Carrying too much body fat sucks. When you make up your mind to lose it you want it gone yesterday, so naturally you want the best fat loss diet.
And what makes the best fat loss diet? Obviously it’s the one that enables the most efficient and maximal weight loss, right?
It seems self-evident, but it’s the wrong focus and normally leads to complete failure.
The Fuzzy Optimal
On paper there is a best fat loss diet in terms of raw effectiveness.
But it’s not simple. Because of the differences between how our bodies react to what and how we eat, the “best” diet will change from person to person. Even further, it could be different for any one person at any given time depending on age, activity, stress, hormone levels, insulin sensitivity, body fat level, etc.
Therefore, determining the best diet for our exact physiology is basically impossible, short of making use of state of the art laboratory equipment and becoming a human science experiment.
The Next Best
Okay, maybe we can’t have absolute technical perfection, but we can opt for what science indicates is generally best. Or defer to an expert who seems to know what they’re talking about (they sure sound sciency, right!).
This is also problematic.
Let’s say your reading of the science, or chosen expert, indicates that very low carbohydrate facilitates the maximum, most efficient fat loss (just as an example, not to pick on low carb in particular). Therefore it’s the diet you choose.
But you adore carbohydrates. Eating your daily bagel or donut is a genuine source of pleasure for you, and you look forward to it every day.
No problem, you’ve turned yourself into the perfect fat-burning machine, and nothing tastes as good as being lean and mean feels, right? You can do without. Plus you’re making some amazing progress.
But work is extremely challenging this time of year. Out of nowhere you receive some large bills you weren’t expecting. Someone crashes their car through your lounge (that’s common, isn’t it?). You become so stressed that sleep is impossible. You’re miserable, exhausted, and ravenous.
Instead of appreciating the fat-burning power of your super-diet, you begin to feel trapped by it. Human nature has a perverse way of making prohibited foods extremely desirable—nothing sharpens cravings more than restriction.
Damn it, life’s hard enough, why should you have to throw away those moments of pleasure you got from your donuts? Plus, you’re so tired, you could really use some extra energy.
Suddenly you find yourself fatter than you were. Those binges weren’t dreams, and the two foot depth of Twinkies packaging surrounding the couch is proof.
The Role of Willpower
What happened? Did you not exert enough willpower?
No, what happened was life, you did the best you could, and ended up with the same result as most people.
Research indicates that willpower is a limited resource, and we don’t have a separate supply for everything in life that draws it.
As far as your diet is concerned, this means that by the time you’ve eroded your willpower with the rest of life’s demands, there may be little left at the end of the day for forcing yourself to do a diet you find miserable.
Shifting the Emphasis
So we can’t rely on willpower. Does this mean we’re left with resigning ourselves to the psychological discomfort and poor health of being out of shape, and learning to love ourselves as we are?
Thankfully not (although I admit a weird admiration of people who can take this path). Instead we need to rethink what makes for the best diet.
The success of any diet totally depends on following through with it. So theoretical perfectness (even aside from the problem of establishing it) is less important than adherence. Any functional eating plan that you can stick to is far better than a theoretically more effective one that you give up on.
As such, the best diet for any given individual is the most sustainable one that works at all. It may or may not necessarily be the technically optimal one.
Relying totally on willpower to adhere to a diet eventually results in non-compliance, and further down the road normally complete failure to achieve desired results. For a diet to be sustainable, the role of willpower has to be minimized.
This means considering enjoyment and practicality. The more enjoyable a diet is and the easier it merges with our current habits and routines, the less willpower it requires.
Therefore the best fat loss diet isn’t necessarily the most theoretically powerful one, it’s the one you find most enjoyable and that best matches your lifestyle.
Thanks so much for reading. If you found this useful, I have plenty more on fat loss.
All feedback and questions welcome, I’d love to hear from you—just use the comments box below or send me an email.