Thursday, July 14, 2016

Popular Diet Plans; Good, until there not.....

At this past weeks NSCA National Conference in New Orleans, of the 18 lectures I attended, one of them had immediate resonance with me on the nutritional side of things. A new perspective gained I had not before considered in my work with sailors, athletes and public clients of mine.

The topic was given by Marie Spano, one of the worlds leading authorities on sports nutrition, speaking and writing. Her topic was "Navigating your clients/athletes through the maze of today's popular diets."


Or should you??


The major areas she covered centered on research based evidence on diets related to ketogenic diets, Paleo diets and intermittent fasting based diets. Others were touched on briefly but primary focus was the first three.

The information she gave was very appealing in showing what did work, what did not and what still needs to be determined by research and time itself. Much research has been done across many demographics, ages, genders, time frames and structures as well as looking at many different outcome variables in response to these diets from various health markers, weight loss, compliance rates etc.

In the end it was basically shown that all of the diets worked to some degree with respect to weight loss, health improvements and disease management both short and long term. In fact in most every case the results were equal in terms weight lost, muscle retained, blood markers measured etc.

What this tells me is that it is not right or wrong to want to follow one of the mainstream popular diet philosophies if a client or athletes comes to me motivated and excited to begin on one of them. It wont be better or worse then a generally clean, wholesome, calorie controlled eating plan would be.

I really thought long and hard about this because I do get hit with this question all the time from those I work with. "Should I do diet X, Y, Z, 1, 5, 7 etc......"

My answer is almost always to try and deter them from a (super sexy sounding and appealing) fad diet back to a more (plain Jane, boring) middle ground nutritional approach to help them with their needs and goals. Many times this works and I can get them on board with the traditional route. However many times I just cant convince them that they do not need to be on any fancy, cool, hip sounding diet to see weight loss. They are dead set on doing it their way and despite my best attempts they go about their own way determined to see it through on their own terms. Now 90% of the time they come back 4-6 weeks later at best claiming they "tried so hard" and "did so well at first" but then found it too hard, too inconvenient, too unsustainable, too restrictive etc.....and back to ground 0 we go.

So like the research Marie Spano shared, the diets do work, can work and in the lab via controlled clinical settings with professional support, tracking, payment incentives etc.... to finish the study.....people will see positive outcomes just as good as a traditional approaches to weight loss. So its not wrong to let my clients go that route.....IN THE BEGINNING.......

If I get a super charged client, motivated as hell, committed to the skies, eager to begin, confident in their abilities to succeed, driven to comply, taking the steps needed to create change  in their life about diet and nutrition and Diet XYZ1000..... happens to be what spurs their actionable first steps then I am going to ride that wave of self created motivation they brought to me all on their own and see to it we ride that out as long as we can with my guidance and support. (I will not and do not support the idea of detox cleanses longer then 72 hours let me state that right now! For my take on cleansing please see this guideline and leave it at that!) Personally as long as the diet does not completely omit or forbid an entire food group I can allow it to move forward.

So as long as said diet program you find has good match-up with for your preferences, likes, food prep resources, kitchen skills, budget, family needs and preferences, religious beliefs or other food related beliefs then yes go for if your compelled "this is the one for you."

However if you find yourself (as I often do with 90% of my clients in and outside the Navy) 4-6 weeks later when one or even "all the rules" of the said diet you have been on catch up with you and you start to hate what you just loved become clear, DO NOT give up! Adjust!

If those first 4-6 weeks got you some weight loss then GREAT! Well done and nice work! Now that it's gotten harder to sustain don't go and throw in the towel, call it quits and drop everything because you want to break a "rule" of your new diet by eating an item "forbidden" on the diet, off limits to you, eating too early, too late, too often, the wrong food combinations etc.....if your still able to lose weight even by "ADAPTING" the rules of any diet plan then your still getting closer to your goals! I cant tell you how many people I talk to about why a diet failed them despite doing so well at first. Its all due to 1 or 2 simple "rules" of a diet plan they felt they had "broke" and figured it was all over then because they were not doing it 100% by the book. WRONG!

Using myself as an example:

I could feasible say I follow a (being formal about it).........

IIFYM-Flexible Dieting-New Nordic Diet

And I would be 100% honest it giving it this name. I do follow many concepts of IIFYM, as well as flexible dieting principles and it aligns very closely with Nordic diet foods selections and omissions.

So if I am NOT 100% compliant to any 1 of the above 3 diets then am I cheating? Am I doing it wrong? Am I breaking the rules and sabotaging myself? HELL NO! In fact I am seeing what is now one of the most productive years of my training career as well as some of the best health measures I have ever had tested for. I have ADAPTED parts of each just a little to work for me the way I need them to so I can sustain them long term. Follow them day to day and still reach my goals of performance in the gym, at work and in my health and well-being.

I urge you just like my clients, athletes and sailors to do the same. As you find struggle or resistance in a popular diet or any dietary program you are on or plan to go on in the near future use this simple process to keep yourself going forward......


  • Identify what is working well and what is not working for you and why that is so.
  • ADAPT the part or parts not working so you can keep the rest of the plan intact.
  • Do not just give up everything because 1 "rule" was broken.
  • Review your plan often, ask, is it still manageable over time, others around you, your resources?
  • Assess an objective measure like weight loss but don't expect change every week!
  • Keep a food log or use an app to log daily intake to track trends in food intake, types, times, amounts.
  • Be mindful of how you feel, respond and react to foods, note this as you progress.


So in closing IT DOES NOT MATTER what diet you follow as per the laundry list of research brought up by Marie Spano during her lecture. As long as calorie intake was controlled for over time all subjects would lose weight, some more, some less. But if weight loss was the goal then everyone went from A to B. How one gets there is a matter of "what's best for me" and that is where guys like me come in to help start someone off right, customize things for the person at hand and their goals. Having sat through this lecture however has given me a more open mind on how to work with versus against the person who comes to me 100% SURE that Paleo or IF is the key to their weight loss goals........they say their is more than one way to skin a cat......in nutritional science and dietary approaches to weight loss.....this could not apply more....and for you readers......their is always more then one way "To find A Better Bite."



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