One of the reasons most dieting fails is because people lack a healthy, sustainable diet baseline. Of course, a big part of that is people not having any idea what their baseline is to begin with… if they even have one.
This is also a key reason modern people insidiously gain weight over time. Their metabolism slowing with age and decreased activity certainly doesn’t help. But a lack of consistency and healthy eating habits is the larger contributor.
Also, this is a key reason people today find intermittent fasting so effective, even if they don’t necessarily cut calories overall in doing it. The inherent schedule of the approach forces consistency: You have to eat at certain times and not eat at certain times. Someone who lacked consistent eating habits before now has to develop and practice consistent eating habits… which in itself is a substantial improvement for such people, intermittent fasting or not.
Basically, if you’re looking for long term fat loss or weight loss, you need to first build sustainable habits that will contribute to lower fat and a healthier weight.
This shouldn’t require an overhaul of your lifestyle, but it will require some change in your personal habits.
You can first attack this in one of two ways:
1. You can spend a week logging everything you eat and when.
2. You can add or change one new habit every week.
- Option 1 (O1) requires the discipline to diligently keep track of everything you eat or drink, accurately. Many people admittedly lack this.
- O1 requires you figure out *how* to track everything. Will you use an app? Will you log everything on a spreadsheet? Do you feel comfortable using either?
- Will you be honest with O1? Will you leave things off or under/over count things? Counting wrong is very easy to do even if you’re well versed at logging food, especially if you eat out or snack.
- However, done right, O1 will give you a complete picture of how much you’re eating and when. It can more quickly point out things you need to improve, bad habits you need to break, etc.
- Option 2 (O2) is easy to implement. You decide to add vegetables to a meal, or replace an item with them. You cut out soda, don’t put sugar/cream in your coffee, make sure to eat no snacks during a particular time of day, etc. You know this individual habit change will generate some improvement.
- Of course, O2’s success is a matter of discipline. You have to make sure to practice the new better habit, or avoid practicing the old bad habit. If you slip more than once, then the change will not have a long term effect.
- The effect at its best with O2 is likely small and limited. You may only reduce your calorie count by 100-200 calories a day, which won’t lose much weight. You may only add a modicum of new needed nutrients, still well short of what your body needs. If you’re currently overeating, shedding one bad habit may not eliminate the larger problem.
Which is better? There’s not an absolute answer.
Overall, I find option 2 provides quicker progress and results. But option 1 scales better: If done fully, the information you learn from option 1 could produce stronger long term results. It’s a matter of how accurately you track what you eat, and the ability to do so varies widely from person to person.
If you find you’re a person who for whatever reasons simply can’t manage that level of diligence, you’re much better off with option 1, trying to make changes one small habit at a time.
Either way, the key to positive change is you need to find or notice consistency in your diet. If you tend to eat the same diet regularly, then your next step is to notice what is consistently done and how. What needs to change can be worked out after.
If your diet is all over the place, then you need to take the extra step of developing a consistent pattern of eating. Settle on the same general foods, or the same quantity of food at each meal. Though you’ll need to break it later, you should find a comfort level with your eating habits that establishes a base line. It’s a lot harder to shed fat by reducing your base line food intake… if you don’t even know what that base line is in the first place.
The latter case is one situation where intermittent fasting might be useful. The protocol forces you to eat all your food in a particular 8 hour window. If you can coffee your way to lunch, and then eat all your food at lunch and dinner (maybe with some more during an afternoon or evening snack), that will hen your eating into a consistent pattern that can be subsequently adjusted.
There’s a variety of approaches to losing weight, but none are of much use without consistency on your part… not just with making changes and building new habits, but with having and knowing your existing eating habits.