by Carmela Lieras, NASM-CPT

Your current or future diet needs this one thing to actually work. It’s not a specific food type, nor a magical protein powder.
Your diet needs to be able to survive a very bad day.
You have the best intentions to make your diet work. You clean out the fridge and cupboards, do a grocery overhaul, start meal prepping as much as you can, get rid of the sweet temptations and make a goal to only get take-out once or twice per month. You pack a lunch for work and make sure to bring snacks for long car rides. Even after doing all this (and many of us have), we forget one of the most important things to consider: LIFE. Life happens.
We oversleep, a meeting goes two hours longer than we planned, we forget our wallet when we go to the grocery store or have a really intense argument with a family member and all we want to do is devour a Philly Cheesesteak and fries. So, we do. And then we feel like a failure because our entire day of following whatever diet plan we’ve committed to has seemingly gotten tossed out the window — all over one “bad” decision.
Herein lies the problem with most, if not all, diets. They are so strict that if you succumb to life’s curveballs and eat something that is not a part of your plan, it feels as if you have no choice but to start all over again from day one or give up completely.
In my opinion, most diet creators expect people to use willpower as their kryptonite to defeat any temptations or knockout a bad food decision before it goes down the hatch; but in all honesty, life’s unexpected situations are sometimes out of our control and willpower has to take a backseat.
The simple fact that most diet plans have off-limit foods or still use the term “cheat meal” tells me as a health coach that the industry has a long way to go. A successful diet, in my opinion, is one that gives you a good amount of flexibility with what you eat and doesn’t require a new “Day 1” when you have one (or more) bad day(s).
Ask yourself these questions to determine if you need to rethink your current or future diet plan:

  • Can this plan survive a bad day?
  • Does this plan allow any of my favorite snacks, meals or treats (whether they are “healthy” or not)?
  • Does this plan have an expiration date, and if it does not, can I maintain this diet long-term?
  • Do I honestly want to be on another diet or do I need to find a way of eating that is sustainable, flexible, and gives me options for what to eat when I encounter life’s curveballs? In my experience, clients have much more success with food when they are set up on a nutritional plan that addresses macronutrients (the protein, carbohydrates, and fat that make up the caloric content of our food) and how many of each their body needs per day.It gives them much more flexibility in terms of what they can eat as long as they stay within their specific numbers.I also highly recommend working with a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner or someone that teaches “pro-metabolic” eating. Many of these practitioners look at the body as whole, not just focusing on diet, but on metabolism, hormones, gut health and more in order for clients to reach their health goals.