As someone who’s been obsessed with nutrition & training for over 10 years now, I’ve tried A LOT of different diets.
Some good, some bad.
But the reality is, I wouldn’t trade ANY of those experiences (even the shitty ones). Because they all taught me something that’s added tremendous value to my coaching service & ability to coach you to your leanest, strongest body ever.
Each one of these diets taught me A LOT about different methods & eating rituals for creating sustainable fat loss.
You know the saying… “Methods are many, principles are few”?
I’ve learned MANY methods from all of my experience.
Today, I’m sharing my learnings with you. You’ll be able to take these lessons, and mesh them into the diet that best fits who you are as an individual, just like my online clients and I have.
Let’s get into it.
Back in 2014, I ate an ungodly amount of street tacos (the infamous “Fiesta de Carnitas” incident), and got chunky as a result.
Now when I realized that I was suddenly quite the chunky monkey at 245 lbs, I had no idea how to lose weight.
After trying various diets with little success, I finally came across one that worked for me…
Low carb + intermittent fasting.
The basic diet structure was:
1. Eat two meals per day (lunch + dinner).
2. Each meal should have a protein source, a fat source, and a veggie.
3. No tracking calories required.
The first week of the diet, ALL of my meals consisted of:
– 1lb ground beef
– 1 avocado
– 1 bag of frozen veggies
And in that first week, I lost 8lbs. (I later learned that since I was following a low-carb diet, the weight I lost was water and glycogen, not fat.)
But after that, I was fixated on ground beef and avocados as the “secret sauce” fat loss foods.
It wasn’t bad at the start. I was eating taco meat every day. It was almost like eating tacos every day. And I was FINALLY losing fat.
Then… things started to go south.
Eating strictly ground beef every day gets a bit old. But mostly, I was really starting to hate avocados.
The texture was just so gross. Every time I would eat one, I would gag, and nearly throw up.
But, because I refuse to let an avocado make me it’s bitch, I decided to turn eating avocados into a weird way of testing my mental fortitude.
I would set a 90-second timer. I had to be done with the whole avocado when time was up.
I’d then force all the air out of my lungs (it helps you chug beer faster, I figured the same principles applied to avocados), and gag down avocado for the next 90-seconds, holding back vomit the entire time.
This was about two months in. I kept at it for six months.
In a display of mental toughness similar to Lance Armstrong winning Tour de France with only one testicle, I only puked once the entire diet.
The last few months I was so sick of ground beef and avocados, I really just didn’t eat very much.
By the six-month mark, I was down 45 lbs, I was super sick of ground beef and avocados, and terrified that carbs would make me fat.
The Lessons Learned:
→ You DON’T Need To Eat 6 Meals Per Day – You’ve probably heard that you need to eat lots of small meals per day in order to “boost your metabolism”.
I believed the same up until this point, and was shocked to see a diet recommend only two meals. But I was willing to try anything in order to get results.
The reality is, for fat loss it does come down to your total calories consumed in a day must be less than calories burned to lose fat – it doesn’t matter much whether that’s in 2 meals, or 6.
The MOST important factor here, is that you chose a number of meals that works with your lifestyle, and allows you to be consistent with the diet.
→ Intermittent Fasting As A Diet Flexibility Tool – This diet also taught me one of my favorite lifestyle flexibility tools to use with online clients now – intermittent fasting – which is just a sexy way of saying, “not eating until later in the day”.
Nothing magical about intermittent fasting for fat loss, but it DOES really help some clients control their calories.
For example, we have the “saving up calories for later” strategy many of my online clients use on the weekends:
Another great example of this is my online client Colin.
Colin is a busy professional, who works at a desk all day. So naturally, he doesn’t burn a lot of calories via movement. He is also focusing on getting leaner.
All of this means that his calorie intake must be relatively low in order to lose fat.
Colin is also a family man, and an awesome Dad. His family goes out to dinner multiple times per week – these meals (which are generally higher-calorie) are very important to Colin.
If I told Colin “Stop eating out with your family”, his ability to stick to the diet would likely plummet. We’re taking away a very important part of his life.
So instead, here’s the nutritional strategy that Colin uses:
→ Waking – 11:30am: Fasting
→ 11:30am: Pre-workout protein shake
→ 1pm: Post-workout meal (first “real” meal of the day)
→ 3-4pm: High protein snack
→ 6-8pm: Dinner with family
Using this strategy, Colin always has ~1,000 calories to work with for family dinners. This has allowed him to enjoy his family, AND build a leaner, stronger body in the process (he’s lost 30lbs, and built LOTS of lean muscle & strength).
So, like we were talking about…
The low-carb diet had me down 45lbs. But I was also pretty damn sick of eating ground beef and avocados.
This is when I started learning about The Paleo Diet.
[The paleo diet usually consists of meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds — foods that in the past could be consumed by our hunter gatherer ancestors.]
The Paleo Diet was appealing to me because it was still relatively low-carb… and the idea of eating like a hunter gatherer just sounds cool. So I decided this would be my new approach.
My diet stayed relatively low-carb, but consisted of:
– 1lb of ribeye daily, covered in olive oil.
– Lots of eggs, grassfed butter, nuts & natural nut butters, sausage, bacon, and fatty ground beef.
– Fruits & veggies.
I was eating lots of “clean” foods, and TONS of “healthy fats”.
I thought that this would result in finally achieving the lean, strong body I had been chasing for quite awhile now.
In actuality, I gained a lot of the weight I had lost back… 35lbs to be exact.
The Lessons Learned:
→ You Have To Control Calories – I was eating LOTS of “clean” foods.
I was also eating lots of calories.
To lose weight, you must eat fewer calories than you burn – no matter how “clean” it is.
If you’re eating clean, but still struggling to lose weight, you’re probably making the same mistake I did – forgetting the importance of calories.
→ Healthy Fats Still Have Calories – I bring on lots of new online clients – usually coaches themselves, or more nutritionally knowledgeable people – who are struggling to get lean.
Due to the popularity of the paleo movement, they’re very often making another mistake I made – forgetting that healthy fats still have calories. While keeping fat in your diet is essential for your health, it’s important to understand that eating LOTS of fat-dense foods will rack up the calories quickly.
Often people struggling to lose fat will be eating lots of things like:
– Grassfed butter
– Natural nut butter
– Olive oil
– Fatty grassfed beef
– Grassfed, pasture raised, preservative-free bacon
Again, there’s nothing wrong with these foods. And they are a great source of healthy fats. But – healthy fats or not – you still have to control calories to get lean.
By this point, I was confused and disillusioned.
I had always thought that eating clean and low-carb was the key to getting lean. But my recent frustrating attempts at these approaches pushed me to dig deeper into the science of fat loss.
I gained a deeper understanding of energy balance and macros…
I learned about a KSU professor who lost 27 lbs in 10 weeks, eating a diet of Twinkies and protein shakes instead of “clean food”.
This, paired with my recent failure on a “clean diet” lead me to conclude…
“Eating clean is stupid. Science shows us calories are ALL that matter.”
At this point, I simply established a macro (protein, carbs, and fats) goal… and worked literally whatever foods sounded good into my macros.
This ended up being 90% Chipotle, wine, whiskey, and protein shakes. So not quite as “clean” as before.
But hey… if it fits your macros, right?
Old me would have thought…
“There is NO WAY you can get lean eating/drinking like that.”
And my weight was still yo-yoing up and down (due to my own inconsistency).
But when I consistently hit my macro target, it worked – I would get leaner.
So in a nutshell, this is how the next few years went ↴
After realizing the my weight had yo-yo’ed up AGAIN…
“That’s it. Time to diet.”
I would set my fat loss macros for something aggressive. Usually like 2,000 calories (which is low for me).
For the next 2-3 months, I would reduce the portion sizes of my normal foods (Chipotle, protein shakes, wine & whiskey).
“I’m ok with being REALLY hungry. It’s only a few months.”
And yeah, I was hungry AF.
I would lose A LOT of weight – often 20-30lbs.
I’d achieve my goal weight, hungry & happy that the diet was over.
“I can eat again!”
So, I’d increase the portion-sizes of my normal foods, and eat exactly like I was before the diet.
…annnd another weight rebound.
→ Food Selection Is Important – The foods I was eating just didn’t keep me full unless I was eating A LOT of them.
I could starve myself for 2-3 months while “on a diet”. But as soon as the diet was over, I couldn’t help but eat TONS of calories again.
While calories are king, the foods I was eating made it very hard to control calories long-term.
The biggest thing that finally helped me break free of this, was making lean whole food protein sources & high-fiber carbs (basically, fruits & veggies) staples of my diet (these are the most filling foods per calorie), while removing foods that were easy to overeat from my house.
Suddenly, I didn’t feel like I had to starve myself just to maintain.
This is a major part of what I focus on teaching you as an online client now – how to put your appetite on auto-regulate. It’s key to breaking the yo-yo diet cycle, and finally sustaining a lean body.
→ Carbs Don’t Make You Fat – This one was life-changing. I was suddenly eating LOTS of carbs, and as long as I controlled my calories, I didn’t gain fat.
As I’d learned, eating too much of any food will create fat gain. But your body does NOT preferentially store carbs as fat. In fact, they’re really important for building lean muscle – a key part of achieving a lean, strong body.
→ You CAN “Get Flexible” – The fact that I didn’t have to eat 100% clean to lose fat was a big revelation to me as well.
Now, while eating a majority of your calories from whole foods is smart (you’ll stay full longer, and your body will love the nutrients), I’ve also found that leaving room for some “flexible foods” in your diet is essential to actually being able to stick to the plan long-term.
→ You Need A Plan For The Diet AFTER The Diet – Without structure… obviously I’m going to opt to eat as much as I can rationalize.
This meant that for quite awhile, my post-diet strategy was…
“Eat exactly how I did BEFORE the diet.”
…which obviously led to some pretty quick rebounds.
This is a major problem I help many new online clients address – we NEED a plan for the diet after the diet. (A.K.A. the “Prepare” phase of my P3 Fat Loss Method.)
Focusing on “practicing maintenance” post-diet makes sure you have the habits & awareness in place to actually SUSTAIN your results.
There’s a HUGE difference between being super strict to achieve temporary weight loss, and actually learning how to sustain a lean physique forever.
While trying and failing at all of these diets over and over again for years was a pain in the ass… it really taught me a ton about how to make nutrition for a lean, strong body SUSTAINABLE.
In the years since, my own experience + thousands of hours nutrition coaching others eventually morphed into a set out nutrition rituals and flexible guidelines I call The Lifestyle Diet.
This is the nutrition structure I created from all of my past experiences – the one that finally allowed me to stay lean AND enjoy my life.
I’ve seen it have the same impact on hundreds of online nutrition coaching clients since.
I would explain The Lifestyle Diet here… but it’s already a free 34 page ebook.
So just CLICK HERE NOW to grab your free copy instead.
Jeremiah Bair is a certified nutrition coach, strength coach, and owner of the online coaching business Bairfit.