Low-carb, low-fat, ketogenic, DASH, Mediterranean, Atkins, carb-cycling, fasting, intermittent fasting, the Zone, vegetarian, vegan, Weight Watchers, South Beach, Paleo, high-protein, I could go on and on. All these diets tell you what to eat or when to eat it. But, what if I told you that diets aren’t necessarily about what food you eat? What if I said dieting is more about creating effective systems rather than worrying about your macronutrient ratio?
What do I mean by effective systems? Well, the truth is if you can’t stick to your diet, it doesn’t matter if it’s crafted by the world’s leading geneticist, nutrition expert and blessed by the sweat of a Tibetan Monk’s balls. It won’t work.
And while we are being honest with ourselves, we all basically know what we should be doing when it comes to “dieting”. We know not to eat 9 slices of pizza washed down with 20oz of soda. We know we should be eating smaller portions and more fruits and vegetables. But we don’t listen.
We don’t listen because often humans have the attention span of a fucking goldfish with the willpower of a chronic masturbater that has 15 spare minutes and an internet connection. The typical person makes far too many decisions more than they need to. Every day, 200 of those decisions will be spent deciding on what you are going to eat.
You drive home from work and think about what you are going to make for supper tonight.
You get home and look in the fridge.
You look in the pantry.
You look in the fridge 3 more times knowing damn well the same shit is still in there.
You tell yourself you have nothing to eat.
You order a pizza.
This is the life of someone having to make too many decisions and not having a system.
I bet if you had a pre-cooked meal in the fridge that only required heating, you wouldn’t have bought the pizza. Hell, if you had a pre-cooked meal in the fridge you wouldn’t have been thinking about what to eat on the way home, and you wouldn’t have wasted time wandering the kitchen like a zombie, scavenging for Dorito crumbs and clawing at the back of the fridge for taco remnants.
That pre-cooked meal is the difference between six-pack abs or more dimples in your ass than a golf ball. Well, not literally that one meal, but you know what I mean. Create a system that takes the constant thinking out of food and puts your body on nutritional autopilot.
It’s not just about pre-cooking your meals though. It is more. To achieve true nutritional autopilot, follow these guidelines:
All people that achieve their goal in regards to body composition tend to have one thing in common - they stick to a rather small and reliable selection of foods. This comes back to making fewer decisions. The fewer types of foods you eat, the fewer decisions you have to make regarding food.
There is also the benefit of understanding really well how your body reacts to these foods. Do you get bloated with wheat? Does milk give you gas? With a small food selection, you become hyper-aware of your body’s responsiveness to certain foods.
When you eat the same foods, it makes it easy to adjust the calories higher or lower just by changing the portion size. Eating 500 calories less can be difficult to measure if from day to day you have more food variety than an Applebee’s.
Cooking Tools and Tips
Learn to love the slow cooker. The simplicity and efficiency of tossing a handful of ingredients into a pot and letting it sit for several hours cannot be understated. Especially, when the end result is multiple delicious meals that only require reheating. Anytime your system can work while you are not is a major time bonus. If you are even more pressed for time, invest in an Instapot. This can cut slow cooking time in half.
While slow cookers can save you time and effort by working while you are not, blenders can save you the time and effort of chewing mounds of vegetation. Most individuals don’t get enough micronutrients on a daily basis and blenders are an effective solution for maximizing your nutrient profile as painless as possible. Blend up frozen greens and fruit with some protein powder and you have a delicious and nutrient-packed muscle building concoction.
Who really has the time and fortitude to chew through 10 servings of vegetables every day? Cattle. That’s who. Luckily, we evolved thumbs and a prefrontal cortex so we can drink some of our nutrition.
Time has to be set aside every week to prepare meals. The reality of cooking every single meal within everyone’s busy life is not feasible. Have a grocery day and meal prep day. They can be on different days or the same, but they need to be scheduled. Preferably the same day of every week. This reduces the chance of pushing off grocery day and eating eleventeen Little Caeser’s Pizzas as a result. Having a grocery list that is relatively similar each time due to the reduced selection of foods helps to remove some of the stress of shopping and reduce any impulse buys.
A consistent group of foods. Simple and time-saving cooking techniques. Scheduled grocery and cooking days. You can start to see how these combine to put you on nutritional autopilot. Food is fuel. Food is a tool for your goals. Use it as you would any other tool. Strategically, and effectively.
Okay… this all starting to sound a little robotic, right? Well, robotic can be good if you are trying to take out all the extra thinking and decisions. But, what is the worst diet in the world? Answer: One you can’t stick to. That’s why it is important to schedule some leniency in your diet. A good example and one I follow is to prep all your weekday meals and then leave your weekend meals open for cooking something different or going out to eat if you want.
Scheduling your meals for the entire week, every week, is quickly going to lead to adherence issues. It’s one thing if you are competing in a sport, or going to step on stage, but if you are just trying to lean-up for summer, the 80-20 rule will probably work just fine. If 80% of your meals are healthy and conducive to your goals, the other 20% probably don’t matter.
The best part about scheduled leniency is that you don’t beat yourself up about a cheat meal. You don’t run off the tracks and then barrel into the next Cinnabon and stay there for 3 weeks. You go right back to your simple, efficient system. You know what groceries you are getting, what day you’re getting them on, how many meals you are making, etc.
Eventually, it isn’t dieting anymore, it just becomes how you eat. That is what builds long-term success and makes you feel great every day. That is what drops fat, and most importantly, keeps it off.
In a world full of anxious and overstressed people making thousands of unnecessary decisions; be calm, be calculated, and be someone with a system.