Ask for a diet plan, you get a list of numbers on a page. Everything you could possibly need to succeed, or so you might think. For a start, a “diet” is senseless, like every system in the human body, progress and change does not occur in a linear fashion. Planning your calories weeks in advance, tapering your carbs or adjusting your macros is guess work at best – the best results come from fine tuning and adjustment on the day, on the minute subject to bio-feedback. All the more reason to Quantify Yourself.
So, the best way to lose body fat, or gain muscle for that matter, is to make a changes to your approach as a result of how you respond.
However, this isn’t the end of the story, you may have your physiology down to the tee but you need to understand some basic psychology in order to succeed.
Humans work in a cycle of sacrifice and reward. If you examine your behavior, you’ll likely observe this concept across the board. Like when you sacrifice paying a small portion of your pay towards your insurance but as a reward your future is already secured. You work hard in anticipation of a pay rise, you train in anticipation of victory, you tolerate a physio’s elbow 2 inches deep in your IT band because you can envision 10kg on your squat. We tolerate discomfort in order to access pleasure.
Therefore, its senseless to try and re-wire what is already hardwired. If you think you can just ‘go’ endlessly, tolerating dietary imprisonment, you’re wrong. Even the most dedicated individuals will blow at some point and the longer the pressure builds, the bigger the blowout.
It’s sensible then to capitalise on this aspect of human nature when designing a program or eating strategy, incorporate periods of sacrifice and reward.
We have two main eating strategies here on PropaneFitness, our famous PropaneProtocol and ADF. Although it may not seem obvious at first, both rely heavily on this concept. You undergo a fast or a period of extremely confined eating to be rewarded with a period of temporary relative freedom with food choices. Not only does this work from a physiological standpoint, it also works on deep set psychological tendencies.
In my experience, during periods of my life where I have been heavily involved in something, such as revision, or a desk job. I can tolerate longer periods of sacrifice. However, during periods of free time I find I need more frequent reward. This may be do to a lack of schedule or not having tasks to distract me from cheesecake but its certainly a pattern I’ve noticed and one that seems fairly consistent with others. When people have a firm, consistent schedule, the body can fall into rhythms and suddenly fasting until lunch or going carbless for a day or two doesn’t seem to be as bad.
My advice: learn how you respond to rewards. If you’re like me, plan months of longer sacrifice when you’re otherwise engaged (busy times at work, exams, family commitments) look at fasting, low carb and other strict methods that have little room for leeway but may actually free up some spare time. That way, when you get a spare moment, refeed or cheat – enjoy some freedom. You earned it. These times are best spent trying to lean down a little while the discomfort will fade into the background.
When you’re less busy, include micro cycles and favour something like the Propane Protocol where you get to indulge each time you train. This may be a good time to try and add some size, you’ll enjoy the food more and have more time to plan and prepare large delicious meals.
No matter how complex or basic the plan, consistency trumps everything. Every time. Learn you body and your mind, discover what you crave, when you crave it and why. Pay attention to when you are able to buckle down and when you feel that diet has become a chore. Learning these patterns and benefiting from sacrifice and reward will put in you in good stead to deal with whatever life throws at you.