When it comes to dieting, why is it that everyone automatically thinks they have to suffer and deprive themselves from everything in life? Why is it that people think they can’t have the foods they love and crave in moderation? Why does the word “dieting” have to be portrayed as suffering?

We really don’t have a clear cut answer to this, but we feel a big part has to do with people feeling like they need to suffer as much as possible on a diet in order to say that they did everything in their power to try and accomplish their goal even if they didn’t accomplish it entirely. It’s almost like a sneaky excuse as to why one didn’t accomplish a goal 100 percent. Whether it’s losing a few pounds to look good on the beach, dropping some fat for a photo shoot, or dieting down to low body fat levels for a contest, it just seems that people need to endure some sort of agony when it comes to dieting.

We don’t believe in making people suffer when it comes to diets and we would never encourage people to suffer just for the sake of suffering. We believe in suffering for an outcome or for optimization. It's a huge problem though when people are intimidated by dieting and automatically assume that it will be painful and that they'll have to suffer to the point where it's intolerable. In a way, it’s funny that people think like this because there are kids and families in third world countries who are suffering from starvation and here we are afraid to go on a diet because we think we'll have to suffer so mightily.

There are many media outlets and people to fault for this including the internet, magazines, cheesy infomercials, so-called ‘nutrition experts’ (otherwise known as gurus and broscientists), and gym 'know it alls.' The list can go on for days. We know this because we were victims once to all of this nonsense when it came to dieting. We tried a low carb cookie cutter diet out of a magazine five years ago and lost almost all the muscle we had put on over the winter. We tried eating a so-called “clean” diet consisting of all the traditional bodybuilding foods (lean proteins, sweet potatoes, brown rice, vegetables). That drove us crazy because we were kicking ourselves in the ass every time we ate something non-traditional (dirty). We then tried eating basically anything we wanted and that went south of the border because we put on excess fat and couldn’t get lean enough without sacrificing muscle loss when it came to dieting down for the summer.

So we, too, were intimidated and manipulated by the word “dieting” because we thought it solely consisted of eating nothing but “clean” foods and we felt we had to suffer on these strict diets. However, we found a middle ground after five years of self-experimentation and trial and error. That middle ground is where you can still have the foods you like and enjoy just as long as you're hitting your macronutrient numbers and total fiber number. We talked about this in great detail in our blog “Why count your macronutrients.” 

We know everyone won’t agree with us on this, but we feel that it's so essential to count your macros because you can have all the foods you like and don’t have to suffer by eating traditional dieting foods day in and day out.

We’re such huge proponents of counting macros because:

  • It teaches you discipline.
  • It allows you to eat the foods you like while still dieting.
  • It allows you to experiment with recipes that contain healthy ingredients.
  • It gives you less of a tendency to go out and cheat.
  • You will be amazed at how much you learn from tracking your food.
  • You will learn a lot about nutrition and what your body responds well to.

Basically, cookie cutter diets out of books, magazines, and websites will eventually be a recipe for disaster. Who the hell wants to eat the same thing every single day?

Now, don’t get us wrong here, we don’t recommend going out and eating pizza or cheeseburgers and fries to hit your macros. We still believe that whole and minimally refined foods will build quality muscle. You can see that in our video “Macronutrient recommendations.”

You can still include the foods you like into your diet just as long as you hit your macro and fiber numbers, the reason being that the muscle only sees amino acids, carbs, lipids, and some short chain fatty acid fermentation from fiber. The muscle doesn’t see specific types of foods. So as long as you’re hitting your protein, carbs, fat, and fiber numbers, everything else will become secondary.

We had a couple of our clients eating baked Lays and low fat popcorn for their carbohydrate source after their workouts along with a protein shake. This is perfectly fine to have as long as you're hitting your post-workout macro numbers and your fiber number at the end of the day. Obviously, popcorn has like four times the amount of fiber content than baked Lays, but it’s OK to have baked Lays for your carb source as long as you're in range of your target fiber number at the end of the day. Evidently, someone who eats baked Lays for all his carb sources in his meals won't hit his fiber number, so he'd be hurting himself there unless he got it through fiber supplementation.

In our opinion, choosing a mix of lower glycemic carbs, which are higher in fiber, along with other non-traditional foods for your meals is perfectly fine and a happy medium. Normally, people would freak out if you told them that they could eat popcorn, baked Lays, or even low fat ice cream in moderation on a diet. That’s because there's a lot of BS out there, these foods are looked at as nontraditional when it comes to dieting, and people tend to overeat.

There are times where we have our clients make healthy burritos (shredded chicken, low fat cheese, black beans, and whole wheat tortillas) or breakfast sandwiches (eggs, low fat cheese, turkey bacon, and Ezekiel bread), and it’s perfectly fine because they hit all their macronutrient numbers at each meal. Another thing people really have to understand and consider is that plenty of people get results in spite of what they do, not because what they do is optimal.