Successful Dieting: What Really matters?
Honestly: What actually matters when it comes to being successful with your diet? I have fielded this question hundreds of times. To specific individuals the answer is: It depends. When it comes to general terms, the answers may surprise you!
Over the past 10 years I have made lots of observations in clients trying to lose weight. Every person I’ve coached is a unique situation, but success always leaves clues. Recently a very popular dieting app from Renaissance Periodization (RP) analyzed over 10,000 “successful” dieters (links below). They defined a “successful” dieter as someone who made at least half of their progress toward their initial weight loss goal, and were able to separate varying degrees of success all the way to people who achieved and surpassed their initial goal. Another popular social media, science based, fitness influencer Jeff Nippard recently posted his interviews with 5 weight loss experts (link below). There are definitely some common threads.
Armed with my personal experience, data from thousands of RP results, and some nutrition experts I will let you know what really matters, and what doesn’t, when it comes to being successful at losing weight. I will also give you a few tips on how to set up your next diet for success!
Before we look at what really matters, let’s first take a look at some things that don’t really matter! Keep in mind we are only focusing on the ability to successfully lose weight and we are not looking at optimizing your total health or making it "easier" to be successful. Then I will let you know what you should put more focus on to ensure your success, no matter where you are starting! Heck a few of these things might actually relive some stress around dieting so you can actually enjoy.
While this article is aimed more toward weight loss, some of the same things will apply to adding muscle.
Read time: 5 minutes
THINGS YOU PROBABLY THINK MATTERS… BUT NOT SO MUCH:
While age can have an influence on a lot of different factors in our lives, it doesn’t necessarily influence if you will or won’t be successful in your weight loss journey. In fact a recent study showed slight changes in resting metabolism after the age of 65! What might be lost in a few extra calories from an optimally functioning metabolism or natural daily activity can be gained in extra resources, experience and discipline to put toward your plan. Dr. Mike Isretel from RP said the data showed average ages from all groups of successful dieters were the same. If you think you can or can not, you are probably right!
Starting Weight and Body Fat Levels
Starting with a higher weight and body fat levels can have an influence at the potential rate than you can lose weight and can make it easier to start losing weight due to the tendency of small behavior changes having a larger impact. It does not have a factor in your chance of success.
Eating Whole Food vs Packaged/Restaurant Foods
Admittedly, this was a shocker for me, and had RP not had the data to back it up, I still wouldn’t believe it. The percentage of successful dieters that ate more packaged and restaurant foods were similar to those who ate more of their own prepared foods. There seems to be an equal trade off between the benefits of satiety and nutrient density of self prepared foods and the benefits of convenience and time saving of picking something up quickly.
When it comes to whole foods vs highly processed ones, there will definitely be differences in how easy it will be to stick to your plan. Whole foods give you the added benefit of additional micronutrients, how full you will feel and how many calories you use to digest that food, but that can be a discussion for a different day!
It doesn’t matter if you have had the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past 5 years or can’t possibly stand to eat the same breakfast 2 times in the same week. When looking at weight loss success or failure, do whatever works for you with confidence!
The average successful dieter usually feeds about four times a day. There are some people who feel super energetic eating six or seven times a day. Others, myself included, having any more than four meals, you feel most of your day is dedicated to cooking, eating and cleaning. I’m not trying to pick up an extra side job at my own personal restaurant, I’m trying to change my physique! More importantly than the number of meals you eat in a day, is what works best for your lifestyle and schedule!
One thing that may be important is the frequency of protein intake. The body can not store nutritional protein to be used when you need it. So it will search for protein in your body (like your muscles) when it needs it. While overall daily intake still reigns supreme there are some small benefits for retaining muscle with regular protein feedings while you are awake. It is recommended a minimum of 3 feedings of protein spaced through the hours you are awake.