Have your cake and eat it - strategies to help be more flexible with your diet and still get result
Flexibility in your diet with
out sabotaging results
Unfortunately, the likelihood of being able to sport a 6 pack or bikini body whilst overindulging on Pop Tarts and Oreos is pretty low. However, that’s not to say you can’t have a bit of both.
1. Find your cost of getting in shape
What are you willing to sacrifice to get the results you want? We don’t always know immediately what it takes to get in shape, which can create a false impression of the effort required, and that can affect our motivation going forward.
Think about and try and identify what it really takes to reach your goals. Obviously to lose a few pounds and feel healthier is going to take less dedication and time than a chiselled set of abs and 2 x bodyweight squats. Knowing your cost of getting in shape will also make you more at ease with what you must do.
Precision Nutrition have come up with a fantastic infographic helping to depict what it takes to get to certain levels of body fat: https://www.precisionnutri- tion.com/cost-of-getting-lean-infographic
2. Don’t ban foods
There is no such thing as a bad food, just bad habits. By saying you will never eat this or that food again (pizza, crisps, ice cream, peanut butter) will only lead you to want these foods even more. And guess what happens when you crack… A spoon and an empty tub of Ben and Jerry’s.
3. Don’t strive for perfection
Imperfection is completely normal and should be accepted. Slow “imperfect” progress is far better than striving for perfection which will inevitably fail and lead to being stuck. Don’t view your diet as black or white where a bad day means all is lost. Just because you have had a packet of biscuits does not mean you have to wait until Monday to restart your diet. If you have a bad day, accept it and move on.
5. Drop the quick fix mentality
The choices we make over months, not one day or one hour, dictate the way that our bodies will look and feel. Looking for diet pills, crash diets and jumping headlong into an excessive exercise regime inevitably leads to failure. A drastic drop in kcals is not sustainable and will more than likely lead to subsequent weight gain or a performance decrement. Don’t let quick fix thinking distract you from the hard work of changing unhealthy behaviours which are the root cause of weight gain and poor performance.
Look to substitute hyper-palatable foods (cakes, biscuits, crisps, chocolate) for lower kcal snacks and drinks. Although these may not all be deemed healthy, it’s better to have the odd one of these than to consistently overeat.
Sweet snacks under 100 kcals – popcorn, low kcal bags of crisps, snack jacks, 10 kcal jelly pots, frozen grapes
Make your own crisps by baking thinly sliced vegetables or fruit
Look for high protein low kcal snacks – biltong, Greek yoghurt/quark/skyr, boiled eggs
Use zero kcal sweeteners, syrups and flavour drops to help give some extra flavour to your food without using up too many kcals
Opt for zero kcal drinks – Look for diet varieties if you are out or just craving a sweet drink
7. Get by
Sometimes you just need something to get by until there is something better available. How many times have you eaten your afternoon snack too early or forgot to prepare it all together? Your options are limited and mostly unhealthy. In these situations, a few strategies that can help are:
Drink tea of coffee
Brush your teeth
Suck it up
Checks and balances
Learn to be more flexible with your eating. Being restrictive in certain areas enables you to be more flexible in others.
Remove carbohydrates from your evening meal so you can have dessert
Eat the burger without the bread so you can have dessert
Having no afternoon snack so you can have a bedtime snack
Don’t have carbohydrates at lunch so you can increase them in the evening.
Skip carbs at breakfast so you can have a few drinks at night
9. Be strict with being balanced
This may seem like an oxymoron, but an approach like “if it fits your macros (IIFYM)” can allow you to fit in some of the “bad foods” you like without deviating much from your macronutrient goals for the day. What this means is that providing you stay within your macros, you can eat whichever foods you like.
10. Get strict for 8-12 weeks
Set a goal for yourself, give yourself a time frame and give it everything. It’s not forever!
11. Build an environment conducive with your goals
Do you have access to those sweet things, are they in your house? Usually if something is in the vicinity, it’s in reach and there’s not much effort to grab it you will eat and keep eating it. So, don’t buy it. The harder it is to get hold of a food the less likely it is you will eat it.
12. Drink wisely
Alcohol inhibits protein and glycogen synthesis affecting recovery and the building of new muscle, especially after resistance training (21, 22). However, the odd night out is not going to have a huge effect on your progress. If body composition or weight loss is the goal, then maintaining a kcal deficit is key. Therefore, if you plan to drink make a conscious effort to reduce calorific foods the day before, of and after drinking, whilst also choosing lower kcal drinks where possible.
13. Kcal balancing
Kcal balance over one week is more important than day to day management. Overeating for one day will have a negligible impact on your results compared to consistently overeating over the week. To help you manage this, you can adjust your daily targets whilst still reaching the same weekly average. This is a good strategy if you plan on going out or if you feel you need to compensate for a day of overeating. We recommend not to drop kcals more than 20% of your daily target.
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