Keto? Paleo? Slow Carb? Vegan? How to Determine the Perfect Diet For You.

Today we’re gonna get down and dirty and dig into the big diets:

Keto. Paleo. Slow Carb.

Intermittent Fasting.

Vegetarian. Vegan.

Twinkie (yes this is a thing. I’ll prove it below).

Every day, we get multiple emails from people that say something like:

“I know you guys are a paleo blog, but…”

I guess that doesn’t really surprise me.

In addition to our big ass “Beginner’s Guide to the Keto Diet,” our “beginner’s guide to the Paleo Diet” has been viewed like 25 million times since I first wrote it.

I have a confession to make. Outside of a 30 day experiment back in 2011, I haven’t been Paleo. or Keto.

[AUDIBLE GASP]

Seriously, I just heard you gasp.

I have three more truth bombs for you:

  • I don’t care what cavemen actually ate, nor if the Paleo Diet is historically accurate.
  • I don’t think it works for a majority of people.
  • I LOVE the Paleo Diet and have seen it help hundreds of thousands.

I know. “What the hell, Steve!?”

Am I a walking writing contradiction?

Am I flip-flopper who can’t commit?!

For starters, when it comes to health and fitness, flip-flopping is a good thing. It’s called “getting smarter undumber when new information comes to light.

But that’s irrelevant here.

Why? Because it literally DOESN’T MATTER what a caveman actually ate!

I don’t care if a caveman once ate wheat 30,000 years ago—this is what people rage about on the internet because they need to be angry at something and it’s fun to point out holes in a dogmatic popular approach to nutrition.

So, why do I like the Paleo Diet?

Because of “reality” and “human behavior.”

I like the Paleo Diet, just like I like the Keto Diet.

And Intermittent Fasting, and the Slow Carb Diet.[1]

I even like the vegetarian diet or vegan diet for the right people (with some caveats, which I’ll explain below).

I don’t actually think of the diets above as “diets,” but rather as a Mental Model for how to understand and navigate the food choices we make every day.

And mental models can be the difference between effortless weight loss and frustration.

Today I’m gonna teach you how to determine the diet that is perfect for you.

This is one of the most important articles I think you can read on Nerd Fitness, so make sure you set aside the time to dive in!

Quick note: This MASSIVE article is actually the exact philosophy we incorporate into our uber popular 1-on-1 Coaching Program. We cut through the crap, learn your situation, and then help you adjust your nutrition each month until you reach your goals.

Read this monster article, and if you want expert guidance and accountability, click on the image below to schedule a free call with our team to learn more.

How to Eat For Healthy Weight Loss

#1 – Eat fewer calories than you burn every day.

#2 – Want to also be healthy? Eat mostly real food.

Full stop.

Want to KEEP the weight off?

Add #3: Do those two things consistently for a decade.

This solution will get you like 90% of the way towards a killer physique and a consistently healthy checkup at the doctor.

Mix in the right training and you’ll be 99% of the way there.

The problem is that pesky things like “reality” and “genetics” and “human behavior” keep getting in the way.

It’s why everybody goes on diet after diet after diet, gaining and losing the same 10-50 lbs.

Most people can only stick with a diet for a few weeks before they’re so miserable that they can’t wait to go back to how they were eating before.

They count calories and allow themselves to eat “health food” like low-fat ice cream and low-fat chips and just two Oreos. These people are so nutritionally deficient—eating calorie-heavy, unfulfilling foods—that they struggle to stay under their allotment of calories for they day. D’oh.

To make matters worse, even if they’re counting calories, they’re probably misreporting their food and overeating without realizing it.[2]

This is why people get so dang frustrated when they go on a calorie-restricted diet, track their food, and still don’t lose weight. The only explanation must be that their bodies must have slow metabolisms.

Yes, some people can do well with calorie counting long term – and I do believe EVERYBODY should count calories for at least a week to educate themselves about the food they are eating – but I think it’s only part of a solution that has plenty of room for error.

Watch this quick video of a person who believes she has a slow metabolism[3].

It turns out the exact opposite is true. Crap.:

Despite everything stacked against us, Nerd Fitness is FULL of success stories of people who have lost 100s of pounds and kept the weight off. Here are a few dramatic ones (click on the images to read their full stories):

What gives?

Nerd Fitness doesn’t just tell you what to eat. Any Google search can tell you that.

Though we help there too.

At Nerd Fitness, we’re helping you learn HOW to think about eating too.

And that’s the difference maker.

Mental Models for the Win

The Nerd Fitness community is full of ridiculously smart people. Smart people that have tried in vain to lose weight for years or decades.

It’s because we’re fighting a brutal, uphill battle.

For many of us, food is way more than fuel: it’s a coping mechanism. It’s how our moms showed us love. It’s what we turn to when we’re happy or sad. It’s the only thing that provides us with a small bit of happiness in a boring existence.

Add in the fact that unhealthy food has been designed in a laboratory to be so delicious that it must be consumed in mass quantities, and trying to eat “just a few” of something is nearly impossible.

Next, add a dash of “I am obsessive and if I start to track calories I’m going to drive myself insane,” “even if I track my calories I’ll probably underreport how many calories I eat by at least 20%,” and “there is so much information that this all appears so overwhelming, so it’s a lost cause.”

This is why Mental Models are so useful (hat tip to my friend Shane over at Farnam Street Blog who taught me about Mental Models). I’m gonna borrow the concept here for nutrition.

Enter a MENTAL MODEL DIET:

  • Paleo Diet: If a caveman didn’t eat it, neither should you. “Okay, what would a caveman eat? Probably things that grow in the ground, so vegetables and fruit, and also animals. They wouldn’t eat candy or bread or pasta or drink soda.”
  • Keto Diet: Keep your carb intake under 5% (or more extreme, 10 grams, for example) of your total calories so your body has to burn fat for fuel instead of carbs and sugar. “Time to learn how many carbs are in everything I eat, and start tracking.”
  • Slow Carb Diet: Eat legumes, protein, veggies. “Time to learn how to make food that only fits the slow carb model. At least until cheat day!”
  • Intermittent Fasting: Only eat between 12pm and 8pm. Occasionally do 24 hour fasts. “Okay, so I’ll just skip breakfast. That’s one less meal I have to think about.”

In each of the above options, there are a few similarities that make them such trendy/popular diet choices. 

For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to hold off on digging into the health benefits that apply to a small percentage of the population on certain diets (Keto to treat epilepsy, Paleo/Keto for Hashimoto’s Disease, identifying a gluten intolerance, etc), we’re going to focus on the reasons MOST people pick these diets.

They’re simple to comprehend and will probably help you lose weight:

#1) They all will result in you eating fewer calories (usually).

If you follow the Paleo Diet, you are eliminating some of the most calorie dense, nutritionally deficient, unhealthy foods out there. No more soda, no candy, no bread, no pasta, no sugar, no dairy.

If you follow the Keto Diet, you must track your carb intake, which means you’re going to also learn how many calories are in everything else you eat. You’re also essentially eliminating an entire macronutrient from your diet that’s notorious for keeping people overweight.

If you follow the Slow Carb Diet, you learn about which foods you can eat and which foods you can’t eat: yes to beans, no to dairy and grains. Like Paleo or Keto, you’re eliminating massively unhealthy foods from your diet, which will most likely result in weight loss.

If you do Intermittent Fasting, you’re eliminating 1/3rd of your meals for the day! Let’s say you normally ate an 800 calorie breakfast, 800 calorie lunch, and 800 calorie dinner. If you SKIP breakfast, that means you could eat larger lunches and dinners (1000 calories each) and still end up eating 400 calories less per day on average. That’s enough for 3-4 pounds of weight loss per month!

#2) You can answer “YES” or “NO” to adherence.

Sure, it would be great if you could weigh every element of food that you eat, and track each meal in a spreadsheet and KNOW you’re tracking each calorie and macronutrient correctly.

And for some people looking to get to bodybuilder levels of bodyfat, this level of perfection is required.

However, for the rest of us, working regular jobs, with kids, and lives, this shit is wayyyyy too much.

So these mental models are so damn helpful because they can simplify the overly complicated and allow us to get out of our own heads.

These Mental Model Diets require compliance and consistency. In each instance, there’s a very specific answer you can say every day, and a question you can ask yourself with each meal.

As our favorite green Jedi Master once said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”:

  • Paleo Diet: “Would a caveman eat this?” Yes or no.
  • Keto Diet: “Am I in ketosis?” Yes or no. You can even pee on strips to see if you are in ketosis.
  • Slow Carb Diet: “Did I only eat slow carb foods today?” Yes or no.
  • Intermittent Fasting: “Did I skip breakfast today? Did I stop eating after my feeding window?” Yes or no.

In each of these examples above, it removes ALLLLLLLL of the fluff, simplifies the heck out of our complex physiology and a complex problem. And it allows us to stop fooling ourselves.

With the mental models above, we have rules and a framework within which we can operate. It starts with black and white YES or NO questions we can ask.

We know what (or when) we can and can’t eat.

It’s a lot easier to fool ourselves when we are sneaking bites of cookies, having an extra roll at dinner, drinking a larger soda during a long night at work, eating some of our kid’s Halloween candy, and overeating while absentmindedly watching television.

When the rules are black and white, yes or no, there’s no place to hide.

Which means we need to get our act together if we’re going to stick with something.

We start to understand the quality and quantity of things we are putting in our pie holes. We start to dig into our relationship with food.

And in MANY cases, we start to lose some weight (again, see #1 above); this starts to make us feel better about ourselves. And we chase that feeling.

We create a positive virtuous cycle where you lose weight, get complimented, wake up not feeling like crap, look forward to exercising, and over time we become permanently changed, healthier, happier people.

In a similar vein, The Whole 30 Diet works for many people (“I only eat Whole 30 foods for the next 30 days”), but it will not result in long term changes if somebody goes back to their original unhealthy diet after the 30 days are up.

Temporary changes = temporary results.

#3) They can be done incorrectly, are tough to stick with long term, and won’t work for everybody.

Depending on our genetics, upbringing, lifestyle choices, addiction to sugar, relationship with food, what foods satiate us, etc., some of these options might work better for us than others.

As mentioned above, if ANY of the above nutritional strategies are done temporarily, they will result in temporary changes. This is how the majority of people go through life: gaining and losing the same 15-30 (or 50, or 100) pounds as they go on a diet and off a diet.

It’s a rollercoaster.

And not the good kind of rollercoaster with flips and corkscrews and probably involving Batman. It’s more like one of those rickety old wooden coasters that ruins your back.

Those rollercoasters suck, and so does putting your body through crazy weight loss extremes, up down, yes no, yo-yo.

Although these Mental Model diets can help people lose weight, they are often done for short time periods to get quick results.

And that’s only if people can actually stick with them long enough to get results! 

Let me explain.

Why These Diets Probably Won’t Work For You

There are two main reasons why these diets won’t work for you.

Some of them are more strict, have more rules, and require you to be more militant in your approach. And even if you are strict in applying the rules, you can STILL do the diets incorrectly and gain weight because of this whole concept of thermodynamics.

Don’t get mad at me. Get mad at science.[4]

#1) You Can Do These Mental Model Diets Incorrectly:

Paleo: I know people who “go paleo” but eat just as many calories as they did in the past: they are eating paleo cookies, buckets of dried fruit (soooo much sugar and carbs), sweet potatoes, and so on. This person will be frustrated when they don’t lose weight.

Keto: If you go Keto but eat 5,000 calories per day, you’re gonna put on weight. Do this while sitting on your ass not doing heavy strength training, and that weight will be all fat.

Intermittent Fasting: If you do intermittent fasting but eat 2,000 calorie lunches and dinners, you’re gonna put on weight. Hell, I put on probably 30 pounds while doing IF, which was my plan.

Slow Carb: If you go slow carb but eat 6,000 calories of beans and other slow-carb worthy foods, you’re gonna gain weight (and have extreme flatulence).

#2) Sticking with these Mental Model Diets for the long haul can be tough

The Paleo Diet and the Keto diet often come up dead last when it comes to a “List of Best Diets.”[5]

Now, the people writing those lists certainly have agendas, are trying to deal with the general population, adherence, a number of other factors, and more. In addition, there just haven’t been enough long term studies on some of these newer diet strategies.

Oh, and factor in anybody too that wants to get page views by taking shots and tearing down whatever becomes popular. We’ll call this the “hipster phenomenon.” I look forward to the vitriolic backlash to Keto Diets over the next 3 years.

And you never know who to trust. Coca-Cola famously used to bribe scientists to conduct studies claiming sugar was healthy.

So why the hate for diets that have changed millions of lives and will probably help you lose weight?

The reason these diets have poor compliance is because most people will abandon them within days/weeks after starting them:

If somebody is following Paleo or Keto, they’re gonna go through “carb flu” symptoms as their body has to learn to burn fat instead of carbs for fuel. Their body can revolt against this, making them miserable for days or weeks.

Many give up and go back to sweet, comforting carbs. I imagine this happens to a majority of people.

For others, they might make it past the physiological challenges but still give up on the date. They hate having to be the difficult one at barbecues, they hate weighing food or counting carbs, and find the diets too restrictive to fit into their lives.

Compliance and elimination of certain foods can be really challenging, especially for people with families, who travel for work, and aren’t in control of the lunch and dinner options.

In an EXTREME example of a Mental Model diet done for publicity, a professor went on the Twinkie Diet (he ONLY ate Twinkies) and lost 27 pounds.[6]

Disregarding the health implications of only eating Twinkies, I can’t imagine saying “this is a diet I can stick with for the next decade.”

#3) People think “All or Nothing” and quickly abandon the diet when compliance fails.

If you are somebody who is on a Keto Diet or Paleo, you have a very specific set of rules to follow. If you accidentally slip up:

  • Oh crap, that food had more carbs than I realized, I am now out of ketosis and my world has ended.
  • Oh crap, I didn’t realize this was dairy. I have now brought shame upon my paleo heritage and must attone for my sins.

Life happens. Shit happens. And with these diets, we dumb humans have this unique ability to take one tiny mistake and allow it to ruin the next decade:

“I ate a breakfast that wasn’t Paleo, today is ruined and so this month. I’ll try again next month (even though it’s only the 5th). Oh look, a pile of carbs! NOM NOM NOM.”

“I got knocked out of Ketosis, which makes me a loser that can’t stick with anything and I hate myself. What’s the point? Who cares that I was in ketosis and lost 30 pounds. I’ll try again later. Now back to my regularly scheduled program of carbs and carbs and carbs topped with carbs!”

No wonder 60+% of America is overweight! We’re surrounded by calorie-dense, nutritionally-deficient foods designed to make us overeat. We’re also surrounded by diet plans and products that promise fast results with no effort. We sabotage ourselves by thinking “99% complaint” is a failure and thus it’s a quick slide back to “0% compliant.”

It’s for these reasons I LOVE the IDEA of the Mental Model Diets above, but know that they’re not for everybody. They’re actually not for most people.

I think they can be a valuable starting point to help somebody simplify their decision-making process and educate themselves about the food they’re eating.

These Mental Model Diets can help people identify certain nutritional deficiencies or imbalances somebody might have, or unknown allergies.

They can help people identify sugar addictions, gluten intolerances, emotional triggers for food, and other valuable information to uncover. And as previously mentioned, some of these diets even have serious health benefits for certain conditions (Keto has been used to treat epilepsy, for example).

But let’s stick with the general population and keep things simple.

For somebody that is very overweight, following one of the Mental Model Diets can be a huge boon and momentum builder. They can lose lots of weight early on, and build off this success to beget further success.

I also think long term compliance is really difficult for 95+% of the planet.

This is why the Paleo Diet isn’t for me. Nor is Keto. Or slow carb. And although I have been Intermittent Fasting for close to 5 years, I still don’t mind eating breakfast or brunch occasionally because it fits for me.

I want the solution that is pretty good. That gets me results. That fits into my reality.

This is the rough philosophy behind our 10-Level system which you can download as a free PDF when you sign up in the box below, which allows you to be damn good most of the time! Simple rules you can follow, and increase the challenge as you build momentum.

The 80% Nutrition Solution

You are a real person who lives in the real world and thus must deal with this thing called reality.

Sucks, I know.

We have to learn to make a Mental Model diet fit into our personal reality:

If you work in a candy store or a pastry shop, trying to go full Paleo 100% of the time is going to be impossible. You’re setting yourself up for failure, because you’re expecting your reality to be different than it is.

If you’re married to somebody who loves to cook Italian food, cutting out pasta is the first step towards divorce.

If you have kids, only keeping Keto foods will not win you any “Parent of the Year” awards. And you can kiss that “#1 Dad” mug goodbye.

If you can’t have “just one” of something, don’t fool yourself into trying to be disciplined enough to have “just one.” It’s actually why I pay extra money for small cartons of Goldfish Crackers and/or small cans of soda. It makes it easier for me to treat these things like…well, a treat and less like a staple of my diet.

You need to educate yourself about the food you eat. You need to identify the mental models that simplify your decision making process when it comes to food.

And you need to pick the level of adherence that aligns with your goals:

It’s why I wrote about how I’m “Paleo-ish” in the past. For some people, they start Paleo and settle into a “good enough” mentality that still has guardrails.

It’s why our “Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating” is one of our most popular articles.

It’s why over 50,000 people have joined our NF Academy with the 10-level diet stuff.

And it’s why our 1-on-1 coaching program doesn’t promote a “one diet fits all” solution. Our coaches have our hundreds of clients track how they’re eating now and then educate them to introduce new rules and challenges from month to month!

We don’t want you to follow a diet for the next 30 days. We want you to follow a nutritional strategy that you can stick with for the next DECADE.

Which means you need a solution that accomplishes three things:

  1. A strategy that you can follow consistently for 5+ years.
  2. A strategy that you can track your compliance with.
  3. If done long enough, a strategy that will help you reach your goal weight/physique.

Following a “pizza, pasta, and soda” diet might be something you can stick with for 5+ years, but it won’t make you reach your healthy weight.

If Keto will help you lose weight but you can’t stick with it for 5+ years, then “strict keto forever” probably isn’t the best strategy for you.

This is why we want rules we can follow, that help us reach our goals, that we can live with permanently.

Think of these rules like bumper lanes in bowling.

You can’t throw it in the gutter (0% compliance), but you have enough guardrails that allow you to still knock over the pins (weight loss).

THAT is the sweet spot.

Steve’s Good Enough Diet Strategy

I’ve identified certain mental models and rules  that help me make sense of my day without being overly neurotic, still have fun with friends, and ALSO allow me to reach my strength training and physique goals.

Here’s my personal “80% of the time, it works every time” strategy:

#1) Skip breakfast. I don’t eat breakfast. My first feed happens after my 11am workout. Yup, sometimes I’ll eat brunch on a weekend or have a bagel/donut, but that’s rare. I love Intermittent Fasting, it works for me, and I’ll probably do this for the rest of my life.

#2) Eat real food most of the time. I know what real food is. I try to only eat real food. If you hate veggies (as I used to), here’s how I learned to love them. Yup, I still eat rice and potatoes.

#3) Know my calories. I skip breakfast, and I eat the same lunch every day, and I know the basic quantities and calories of foods I normally eat. This means I generally know how many calories I’m eating every day with minimal effort. This is done more strictly if I am targeting certain goals.

#4) No unnecessary liquid calories. I drink black coffee, unsweet black tea, or water. No soda. No juice (which is pretty much sugar water). I do put whole milk in my powerbomb smoothies, which I drink specifically to help me overeat on training days to build muscle. I still drink whiskey (neat) or good beer when the occasion calls for it!

#5) Never eat two unhealthy meals in a row. If I eat an unhealthy lunch (pizza and wings and beer), I either make my dinner healthy or skip dinner entirely. If I ate an unhealthy dinner, my lunch the next day is going to be healthy. I know myself, and when it comes to momentum killing, 1 bad meal is a speed bump, 2 is a brick wall.

Before I help you come up with your own rules, I want to address the elephant in the room.

Okay, now that I’ve addressed him, let’s talk about vegetarians and vegans!

What About Vegan and Vegetarian?

I actually considered including Vegetarian or Vegan mental models in the above sections, as I know we have plenty of plant-based folks in the Rebellion.

Here’s why I didn’t: neither option satisfies Rule #1 (“By following this strategy, you will most likely lose weight”). I’ll explain.

Yes, as a vegan or vegetarian, you can ask yourself: “Is this Vegan/Vegetarian? Yes or No” (Rule #2), which does make it a mental model in that respect.

However, in order for you to lose weight and be healthier on either mental model, you need to be very aware of the foods you’re eating and how many calories they have—which introduces more complexity.

Pizza, fettuccine alfredo, bowls of sugary cereal, grilled cheese sandwiches, and calorie-bomb burritos can be vegetarian.[7]

Donuts, pasta, and bread can be vegan.

Plant-based? Technically, yes. Healthy? Ehhhh.

Just like you can do Paleo or Keto incorrectly, you absolutely can be an unhealthy vegetarian or an unhealthy vegan. The same is true of going gluten-free.

Long story short: if you are thinking of going vegetarian or vegan for whatever reason (nutritional, moral, religion, this new person you’re dating is vegetarian, etc.), go for it!

It might work for you! It might not.

It might help you lose weight! It might not.

It all depends on what the foods you are eating in addition to being vegan or vegetarian.

So, if going plant-based ALSO helps you educate yourself on what you’re putting in your body, if it helps you make better food decisions, and changes your relationship with food for the long term, and gets you the health/physique results you’re after, great!

KEEP DOING IT!

Just don’t fool yourself into blindly believing what you’re doing is healthy just because you cut out meat without actually analyzing what you’re replacing it with.

If you are vegan or vegetarian and planned on emailing me angry words for not including them as healthy options above, thus concludes my cover-my-ass explanation. We’re cool, right?

Also, yes. I have read the China Study. [8]

How to Pick the Diet That’s Right For You

Those are the rules I’ve picked above that fit MY reality. I adjust based on my progress from month-to-month, whether or not I’m making progress in the gym (and in the mirror!).

Here’s how you can determine the best diet for you: Throw the concept of the “perfect diet” out the window and staple this to your forehead: “The perfect diet is the diet I can actually stick with.”

Actually, don’t staple that to your forehead. It’ll be backwards when you look in the mirror and that will defeat the purpose.

Instead, do this – Be a badass scientist:

#1 – Do some research, juuuuust enough to get started[9], and pick the diet or the rules you want to start with. Pick the rules that you can live with. Then, start. Now.

Here are some sample yes/no rules to get you started outside of the mental model diets. Note the difference in challenge/healthiness – pick the ones at YOUR level:

  • I can’t more than 5 sodas per week (instead of my normal 10). It’s up to me when I drink them.
  • I don’t eat fast food Monday through Friday.
  • I eat a vegetable with every lunch and dinner.
  • Once per week I’ll do a 24-hour fast.
  • I don’t drink alcohol on Sunday afternoon through Friday afternoon. Other than that, all bets are off.

#2 – Track your adherence to the diet or rules. It can be very simple (“Yes I was compliant today”/“No I wasn’t”). A spreadsheet, a calendar where you write X’s on the days where you were compliant, an app, a friend you check in with, etc. Your rules can be “Only drink 5 sodas this week,” “eat two vegetables per day,” or “eat under X amount of carbs.” Pick rules that line up with your life.

#3 – Track your progress, assess your strategy. Compare photos, measurements, and/or lifts in the gym at the end of the month. Are you better off than you were 30 days ago? Do you feel like you can stick with the rules for another few months? Were you able to stick to the plan more than 80-90% of the time?

#4) Stay the course, or course-correct:

  • Compliant with your rules and you lost weight? Great! Do it again for another month.
  • Couldn’t stick with your rules? Great! Adjust your rules to be less rigid so you’re more likely to stick with them.
  • Stuck with your rules but didn’t lose any weight? Great! You identified that your rules weren’t aligned with your goals. Adjust them.

#5) Repeat! Forgive yourself if you don’t succeed (each month is a new experiment). Even “failure” gives you information on what diets DON’T work for your situation.

You will need to follow these 5 steps every month for the rest of your life, so better get used it.

That’s what we call “life.”

Because life IS change and chaos.

Success comes from learning to navigate through the muck!

Your body will change in the coming years, and so will your rules. You might get pregnant or go through menopause. You might get an injury or change jobs or discover a food allergy. You might have kids or move cross country or go on vacation.

Each month, do a quick evaluation of where you are. Decide if you need to stay the course or make adjustments.

Do this consistently, and you’ll eventually arrive at the perfect diet FOR YOU. You are a unique snowflake in an environment and situation that is unique to you.

So again, I do not follow a paleo lifestyle. I don’t even recommend Paleo as the option that’s best for everybody.

What I recommend is treating life like an experiment, and using the resources and community here at Nerd Fitness to identify the rules and strategy that works for YOUR reality.

The Mental Models of Paleo, Keto, Slow Carb, Intermittent Fasting, Vegan, Vegetarian, or other eating models may be able to help you get started, and MIGHT even get you results!

But it’s gotta fit your life and ultimately be sustainable to have any real chance at long-term success.

So I recommend that YOU take control over finding the perfect diet for YOU.

Pick a mental model and incorporate it into your life. Lean on your friends or this community for support. Learn from people who have succeeded in the way you want to succeed. Track your compliance and progress. AND KEEP EVOLVING.

This is why I started Nerd Fitness: to help people cut through the crap and start to make progress that can stick even as the rest of their life goes through change.

If you’re somebody who is super overwhelmed or has struggled with yo-yo dieting for years, you’re not alone! This stuff is tough, and finding a way to navigate a constantly changing, chaotic life while following brutally strict rules ain’t easy.

This is why we created our 1-on-1 online coaching program.

Work with one of our coaches who will provide you with a custom workout for YOUR lifestyle, and also work with you on creating the nutritional rules and mental models that fit for YOUR specific situation and goals.

If you’re interested, you can schedule a free call with our team to learn more about the program by clicking on the image below:

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!

I want to hear from you with regards to these Mental Models and how they fit into your life:

What are your questions that I didn’t address above? I’ll do my best to respond to all comments!

Which Mental Model Diet worked for you?

Which one didn’t?

Let me know in the comments below!

-Steve

PS: For people that are more do-it-yourself, we have a self-paced course! Check out the Nerd Fitness Academy, which has helped 50,000+ students lose weight and change their lives through workout plans, 10 levels of nutrition, boss battles, and a supportive online community.

PPS: Please don’t do the Twinkie Diet.

###

photo credit: clement127: Mr Banana, JonathanCohen: weightless, Reiterlied: The New Yoda, Rafael Peñaloza: Undecided, stavos: Fish soup, regolare: point brick, Jose Antonio Hidalgo Jimenez Killer Peppers….STAR WARS., clement127 In the lab

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  • Cassandra Schultz

    Thank you for this article and all the information you put out there! I started womening up because of your articles, and I have gone onto the Keto side of the force. I cheated after 3 weeks in by eating a few slices of pizza, and man were they good! After the pizza was cozy in my tummy for about 20min however, I was hungry again and the next day my tummy was a wreck. Cheating that day pushed me into realizing that I didn’t really want that stuff anymore, it made me stronger in my conviction to eating right and feeling better. Besides, there are so many yummy things that you can eat that actually keep you full and happy. Cheating can be a good thing, so I agree with you, don’t put yourself down for cheating, they can provide information you wouldn’t have realized otherwise. 🙂

  • grawrg

    This is one of the best articles I’ve seen on diet in a long time. I’ve been following the keto diet for eight months for brain health reasons, though I knew it would also help me lose the extra ten pounds I was carrying. No medicine or treatment has ever made me feel as well in my brain as the keto diet does, which is incredible. However, it’s a tough diet to stick to, and my muscles need glucose every now and then since I’m doing a ton of endurance running. I’ve found that by doing re-feed days (e.g. eating whatever kind of carbs I want for one to two days at a time) after an especially intense race or workout, I recover ok. So for anyone considering “cheating,” think of it as a “re-feed” instead, don’t beat yourself up, and just go back to eating the way that makes your body and brain function best.

  • Christine T

    Hi Steve, it’s interesting how you mention Mental Models and how each of these sorts are a sort of “mental shortcut” into thinking about what we feed our body differently ie health/fuel vs comfort.

    I’m in an interesting situation at the moment where the first time in my life in eating according to rules that have been applied externally. I’m 24 weeks pregnant, and was diagnosed with gestational diabetes at Week 17. My “rules” are to produce blood sugar levels that are steady and stay within certain limits. Weight loss is not the goal, rather blood sugar control. Weight loss is actually happening, in that the baby is putting on weight (in a normal healthy way so far) as long as I follow the rules, but I am losing weight so my scale weight stays the same. I have a diabetic educator to who I submit my food diary (My Fitness Pal for the win!) and my blood sugar tests (4 x a day). My rules are 15g of carbs for snacks, 45g of carbs for main meals, with snacks and meals spaced out from each other at 2 hour intervals. Oh, and I must walk for 30 minutes after dinner to help with my fasting levels the next day, no excuses. I can’t “rebel” or comfort eat or skip the walk because there are big external consequences and a baby to consider who is kind of a hostage to my eating decisions, so yeah, definitely a strange experience. So I see what you mean. It’s not paleo or keto (ketosis is dangerous for baby during pregnancy) and I can’t do IF – and the Twinkie diet is definitely out. But it still has the yes/no mentality and it still has me thinking about food in a different way. The way I’m tracking I’ll end up having lost 15kg by the time baby is born (I was just on obese when I became pregnant) which is strange but sort of a relief? I’ll need a check up every year to see if I develop Type 2 diabetes (because I guess I haven’t treated my pancreas well in the past and I have a family history) but it’s been a real shift in my thinking and eating.

  • Rachael

    Hey Steve,

    I just wanted to say that I love how you treat diet and nutrition. One size fits all never works no matter what most diet magazines and blogs try to tell us.

    I have a particularly difficult times with watching what I eat since I am a food scientist – one of those people who whip up new products in a lab designed for mass appeal and sales. I currently make frozen pizzas so it is literally in my job description that I am required to eat pizza for taste testing purposes.

    Until recently I really didn’t have much hope in the whole diet/nutrition arena. But when we were slow on new products we needed to try, I began a modified paleo diet – paleo except for work. And because of your nutrition articles I was actually able to stick with it! I love the ‘try to be consistent but don’t beat yourself’ message that you use and it has helped me so much! I am down about 30 lbs and am the lightest and fittest I’ve been since high school all while eating pizza about 3-4 times a week (R&D has picked up since I started). I no longer do paleo or follow a particular diet, but eat wholesome foods and exercise most mornings before work.

    So thank you for helping me get past the all or nothing mentality of “dieting” and instead make it a lifestyle change.

  • Great article. I love your use of the mental models, as you can easily tell whether or not you followed the rules of the diet.

    I totally agree with you regarding adherence. The best diet is always the diet that you will follow. I’m a resident physician who works long and sometimes unpredictable hours. Adhering to any of the strict mental models sometimes won’t be possible.

    Instead, I take Principles from each one of those mental models to create a diet that is sustainable for me and for my life. I only have to be perfect 85% of the time. Eating clean most of the time gives me enough leeway to eat whatever I want on random occasions.

    Thanks for the great read.

  • Reinette Oelofsen-Muller

    Hey Steve – great article!!! I’ve been part of Nerd Fitness Academy for just over a year and it changed my life. I have the photos to prove it. But I really upped my progress when I started Intermittent Fasting. I never liked breakfast and this solution is the perfect match and helps me loose weight. I still have a coffee with a bit of milk in the morning during my fast and after reading this article I now don’t feel like I’m cheating anymore.

  • Brent Goren

    Wow! Steve this is a phenomenal article! I’ve been in the Nerd Fitness Coaching program working with Matt and in the FB group for a few months now and seeing the support people need and get from the group has been incredibly uplifting. My personal approach is similar to yours except my body punishes the s**t out of me when I deviate even a little bit. I’m allergic to wheat so eating a paleo / keto diet combined with fasting is surprisingly easy. I don’t have to think about breakfast (which is notoriously the toughest meal to find carb AND gluten free) and I try to cram a good 1700 to 2300 calories into my lunch which is HARD as hell on foods that are so filling!!! Also, as a quick aside, I effing LOVE the nerd fitness coaching and Matt Shortis is AMAZABALLZ?!?! I couldn’t be happier with my decision to invest and dive in and I am grateful to you for creating the program. Cheers!

  • Logan KB

    I was so happy to see this article in my inbox! I’ve been a reader of NF (and an Academy member) for ages but I didn’t feel aligned with the nutrition aspect – until now.

    I generally follow a whole-foods plant-based diet, and I’ve never been healthier, but it took so much trial and error! One size never ever fits all when it comes to something as important and personal as nutrition, and I totally dig your philosophy on it.

    Everyone’s journey goes through changes for sure; I’m completely convinced that following a Paleo diet for a couple years (getting acquainted with unprocessed foods) before I transitioned to Vegan helped me avoid the “bread/pasta/sweets” trap that definitely exists. (Oreos are vegan, apparently! Doesn’t mean they make it into my packed lunch…) And I like the emphasis on personalization. Knowing one’s own models is important; and after living with a model long enough, one can start to shift from the ‘template model’ into a ‘modified model’ that works more for them. (for example, I’m WFPB at home, but if I’m traveling with zero healthy veg options? I’ll take the fish. It works for me!)

    No matter the mental model, there are some best practices that build a solid foundation for a lifestyle change, and you’ve got great ones right here. This is inspiring me to take a closer, more deliberate look at my own models to see how my rules stack up against my goals. Looking forward to the results!

  • Joshua A.

    Just a quick question: What’s the lunch that you eat (nearly) every day?

  • Tony Langdon

    Fantastic article! I like your approach to diet and nutrition. This is an area I know I can improve, and for me it will be an ongoing process of trial and error, as you suggest. I do at least have the benefit of a high energy lifestyle, with a pretty full on training regime, so a reasonable amount of healthy calories are needed. 🙂

    But there’s a lot of room for improvement. My strategy has been to prioritise whole foods – vegetables and fresh meat (but not to overdo the meat part). In recent years, I’ve cut out most additional sugar (there’s room for treats). Soda has been eliminated – going below a certain amount of sugar in my regular diet has made me somewhat intolerant of sugary drinks, which makes that an easy choice! Water is my friend, though I do enjoy the occasional unsweetened coffee. Alcohol has gradually gone the way of soda, I rarely drink these days, because I discovered even a small amount of alcohol negatively impacts me sleep, and with a lot of my events on weekends and wanting to be in top form, the traditional Friday or Saturday night drinks have lost their appeal. Today, alcohol is only for special occasions and then still in moderation.

    So, the successful changes have been those incremental changes that have become the “new normal”., to the point that going back to old habits is actually unpleasant!

    But there’s still a way to go. Still some foods that need to be substituted, and tweaks here and there. Got an opportunity coming up, as I’m going through a routine checkup with my doctor, and the blood work may offer hints as to what to tweak next.

    My biggest challenge is domestic – trying to make tweaks without being overly disruptive. Like what to do with the excess alcohol from our wedding (gifts, etc), that literally would have lasted me _years_ (even though it was less than half a dozen bottles). But my husband has dramatically different dietary needs, relationship with food and hasn’t yet followed me into the Rebellion.

    Whatever I choose, it has to fit my complex nature. Counting calories is not for me, my rules need to be as simple and straightforward as possible, as they have to be ADHD friendly, which means take no time or jumping through hoops to follow. They also need to be flexible (as circumstances change) and forgiving (sometimes life gets in the way of a good plan!). 🙂

    Still a work in progress, but I’ve maintained the same general weight for over a decade. However, my body composition is reasonably good, thanks to training.

  • Melisa Anderson

    I follow Keto, and I find that my rules have changed over the last five months. I was very strict with no grains except for the occasional low carb tortilla. Lots of fat. BUT, after doing some research I realized that I was eating so much fat that my body didn’t have to burn any of its own. So I increased protein, lowered my fat, and still keep my carbs low. I’ve also changed my thought process around what types of food I eat.
    95% of the food I eat is good while food. But if I want something and it fits in my macros, I’ll eat it.
    I do see this WOE as something I can do long term. My family is mostly on board and the non-Keto things they eat don’t tempt me. AND, I like the numbers and feedback from tracking!

  • hey Cass!

    Thanks for the comment and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the article 🙂

    I know what you mean about the “cheating” with pizza. Because pizza is heavenly. And although it derailed you, you learned a super big lesson that “hey, this tastes good temporarily and then makes me feel terrible for a long time afterwards, maybe I’ll scale that consumption back!”

    Sounds like you’re doing a lot of the right things and making it work for you – love it.

  • Thanks Grawrg.

    I put a lot of time into this sucker and I’m glad to hear it resonated with you. Love that you went Keto for mental clarity as an experiment and discovered it helped.

    Great mental shift on the “re-feed” vs “cheating” – cheating has such a negative connotation that it can derail a lot of folks who take that one day and turn it into a month of bad eating!

  • Hey Christine!

    Thanks for sharing – sounds like you found both the motivation (hellooooo baby on the way – a future Nerd Fitness Rebel!), and the rules that work for your situation.

    AND you have somebody that you can check in with! Thank you for telling your story and best of luck with the rest of the pregnancy. The Rebellion has your back 🙂

  • LOVE THIS.

    You found rules that fit your lifestyle: Paleo – except for work. This is black and white. You can track compliance. You can see your results. And It’s working!

    Congrats on the success so far – and it sounds like this new strategy has longevity.

  • This is the exact same way I think through this stuff. Be great 85% of the time, and then I get to be less strict and worry much less during the other 15% of the time.

    Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

  • YES! Love it Reinette, and glad to hear the Academy helped change your life. Though don’t forget, you were still the one doing all the (figurative and literal) heavy lifting!

    And I’m with you. Intermittent Fasting just works for me too. It’s one less decision I have to make every day and has helped me get closer to my goals.

  • Christine T

    Thanks Steve! I’m definitely
    seeing baby’s future as a nerdy fit rebel ☺ She already listens to Dr Who and Star Wars in the womb when hubby and I are watching TV and chilling out (starting early!).

  • hey Brent!

    Thanks man. And glad to hear you’re really enjoying the coaching program – I’ve passed along this comment to the coaching team to make sure they see it too 🙂

    Excited to see your progress and follow your journey. And I love that you’ve identified your constraints have to be more strict. I like to think of it like playing the game of life on a higher difficulty level.

  • hey Logan!

    Appreciate the content and the honesty. I’ve been running this site for almost 10 years (whoa) and my philosophy around nutrition has evolved as has the site and our community.

    This is a direction I’ve been moving internally for years, and we’ve been moving in as an overall philosophy as a company for years too – I guess it just took enough emails from people telling me “you’re a paleo blog” to get me riled up enough to go on a 5,000 word rant about food!

    Expect more coming in this vein as the site grows and I can focus more time on writing (which I’m finally able to do!)

  • Here in NYC, I live directly across the street from a chipotle. So I alternate between two options (this is called carb cycling – higher carbs on training days, lower carbs on non training days).

    So on a training day, i’ll eat a bowl with white rice, double chicken, lettuce, guacamole, and cheese.

    On a non-training day, it’s a salad bowl with double chicken, lettuce, guacamole and cheese.

    Let me know if you have more questions!

  • Thanks for sharing Tony – we’re all works in progress! Always!

    After all, we don’t get to be “done” – Sounds like you have the right attitude. Incremental changes. Substitutions. Tweaks. And feedback from checkups and tracking!

    Proud of you.

  • Thanks for sharing your story Melisa – sounds like you found the path that works for your particular biology and life situation. And you can stick with it long term? Even better. Keep us posted on how things are going!

  • Rachel Eppley

    Thanks for this article!! I joined the academy not because I felt like I needed to lose weight, but because I feel like I’m killing myself with my addiction to sugar and carbs. I want to be better, but I’m a terribly picky eater, and the last time I tried to eat healthy, I essentially starved myself instead. I’m hoping that by surrounding myself with positive outlooks on eating, I’ll feel more encouraged to manage what I eat and try new things. I followed reading this article up with the Vegetable Haters article, and I’m feeling pretty encouraged 🙂

  • Same here Cass! I’m rocking the keto these days, but mostly because I have found it’s stopped pretty much all of my stomach problems. When I first started keto I’d ‘cheat’ occassionally, and my stomach would pay the price. And generally the food never tasted as good as to make the cheat worth it. My new mental hack when I want something ‘non-keto’ is “will the aftermath/acid reflux that will come with this food be worth eating it?”. And if the answer is HELL YES, then it’s 100% going in my mouth. But 9.5 times out of 10 the answer is going to be no at this point. And you’re absolutely right about all the yummy foods I can still eat on keto! The other day at work there were ALL kinds of unhealthy snacks sitting on the counter but I didn’t even crave any of it cause I was munchin on my bacon and avocado 🙂

  • Keegan Condie

    Great article Steve! I started intermittent fasting a few months ago and have lost about 18 pounds total. I am not perfect at it, especially when my darling wife brings me a plate full of amazing and healthy breakfast the last thing i want to tell her is that my eating window hasn’t started yet. I love your nerd approach and putting these complex ideas in real life trrms.

  • Alexa

    Awesome article Steve! After struggling with using diets as a restrictive method during my eating disorder, I finally said “screw it” to “dieting” as a set of rules and regulations to live my life by, and chose instead to eat foods that fuel me, make me feel good, and help me hit my goals. Thanks so much for not putting any diet up on a pedestal but also not demonizing anything either- super awesome article. Consider this nerd impressed.

  • Heidi

    Thanks so much for this great, informative article ! Such great points 🙂

  • Wabamba

    Thank you for this article. It was VERY timely for me. I was starting to feel like “OMG WHAT IF I AM DOING THE WRONG THINGS?!” and this helped put my spazzy mind at ease.

    I lost the first 5% of my overall weight, and I am already worried about stalling out and messing it up. (I’m such a worrier!) But I have a lot more to lose and this helps take some of the scary out of “screwing things up.”

  • tenzing choekyi

    hey steve,
    Although quiet a long ass article and took me 2 mini breaks to finish them, I’m glad I did. I think I now know why my vegetarian diet didn’t work. I’ll stick with the “two in a row is a big no” rule and I think I can also do occasional 24 hour fast. Tried the Intermittent fasting but it just couldn’t fit in with my schedule but I think I’ll do it more seriously and give it a another try. Thank you.

  • Lyndsi

    YESSS! This is exactly what I’ve done for myself and it has worked! I have PCOS and I was able to lose 30 pounds and get pregnant (after six years of trying) with my very own “I Choose” plan. I’ve tried so many diets and I’ve had minor successes, but learned so much. Eventually, I learned enough about myself to realize what was working and what wasn’t. So I came up with my “I Choose” lifestyle. The key is…. I don’t deny myself anything! With diets, I noticed when they instructed me to eliminate certain foods that’s when I wanted them the most. And I would complain and mope around thinking how unfair life was. And all I wanted was the food I couldn’t have. Well with my “I Choose” mentality, I can have anything! I just CHOOSE not to. I choose to have an apple with a few bites of cheese instead of a cookie. Why? Because I know how it will feed my body, I know my goal and what I have to do to reach it. And if I want a cookie, fine I can have one, but guess what?! Suffer the consequences cuz now we’re walking two laps instead of one! But at least I’m deciding for myself and I know what I’m doing.

    It probably sounds silly, but seriously it works for ME. Since I’ve been pregnant (I’m at 30 weeks now, having a boy in August!), my choices are much different, but I am going right back to what I was doing before, because it works!

  • Doesn’t sound silly at all! Thank you for sharing. And that choice is HUGE.

    Words impact us more than we realize: https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/are-you-dragonborn-the-dangerous-power-of-words/

    I don’t “have” to work out vs I “Get” to work out.

    “I can’t eat cookies” vs “I don’t eat cookies.”

    Love it 🙂

  • Sounds good Tenzing!

    Yes, this was a long ass article. It started as a 500 word rant that became a 5,000 manifesto on food. Oops.

  • hey Wabamba – congrats on losing the first 5% – we’re all “works in progress” and ‘screwing things up’ is really you just testing a hypothesis until you find the method that works for you, and that you can stick with!

  • thank you Heidi, I appreciate you reading it 🙂

  • Hey Alexa!

    Diets can be really counter productive – when they’re the “starve yourself for 30-90 days until you reach your goal weight” kind.

    Instead, i like your attitude instead of thinking of it like a way of eating that fits your mentality and helps you battle previous eating disorders. Good on ya!

  • Thanks Keegan!

    I know what you mean – life isn’t perfect and expecting perfection is a fools’ game.

    So if your wife cooks an awesome breakfast, enjoy it guilt free. Just do what you can to plan fewer calories over the next few days moving forward and you’ll be fine!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Yayyyy, thanks for sharing Rachel and I’m glad to hear you’re a member of the Academy too.

    I too am a picky eater, so that article about Vegetable Haters came from experience! I think at age 22 the only vegetables I would eat was lettuce smothered in dressing and MAYBE asparagus. Now? Give me a bowl of broccoli and brussels sprouts and I’m happy as hell 🙂

    Find that gateway vegetable!

  • Rebecca

    Hi Steve! I read your article and I felt like you were directly responding to an email I sent to your team. I feel so special! There are 4 actionable items from this article that I will start using NOW.
    1) “Never eat two unhealthy meals in a row.”
    This is perfect. I knew I liked weight watchers’ blue point reward/tracking system, but I wasn’t sure why. You have broken down the components of a “shame spiral” and pinpointed an exact action and mentality that can stop one in it’s tracks. We’re talking the power of the Death Star to blow up Princess Leia’s home world Alderaan here. Thank you!
    2) ‘Track your progress.’
    I am personally obsessed with spread sheets, so I love this step. I turn mine in to my personal trainer every week and we talk about it while I warm up on the bike. I earn suckstic when I do well!
    3)”Assess your strategy.- Compare photos, measurements, and/or lifts in the gym”
    This is where I have fallen short. This is also where I see the potential of long term change built into your philosophy. Basically, keep track of REAL WORLD progress, not just “Did I follow the plan?” This has a huge benefit. It makes your effort make sense in the real world. “Why am I doing all of this? Oh yeah, because it helps me get stronger, and I now lift 5 more pounds on my overhead press than I could 2 months ago!” If I can pinpoint a specific benefit that I have achieved, I am so much happier! I feel success.
    4)”Stay the course, or course-correct.”
    This could also be titled “Decide when to change your goal and plan.”
    Like you said, life happens, and our situations change. If I move to a place where healthy grocery stores are a long drive away, or cost 2x as much, my goals need to change to ways to just access the right food. This may feel like a setback, but it’s really a recalibration based on change. Let’s plan to recalibrate a lot! Maybe even 3 times a year! If we plan on change coming and plan to make adjustments, it won’t be so hard.
    Thank you for your insight and actionable steps for success!

  • Intrepid Steel

    Hey, Steve,
    Loved this article and how you talk about your body’s needs changing over time. Learning how to eat in menopause has been tricky. Every single time I’ve gone too low carb, it triggers my depression, but SLOW carb has worked wonders, combined with IF around 4-5 days per week. I’m 35 pounds down since February and feeling great. Instead of all or nothing, this time around, slow and steady wins the race.

  • Vid Gorre

    I just find these articles of yours a best read and a supplement to my own IF diet… been doing the same thing as your personal strategy, now it has solidified my strategy since someone confirmed it and worked for them. Lost all my water weight since April.

  • JTH

    “Never eat two unhealthy meals in a row.” This is great. Thanks!

  • CassMaster

    Yyyyeeeesssss!! That’s exactly how I’m feeling. I no longer have excessive tummy pains after eating anything! I can walk around a lot more and my lazy habits are not holding me down too much. It is worth it, because in the end you feel better and you can do things you couldn’t before. Not sure why I waited so long but I’m so glad I finally started my new life. Work can most definitely be a hard one, but what makes me happy are the veggie trays that they have. 🙂 Keep it up Emily!

  • Jefferson D

    GREAT article. As a health coach I get questions all the time about “what is the perfect diet”. I’ll admit, I was one of those obnoxious “my way or the highway” paleo fanboys that preached strict adherence. My tune has changed quite a bit over the years. I’ve come to realize the formula for success of any nutrition plan is a willingness to make adjustments along the way. I give each new client a tumbler with this quote: “A single experiment is far more valuable than a mass of information.” We live in a world where self-vindicating answers and confirmations are only a Google search away. But to actually know if something works we need to put it into action.

    I use primal/paleo as a starting point, follow the 80/20 rule, encourage IF where it fits, periodically track macros & calories and tweak when we learn or feel something new. The real success in these mental models listed above is replacing garbage food with real nutrient dense food. The rest seems to take care of itself!

    –JD

  • B_optomystic

    Love this article and it’s so timely as I just designed a 30 day challenge for myself to see if I can stick to it. 1) increasing my step average by 1500 a week over the mobth, 2) reducing alcohol to an occasional glass of wine. (vs multiple drinks, multiple days a week) 3 ) I found a food tracking app that grades the nutritional value of foods on an A-D scale, I’m logging everything I eat and striving for a B or better average per day. (Whole, unprocessed foods get the high grades) 4) getting at least 7.5 hours of sleep a night. So basically I’m doing what I think will work for me and will tweak it as necessary.

    Thanks!

  • NicTheRugger

    Great article, Steve! I recently started (I’m on week 3) practicing IF using the 5/2 method, where you eat normally 5 days a week and practice IF 2 days a week by skipping breakfast (except for the occasional supplement) and limiting calorie intake to <1000 calories. I found this method after doing careful research about the effects of IF on women (or anyone with ovaries, really). It's been really helpful, and I'm already seeing improvement in my appetite, my general mood, and my ability to curb cravings. It was hard the first couple of times, but at week 3, it's already gotten easier. The concept of a mental model has been key in being successful! Again, great article. I look forward to the next one!

  • Katherine Elise Sofakos

    When I first discovered NF I tried out paleo for a while and really enjoyed the way it made my body feel. I pass by at least 20 fast food restaurants every day to and from work (I live in the Chicagoland area) so eating real things I cooked for myself was really refreshing. Americans are very much about being on the go, instant gratification, eating whilst driving, eating whilst working, etc. It sucked to have to take the time to prep my meals but at the same time it reminded me of my younger, thinner years, eating real food my mom would cook for me vs. stuff that’s engineered to make me crave more even though it’s wya more than enough. I’m trying out keto now and really loving it, I didn’t realize how much I missed butter and cheese. But anyway, the point is both “diets” really get me cooking at home, eating real stuff, and inadvertently I wound up tracking my calories and macro-nutrients (something I’ve always loathed) which helped me see where I was going wrong for so long. I’ve also made a few mental discoveries along the way, in relation to food, and because I took the chance of changing up the things I eat, I am on my way to making more positive lifestyle changes.

    P.S. Excuse me? You “hate” brunch? But how? O_o

  • Trailblazer

    I’m a 54-year old man. Last February 2017, I was diagnosed with tongue cancer. At the time, I was weighed 221 lbs. (I’m 5’10”). I’ve always worked out but I had wanted to lose weight for a long time. When I was diagnosed, I looked into ways that I could help myself. I didn’t want to go full vegan, because that just didn’t suit me. I decided to try the paleo diet. I lost about 20-25 lbs without really trying. Then the radiation really started causing havoc with my taste buds, which haven’t fully recovered. I can’t taste sweetness very well, a year later. But my throat got so sore and it hurt so much to swallow that I was basically only taking in liquids. I was drinking less than 1000 calories a day and even that was a chore. My weight sank to 154. I lost virtually all of my muscle mass. I didn’t work out at all for 2 1/2 months. When I started again, I could barely do a pushup. Pull ups, forget it. It was depressing. But I started doing what I could even though I tired very easily. I kept at it, though. I started eating solid food again. At first, I ate whatever I wanted, although nothing tasted quite the same. When I got back to about 170 lbs. I went on a modified paleo diet. I eat some pasta and breads occasionally and yogurt and whole milk on my cereal. The main thing is that I cut out sugar as much possible, which is fine, since I can’t taste it much anyway. One year later. I’m able to maintain 185-189 lbs., I’m still wearing 30-waist jeans and I’m as strong as ever, if not stronger. Plus, I’m able to actually run again, which I missed for a long time. I don’t recommend the cancer diet, but for me, it was a blessing in disguise. It made me smarter about nutrition and forced me to make changes that I never would have made otherwise.

  • Lara

    Thank you for putting this all in one place — as I read it, I kept thinking, “yes, that.” Particularly the part about change and constantly experimenting. And the part about finding simple models that you can stick with. And the part about different things working for different people. Ok, well, all of it….

    What worked for me (in combination with a strength training + cardio regime): I cut out cheese and chocolate from my diet in particular (I had no will power regarding those) as well as cutting down the “junk” (I like to bake). Later that evolved into various other rules including at most one “treat” per day (i.e. don’t screw up twice in a row), never eating anything other than the salad bar for lunch at my work cafeteria, waiting between helpings to ask myself “do you really want more of that” (I often literally moved away from the dinner table), and generally trying to reduce saturated fat and carbs and increase protein. I lost a lot of weight, and had a good body fat percentage. Then my situation changed, both in terms of accessibility of my exercise regime and my food flexibility (read: family requirements), and I’ve started to backslide, so I’m here on Nerd Fitness to help reboot my fitness & figure out how to get back into the swing of things doing something new. Thanks!

  • Traszie

    A great article, Steve, and all the comments showing that a lot of people agree with you! It just makes so much sense. I would say pretty much the same as White Coat Trainer’s comments. I
    personally follow a mostly low carb diet, I get derailed sometimes, but always get right back on it and I do a 24 hour fast once a week. This is just my lifestyle now. Thanks for NF, I read regularly and that also helps keep me motivated!