On the 4th of June 1976, the Sex Pistols played to a room of 30 to 40 people in a tiny club in Manchester. After being subjected to jaded glam rock for most of the ’70s, the small number of gig-goers craved something new. They got it. They were so influenced by the performance that members of the audience immediately started bands, going on to form the Smiths, Magazine, The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, New Order, The Fall, and the legendary label Factory Records. One sweaty little gig in the north-west changed music forever.
While the sound of punk rock and the sub-culture that clung to it ran counter to popular music and fashion trends at the time, it didn’t last forever. Eventually, the central themes of anti-authoritarianism and anti-consumerism that dominated early punk would become as bloated and overproduced as the platform wearing, glittery tosh that came before.
It’s the way it’s always been. From Elvis’s legendary appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in the 50’s to the Beatles’ groundbreaking performance on the same show almost a decade later; popular culture is turned on its head in a single moment only to become stale and wearied in the years to come. This theme of out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new doesn’t just crop up in music; even the way we diet experiences paradigm shifts.
One such shift occurred towards the tail end of the noughties. Losing weight by eating fewer calories than you burn might not be news to you in 2019, but back then this fact was a revelation. Partly as a reaction to the needlessly restrictive practice of “eating clean”, former bro’s switched from agonising over whether brown rice was better than white, to how many pop tarts could they eat in one day while still getting shredded. What started as a sensible focus on total calorie intake turned into something just as bad as the clean eating bullshit that came before it.
When it comes to diets I’m not pro-methods, I’m pro-choice. Gone are the days of banning white bread or never drinking booze; but endless dietary flexibility is not without its pitfalls. The idea that you can eat what you want when you want is misplaced, and the message to “eat the foods you love” from every young personal trainer these days needs questioning. To give some context, I’m going to share some strategies I use on myself while I’m trying to lose fat, and why I use them. Can a diet be too liberal? For me, the answer is yes. Here’s why.
Strategy 1 – I Prepare My Own Food
You might not think this is a big deal but the difference between eating out and preparing my food is profound. I know that I can have a pain au raisin from Pret in the morning and still end up in a calorie deficit by the end of the day, but as soon as I taste it’s buttery pastry goodness all I can think about is eating another six. This is a feeling that usually persists, and if I’m tired, stressed, or sad, eventually, I’ll cave and eat something else which induces a similar effect. Most of the time this will result in my diet being derailed for the day, which can have a knock-on effect for the rest of the week if I decide to not give a fuck about what I’m eating.
I’m not saying I make all my food from scratch, ain’t nobody got time for that, but restricting myself to eating in my flat or carrying food with me takes the above scenario out of the equation. This isn’t particularly on-trend in current dieting circles, but I give less of a shit about being hip and more about staying in shape. If you can eat what some might consider a “trigger” food without anything negative happening then more power to you. I have many clients who can do just that and I support them, but most of the time I can’t, so I take steps to avoid it coming up.
Strategy 2 – I Eat All The Protein
When eating a diet designed for fat loss I radically up my protein intake. High protein diets are commonplace, but my reasons for jacking protein up way beyond what I need are slightly different. For me it’s less about muscle maintenance or satiety, you can get the benefit of that on a fairly moderate intake. Stopping myself from eating food that negatively affects my appetite is the key.
It’s easy enough to get a fairly moderate amount of protein in junk food, but aim to eat 50 to 60% of your total calories of the stuff and it’s a different story. Now every food choice has to be carefully considered. For some people, this is the very antithesis of flexible dieting, but for me, it’s exactly what I need to stay on track.
Strategy 3 – I Eat The Same Things Over And Over Again
You’ve probably heard the advice to eat a wide variety of foods every single day for your body composition and health, but getting good at this dieting shit means questioning the status quo now and then, and this is no exception. I learned the hard way that variety is certainly not the spice of life in my diet, and what countless failures taught me about myself are backed up by science.
- The more varied the diet, the more people eat
- A greater variety of food causes an appetite-stimulating mechanism
- The greater the food variety is in a meal, the harder it is to feel full
My biggest weakness on a diet isn’t hunger, it’s impulsivity. Sticking to a meal plan gets around this. Flexible dieting isn’t about how many gummy bears you can eat, it’s about choice. While I prefer to mostly stick to the same foods, the world doesn’t end if I don’t. I’ll go wild on some doughnuts if the mood takes me, I just choose not to most of the time.
It’s totally possible to knock back Prosecco, scoff chocolate, and wolf pastries and still get ripped; but flexibility comes at a cost. Managing hunger and nailing adherence on a diet should always be priority number one. If too much of the good stuff leads to you falling off the fat loss wagon, it’s time to limit your indulgences.