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Improving Your Nutrition: Expectations Versus Reality

by Matt Weik

Everyone seems to believe that improving your nutrition is the key to results. And while they may be right, there appears to be a dramatic difference between their expectations and reality based on the pieces of information they read online and what really takes place.

In this article, we will look at some of the common mistakes that people are making and why improving your nutrition may not lead to the expectations you were hoping for. Buckle up because we’re about to debunk some internet nonsense.

1. All That Matters Is You Hit Your Daily Calorie Goals

One of the first things you hear when trying to improve your nutrition is that you must hit your daily calorie goals. That’s absolutely correct. However, more than 60% of American adults wouldn’t be overweight if it were that simple.

While you need to hit your daily calorie goals, it’s what kind of calories and from what sources that actually matters. This leads us nicely into the next overused piece of advice you’ll find online.

2. You Can Eat Anything If It Fits Your Macros

With the advent of IIFYM (if it fits your macros), people think that as long as they hit their protein, carbohydrates, and fats for the day, they will get a pat on the back. Once again, while you definitely need to hit your macronutrients for the day, what sources should be the priority.

Just because you are told you can eat your typical diet, assuming you hit your macros, doesn’t mean you’re really improving your nutrition. This whole fad diet of IIFYM has taken the industry by storm, and people are misconstruing what it actually means. Sure, you can be a little more flexible with your food choices than some other diets you’ll find online, people are taking advantage of IIFYM and thinking as long as at the end of the day they hit their numbers that they’ll see results. False.

Eating a bowl of ice cream at every meal to fulfill your fat and carbs for the day will not get you the results you need, even if you hit your protein intake. You still need to make a conscious effort to improve your nutrition while also having your cake and eating it, too, thanks to the flexibility.

3. A Cheat Meal Isn’t Going to Blow Your Diet

Sure, a cheat meal possibly once a week shouldn’t completely destroy your nutrition for the week, and it may even boost your metabolism. Unfortunately, it does. Let me explain. One of two things tends to happen with a “cheat meal.”

The first is that your cheat meal turns into an all-out binge, and you consume everything you’ve been craving, and by the time you put the fork down, you’ve consumed 2,000+ calories in one meal — not good.

The second thing that happens is that a cheat meal turns into a cheat day. What was supposed to be a meal that allows you to enjoy some ice cream, pizza, or a juicy burger and fries has now turned into an eight-hour feast on anything and everything you can get your hands on. If you’re going to implement a cheat meal, make sure your nutrition is on point the entire week, or simply skip the cheat meal and fit in some food you like here and there throughout the week to prevent cravings, enjoy your food, and still hit your numbers for the day.

4. If You Eat Clean Foods, You Can Have as Much as You Want

Congrats on swapping out unhealthy food for a healthier alternative, but unfortunately, you still can’t eat as much as you want. Healthy foods still contain calories, and if you put yourself in a surplus, you run the risk of gaining weight.

There are some foods that you can increase your consumption on that contain very little calories, such as leafy green vegetables, but thinking that eating as much oatmeal, chicken breast, or [fill in the blank with your healthy food of choice] is going to provide you with the results you’re looking for… you’re wrong.

5. Ordering a “Healthy” Meal at a Restaurant Is a Good Option

Eating out at a restaurant with family and friends can be a great time. The problem lies in the food choices and how the food is prepared. That said, if you are looking to lose weight and improve your nutrition, you’ll be able to find something on the menu that will fit the bill and can even ask to have the food cooked a certain way (such as without butter or oil) to lower the total calorie count.

While you may be thinking you’re in the clear, the fact is, most meals your order out are double the portion size you need. As a solution, take half of your meal home with you so you lower the calories to a normal portion, and then you get to enjoy the meal all over again the next day.

6. Changing Your Diet Will Be Easy This Time Around

How many times have you tried a diet and failed? But this time, you’re telling yourself that it’s different and you’re motivated. Unfortunately, motivation isn’t enough. It’s going to take determination, consistency, and the willingness to make this a new lifestyle and not a “diet” that once you hit your goal weight, you’re going to go right back to your old eating habits.

There’s a reason why so many people fail on diets — because they’re impossible to sustain over the long term. Most tell you to cut out carbs or fat, but how many people can actually do that? Not many. So, make this more about a lifestyle and ensure you’re in this for the long haul.

7. I’ll Save Time by Drastically Lowering Calories Right Away

The final common misconception is the “if a little is good, then a lot is better.” Not so fast. When it comes to improving your nutrition, merely lowering your calories without understanding the process can hurt you in the long run. Yes, you need to be in a calorie deficit in order to lose weight, but going too hard too fast can be disastrous.

You should lower your calories to roughly 500 below your maintenance to start seeing results. If you come out of the gate reducing it by 1,000 a day, you may lose weight initially, but then you’ll plateau and find the only way to keep losing weight is to lower your calories even more. This cycle will slow your metabolism and put your body in “starvation mode,” where it doesn’t want to burn calories and wants to hold onto them for self-preservation.

Go slow, go steady, and only make changes to your calories when you stop seeing progress. Improving your nutrition isn’t a quick process. Just keep at it and make small adjustments along the way to keep moving forward.

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