There are two types of people in this world—the freaks and the geeks.
Okay, there’s probably more than that, but for the sake of this blog post, we’re only discussing the two major camps that most dieters fall into.
There are the folks who enjoy calorie counting, macronutrient breakdowns, and food scales—we’ll call them the geeks.
And then there are those of us who do better under a loose set of guidelines. Basically, they don’t do well with specific food rules. Instead, they seem to have better success just by making a conscious effort to eat a little bit less.
Freakish as this may be, it totally works for them.
Both the geek and the freak methods can be incredibly effective—unless you’re trying to utilize the wrong protocol for your individual psychological make up.
But here’s the thing, you may not even know what type of dieter you. And that’s where things can go horribly wrong.
Here’s an example:
When I first started getting into strength training, I was constantly asking myself if what I was doing was optimal for my specific goal.
Am I doing the right amount of cardio?
Should I be eating more carbs before or after my workout?
What if I workout first thing in the morning before work; do I need to wake up earlier to eat beforehand or train fasted? And which protocol will give me the best results?
On and on the unanswered questions went.
It was exhausting. I wanted to silence these lingering thoughts once and for all.
So, with a little bit of research, I eventually found an Online Coach to oversee a customized fat loss program for my individual body.
I was pumped.
His homepage showed a dozen contest prep clients who had gone from 25% body fat to sub-10% in less than 12 weeks under his guidance. This guy had all the answers. I was certain of it. And now it was my turn. With this well-known and highly regarded individual at the helm, there was no way I could fail.
Except I did.
I remember when the customized food plan hit my email inbox. It literally had a list of like ten foods on it with the macronutrient breakdown of how many grams of protein, carbs, and fats I was supposed to eat across six meals a day.
It was a standard pre-contest prep diet.
Each meal probably consisted of about 250-300 calories depending on whether I trained that day or not. And none of the foods on the list were foods I was unfamiliar with or hadn’t already been eating.
BUT, when you drop cash on a service like monthly nutritional coaching, you almost come to expect some kind of top secret fat loss protocol that involves magical foods and formulas that no one has ever heard of.
I can vividly recall reading the instructions in his email and being overcome with disappointment. It was more of the same. More of what I already knew. Mostly filled with directions that I had already been trying (unsuccessfully) to implement on my own.
Eat in a calorie deficit to lose fat? Really? I already knew that.
Where was the magic formula? And what happened to that list of delicious foods with the negative calories?
The only difference between what I was currently doing and what my Coach was now asking me to do was to eat less.
UGH! Not helpful.
I knew I was supposed to be eating less, but WHY CAN’T I EAT LESS? What is wrong with me?
I just assumed the missing link was the accountability. Surely with him monitoring my every morsel of food, I would be able to reel it in and bring an end to my never-ending cycle of binge-then-restrict.
I mean, I had given him money, so it had to work, right?
Not only was I emotionally invested, but now I was financially invested, too.
Day after day my newsfeed on social media was nothing but a parade of incredible physiques in tiny clothes.
It seemed like all of the Online Coaches I was following on social media were constantly posting transformation photos of their clients who were achieving incredible results under their care.
It was a constant reminder of how inadequate I was. How broken I must be…because surely if they can do it, I should be able to do it, too.
I wanted what they had. But I didn’t understand why I was struggling and obsessing over food when everyone else seemed to be cruising their way into a head-turning body.
And why was I always in the kitchen washing dishes, chopping vegetables, and playing Tetris with tupperware containers in my cabinets?
Of course I understand the answer to that question now. But it took me nearly a decade of repeatedly trying the wrong approach before I was able to grasp the concept that I was trying to force a square peg into a round hole.
I was not made for the life of strict food rules.
Food rules is what got me into this mess. Paying someone to give me more food rules wasn’t going to be an effective solution if I was still following the wrong diet for me.
And you know what’s ironic?
Before I started chasing an ultra lean physique, I never had an issue with food or exercise. It wasn’t until after I made a conscious decision to become fit and healthy that I essentially spiraled into an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. Ha! Life has jokes.
The macronutrient and calorie counting thing just didn’t work for me.
Because it felt like a job. It took the pleasure out of eating. If it wasn’t in my Tupperware container, then it was stressful. I was anxious in situations where “my food” wasn’t available.
I was constantly obsessing over food with thoughts like:
- How many calories am I eating?
- Does it have enough protein in it?
- Shit. I think I ate 14 almonds instead of 12.
It was crazy. I was crazy. And eventually it spiraled into full blown food obsession. (I wrote it about that in more depth here and here.)
That being said, there is another breed of people. A kind of people who are unlike me with a completely different outlook on achieving fat loss.
These are the geeks.
And they are the same brand of individuals who post pictures of 49 perfectly crafted food prep containers to their Instagram account every Sunday.
Preparing their food in advance is their lifeline. It’s relaxing. It’s structure. It’s 1 + 1 = _____ result.
They enjoy counting every oat, weighing every gram of chicken, and can probably tell you exactly how many fat calories they consumed on August 29, 2009.
They like numbers, statistics, and pie charts (there’s a joke in there somewhere). And the more ways they can quantify their path to fat loss, the better.
They sleep easy knowing that the numbers don’t lie. And if they track their numbers, then success is imminent.
So what’s the fix?
Firstly, let’s be clear: no dieting approach is better than the other. What’s most important is that you follow the protocol that best suits your personality.
That being said, the people who fall into the “freak” camp are far more likely to achieve less than mind blowing results in their fat loss endeavors. The main reason for this being that it’s difficult for these individuals to identify an effective fat loss strategy.
If counting calories isn’t the solution, then what is?
Hell, it’s why I tried to follow the same damn plan that wasn’t working for me for ten years. I literally didn’t know there was another way.
Because there are so few resources available on the subject. And by “few” I almost mean none.
Think about it.
Nearly every book, article, or blog post you read on fat loss is going to tell you to track your calories, weigh your food, and count your macros. And that, for a “freak” dieter, drives us crazy. It just doesn’t jive with how our brain operates.
So, instead, we feel incapable. We feel like failures. We feel like there’s something wrong with us. Like if we just tried a little bit harder at our next meal or had a little bit more discipline over the weekend, we’d be able to do it.
But that never happens, does it?
That day never comes and it has nothing to do with something being inherently wrong with you. You are fine just the way you are. You are totally normal. Well, maybe not totally normal, but you’re human and that’s close enough.
So now that you’re aware of it, you can begin taking the necessary steps to fix it. And how do you do that?
STOP. COUNTING. CALORIES.
I know, I know…totally counter-intuitive right?
“You’re telling me to stop counting calories to lose fat?”
But yes, yes I am.
Because if that shit worked for you, it would have worked by now. So, it’s time to try another method. It’s the method I use with my clients—instead of tracking numbers on food scales, we monitor and track behaviors.
- How many snacks did you have in-between meals today?
- How many bites of food did you leave on you plate at lunch?
- How long did you experience true hunger before eating dinner?
- How much water were you able to drink on your commute to work?
- Did you have food cravings today and what was happening during that time? Were you stressed? Bored? Tired?
By identifying our emotional hang-ups that create a desire to overeat in the first place, then we can break-down our triggers and develop a new routine that better serves our goals.
BUT, until we do the work by self-identifying and bringing awareness to our nutritional stressors, then we will forever stay stuck on the merry-go-round of self-sabotage.
If I’ve learned anything in the past 14 years of dieting, it’s that fat gain is not due to a lack of “willpower” or being “lazy,” or even possessing an inability to monitor calorie intake.
The problem is that people who fall into the freak camp continue to attempt the wrong diet for their personality. With the limited resources available on this subject, who can blame them?
BUT, the good news? This is fixable.
If you hate seeing your reflection in the mirror or avoid being in pictures, there is no better time to get started on your own transformation than right now. If you weren’t happy with yesterday, try something different today.
It’s never too late to start over. Don’t stay stuck. Do better.
And if you’re feeling uncertain on how to get started, or if you’d just like someone to talk to who has already walked the walk, don’t hesitate to reach out.