to do the most beneficial forms of it.

Sorry, cardio bunnies; the long slow cardio will burn calories but it’s not going to bump your metabolism up to the degree exercise with weights or HIIT cardio will. If you’d like more information on this one, leave us a comment and I’ll be sure to do a blog post for you - there’s a lot more information out there on this one.

Lastly, exercise prevents the ‘skinny-fat’ we’re all familiar with. We want weight loss, but we don’t specifically want muscle loss. We’re after losing fat, not muscle, during our dieting. The best way to protect muscle and ensure that it is not what is being lost during dieting is through exercise. Stimulation of the muscle and activation helps to keep that muscle utilizing nutrients for recovery, and building up stronger. At worst, we’ll maintain the muscle that we have while still stimulating our metabolism to burn through calories and use fat as our energy source. If you’re looking or a toned physique, it’s time to pick up the weights and get to work.


Alcohol is wonderful if you’re looking to release your inhibitions and need something to blame - but it’s far from being your friend during a fat loss phase. Sure, there are a lot of low-calorie alcoholic beverages out there being aimed at health - but they’re still going to slow you down. If you’re wanting to lose weight, it’s best to eliminate alcohol or limit it drastically.

Alcohol is essentially an empty calorie with no nutritional value. While that may not be a huge concern for someone that doesn’t drink often, it can still add up over time. Alcohol has a caloric value of 7 calories per gram. For comparison reasons, protein is 4 calories per gram, carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram, and fat is 9 calories per gram. As you can see, drinking your calories in alcohol can add up pretty quickly with more than just a couple drinks.

On top of that, alcohol is a poison (duh) and inhibits usage of other macronutrients like carbohydrates and fat while your body is processing it. Alcohol can’t be stored for use as energy later (like carbs and fats can), and must be burned off as the priority. So while you’re consuming alcohol, you’re slowing your metabolism down due to the rate limit of how quickly we can burn alcohol off. Remember, you can’t ‘sober’ up quickly, it takes time. The same goes for how long it takes for your body to eliminate alcohol completely and switch back to using fat as a fuel source.

Having a drink or two occasionally won’t completely halt all of your fat loss efforts, but it most definitely won’t help. If you do plan to drink, do some research and choose your better options. One ounce of 80-proof liquor is only around 65 calories, while a beer is typically 150 calories, and a glass of wine is around 125 calories. While those calories may not seem like a large number, remember how much you’re drinking and that you won’t be using alternate fuel sources while you’re processing and removing the alcohol from your system (which can take upwards of 10 hours).

If you truly want to be successful with your dieting efforts, it’s best to eliminate alcohol as much as possible - including your nightly glass of red wine for ‘health benefits.’


Yeah, dieting can suck. I think we all know that anytime we have to limit ourselves, restrict ourselves, or pay close attention to something we wish we didn’t have to do can be a pain in the ass. It’s pretty ridiculous for us to be that upset with the fact that we have an abundance of food that is conveniently located everywhere. We’re fat because we eat the wrong foods, eat too much of said wrong foods, and don’t exercise enough. Let me go ahead and throw in a #firstworldproblems tag for you here while you contemplate that.

The longer you focus on the negative of dieting, the worse it’s going to be. It’s like back in school when you had a project to do and put it off, thinking of just how big of a chore it was going to be to get that done. We build it up in our head, put negative connotations on it, and dread every moment of it. When we finally get around to doing it, it gets worse. We talk about how much we hate doing it, how much time it requires, the other things we could have been doing.

On the opposite hand, there were times where we knew something was going to take a long time and it was going to suck. We went ahead and got it done, didn’t focus on the negative and only focused on the fact that we needed to accomplish it, so we didn’t have to worry about it. After we were done, we realized it wasn’t that hard and putting in the effort wasn’t nearly as big of a deal. In fact, we felt accomplished for getting it completed in such an easy manner.

Dieting isn’t any different. Focus on the negative, and it’ll be a negative experience. Focus on everything you can’t eat, and you’ll crave those foods even more. Rather than focusing on the negative, reframe what you’re doing and look at it in a positive light. Pay attention to how much better you feel, how accomplished you are when you stick to the plan, how you’re becoming more disciplined with each day and how you can do anything that you put your mind to - especially something as simple as dieting.

Lastly, focus on your progress and not how far you have to go. Like that project I mentioned above that we absolutely dreaded, we sometimes focus on how long something is going to take and how much work it’ll take to get there. That can make even the smallest hill feel like Everest. Rather than focusing on what you still have left to accomplish - celebrate the small goals: the small changes, the minor successes, and the fact that you’re still sticking to your diet when you know you could drop it and eat ‘like a normal person.’ We’re human beings and seemingly never satisfied, which means it’s easy to find fault in what we’re doing and be unhappy.

Rather than let that drive you insane and slow your momentum, use what you have accomplished to fuel what you’re going to do. Stay focused, and enjoy the ride. No one is forcing you to diet, you’re just lucky enough to have such an abundance of delicious food that you have to control how much you’re eating.


Nope, life isn’t fair - and that’s a wonderful thing. Sure, you may not like that you have to diet while your friend can eat absolutely whatever they want. We all know those people and have that friend - they eat absolutely anything and everything they want and never gain a pound. We secretly hate them while munching away on our diet food and vegetables. That’s not their fault, and it’s not yours either. None of us are born equal - even in the same household. In my opinion, that’s a wonderful thing.

You have other gifts, other things you’re great at or could be great at that you haven’t even recognized yet. Dieting is one method for you to learn the self-discipline it takes to be successful in other areas of your life. Those others that don’t have to monitor their diet and can eat whatever they want all the time? They don’t have this opportunity and have to learn it elsewhere. The feedback mechanism of dieting and self control is insanely obvious - we know when we are failing, and we know when we are successful. It’s a visual feedback system, along with how we feel physically.

Yes, you may have to put in 10x the effort to get the same results as your friends or family members - but that is life. The quicker we accept our situation, our life, our metabolism, and stop comparing it to someone else’s, the quicker we can find success and happiness. Life isn’t fair, and that’s a wonderful thing.


If you’ve made it to this point in the blog, congrats! You’re likely one of few that has wanted to read the entirety of this blog post. The last point I’d like to leave you with: keep going. You may have reached a point where you’re happy with how you look - and that’s terrific. It may have been for a vacation, health insurance test, pool season - whatever it was, you are happy with where you are right now. That’s a wonderful accomplishment, but you’re not done yet.

Too many times we reach an accomplishment like this based on a goal,we stop doing what we know works. We ‘relax’ and revert back to old behavior. Unfortunately, it takes much more work to achieve your goal than it does to blow it out of the water. If you’ve been dieting aggressively for a long period of time, your body is like a sponge. That sponge is looking to soak up the calories you eat and store those as fat - which is a good thing for survival purposes, but not for our 'first world aesthetics'. That means you’re going to get fat way faster than you lost it.

If you do have something coming up like a vacation, pool party, or a goal you’re trying to achieve and want to relax after you reach it - that’s perfectly fine! Do it, enjoy yourself. Just know that the harder you fall off the diet, the quicker you’re going to lose all of the progress you just made.