by Robert Maxwell
Just about every time I turn around, I hear about a trendy new diet being pumped into the health and fitness industry. Whether it’s juice cleansing, intermittent fasting, or the magic of Keto, the effects are always the same. A slew of articles, videos, and enthusiastic Facebook posts from proponents, and in the long run, not much else. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not saying the diets above haven’t helped people. I just think the idea of following rigidly specific diet is flawed by design. I didn’t always think this way. For years, I followed the latest muscle building and fat loss diet trends religiously. I got some decent results, too. Trouble was, like many followers of the latest, trendy diets, I missed the big picture. Allow me to explain. Here are three reasons I don’t follow any specific “diet“ anymore, and if you’re into strength, health, and fitness for the long haul, why I don’t think you should, either.
Reason 1: Most diets are too extreme
I can easily bring to mind at least a dozen people who’ve demonstrated enthusiasm for one diet or another at some point, but remained consistently overweight for years. Why the complete lack of results? Simple. These folks tried to follow a diet that was too extreme. Sure, cutting out all sugars and carbs will probably help you lose some fat at first. But I can tell you from experience, to use the extreme low-carb diet as an example, eating this way for longer than a few weeks takes gargantuan willpower. Folks I know who try diets like this inevitably fall off the wagon in a few days, weeks, or if they’re exceptionally strong willed, months. But fall off they do, quickly erasing any progress and reverting to their pre-diet state, or worse. Following the diet was easy at first, with the enthusiasm of a new endeavour buoying them up and driving them forward. But time and hunger wears them down, as it almost always does. I used to think the root of the problem with extreme diets was the participants. I’ve change my opinion. The trendy diets of today are rarely designed for long-term results. Usually, they’re created to work as fast as possible at first, convincing participants of their effectiveness before their inevitable fall off the wagon. Truth is, cutting out entire food groups permanently or semi-permanently is a bad idea. If you really want to make long-term progress in either fat loss, muscle gain, or both, choose an approach to eating that’s more moderate, fits your needs and schedule, and at the end of each day, leaves you feeling good physically and mentally.
Reason 2: Most diets over-complicate the issue
As I’ve stated in many previous articles, fat loss happens for one reason and one reason only - a caloric deficit. Eating less carbs, spending hours on the treadmill, or cutting out fried foods might help you shed excess pounds, but only because of the deficit they create. Please don’t argue with me about this. It’s a well-established fact, and has been for decades. I’m amazed how many people still believe wacky things about nutrition and weight loss, given the huge body of evidence and research proving them wrong. But that’s another issue. Bottom line – if you want to lose weight, eat less than you burn. Coincidentally, one great way of doing this is by eating fewer carbs, especially if you’ve been excessive with them in the past. Less carbs will gradually increase your insulin sensitivity, and your whole body will start to work better. You’re also quite likely to lose weight. Not because of some magical quality of the low-carb diet, but because fewer carbs means fewer calories. The creators of most trendy diets would have you believe it’s not so simple. If they’ve successfully convinced you, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. There’s nothing special about eating only soup for weeks at a time, or drinking homemade veggie juice until your blender breaks. If these techniques help you lose weight, it’s because they’ve put you into a caloric deficit. If you’re bound and determined to try some trendy diet, at least be aware of this fact before you do.
Reason 3: Extreme diets may turn you into a jerk
As a strength athlete and coach, I’m all for living a different sort of life than the average person. The average person can’t lift hundreds of pounds, and never will be able to. Since this is exactly what I want to do, obviously I must live differently then the untrained majority. These differences go beyond training, too. To be different, we must eat differently. High protein and lots of calories are essential for building serious strength, and eating this weak consistently certainly raises eyebrows. At the other end of the spectrum, eating less than the average person is sometimes beneficial – at least less of certain things. Saying no to desserts and excess junk food has lots of benefits, but be careful. These are quickly overshadowed when such diets become fervent religions brimming with self righteous devotees. Too many regular gym goers I know consider themselves better than others, as their speech and Facebook posts prove. Sure, you’re living a healthier lifestyle. Good for you. Just don’t use it as a platform for developing a superiority complex. Preach health and strength by all means. I do it myself, on this website. But if following a certain diet to the exclusion of all social interaction is your idea of health, I suggest you reevaluate. Eat healthy most of the time, but have some fun too. If that means the occasional dessert with friends or family, go for it. Being deprived of fun, like sleep, can quickly make you a jerk.