You Don’t Need a Diet Plan— Here’s What You Need Instead

This episode is a bit impromptu.

I was casually reading this article on the Farnam Street blog.

If you are someone who’s curious about things like mental models, critical thinking, I think you’d find their content very useful. I really enjoy their articles and they also have a newsletter.

You should check it out.

The article that I’m talking about is on first principles thinking. You can go read it by tapping on this sentence if you’re interested.

And the reason I was prompted to make this episode. Earlier today I had made a post on Instagram regarding why you should not be wasting your money on things that you can get for free on Google.

And here I was specifically referring to these diet plans and meal plans that a lot of fitness professionals sell as part of their weight loss programs.

Sometimes it’s not even part of their weight loss programs. That is the main product that they sell. To get you to your weight loss goals.

And I think these are scammy in a lot of ways because you really don’t need to pay someone for a meal plan.

Unless you have a very serious medical condition like Type-1 diabetes and your doctor refers you to a registered dietitian who specialises in such cases.

And they formulate a certain kind of plan for your specific health condition. That is your doctor and the dietician working in conjunction to make sure your health is up to mark.

But most people resort to diet plans not for those reasons.

It’s because they want to lose weight. They want to look a certain way.

They want to drop body fat and they go to these fitness professionals who hand them a diet chart; a diet plan.

And they charge them money for this. Which I think is a big scam.

The most scammy things in the fitness industry would start from things like slimming belts (belts that you wear which are supposed to slim you down), creams that you’re supposed to rub, the pills that you’re supposed to take to burn fat faster, supplements which are supposed to make you lose weight faster.

These are all top-tier scams.

And most people today are educated about it.

But the next tier of scammy things that go on in the fitness industry are people just looking to make some quick profits out of other people’s insecurities— people selling diet plans.

These are people who have figured out that just making others eat less is what gets them weight-loss results.

And so they formulate a diet plan which has foods with very less energy quantity. And they hand it over to those looking to lose weight.

Anyone who gets on a diet plan will lose weight. That is not what I’m challenging.

You hop on a diet plan. You will see results.

But that is not something you need to pay for. You can go on Google. You can search for things like:

‘diet plans for Indian diet’

‘diet plan for Mediterranean diet

‘1500 calorie diet plan’

‘1700 calorie diet plan’.

You would get these for free on the internet.

And with a little bit of your own understanding around meals, you can modify these for your own requirements.

You don’t need to pay someone to do this for you.

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And these are things that you don’t really need to get to your weight loss goals.

So I made a post about it on Instagram.

And I think that there needs to be some kind of awareness around this topic because people come to me looking to lose weight or looking to get in shape.

And a lot of them start the conversation by asking me questions like:

“So do you give diet plans?”

Because that has been ingrained into their brains. That:

“If I’m to reach this goal I want to, I have to hop on a diet plan. That is what I need.

That is the solution to my problem.”

Which is not in most cases.

That is in fact, the solution that you don’t need. Because a diet plan will give you a short-term result and it is not sustainable long-term.

You will get to your results if you follow the plan. Because like I said:

You eat less, you will drop weight.

That’s the fundamental principle and the diet plan will give you a day of eating which involves eating less foods.

You eat that. You will lose weight. It’s not rocket science.

And that is something that you don’t need to spend money on.

Why I could connect the article on first principles on the Farnam Street blog to this.

It’s because the way I like to approach weight loss. The way I like to approach this challenge, that a lot of you could be facing.

Is from a first principles perspective. Because I want to empower you with the tools to be able to make decisions for yourself.

So as I was going through this blog post, it was very enlightening.

Before I make correlations, I want to give a brief overview of what first principles thinking is. As put forward by the authors in the blog.

First-principles thinking is one of the best ways to reverse-engineer complicated problems and unleash creative possibility. Sometimes called “reasoning from first principles,” the idea is to break down complicated problems into basic elements and then reassemble them from the ground up. It’s one of the best ways to learn to think for yourself, unlock your creative potential, and move from linear to non-linear results.

I would just like to emphasize on this aspect. That it’s one of the best ways to learn to think for yourself, which is something I highly prize.

And I believe that. People who want to get in shape. People who want to lose weight. They should be empowered to learn to think for themselves.

So that no matter the life circumstance, they’re able to easily navigate those without having to rely on something short-term like a diet plan.

So that once they’re done with a diet, they don’t have to go back to their earlier physical state just because things were not optimal.

And this can only happen if they understand the fundamentals; understand how nutrition works; understand how food affects their body.

So the point I’m trying to make here is that the way I approach coaching weight loss clients is from a perspective of empowering them to think with first principles.

And there’s an analogy that was used in the blog. It said that:

The difference between reasoning by first principles and reasoning by analogy is like the difference between being a chef and being a cook. If the cook lost the recipe, he’d be screwed. The chef, on the other hand, understands the flavor profiles and combinations at such a fundamental level that he doesn’t even use a recipe. He has real knowledge as opposed to know-how.

And this is very crucial because a lot of the people who are writing these diet plans for you are cooks themselves. They don’t understand the fundamentals of nutrition.

And even if they do understand the fundamentals of nutrition, they don’t know how human behavior works in relationship with food.

Because everything is as simple, as eating less and moving more when it comes to losing weight.

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But why are people still not able to do that?

When you break down the problem into the most basic fundamentals. It’s often because they don’t know how to make it adapt to their lifestyle.

They don’t know how to handle their emotional eating habits. They don’t know how to handle cravings.

They are unaware which kinds of foods will keep them feeling fuller for longer.

They don’t understand which foods make them tend to binge more.

All these different factors come into play. And you have to understand that losing weight, although simple at its very fundamental.

Is dependent on some key variables that you need to be aware of. And which have different ways of approaching them.

For example, if you’re someone who eats more because they tend to use it as a coping mechanism, your approach towards losing weight would be different from someone who eats more because they just tend to feel more hungry.

So how you tackle both of these problems faced by two different people will have a unique approach each. And it cannot be fixed by something like a diet plan.

My goal is to make you empowered to be a chef. Not to be a cook.

Because anyone can be a cook. But to be a chef, you need to understand the fundamentals.

When you are following a diet plan, this is what usually happens.

When people go off track for one meal, they feel like they’ve ruined the whole plan. And they might as well eat whatever they want for the rest of the day.

But when you have understanding of how food works, how energy balance works throughout the day; throughout the week. You know that one meal doesn’t really make any difference at all to your progress.

As long as you’re able to accommodate for it, going ahead in your next meal. Or meals for your next week.

Because ultimately it’s the average of what you do every single day that makes a difference, not one single event.

We all mess up things. We are just humans. But you have to be aware of these variables; these fundamentals in order to be able to make decisions that take you to your goals. Without having to be dependent on things like diet plans.

Reasoning by first principles is useful when you are (1) doing something for the first time, (2) dealing with complexity, and (3) trying to understand a situation that you’re having problems with.

And when it comes to fat loss; when it comes to weight loss. All three of them apply to most people.

Many are trying to do this for the first time. A lot of people have done this before but for others, it is a first experience.

Secondly. It’s a complex problem because it involves not only nutrition. It involves human behavior, your relationship with food, so many other factors.

And number three. You are trying to understand a situation where you’re having problems. So you need to figure out how to solve it.

This is a place where you need to be reasoning with first principles thinking i.e., you need to break down the problem into its very fundamental parts.

When it comes to weight loss. When you break down the problem into its very fundamental parts. Very few variables are there that need to be tackled.

The number one thing is how much energy are you eating?

Number two is how much energy are you expending? Do you do enough activities during the day? Do you exercise regularly?

Number three is how is your relationship with food?

Number four. How is your health? Do you have any preexisting conditions which make it harder for you to lose weight?

So a few handful of factors.

When you know these different variables at play. And you know which variables are making it harder for you to lose weight.

You can tackle those variables in a very specific way to get yourself to your goals.

Instead of just resorting to something like a diet plan, which people accept as the only solution to their problem.

Whereas it is probably the solution to very few people’s problems out there. Usually people who are trying to compete at a very high level. Like athletes or competitive bodybuilders.

Who have a high degree of discipline and they need to achieve very specific performance-oriented results. They would be assigned very specific diet parameters they need to adhere to in order to achieve those results.

But for the general population. For people who want to just drop some body weight, improve their health, feel more energetic. Who want to look better and fit in their outfits better.

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You don’t need that kind of micro-managing.

There was something that was quoted by Elon Musk in the same article. And I think this kind of summarizes it well.

So Musk said (as quoted in the article):

“I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can,” says Musk. “They sell themselves short without trying. One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e., the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”

You have to understand the fundamental principles.

The trunk, the big branches in case of nutrition are the few key variables— energy in, energy out. What is going on there?

Your hormonal profiles.

Do you have any kind of health conditions that are preventing you from achieving your goals?

Your emotional relationship with food.

Your environmental factors. Are you always surrounded by people and triggers which make you binge? Or which influence your bad eating habits? What is going on over here?

These are the fundamental big branches of getting you to your weight loss goals and everything else are the details.

What time should you eat? How many hours should you workout? These are details that don’t matter so much.

And without understanding the core principles. Without understanding where the details fit in. You would have no idea.

You’re shooting blind in that case. And then you’d have to rely on what others are feeding you as the solution to your problem

And this is something I highly detest.

It is a big negative of the current fitness industry.

When you’re dealing with people and feeding them short term solutions like diet plans. So that they get to their goals and you can show this as a transformation on your social media page.

But after a few months they go back to where they were before and have to approach the same person. And get another diet plan.

This loop goes on repeating and people never learn how to eat. How to actually get the results.

And what is influencing their behavior patterns and their eating habits.

I hope this helps you understand why you should not be wasting money on things that don’t get you to your goals in a sustainable manner.

And instead you should look for solutions which teach you how to think for yourself.

So that even when things are not in your favor. Even when everything goes haywire.

Even when you lose the recipe, you’re still able to make a delicious meal.

So be the chef, not the cook.

And look for people who empower you to be the chef.

If you have been trying to reach your weight loss goals for a while now, but are struggling a bit in the process.

It’s probably because of a lack of consistency, a lack of guidance or a lack of support.

If you’d like a 24×7 support system to hold your hand and guide you through the process till you get to your goals, you should consider 1-on-1 coaching with Workday Physique.

Ajitesh Gogoi is an online fitness coach and the founder of Workday Physique™. His mission is to empower busy executives to achieve their weight loss goals. And transform them into their most confident selves.
Ajitesh Gogoi

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