Nine Reasons Nutrition Plans Fail

Nine Reasons Nutrition Plans Fail


When people get fired up to get in shape, there is usually a predictable trajectory. 

They get a gym membership, maybe a trainer. They get a new wardrobe full of the flyest gym gear. They start drinking water all day, and they start “eating clean.” You can spot them pretty easily because they fill their social media feeds with #healthylifestyle and #cleaneating.

A few months go by, and after seeing a little progress, they stall. Or even worse, they fall back into old patterns and things end up worse than when they started. It’s a maddening pattern we see all the time. 

And it’s completely avoidable.

The reality is that the “clean eating” most people jump into is full of problems and almost destined to fail. 

Here are the most common reasons these nutrition plans fall apart, and how to avoid the traps.

1. You Eat Too Many Packaged Foods

So many people head down to Whole Foods or GNC and stock up on a ton of protein bars, shakes, and portable snacks. This stuff might look “healthy,” but what are you really eating? 

If the product in your hands will last for a few years in your pantry, chances are good you’ve got a solid store of preservatives and laboratory mystery ingredients.

What To Do About It

Save the prepackaged snacks for emergencies or times when you just can’t get a nutritious, whole food meal. Keeping a few protein bars or the like in your desk drawer at the office is a good strategy.

But let the vast majority of your calories come from whole food sources, with a heavy emphasis on earth grown sources and high-quality proteins.

2. You Don’t Calculate Calories and Macros

Any nutrition plan that starts with, “I’m trying to eat healthier,” is pretty much destined to fail. Nebulous goals lead to nebulous results.

Knowing how many calories your body requires to maintain its current weight (also called the basal metabolic rate, or BMR) is a key component to creating your meal plans. 

To take it a little further, you also want to know your “macros.” Macronutrients, or macros for short, are carbs, protein and fat. Knowing how many to get of each will make a huge difference on the efficiency of achieving the goals you’ve set.

What To Do About It

Start by calculating your BMR. There are a ton of tools out there you can use that don’t require you to be a scientist.

Do the same for your macros.

Here’s a pretty simple calculator you can use to get started.

3. You Focus Too Much On Calories and Macros

And now for the paradox.

Just as not knowing your BMR and macronutrient needs can derail your nutrition plan, so can becoming obsessed with those numbers. The main reason is because these targets don’t address a major factor in a proper diet and health in general. Micronutrients.

Simplified, micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. They are the fuel for myriad metabolic pathways and processes, as well as gene expression. In short, if you aren’t getting the micronutrients right, you are not providing your body the fuel it needs to work like a champ.

What To Do About It

Use concepts 2 and 3 in concert.

Absolutely calculate your BMR and macro needs, but then reach those macronutrient targets with real foods.

Sure, you could get your carbs from Pop-Tarts, but your body would probably rather some veggies or fruit.

Also, address short comings in your micronutrients with intelligent supplementation. Here’s a good place to start.

4. You Don’t Address The Gut

The micro biome of the gut has become the it girl of the nutrition community. Sure, the term is thrown about irresponsibly at times, but there is real importance to the gut.

For one, the bacteria of the gut can actually affect the foods you crave. Craving sugar? Part of the cause may be a micro biome proliferated with biota that feed on sugar.

What To Do About It

The science in this area is still somewhat nascent, but the direction is quite clear. 

Failure to address your gut micro biome could derail your nutrition plan. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchee, or kefir are good move, as is a solid probiotic.

5. You Change Plans Too Quick

With so much information available online, it can be easy to lose the signal in the noise. 

Being constantly bombarded with this new diet or that new workout can make you think you are missing something.

We like to call this “Shiny Object Syndrome,” and it takes many a nutrition plan down in flames.

What To Do About It

Give whatever you decide to try a solid length of time to work. Six weeks is a good starting point, but 8 weeks is probably better.

You can stick with something for 60 days, right?

6. You Don’t Stay Hydrated

This one is pretty simple.

You need to drink water. You need to hydrate your cells, and you need to do it throughout your day. Being dehydrated can lead to lesser performance in training, and can also make you feel hungry.

What To Do About It

Drink some water throughout the day. You can actually overdo hydration. You probably don’t need a gallon jug to cart around all day, a 32 ounce bottle you fill a few times is plenty.

7. You Don’t Measure Progress Broadly and Celebrate Small Wins

Large targets in body composition or performance can be daunting. 

Imagine you are trying to lose 50 pounds or more, or trying to add 30 pounds to your max bench press. Either of these goals are tough, long-term targets that will take focused, consistent effort over time.

If you aren’t celebrating the progress along the way, you can get discouraged to the point of quitting or changing goals. You can also lose sight of the ancillary benefits of moving toward your goal, like feeling better and having more energy.

What To Do About It

Excel, that old boring friend from your college days, can be a real helper here.

By putting your data in Excel, and then converting the data into a chart, it will allow you to see a visual representation of your march toward a better you. This can be hugely helpful in staying on track when things get boring or you encounter small plateaus.

8. You Let One Bad Decision Derail a Whole Day

A bad decision does not a day make.

Imagine it’s Friday, and some friends want to do brunch in the morning. You do all the right self-talk and you’re ready to confront that buffet with the determination of an Olympian. 

Then you walk by the French toast. Then you let that indulgence at breakfast become an indulgence at lunch. Which then becomes chocolate cake after dinner.

It’s OK to have a treat here and there, it might even be important, at least psychologically, but don’t let a cheat meal become a cheat day become a cheat weekend.

What To Do About It

Schedule those cheat meals and stick to it!

Writing them out in advance can give you something to look forward to and take the power out of being surprised by a temptation you didn’t expect.

If you do slip up outside of the plan, do damage control. Don’t starve yourself or skip a meal, just get right back on the plan and keep moving.

9. You Haven’t Set Up Incentives

You might think you are a machine of discipline, but the reality is, you’re probably just a normal person.

People waiver in their dedication to achieving a goal, especially when the only factor holding them to it is themselves.

What To Do About It

Follow these two steps:

First, publicly tell people what you are trying to achieve. It doesn’t have to be the whole world here, but a few good friends who will hold you to your word will do.

Secondly, set up some consequences for not doing what you say you want. Get some skin in the game. You can use a service like Stickk, or go really crazy with something like Pavlok.

Follow these nine strategies to drastically increase the likelihood of hitting your goals, and the efficiency with which you will hit them.

Any questions, let us know in the comments.

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