This article isn’t about any specific diet.
Over my lifetime I’ve seen people get and stay lean eating a HUGE variety of food combos.
During the early 90’s my older sister thrived on a diet of Tootsie Rolls and Diet Coke during the day…
…with a sensible meal at night.
She stayed lean and healthy off of what most people would consider a “questionable” diet during the day.
I think she ate this way for 3-4 years…
…right up until she became pregnant with her first daughter.
When she went to the doctors at that time, all of her tests showed picture perfect health.
I’m NOT saying her diet was ideal, but she kept lean and in top shape breaking some conventional nutrition rules.
I don’t think we know 100% what ideal nutrition is anyway.
Let me explain…
Back in 2002-2003, I worked as an Executive Recruiter to place high-level Directors into big pharmaceutical companies.
My job was to interview Ph.D. Medicinal Chemists.
My favorite part of the job was to do reference checks.
I wound up talking to legendary chemists who discovered lead compounds for drugs that did billions of dollars in sales.
The most accomplished scientist out of this group told me something really interesting.
I’m paraphrasing, but here’s what he told me.
“Rusty, if you never get obese you drastically reduce your chances of getting ANY chronic disease. It’s not a guarantee for perfect health, but it’s the closest thing we have.”
He explained how the body begins to act differently once it gets obese.
This guy was involved with massive clinical trials and played a large role in bringing 2 drugs to market.
I called him several times over 12 months for references.
This brilliant scientist convinced me of 2 things.
- We have a lot to discover when it comes to health and nutrition. A lot of the “facts” we think we know are educated guesses.
- Although luck and genetics play a role in how long we live, lean people tend to have significantly fewer health challenges over their lifetimes than those who are overweight or obese.
Staying lean isn’t just about vanity.
It is a visual cue of health.
Because of this…
I want to share a few dieting strategies for getting lean REGARDLESS of your food choices.
We will get to those in a sec…
As always, a music video break first.
The music theme for this post: Modern songs that use retro footage or purposely make the video look like it was shot 30+ years ago.
My favorite approach for getting lean is high carb and low fat, mainly because the body doesn’t store carbs as body fat to any large degree.
That being said, I’ve seen people do well with the opposite approach.
These tips will work regardless of food choice.
It’s probably best to eat whole foods to get maximum vitamins, etc.
…but I HAVE seen people thrive with what we believe to be an incomplete diet.
1. Expect Occasional Hunger
In fact, I’ll take this tip one step further…
STRIVE to be hungry for at least part of the day if weight loss is your goal.
Stored body fat is your body’s reserve tank of energy.
At some point, you have to be running low on “food energy” in order to access stored body fat.
This process will NOT always be comfortable.
When I have worked with clients who can’t seem to lose any more fat, I ask them this question:
“How much of the day are you running on empty?”
I explain that they can use one of two approaches.
- Eating frequently, but letting enough time pass so they hit empty for a period of time before eating again.
- Eating 1-2 times each day with fewer, but longer periods of running on empty (Intermittent Fasting).
Both approaches work.
Unless you are genetically gifted, you WILL experience hunger at least some of the time when losing body fat.
The more time you spend in the slight hunger zone, the more successful you will be at dropping body fat.
2. Eat Before You Are Starving
If your slight hunger becomes too strong, you will inevitably eat way too much food in the meal that follows.
This is especially damaging if you have a high food capacity.
I’m actually shocked at how easily people get full.
I’m part of Facebook Groups where guys post that they have a tough time hitting 2,800 calories per day.
One guy wrote, “I can’t eat all this food.”
I can’t relate at all.
- I can eat 2,800 calories in chips and salsa BEFORE my extra large enchilada plate hits the table (another 3,000 calories).
- I can eat 2,800 calories at the Thanksgiving appetizer table before we even cut into the turkey.
- I can eat 2,8000 calories in cookies after I have had 2,800 calories for dinner.
I think it could be a generational thing.
Those of raised in the 70’s and 80’s expanded our stomach capacity with all-you-can-eat buffets (they were a big deal back then).
“That fried chicken was good. I think I’m going to get one more plate of that with some mashed potatoes before I hit the dessert bar. Do the brownies taste good with the soft serve ice cream on top?”
We burned more calories with physical activity than teens today, so required more food.
Some of us now have Joey Chestnut level food capacity.
He ate 72 hot dogs with buns in 10 minutes!
I bet I could eat about 25-30, but it would take about 60 minutes at least and I think hot dogs are nasty.
If you can hold a lot of food in your stomach, you really do need to be extra cautious of letting yourself get too hungry.
Eat before that happens.
By the way…
I live sort of close to a place that serves 10-pound burritos.
I have had their huge 4 pounds burrito, which was easy for me, but haven’t tried this challenge yet.
If you are someone who thinks 2,800 calories in a day is “a ton of food”, I am both annoyed and slightly jealous of you.
Note: 2,800 calories is the amount this kid was trying to eat each day to put on weight… it’s not a magical amount or anything like that.
3. Online Calorie-Per-Day Calculators Just Give Rough Estimates
If you follow tip #1 and operate on empty for parts of the day, you may not even need to count calories.
If that isn’t working out for you…
…I recommend tracking calorie intake.
The number of calories burned each day varies drastically from individual to individual.
As a teen, I probably burned 5,000-6,000 calories per day.
Now I’m lucky to burn half that amount.
Here’s my fancy calculation for weight loss.
10-12 x Desired Bodyweight in Pounds = Calories Per Day
This is just a starting point…
…and probably sounds low.
A woman trying to hit 140 pounds would aim for 1,400 – 1,680 calories per day.
I used to have clients use complicated equations or online calculators.
Eventually, I realized that 10-12 calories per day seemed to be where most people wound up.
That being said, this is just a starting point as well
You can try more if you are unsure.
You really won’t know how many calories per day to consume until after the fact.
It’s a mystery at first.
Try out eating around 10 times your target body weight in calories each day (a bit more if you are young or active).
Did you lose weight?
Yes <— that is a good sign.
Are you still losing weight?
Yes <— another good sign.
If you answered “no” to either question, you are either consuming too many calories… or just need to relax a little on the diet.
What do I mean by “relax” on your diet?
See this next tip…
4. You Will Most Likely Zig-Zag Your Way to Your Ideal Weight
Losing body fat is normally a “3 steps forward and 2 steps back” process.
You will lose 6-8 pounds then gain back 3-5 then lose 6-8 more, etc.
If you don’t know this ahead of time you may panic.
If you are 22 and reading this and you disagree, please bookmark this and come back in 15 years 🙂
I’m going to be kind of old in 2032
Get off my lawn!
When a client is stuck I have them relax a bit on their diet.
Sometimes people push too hard for too long.
The body gets burnt out.
This is when you need to “be nice” and relax a bit.
Let your body rest and increase calories.
Don’t worry if you add back a few pounds.
When you are stuck?
I want you to be NICE.
…until it is time to not be nice!
Resume dieting once the body feels relaxed and recovered.
The older you are…
…the more zig-zagging it will take to hit your final goal.
If you saw Dalton’s speech in the movie theater, EXPECT a lot of zig-zagging.
If you have NO idea of what I’m talking about?
Probably not much zig-zagging for you.
I thought you’d be bigger.
(Just like this article.)
As a former fitness coach to fashion models, I can teach you how to increase muscle definition without adding size.
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