Monday, April 16th, 2018: diet adherence

April 15, 2018

10 pass throughs
10 figure 8’s
10 OHS (3 sec pause at bottom)
10 russian kb swings
10 pullups

5×5 @75-80%

“Swings or Monkey Bars?”
4 RFT: 12min cap
20 kb swings 2/1.5
20 pullups


I’m always asked, “How can I improve diet adherence?” or “I start a diet and do well for the first few weeks and then fall off – halp me” or “I just can’t stick to a diet long enough to see results.”

Initially, I would reply to these emails and that was that. But over time I noticed that this was one of the more popular questions I was being asked and I should probably just write about it in detail–so I can save myself the hassle of having to type out the same answer to the same question dozens of times per week.

And so, here we are. Let’s begin.


How successful you are with your dieting endeavours is predicated on how well you can adhere to that diet. It doesn’t matter if one day scientists discovered The One Diet To End All Diets (or T1D2EAD for short) if that diet consisted of eating lettuce and pig penises for eternity.

Thankfully for us (and pig penises around the world) – we know that all diets can help you lose fat as long as you can stick to it. And it’s not what diet you follow but how well you can adhere to the diet that matters most.

In one study, researchers noted that how well participants adhered to a diet was strongly associated to weight loss in one of four popular, yet varying, diets – Atkins, a low-carb, high fat diet; Zone, a more balanced diet consisting of 40% of calories from carbs, 30% of calories from protein, and 30% of calories from fat; Ornish, a very low fat (<10% calories from fat), high carb vegetarian diet; and Weight Watchers, who use a ‘points system’.

Another study found similar results. Researchers concluding:

Regardless of assigned diet groups, 12-month weight change was greater in the most adherent compared to the least adherent tertiles. These results suggest that strategies to increase adherence may deserve more emphasis than the specific macronutrient composition of the weight loss diet itself in supporting successful weight loss.

But not only is adherence important to the amount of weight people lose during the dieting period, it’s also a good predictor of how well someone will maintain that loss in the long run. In this study, diet adherence during the weight loss phase predicted weight maintenance at two years – the high adherers regained only 50% of the weight they lost, while the low adherers regained 99% of the weight they’d lost.

Ok, so diet adherence is important. Cool. But how do you improve adherence exactly?

Gee, I thought you’d never ask, here are a bunch of suggestions that can help.

1. The diet should fit your dietary preferences

As I noted above, all diets – regardless of their macro composition – can lead to fat loss (as long as you’re adhering to a calorie deficit). What matters most is how compatible that diet is with your personal dietary preferences.

But not only your dietary preferences, the diet you follow shouldn’t stray too far from the type of foods you’re accustomed to and enjoy. In one study, researchers found that adherence to the Mediterranean diet was highest among those who’s standard diet was most similar in composition to the Mediterranean diet. Another study found adherence to one of four diets was better when the participants were eating a diet that reflected the macro composition of their normal diet.

This makes sense, intuitively, if you enjoy eating carbs and I force you to eat a low-carb diet–the chances you’re going to stick to that diet for the long-term are small; or, if you really enjoy drinking wine and eating chocolate, and you’re asked to give up wine and chocolate forever – Eh, no thanks, I think I’ll pass.

Unnecessarily restricting foods or trying to follow a diet that you don’t enjoy will drastically kill your chances of succeeding with your fitness goal. This is why it’s important to choose a diet that you can realistically see yourself sticking to for the long haul.

NB- Of course there are exceptions here. If your ‘standard’ diet consists of McDonalds for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – you probably need to sort that shit out. 

I want to highlight an important point: While there is no definitive ‘best’ diet, we do know of some healthy eating patterns you should try your best to follow:

• Limit refined starches, added sugars, and energy-dense processed foods

• Limit intake of certain fats (saturated fats) and as best you can – complete avoidance of trans fats

• Increase consumption of healthy monounsaturated fats (EVOO, nuts, nut butters, salmon, avocados, etc.)

• Increase consumption of whole plant-based foods (fruits and veggies).

• Increase consumption of lean meats like poultry, fish, and other seafood.

2. Be unrealistic with your goals but realistic with the outcome

Thanks to a lot of the nonsense spouted by the fitness mainstream, people have severely unrealistic expectations of how long it will actually take them to achieve results. And when there’s a mismatch between expectations and reality – the likelihood of giving up is higher. In this study, over 50% of participants who had unrealistic expectations of their goals dropped out within a year of starting their diet.

BUT. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set lofty goals for what you can achieve. Need to lose 100 lbs? Awesome. Set that as your BIG goal and then be realistic with the amount of time you’re going to need to get there.

An ambitious goal with a healthy dose of realism will work in tandem to keep you motivated. Oh, and a large heaping spoonful of patience because this shit takes time, fuckface.

Side note: on aggressive/crash dieting

While there is evidence to suggest that aggressive dieting can work (saucesauce) – in a real world setting, I haven’t seen this to be case. And there are other studies that suggest once the calorie deficit gets lower than ~20% of a person’s maintenance their adherence drops. With that said, I do think using an INTELLIGENT crash diet to ‘kickstart’ fat loss at the start can be a very useful tool, especially if you have large amounts of fat to lose. (I’ll be outlining how to do this exactly in a future article, so you’ll just have to wait.)

3. Set up your environment for success

Change your environment and your environment will change you.

People downplay how important one’s environment is to their success or failure. If your house is filled with high calorie, hyper-palatable foods, there’s a very good chance you’re going to eat them even if you have healthier alternatives available. Conversely, if your kitchen is filled with fruits and vegetables you’re more likely to eat those.

Here are some ideas:

– Healthy snacks

I always keep my refrigerator stocked with mini carrots:

And if, between meals, I’m feeling peckish I’ll just grab a few of these and eat them. Firstly, they’re really low in calories; secondly, they’re very filling; and lastly–’crunch’ (among several other factors) plays an important part in appetite regulation (see this, and I first heard about this from this book) and can help in reducing food consumption and cravings. Other good options here are apples and nuts but just be careful of the latter due to their high calorie content.

– Get rid of junk food

This is a no-brainer: Don’t keep tasty, energy-dense foods in the house. Seriously, if you’re serious about your goals this is the simplest thing you can do to set yourself up for success.

If, for whatever reason, you have to keep high-calorie, delicious foods in the house – take them out of the packaging and keep them in an opaque jar and keep that jar out of sight. Food packaging plays a huge role in association and driving us to eat – This is why we immediately recognise our favourite foods at the grocery store and also why bright packaging catches our attention.

By removing the trigger (packaging) you also remove the association, and this can help reduce chances of you eating the food.

– High protein snacks

Having high-protein snacks available in the house and/or the office or when you’re travelling can help when hunger and cravings strike. Some good options: protein shake, Greek yoghurt, boiled eggs, and even protein bars (though I’m not a fan of these as they’re glorified candy bars – but if they help you stay on track with your diet, more power to you).


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