- A diet plan for weight loss should be based on your timeline and adherence
- Mini cuts are short but aggressive; diets are long but sustainable
- There are trade-offs with every decision, make sure you are OK with them
When I was in my twenties I could not diet at all.
I just didn’t understand how to.
Which made me fall into all the mistakes in the book:
Not eating carbs.
Not eating after 8pm.
Doing tons of cardio thinking I’ll just outwork my diet.
In the end I wasted years not getting results.
It wasn’t until I understood a few key things about dieting that I gained the ability to change my body at will.
It’s quite the confidence boost when you have the knowledge and ability to change your body at will like my online coaching clients do.
No more are you a slave to supplements and shady diets that promise you the world but only give you a flaming bag of crap on the doorstep.
So in this article I’m going to show you the key things of setting up a successful diet plan for weight loss.
Mini Cuts vs Diets
As always I like to start with some definitions to make sure we are both on the same page.
In this article I’ll be talking about two different kinds of diets:
- Mini Cut
- Diet (I honestly couldn’t think of another way to phrase this that made sense)
A Mini Cut is an aggressive calorie deficit to strip away fat. Since the drop in calories is more aggressive than a diet, the timeline is a lot shorter than a diet. There’s also the word “Mini” in it which should be a dead giveaway as to the length of it.
A Diet is a less aggressive approach to reducing calories with the intent to burn larger amounts of fat over a longer period of time. Since it is less aggressive, the timeline will be longer.
Don’t worry about the subjective word “aggressive” in the definitions. We’ll talk about that in a bit as it relates to your goals and calories.
Now when it comes to dieting and losing fat, calories are the most important thing to pay attention to. I don’t give a fuq what anyone peddling a diet says, without managing calories and eating less than you need, aka a calorie deficit, then you absolutely will not lose weight.
Now that we cleared that up, let’s move on.
Time and Adherence
When it comes to setting up your diet plan for weight loss there are two main things you need to look at:
- Time for fat loss
Let’s take for example, the time that this article is being published in mid Oct. Which means we have the holidays coming up in about a month.
Do you want to be dieting during the holidays so you have to say no to the second serving of stuffing while watching the Lions completely implode on Thanksgiving?
So now won’t be the best time to start a 12 week diet.
A 4-6 week mini cut that finishes up the week before Thanksgiving though might be a better option.
Depending on how much weight you have to lose, you need to set up your timelines accordingly.
Like I mentioned in my bulking calendar article, look at your calendar and see when you have the longest stretch of no major event/holidays. I know for me, Jan through May is pretty dead. The only exception is my birthday and Memorial Day both in May.
This is when I do 8-12 week diets most of the time. This year was the only difference as I was bulking.
When there is nothing on the calendar it makes it a helluva lot easier to stick to a diet.
The timeline you have and your goal weight loss need to be factored in. A mini cut is not going to help you lose 30-40lbs so it would almost be useless to do. In that case a diet would be the better option and doing it during a dead zone of your calendar would be the absolute best option.
Don’t make it harder than it needs to be by restricting yourself around Holidays, vacations, and busy times of the year. The best diet backed by science isn’t going to work if you can’t stick to it.
Adherence Part 2
Let’s go with a scenario for a sec using the zombie apocalypse because I’m currently watching the Walking Dead.
Let’s say the world goes to hell tomorrow and zombies take over the world. Blood and guts everywhere, the dollar means nothing, and Twinkies become the main food supply.
Now you don’t have the luxury of closing your eyes and clicking your heels together three times to go back to where things were normal. You just have to live in the current bat shit crazy world as it is.
In the scenario I just gave you are forced to keep pushing forward no matter how hard or bloody things get. You have no other option.
But what if you could simply go back to the way things were?
When it comes to dieting, you have that option to go back to the way things were. The only thing that is keeping you on the dieting path is you.
So why make that decision easy to make by making things super hard on yourself?
A lot of people throw themselves into this full court press of food restriction and a crazy workout schedule.
Then when shit gets too hard because life gets in the way, they slide back to old habits because it is too much of a change from things were.
A better approach is to make small changes so it’s not as much of a culture shock. This exponentially increases adherence and your ability to stick to your diet.
For example, if I were to tell you to reduce carbs just at lunch to lower overall calories, that wouldn’t be as hard as completely removing carbs altogether, right?
This is why people that do these crazy ass diets like Keto or juice cleanses gain all the weight back after they diet. It’s too far removed from your normal and they can’t stick to it.
It’s much better for long term success and so you aren’t gaining and losing the same 20 lbs to use my approach.
Diet Plan Food
The best trick to picking what foods to eat in your diet plan is to balance foods that you need (i.e. fill you up, help you hit macros) and foods you enjoy.
Side Note: Remember you want foods that fill you up so you aren’t dying of hunger. I went over how to pick those foods here.
Here’s how to do that.
Track calories for a few days to get an assessment of how you like to eat normally.
Then with your target calories ask yourself these two questions:
1) What can I make lower fat choices on?
2) What can I remove that I won’t really care about?
When I went into a mini cut in May this is EXACTLY what I did.
On May 3 I was about 6 months into a bulk and looking to trim some fat to feel better. On May 17, I started that mini cut.
Looking at both entries, the meal times stayed the same, I just removed some foods or reduced the portions. Keep in mind, I didn’t remove foods because they are “bad” I removed them because I could make a lower fat choice or I didn’t really care if I ate them or not.
I was able to reduce from ~2800 calories to ~2000 calories without overhauling the foods I ate and making small tweaks. As a result, I was able to lose 12 pounds in 6 weeks pretty easily.
Moral of the story, if you want to have a successful diet or mini cut, track how you’re currently eating and make lower fat choices or remove foods you wouldn’t miss.
Don’t get caught up in the “optimal diet” according to the internet this week or watching macros right away. Focus on calories first and macros second.
How To Setup A Diet Plan
Taking what you’ve learned above and because I like graphs, take a look at this.
This graph shows how a calorie deficit, time, and willpower mingle.
The higher the deficit the less time needed and the more willpower the diet needs. Conversely, the lower the deficit the more time needed and the less willpower needed.
With a mini cut you’re going to be on the left side of this graph. High calorie deficit for a short period of time which isn’t sustainable long term but good in a pinch.
A diet on the other hand can be anywhere on the right hand side. There is where you can have a calorie deficit for weight loss that is sustainable for a few months.
This also tells you when and how you can use each diet.
Since a mini cut is shorter and more aggressive this is great for dropping a bit of weight before a vacation or dropping some fat in a bulk. In a mini cut, if done properly, you can lose 10-12% of your weight in about 6 weeks.
A diet is better when you want to change your body. Going from a 40 in waist to a 34 or revealing all that muscle after you finished a year bulk. With a diet you can lose 0.5-1% of your bodyweight per week without sacrificing muscle.
So now the question becomes, what is a good calorie deficit for a mini cut as compared to a diet.
Generally, for a mini cut, 10 times your current body weight in pounds is a good starting point.
For a diet, 11-12 times your current body weight in pounds.
That slight difference might not seem much but believe me it is. When you are nailing your diet the difference between 2000 calories and 2200 calories is astronomical.
Now that you have your calorie target you can go through the food exercise from above. Figuring out what foods you can make lower fat choices and what foods would you not mind if you removed them.
And because macros are always a hot topic, here are some guidelines to go by:
Diet: 0.8-1.25g per pound of bodyweight
Mini Cut: 1-1.25g per pound of bodyweight
0.3-0.4g per pound of bodyweight
The rest of the calories. This is usually in the 0.5-2g per pound of bodyweight range.
Remember, these are guidelines, not gospel. If you’ve never dieted before OR haven’t had success dieting in the past, start with calories and then make small tweaks every couple of weeks to get to the macro guidelines above. And always, track calories in an app like MyFitnessPal.
As with every decision you make, there’s a trade-off.
For example, if you love to slam back 4-5 Jack and Cokes a night you have to accept the fact that 1) you’ll prob not lose weight as quickly as you want, 2) you’ll be more hungry because the calories that come from alcohol will have to be at the expense of food if you are maintaining your calorie target and 3) You might have a drinking problem.
I’m not saying it can’t be done, because I’ve done it, but it makes things harder to juggle.
One of the big things I always do with my online coaching clients is to explain the trade-offs for things like holidays, vacations and drinking during the week when it comes to your goals.
You have to be able to live with these and to do that, it’s helpful to have someone lay them out for you, so you as an ADULT can make the best decision for yourself.
Using myself as an example, I have zero problem saying no to people or alcohol when I’m dieting. To me, my goal is way more important than an extra serving of food or a drink.
On vacation though, I have a completely different view point. I love food and to try new things. I would NEVER restrict myself on vacations if I was dieting.
This is my choice and I understand that I’m not going to make weight loss progress on my vacation. I’m fine with that trade-off because sampling the local foods is way more important to me.
You have to be OK with the trade-offs of your decisions.