While there are many dieting tips out there, very few are actually useful and effective. This article is one of those few. I have used this system to help people losing weight for over 4 years. I have been teaching it to trainers and health coaches for over 2 years now.

Some people claim that their dieting plan is all they need to lose weight. Others have tried everything and nothing seems to work. If you are one of those people who are struggling with a weight loss challenge, you are not alone. Many people have problems with their weight, and one of the most common problems that people have is dieting failure.

I used to be really thin, but something has changed. After many years of “working” on my body, I found that whatever I ate, my body would still be hungry. I had a hard time finding foods that would feed my body well and make me feel satisfied. I was tired of being hungry. If I didn’t have a cuppa coffee with breakfast, I would get hungry; if I ate less than 500 calories at lunch, I would be hungry by dinnertime so I’d eat again.

It’s natural to feel stuck when your eating plan stops working. However, by following these three methods, you can solve practically any diet issue. (You might be surprised at the first one.)

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I’ve been working in the fitness and nutrition industry for 25 years, and I can confidently state that every eating plan fails at some point. Children arrive, jobs get more demanding, family members become ill… LIFE occurs.

It’s easy to become lost—too easy.

However, the type of these nutritional breakdowns can differ. So, over the last five years, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to come up with a formula that will solve practically every diet issue.

See, a lot of the nutrition “advice” you hear in the media and at the gym is really buzzwords and phrases. You’ve seen them before:

  • “All you have to do is eat whole foods.”
  • “Eat only things your grandmother would recognize.”
  • “Eat more fat and less carbohydrates.”
  • “Don’t eat anything that doesn’t run, fly, or swim–or isn’t a green vegetable.”

However, whether you’re a real human in the real world—or a professional assisting one—slogans aren’t enough.

Slogans cause dietary dissatisfaction, fat-loss plateaus, and even undesirable weight gain. They result in:

Should I just give up now? Why am I so bad at it? Will nutrition always be a source of disappointment and failure?

It’s time to get past the platitudes and talk about how to actually assist people alter their diets and start eating better.

To explain how we troubleshoot eating plans when they’ve “simply stopped working” and you’re at a loss for what to do next.

Finally, I’ll show you how to put these strong and meaningful tactics to work for you to alter your eating habits. Or to assist others in doing so.

These methods have been proved to work (over 150,000 people have tried them), and some of them may surprise you.

Step 1: Make sure you don’t have any nutritional deficiencies.

When diets don’t work, most people think they need a complete makeover right soon.

I need to eliminate sweets, dairy, carbohydrates, and saturated fat from my diet.

In addition, I need to consume more protein and good fats. as well as more vegetables

I need to start drinking more water as well.

And then there’s the exercise… Perhaps a 6 a.m. boot camp…

It’s been dubbed the “Mission Impossible” strategy.

Throughout my early career, I learned that the Mission Impossible approach isn’t simply challenging; it’s also incorrect.

Because a whole makeover rarely addresses the underlying issues that prevent most individuals from eating effectively in the first place.

The issue is that people are unhappy. And it’s difficult to put up the effort required for a good diet when you’re constantly tired.

I now refer to the core causes of negative feelings as “limiting factors.” Things that obstruct progress are referred to as limiting factors. They can be physical, mental, or emotional in nature.

Let’s start with the physical.

Hormonal abnormalities, sleep deprivation, and too much lifestyle stress could all be physical limiting factors. However, dietary shortage is a very prevalent — and sometimes neglected — limiting factor: not obtaining enough of the appropriate nutrients in the proper amounts to look and feel your best.

Major nutrients are inadequate in shockingly large percentages of the US population.

Graph showing percentage of us population not meeting the rda

A research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition backs this up: Getting all of the needed minerals and vitamins through diet alone is extremely difficult.

This research looked over 70 different athlete diets. At least three nutrients were lacking in every single diet. And some people’s diets were deficient in up to 15 nutrients! What are the most prevalent flaws?

  • iodine
  • D-vitamin
  • zinc
  • a source of a source of vitamin E
  • calcium

Another study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that those who followed one of four popular diet plans (including Atkins, South Beach, and the DASH diet) were very likely to be micronutrient deficient, especially in six essential micronutrients:

  • B7 vitamin
  • D-vitamin
  • vitamin E
  • chromium
  • iodine
  • molybdenum

I set out to find the mythical “balanced diet” when I was a PhD student at the University of Western Ontario. I looked at the dietary habits of roughly 600 fourth-year fitness and nutrition students.

Surprisingly, just about 10% satisfied the basic requirements for a “complete, balanced diet.” These people, like those in the other trials, were deficient in nutrients such as:

  • zinc
  • magnesium
  • D-vitamin
  • fatty acids omega 3
  • protein

Things can get considerably worse in instances where populations are fed institutionally (e.g., prison inmates and schoolchildren). But there is reason to be optimistic.

According to research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, giving fish oil and a multivitamin to offenders reduces aggressive and violent behavior by 35% and antisocial behavior by 26%.

Furthermore, according to a study published in Nutrition Reviews, giving youngsters fish oil plus a multivitamin enhances their conduct as well as their intelligence.

In conclusion, dietary deficits are extremely widespread. No matter how healthy you think your diet is, chances are you have one. At the same time, they’re not too difficult to repair.

You’ll feel bad if you’re lacking in certain nutrients.

As previously said, getting enough critical nutrients is essential for optimal energy levels, hunger, strength, endurance, and mood.

That’s why you can eat clean, go Paleo, avoid meat, limit carbs, or track calories–in other words, you can eat “everything right” nutritionally and still feel terrible.

The following are the most typical flaws we notice in new clients:

  • aqueous (low-level dehydration)
  • vitamins and minerals
  • amino acids (particularly in women and in men with low appetites)
  • Fatty acids that are required for life (95 percent of the population is deficient here)

The thing is, in today’s society, correcting a shortcoming is rather simple.

There are a few ways to find out if you (or your clients) are lacking in any area:

  1. A diet analysis should be performed by a dietician.
  2. Keep track of everything you consume and enter it into a nutritional calculator online.

We like to make things even easier at. We conduct a fast assessment of what our clients are eating as soon as they start working with us. Six questions reveal the majority of the information we require. We then assist them in the following ways:

  • eat more protein-rich foods that they enjoy;
  • ingest more hydrating liquids
  • necessary fats (fish or algal oil) as a supplement; and/or
  • consume more foods that are high in the vitamins and minerals they require.

They begin to see outcomes as soon as they receive these nutrients.

Our clients begin to feel better almost immediately:

  • Immediately, one’s energy levels rise.
  • They are more energized.
  • They lose weight while gaining lean muscle.
  • Their workouts get easier and better as time goes on.

They begin to see the outcomes that had previously been missing when their diets “broke.”

Finally, identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies is the first step toward resolving dietary issues.

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Step 2: Change the amount and type of food you’re eating.

We may move on to bigger challenges after we have all of the raw ingredients required for proper functioning (i.e. vital nutrients).

  • the amount of food consumed (also known as calorie intake); and
  • the composition of food (which includes macronutrient breakdown).

We teach customers how to plan meals without using handbooks, websites, databases, spreadsheets, or math in our coaching programs.

While we understand that total food (calorie) intake is important, we aren’t big advocates of calorie tracking (for most people, most of the time).

To begin with, calorie tracking has no effect on our ability to recognize and respond to our own robust hunger and appetite cues. We can have more long-term success with healthy eating if we learn to listen to our body.

(Of course, not everyone is born knowing how to accomplish this.) It takes some practice and a little coaching.)

Calorie counting also does not assist us in balancing our health aims with our natural human love of food. Anyone can make eating into a numerical and robotic exercise in the short term. However, this method fails in the long run.

(Ask anyone who “used to” calorie-count.) You shouldn’t have any trouble locating them.)

Another issue with calorie counting is that it isn’t always accurate.

Calorie counts on food labels and websites, including those in the USDA’s nutrient databases, can be incorrect by up to 25% due to imprecise labeling, lab errors, and variances in product quality and preparation.

There’s also the reality that human absorption varies so much depending on food preparation methods and even the microorganisms in your stomach.

(If you really want to nerd out with me, check out this fantastic post on metabolism.) Both the calories in and calories out sides of the energy balance equation have excellent portions.)

Bottom line: Even if you’re the best calorie counter in the world (and can avoid the inevitable lifestyle issues that come with it), the math doesn’t add up.

The majority of our clients are taught a different approach to calorie control.

As the ultimate, portable measurement tool, the PN method for calculating portions takes nothing more than your own hand.

Men, for example, might start by eating:

  • At each meal, 2 palms of protein-dense meals;
  • At each meal, 2 fists of veggies;
  • At most meals, 2 cupped handfuls of carb-dense items; and
  • At most meals, 2 thumbs of fat dense foods.

Women, on the other hand, might begin by eating:

  • At each meal, 1 palm of protein-dense meals;
  • At each meal, take a fistful of vegetables;
  • At most meals, 1 cupful of carb-dense foods; and
  • At most meals, eat 1 thumb of fat dense foods.

First, we assist clients in visualizing what this entails. As if it were in real life. Served on a platter.

Then, depending on each person’s individual body and goals, we alter real portion amounts up or down. Consider the following scenario:

  • Men who wish to gain mass quickly should consume an extra thumb of fat or a cupped handful of carbohydrates per meal.
  • Men who wish to lose weight, on the other hand, should limit themselves to 1 palm of protein, 1 thumb of fat, and 1 cupped handful of carbs per meal, consumed slowly and carefully until they are 80 percent satisfied.

Of all, this is simply a starting point, just like any other type of nutrition planning–including comprehensive calorie tracking.

You can’t predict how your body will react ahead of time. So keep your options open and “steer dynamically.” Adjust your servings according to your hunger, fullness, total activity level, and progress toward your objectives.

(Use our free calculator to get personalized hand-portion advice based on your eating behavior, goal, and several other factors.)

Composition of food and macronutrients

The majority of people can just correct dietary shortages and improve meal quantities and quality, and then quit.

Small changes in just two areas—and nothing else—will have a significant impact on how 90% of people appear and feel. Simple. Easy.

Let’s talk about meal composition for individuals who want to go even further—either because they have more advanced goals or because they’ve already done the first two and are still suffering.

If you’re more than a casual watcher of humans, you’ve probably observed that people come in a variety of shapes and sizes, similar to dog breeds. From the enormous wolfhound to the Chihuahua, from the slim and wiry whippet to the powerful bulldog to the chubby tiny Corgi, you’ll see it all.

Dog breeds, like humans, have different body compositions, energy levels, and metabolic rates. Some people appear to be constantly fidgeting and moving, while others are naturally more sedentary.

Different body type groups, often known as “somatotypes,” share a few common characteristics:

  • skeletal structure and morphology
  • the hormonal setting
  • metabolic rate (including metabolic rate and how nutrients are processed)

If you concentrate in a sport, especially at an expert level, you’ll notice that certain body types are drawn to particular activities or positions within sports.

(For a more in-depth look at all of this, see our page on body type eating.)

Step 3: Make minor adjustments to the details

Details like meal frequency, calorie/carb cycling, and workout nutrition are tiny modifications in the larger scheme of things. Minor changes have been made. But let’s talk about them anyhow.

Frequency of meals

For years, dietitians and nutritionists (including myself) believed that eating small meals regularly throughout the day was the greatest way to break up your daily food consumption.

We thought that this would speed up the metabolism, assist control the hormones insulin and cortisol, and help better manage the hunger based on preliminary study. But now we know better.

According to the current research, meal frequency is a question of personal preference as long as we eat the proper foods in the right amounts.

You can have a number of tiny meals during the day (i.e. every few hours). Alternatively, you can have a couple large meals each day (i.e. with bigger time gaps between them).

Now, here’s my advice: Pay attention to your body and use the “how’s it working for ya?” test.

If you’ve covered all of your other bases and your current meal frequency isn’t “working” for you, change it up. If you eat more frequently, try eating fewer meals. If you eat less regularly, you’ll need more meals.

Because both approaches are viable, you are free to choose the one that best suits your needs.

Calorie and carb cycling are two terms that are often used interchangeably.

Carb and calorie cycling can help you lose weight, gain muscle, see your abs, or get back in shape, regardless of your objective.

(Before implementing any of these fine-tuning tactics, make sure you’ve eliminated any deficiencies, limited your calories, and balanced your macronutrients–and that you’re doing all of this consistently.)

Carb cycling is just consuming more carbohydrates on some days–usually on high volume or high intensity days–and fewer carbohydrates on other days–usually low volume, low intensity, or off days–while it may have a fancy name.

We concentrate on carbohydrates (rather than protein or fats) because they appear to have the greatest impact on body composition, appearance, and mood.

We may keep fat loss and metabolic rate humming along by varying carbohydrate and hence calorie intake on specific days, without the negative impacts of rigid calorie or carb restriction.

The carb and calorie cycling method is straightforward and depends on your exercise level.

  • Eat a baseline diet of largely protein, veggies, and healthy fats with little carbs on days when you aren’t lifting weights or doing low-intensity or short-duration activity.
  • Add starchy carbs to your basic diet on days when you’re lifting weights or undertaking longer-duration high-intensity activity.

That’s all there is to it. There’s no need to weigh or count calories. Simply stick to a low-carb diet on those days. On days when you’re eating a lot of carbs, up the amount of carbs you eat.

Just keep in mind that eliminating inadequacies, managing calorie consumption, and starting to eat for your body type–all while doing so consistently–must come first. This method frequently backfires if you haven’t done those first.

Nutrition for workouts

Before, during, and after your workout, what should you eat?

If you’re training for maximal muscle adaptation and/or training with high volume and intensity (perhaps many times per day), having a nutritious meal roughly 1-2 hours before and after your workout or competition could be beneficial.

Using a branched-chain amino acid drink (lower in carbs and calories) or a protein plus carbohydrate drink (higher in carbs and calories) during training can also make a big impact in terms of adaption and recovery for more advanced athletes.

If you’re working out for general health and fitness–or just to look and feel better–you should only think about workout nutrition once you’ve:

  • inadequacies were removed;
  • gotten a handle on your entire food intake; and
  • began eating in a manner that is appropriate for your body type.

And, may I gently remind you, you did all of the above on a consistent basis. Yes, each and every day. Over and over again.

What to Do Next: Suggestions from Experts

If you’re fed up with a bad eating plan and don’t know what to do about it, hopefully this article has given you something fresh to think about and try.

1. Get rid of the “limiting factors.”

If you’re not feeling well, no diet can help. So begin by identifying and eliminating “limiting variables.” This includes resolving any sleep issues and consulting with a doctor if you suspect a hormone imbalance.

However, dietary inadequacy is the most common — and often missed — issue. And the simplest technique to get rid of it is to:

  • consuming more high-protein foods;
  • consuming more hydrating liquids
  • Adding vital fats (fish or algal oil) to your diet; and/or
  • consuming more foods that are high in the vitamins and minerals you require

2. Check the amount and sort of food you’re eating.

Check to see if you (or your clients) are consuming the proper foods in the right amounts.

To get personalized hand-portion suggestions, use our free calculator. (Also, feel free to print out portions of our infographic for your clients/patients.)

Then, according on your hunger, meal frequency, activity level, weight goals, and results, alter your portions.

Then, if you think the diet might be tweaked even further, think about changing the portions to fit your body type.

3. Maintain a steady pace.

In most circumstances, you should see results fast using these tactics. But it won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen if you’re inconsistent.

Accountability is the key to maintaining consistency when repairing a faulty diet. A food journal, a trainer, a trustworthy spouse or friend, or an expert nutrition coach are all options.

References

To see the information sources mentioned in this article, go here.

Prevalence of micronutrient insufficiency in common diet programs, Carlton JB. 2010; 7:24 in J Int Soc Sports Nutr.

Influences of micronutrient and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on cognition, learning, and behavior: methodological considerations and implications for children and adolescents in developed societies. Frensham LJ, Bryan J, Parletta N. Influences of micronutrient and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on cognition, learning, and behavior: methodological considerations and implications for children and adolescents in developed societies. 70:10, Nutr Rev., 2012.

Hammond, Gesch C Bernard Influence of supplemental vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids on the antisocial behavior of young adult convicts, Sean M, Hampson Sarah E, Eves Anita, Crowder Martin J. 181:1 in British Journal of Psychiatry, 2002.

B. Misner, B. Misner, B. Misner, B. Misner, B. Misner, B. Misner, B. Misner, B. Misner, B. Misner, B. Misner, B 2006;3(1):51–55. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2006;3(1):51–55.

If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

It’s both an art and a science to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a way that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.

Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.

I’m a trainer that has helped over 20,000 clients lose weight and change their lives. Over the years, I’ve had clients come to me with all kinds of weight loss and fitness problems, ranging from chronic bad eating habits, to a lack of motivation to workout, to sabotaging themselves through poor sleep habits or lack of sleep. I’ve helped them get rid of those problems and find lasting success with their weight loss and fitness goals.. Read more about tough nutrition questions and let us know what you think.

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • precision nutrition meal plan
  • weight loss coaching questions
  • healthy eating coach
  • health and nutrition coach
  • diet coaches
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