1. It asks you to skip meals or fast when you have no experience doing so.
Fasting isn’t evil. It can be a reasonable approach to fat loss for many people. And if it’s integrated systematically and smartly, fasting can be a component in a sustainable nutrition plan.
But most people don’t take the fasting plunge without having learned to be consistent about nutrition first. If you have the eating habits of a 16-year-old boy right now, going from that to fasting regularly is the equivalent of going 0 to 100. Real quick.
And such a stark change in habits is likely to fail. Real quick.
Unless you are already mindful of nutrition and can already follow a consistent plan, introducing fasting as a fat loss tool is a bad idea.
2. It eliminates food groups to which you have no adverse reaction.
There is no food that you must avoid entirely if you want to lose fat. You don’t need to go Paleo and give up grains, dairy, and legumes. You don’t need to become vegan. You don’t need to even entirely eliminate sugar.
In fact, unless a food makes you sick or compromises your ability to perform, you can eat the same foods you already eat and still lose body fat.
Sure, it’s probably better for your health in the long run if you choose whole grain sprouted bread over white bread all the time. And a baked sweet potato is probably going to provide you better sustained energy and satiation than a candy bar.
But there is a difference between saying you should choose the healthiest options available and saying you must never eat X food ever.
And any diet that says that an entire group of foods is ALWAYS bad for everyone is ignoring something very pertinent to nutrition:
And you have to figure out what foods work in context for yourself. Your nutrition plan shouldn’t dictate that.
3. It doesn’t mimic your daily schedule.
There’s no rule about how often we must eat in order to lose fat or be healthy. I happen to eat six times a day, and I always have. I love eating. I love doing it often. And my lifestyle works for that.
But you don’t need to eat six times a day. In fact, maybe eating that many times a day is overwhelming for you, feeling more like a burden than a joy. Maybe you work long shifts with little time to think about eating every 3 hours — I’ve trained a lot of nurses, for example, for whom eating on the job is problematic.
Your diet should fit your life — and you shouldn’t have to rearrange your schedule to fit your diet. As your life and schedule changes, so might your diet. If you already eat 4 times a day, for example, there’s no reason you should suddenly have to find time to eat 7 meals instead.
A good nutrition plan will include meals based on your schedule, not an artificial guideline.
4. It prevents you from eating with your family.
Let me clarify something about this:
This does not mean that you should be eating chicken nuggets, tater tots, and frozen corn for dinner every night just because your kids are eating that. If you want to lose fat, you still have to follow SOME guidelines, remember, and it’s likely that typical “kid foods” are not going to be a regular component in those guidelines.
But you should not have to make a separate meal for yourself all the time. If your family is having steak, baked potatoes, salad, and asparagus for dinner, you can eat those foods too. There should be plenty of food options in your plan so that you can make a family meal fit by simply choosing the appropriate meal components in appropriate portion sizes.
And if your family is eating out, or it’s date night, you can order food in a restaurant. Again, you just to have to choose your order wisely.
If your nutrition plan gives you so few options that you cannot eat with the people who mean the most to you, it isn’t just a bad nutrition plan. It’s a bad happiness plan.
5. It asks you to buy specific brands of supplements.
It’s not unreasonable that a nutrition plan might suggest some generic supplements, like a multivitamin, a vitamin D3 supplement, or a fish oil supplement. These should, however, be optional, unless you have a known deficiency, and you should be free to purchase those supplements wherever you choose.
A nutrition plan should never require you to purchase a specific brand of supplements, nor should it mandate that you have to purchase an entire line of supplements, especially a line or brand for which your nutrition coach is an affiliate.
You are paying for the nutrition advice, and your coach is profiting from that. If he’s profiting again from your supplement purchase, he has a conflict of interest that might be preventing him from being honest about your nutrition needs.
6. It uses the word “detox.”
BIG RED FLAG.
Your body knows how to detox itself. It has a liver. And a digestive system. And kidneys. All of those things work to “detox” your body for you.
You don’t have to do shit except avoid eating poisons and drink enough water.
So if your nutrition plan calls for green juices to cleanse your system — or even worse, if it eliminates food groups in order to detoxify the body and later adds them back in when your body is “ready” for them — be aware that this is all a facade.
Detoxes and cleanses work for one of two reasons. Either the detox or cleanse cuts enough calories from your diet that you lose weight, or the detox or cleanse actually forces waste out of your body quickly, making you lighter, and making it appear that you’ve lost weight when you step on the scale.
In either case, you haven’t lost weight because you lost toxins. You’ve lost weight because you ate less or you pooped a lot.
Neither one = fewer toxins.
7. It promotes a high number of servings of a very specific food that supposedly has special benefits.
There’s nothing magical about grapefruit. Or cabbage. Or lemon-cayenne-pepper-maple-syrup-water.
You might choose to eat grapefruit if you’re dieting. You might choose to eat cabbage.
I’d say the same about lemon-cayenne-pepper-maple-syrup-water, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t choose that one one your own.
The point is this — your nutrition plan should allow you to choose your meals. The healthiest diet is always a varied diet, one that doesn’t rely on one fruit, or one vegetable, or one convenience food.
You know those Special K diet foods, the ones you’re supposed to eat for 2 meals a day, along with a healthy dinner, to lose weight? It works because you ate fewer calories by eating cereal for lunch instead of a burger. Same goes for meal replacement shakes, like Slim-Fast, and any other nutrition plan that calls for replacing normal meals with a singular product or food item.
There are no fat-burning foods. There are simply foods. You just have to eat them in appropriate amounts.
8. You can’t wait until the plan is over.
If you really do have the eating habits of a 16-year-old boy, and you’re annoyed because your nutrition plan asks you to eat vegetables, this last rule isn’t for you. You need to put on the big boy pants and eat some broccoli. Like an adult.
But if you are white-knuckling your way through your week, and if you are constantly thinking about the day when you get to go back to “normal,” then this is not the nutrition plan for you.
Here’s the thing though:
It might not be the nutrition plan’s fault.
The problem might be you — and your lack of readiness for this kind of change.
That doesn’t mean you should not try to change at all. Don’t become paralyzed and give up because you think it’s not worth trying if you can’t be perfectly committed.
A nutrition plan should meet you where you are, and if your plan doesn’t do that, there’s a better one that does. Find it before you throw your hands in the air and just eat all the foods instead.
When it comes down to it, it won’t matter if you have an awesome nutrition plan if you don’t feel confident about your ability to follow through.
Follow through leads to consistency, which leads to results, which leads to renewed motivation to follow through, which leads to consistency, which leads to…
You get it.