Many of us have tried diets and most of us would agree that they are not easy to stick to. It is even harder when we are in the middle of a busy life and on top of our jobs where there are social events and work commitments. It is not uncommon to find yourself slipping up at the beginning of the diet and finding yourself eating the same foods you did before you started.

Back in July of 2017, I wrote a blog post titled “How to fix a broken diet: A beginner’s guide to making a healthy diet choice”. In it, I described three main choices you have when it comes to weight loss: Paleo, Atkins, and South Beach. My main point was that all three have their merits, but the best way to lose weight is based on your personal priorities.

How many times have you set out to lose weight in a healthy way, only to put the weight back on again? Some of us don’t realize that diets are not the whole story when it comes to losing weight.

I’ll explain the three major tactics I use to help customers cure a “broken diet” and start eating better in this article.

I’ll also talk about how we debug eating plans when they’ve “simply stopped working” and you’re stumped.

Finally, I’ll show you how to apply these effective and intentional tactics to your personal eating habits. Or to assist others in doing so.

Note: I’ve also put up a complete video presentation on this subject. It was captured in real time in London, England. So, if you’d rather watch the seminar than read the article, go here.

Bonus: We also made a beautiful infographic that highlights the information in this article. For more information, go to How to Fix a Broken Diet: 3 Ways to Get Your Eating Back on Track (infographic).

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Buzzwords and phrases are frequently used in nutrition “advice.” At least one of these beauties has been heard by everyone of us:

  • “All you have to do is eat whole foods.”
  • “Eat only things your grandmother would recognize.”
  • “Eat more fat and less carbohydrates.”
  • “Don’t consume anything that doesn’t run, fly, or swim – or isn’t a green vegetable.”

It’s simple to condense healthy eating into a five-second elevator pitch. Soundbytes, on the other hand, aren’t adequate to assist people change their eating habits and achieve better results.

When you’re a genuine nutrition coach, working with real people in the real world, slogans just don’t cut it.

Real people require thoughtful, cautious, and empathic guidance. This translates to:

  • Listening to what they have to say and what they want to achieve.
  • Learning about their way of life.
  • Identifying what is most important to them.
  • Then working together to develop the best nutritional strategy for them, a diet that is tailored to their goals and lifestyle.

What else do competent nutrition coaches do to assist their clients?

  • Keeping a close eye on their development and correcting course as needed.

The reason for this is that any diet system will eventually fail. That diet will fail, no matter how good it appears at first. 

And when it occurs, what you do next is critical.

So, in this essay, I’ll show you how to get started when your diet is in disarray. I’ll also explain how we troubleshoot nutrition plans that have “just stopped working.”

Then I’ll show you how to do everything yourself.

But first, a disclaimer. I’m not going to lay out any ground rules for you to follow. Or perhaps you have a similar diet philosophy.

Instead, I’m going to present an evaluative framework.

This manner, if you eat a Paleo diet, you can improve your Paleo skills. If you’re a vegan, you can improve your skills in this area as well. And, if you’re new to eating healthier, you may get started right away without wasting time or energy.

Step 1: Recognize and correct any nutritional deficits.

At first, most people believe they require a total makeover.

“I need to eliminate sweets, dairy, carbohydrates, and saturated fat from my diet. In addition, I need to consume more protein, healthy fats, and vegetables. However, there isn’t much fruit. I need to start drinking more water as well. And maybe a 6 a.m. boot camp… yeah.”

I don’t know about you, but simply thinking about changing everything all at once exhausts me. Call it the “Mission Impossible” strategy.

In the last five years, I’ve coached over 100,000 people and realized that the Mission Impossible method isn’t only challenging; it’s also incorrect.

Because a total makeover rarely solves the root causes of most people’s dissatisfaction.

People frequently struggle with how they appear and feel because their physiology isn’t functioning properly.

Hormonal abnormalities can cause this, but it’s more likely a nutritional deficiency: not getting enough of the right nutrients in the right amounts to have the optimum benefits.

As a result, dietary shortages are the first sign that something is awry. (In addition, nutritional shortages can cause hormonal abnormalities.)

Graph showing percentage of us population not meeting the rda

What are the most frequent dietary deficiencies?

The evidence in this area is rather compelling. According to a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, getting all of the needed vitamins and minerals through diet alone is extremely difficult.

This research looked over 70 different athlete diets. At least three nutrients were lacking in every single diet. Up to fifteen minerals were absent from some diets! What are the most prevalent flaws?

  • iodine
  • D-vitamin
  • zinc
  • a source of a source of vitamin E
  • calcium

Another study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that those who followed one of four popular diet plans (including Atkins, South Beach, and the DASH diet) were very likely to be micronutrient deficient, especially in six essential micronutrients:

  • B7 vitamin
  • D-vitamin
  • vitamin E
  • chromium
  • iodine
  • molybdenum

I set out to find the mythical “balanced diet” when I was a PhD student at the University of Western Ontario. I looked at the dietary habits of roughly 600 fourth-year fitness and nutrition students.

Surprisingly, just about 10% satisfied the basic requirements for a “complete, balanced diet.” These people, like those in the other trials, were deficient in nutrients such as:

  • zinc
  • magnesium
  • D-vitamin
  • fatty acids omega 3
  • protein

In conclusion, dietary deficits are extremely widespread. No matter how healthy you think your diet is, chances are you have one.

This is a concern since your physiology does not function properly when you are lacking in vital nutrients. And when your body isn’t working properly, you feel awful.

What is the significance of this first step?

Getting enough of these critical nutrients affects your energy levels, hunger, strength, endurance, and mood. Things break down when you don’t get them.

That’s why you can eat “clean,” go Paleo, avoid meat, limit carbs, or track calories – in other words, you can eat “everything right” nutritionally and still feel terrible.

From the beginning, you must recognize your red flags and begin to eliminate them one by one.

What are some of the most typical dietary red flags?

The following are the most common flaws we see when working with new clients:

  • water (dehydration at a low level);
  • vitamins and minerals (particularly from fruits and vegetables);
  • protein (especially in women and men who have a poor appetite);
  • fiber (ninety-five percent of the population lacks it); and
  • necessary fatty acids (particularly omega-3 fatty acids).

You might have your diet assessed by a dietician to see where you stand (this normally costs between $100 and $150).

You might also keep track of your meals and enter them into an online diet calculator like Fitday’s or Livestrong.com’s.

We like to make things even easier at. We conduct a fast assessment of what our clients are eating as soon as they start working with us. We then assist them in the following ways:

  • eat more protein-rich foods that they enjoy;
  • consume more fruits and vegetables that are high in the vitamins and minerals they require;
  • consume more fiber-rich, high-quality carbohydrates
  • increase the amount of essential and other healthy fats you consume; and
  • More hydrated fluids should be consumed.

Our consumers begin to feel better without any more specialized testing or dietary modifications. They lose weight while gaining lean muscle. They are more energized. Their workouts get easier and better as a result.

Getting rid of vitamin deficits has a lot of power.

Here’s one (among many) examples: According to research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, giving fish oil and a multivitamin to offenders reduces aggressive and violent behavior by 35% and antisocial behavior by 26%.

Also, according to a study published in Nutrition Reviews, giving youngsters fish oil and a multivitamin enhances their conduct as well as their intelligence. (That doesn’t want a child who is smarter and more well-behaved?)

That is the power of nutrient deficiency elimination. We all suffer when our bodies lack the nutrients they require to function properly. However, as soon as we receive these nutrients, we flourish.

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Step 2: Change the amount and type of food you’re eating.

We may move on to bigger difficulties after we have all of the raw materials required for proper functioning (essential nutrients). These are some of them:

  • the amount of food consumed (also known as calorie intake); and
  • the composition of food (which includes macronutrient breakdown).

Counting calories and the amount of food consumed

We teach customers how to plan meals without using handbooks, websites, databases, spreadsheets, or math in our coaching programs.

While we understand that total food (calorie) intake is important, we aren’t big advocates of calorie tracking.

To begin with, calorie tracking has no effect on our ability to recognize and respond to our own robust hunger and appetite cues. We can have more long-term success with healthy eating if we learn to listen to our body.

(Of course, not everyone is born knowing how to accomplish this.) It takes some practice and a little coaching.)

Calorie counting also does not assist us in balancing our health aims with our natural human love of food. Anyone can make eating into a numerical and robotic exercise in the short term. However, this method fails in the long run.

(Ask anyone who “used to” calorie-count.) You shouldn’t have any trouble locating them.)

Another issue with calorie counting is that it isn’t always accurate.

Calorie counts on food labels and websites – even those in the USDA’s nutrient databases – can be wrong by up to 25% due to improper labeling, laboratory errors, and variances in food quality and preparation.

Bottom line: even if you’re the best calorie counter in the world (and don’t mind the soul-sucking boredom that comes with it), the math simply doesn’t add up.

Precision-Nutrition-Blog-Broken-Diet

Calorie management without counting calories

We educate our clients a new technique to calorie control that involves utilizing their own hands as the ultimate, portable measurement tool.

A client might, for example, begin by eating:

  • At each meal, eat 1-2 palms of protein-dense meals;
  • At each meal, eat 1-2 fists of veggies;
  • At most meals, 1-2 cupped handfuls of carb-dense items; and
  • At most meals, 1-2 thumbs of fat dense foods.

First, we assist clients in visualizing what this entails. As if it were in real life. Served on a platter.

Then, depending on each person’s particular physique and goals, we help them alter their real amount of portions up or down, especially carbs and fats. Consider the following scenario:

  • Men who wish to gain mass quickly should eat three thumbs of fat and/or three cupped handfuls of carbs at each meal.
  • Men who wish to reduce weight, on the other hand, should limit themselves to one thumb of fat and one cupped handful of carbs per meal, eaten slowly and thoughtfully until they are “80% full.”

This meal template, like any other kind of nutrition planning, including comprehensive calorie counting, is only a starting point.

You can’t predict how your body will react ahead of time. So be adaptable and “steer dynamically.” Adjust your servings according to your hunger, fullness, total activity level, and progress toward your objectives.

Begin with the basic template and edit your portions as needed utilizing outcome-based decision-making, sometimes known as “How’s that working for you?”

Check out our calorie control guide for men and women, which includes photo examples, for more information on this concept.

Composition of food and macronutrients

The majority of people can just correct dietary shortages and improve meal quantities and quality, and then quit.

Small changes in just two areas — and nothing else – can dramatically improve how 90% of people look and feel. Simple. Easy.

Let’s talk about meal composition for individuals who want to go even further – either because they have more advanced goals or because they’ve already done the first two and are still suffering.

If you’re more than a casual watcher of humans, you’ve probably observed that people come in a variety of shapes and sizes, similar to dog breeds. From the enormous wolfhound to the Chihuahua, from the slim and wiry whippet to the powerful bulldog to the chubby tiny Corgi, you’ll see it all.

Dog breeds, like humans, have different body compositions, energy levels, and metabolic rates. Some people appear to be constantly fidgeting and moving, while others are naturally more sedentary.

Different body type groups, often known as “somatotypes,” share a few common characteristics:

  • skeletal structure and morphology
  • the hormonal setting
  • metabolic rate (including metabolic rate and how nutrients are processed)

If you concentrate in a sport, especially at an expert level, you’ll notice that certain body types are drawn to particular activities or positions within sports.

At, we offer a quick and easy way to assist folks “eat right for their body type.”

We start by categorizing clients into one of three broad groups (or somatotypes):

  • I’m the one who types (ectomorphs),
  • V (mesomorphs) kinds, and
  • O is a type (endomorphs).

Here’s an illustration of each body type in a man:

How-to-fix-a-broken-diet-3-ways-to-get

Here’s an illustration of each body type in a woman:

1626002265_151_How-to-fix-a-broken-diet-3-ways-to-get

Importantly, they are merely broad conceptual categories – ideas that may be useful in guiding our nutritional practices. After removing inadequacies and changing dietary amounts, this individualized technique is virtually always adopted.

There are no “carved in stone” body forms. They are not a foundation for “nutritional standards” or a specialized system. (In other words, not all ectomorphs are the same, and being an ectomorph doesn’t mean you’ll always be an ectomorph.)

The different body kinds are just a starting point.

Body types serve as a proxy for considering variances in metabolism, activity levels, and nutritional requirements. As a coach, you can use body types to generate some working hypotheses, which you can subsequently test.

Nutrition for people who are “I types”

Elite endurance athletes, climbers, and dancers are often light and thin, with delicate bones and little muscle.

They can be tall and long-limbed (which is advantageous in sports that need both height and reach as well as a low body weight), or they can be short and stocky (which is helpful in sports where low absolute body weight is important, such as cheerleading or horse racing).

Ectomorphs (I types) favor endurance activities and/or sports that need a high strength-to-mass ratio.

  • The speed of their engine is set to “high revving.” They have a higher output or sensitivity to catecholamines like adrenaline and norepinephrine, and are thyroid and sympathetic nervous system dominant. They have a high metabolic rate in general.
  • They have a lot of energy. Fidgeters and pacers are common among them. With near-constant mobility throughout the day, they tend to burn off excess calories.
  • They have a high carb tolerance and typically have greater carb requirements. These are the few people who appear to be able to eat cookies without repercussions.

As a result, I types benefit from a diet that is high in carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fat. So that’s what we recommend: a reasonable amount of protein with more nutritious carbs and less fat.

This body type’s nutrient distribution can be 55 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent protein, and 20 percent fat. (However, don’t get too carried away with the arithmetic.) Consider the phrase “greater carbs, lower fat.”

Using our portion control guide, here’s what that may look like.

To begin, I type guys eat:

  • At each meal, 2 palms of protein-dense meals;
  • At each meal, 2 fists of veggies;
  • At each meal, eat 3 cupped handfuls of carb-dense items;
  • At each meal, eat 1 thumb of fat-dense foods.

Diet_Men

I type portions for males.

I start with food when I type women:

  • At each meal, 1 palm of protein-dense meals;
  • At each meal, take a fistful of vegetables;
  • At each meal, 2 cupped handfuls of carb-dense items;
  • At each meal, eat 0.5 thumb of fat dense meals.

I Type_Diet_Women

I type portions for women.

Nutrition for people who are “V types”

Football running backs and safeties, soccer players, hockey players, wrestlers/MMA fighters, rugby backs and flankers, and other athletes that combine all-around athleticism with speed, strength, and power are mesomorphs: robust, strong-framed bodies that easily gain muscle.

They might be found in sports like rowing, rugby, hockey, or basketball if they’re taller. They might be found in weightlifting or gymnastics if they’re shorter.

V kinds (mesomorphs) have a medium-sized bone structure and athletic body, and they normally have a lot of lean muscle if they’re active.

  • Their bodies are built to be very efficient machines. Excess calories are frequently used to build lean muscle and dense bones.
  • They are dominated by testosterone and growth hormone.
  • As a result, they may readily acquire muscle and maintain a slim physique.

V types do best on a varied diet that includes a variety of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. And they’re drawn to tasks that necessitate this level of metabolic adaptability. So that’s what we suggest.

This body type’s nutrient distribution can be 40 percent carbohydrate, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat. (Again, don’t get too carried away with the numbers.) Imagine an approximately balanced combination of all three macronutrients.)

Using our portion control guide, here’s what that may look like.

Men of the V type start by eating:

  • At each meal, 2 palms of protein-dense meals;
  • At each meal, 2 fists of veggies;
  • At each meal, 2 cupped handfuls of carb-dense items;
  • At each meal, eat two thumbs worth of fat-dense foods.

V Type_Diet_Men

V-shaped portions for males.

Women of the V type start by eating:

  • At each meal, 1 palm of protein-dense meals;
  • At each meal, take a fistful of vegetables;
  • At each meal, eat 1 cup of carb-dense foods;
  • At each meal, eat 1 thumb of fat-dense foods.

V Type_Diet_Women

V-shaped portions for ladies.

Nutrition for people who are “O types”

Endomorphs (O kinds) have a bigger bone structure and more overall body mass and fat mass. Endomorphs include football linemen, powerlifters, and throwers.

  • Their engine is set to “idle” speed. They have a strong parasympathetic nervous system. Endomorphs, unlike ectomorphs, are created for solid comfort rather than speed.
  • They’re less active by nature. Excess calories in ectomorphs appear to generate an increase in expenditure, whereas excess calories in endomorphs do not appear to cause the same rise in expenditure. Excess calories are therefore more likely to be stored as fat.
  • They have a slower metabolic rate and can’t take carbs as well as others, especially if they’re inactive.

As a result, O types benefit from a greater fat and protein diet, with a reduced carbohydrate consumption. They also tend to gravitate toward activities that require less carbohydrate. So that’s what we advise: eat more fat and protein and eat less carbohydrate.

This body type’s nutrient distribution can be 25 percent carbohydrates, 35 percent protein, and 40 percent fat. There will be no math gymnastics this time. Just think of it as more fats and protein with less carbs.

Using our portion control guide, here’s how it may look:

Men of the O type start by eating:

  • At each meal, 2 palms of protein-dense meals;
  • At each meal, 2 fists of veggies;
  • At each meal, eat 1 cup of carb-dense foods;
  • At each meal, eat three thumbs of fat-dense foods.

O Type_Diet_Men

O type portions for males.

Women of the O type start by eating:

  • At each meal, 1 palm of protein-dense meals;
  • At each meal, take a fistful of vegetables;
  • At each meal, a 0.5 cup handful of carb-dense items;
  • At each meal, eat two thumbs of fat-dense foods.

O Type_Diet_Women

Women’s portions, O type.

Step 3: Make minor adjustments to the details

We’ve gone over the following phases thus far:

  • Remove any red flags or nutrient shortages you may have.
  • You can keep track of your calorie consumption without counting them.
  • Depending on your body type and exercise level, alter your meal composition.

So, what’s left?

Everything else – meal frequency, calorie/carb cycling, workout nutrition – is a tiny change in the broad scheme of things. A slight adjustment was made. But let’s talk about them anyhow.

Frequency of meals

For years, dietitians and nutritionists (including myself) believed that eating small meals regularly throughout the day was the greatest way to break up your daily food consumption.

We thought that this would speed up the metabolism, assist control the hormones insulin and cortisol, and help better manage the hunger based on preliminary study. A recent review published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, on the other hand, argues otherwise.

This suggests that meal frequency is a question of personal preference as long as we eat the proper foods in the right amounts.

You can have a number of tiny meals during the day (i.e. every few hours). Alternatively, you can have a couple large meals each day (i.e. with bigger time gaps between them).

Now, here’s my advice: Pay attention to your body and use the “how’s it working for ya?” test.

If you’ve covered all of your other bases and your current meal frequency isn’t “working” for you, change it up. If you eat more frequently, try eating fewer meals. If you eat less regularly, you’ll need more meals.

Because both approaches are viable, you are free to choose the one that best suits your needs.

Calorie and carb cycling are two terms that are often used interchangeably.

Carb and calorie cycling can help you lose weight, gain muscle, see your abs, or get back in shape, regardless of your objective.

(I apologize if I seem like a broken record here, but it bears repeating.) Before you explore any of these fine-tuning tactics, please make sure you’ve eliminated any inadequacies, regulated your calories, and balanced your macronutrients – and that you’re doing all of this consistently.)

Carb cycling is basically consuming more carbohydrates on certain days – usually on high volume or high intensity days – and fewer carbohydrates on other days – usually low volume, low intensity, or off days – despite the fancy term.

We concentrate on carbohydrates (rather than protein or fats) since they are the most variable in terms of activity demands, and they have the most impact on hormone state and how you feel.

We may keep fat loss and metabolic rate humming along by varying carbohydrate and hence calorie intake on specific days, without the negative impacts of rigid calorie or carb restriction.

The carb and calorie cycling method is straightforward and depends on your exercise level.

  • Eat a baseline diet of largely protein, veggies, and healthy fats with little carbs on days you’re not lifting weights – or days you’re just performing moderate intensity or short duration exercise.
  • Add starchy carbs to your baseline diet on days when you lift weights or conduct longer duration high intensity activity.

That’s all there is to it. There’s no need to weigh or count calories. Simply stick to a low-carb diet on those days. On days when you’re eating a lot of carbs, up the amount of carbs you eat.

Check out this post from All About Carb Cycling for more information on this concept. Alternatively, check out this wonderful post on carb cycling for muscle gain.

Just keep in mind that eliminating inadequacies, limiting calorie consumption, and starting to eat for your body type – and doing so regularly – must all come first. This method frequently backfires if you haven’t done those first.

Nutrition for workouts

Before, during, and after your workout, what should you eat?

That is an excellent question. Except for elite athletes who are exercising for maximal muscle adaptation and/or training with high volume and intensity, it doesn’t really matter (potentially multiple times every day).

If that’s the case, having a healthy lunch roughly 1-2 hours before and after training or competition could be beneficial.

Using an essential amino acid drink (lower in carbs and calories) or a protein plus carbohydrate drink (higher in carbs and calories) during training can also make a big impact in terms of adaption and recovery for more advanced athletes.

If you’re exercising for general health and fitness – or simply to look and feel better – you should only think about this question after you’ve done the following:

  • inadequacies were removed;
  • gotten a handle on your entire food intake; and
  • began eating in a manner that is appropriate for your body type.

And, may I gently remind you, you did all of the above on a consistent basis. Yes, each and every day. Over and over again.

If you’re still seeking for a boost, my best advice is to keep eating normally in the days leading up to your workout. Use an essential amino acid (EAA) supplement as well. 5-15 grams dissolved in 1 liter of water and drank during a workout should suffice.

Summary

If you’re concerned about your nutrition but don’t know what to do about it, hopefully this article has given you something new to think about and try.

Remember:

  • Remove any red flags or nutrient shortages first.
  • You can keep track of your calorie consumption without counting them.
  • Consider your body type and degree of activity.
  • Keep a close eye on your progress. As needed, adjust your intake.
  • Before adding any additional strategies, make sure you do all of this consistently and over time.

Remember, whether you’re a beginner trying to get started in the correct direction or a seasoned pro stuck in a rut, these steps – when followed in order – can make all the difference.

If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

It’s both an art and a science to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a way that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.

Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from anyone interested in a healthy lifestyle is “I don’t know how to get started.” I’ll admit it, I have a huge problem with this too! I’m a big believer that the first step is always the hardest. That being said, I also know that the second, third, and tenth steps are usually the most important and ultimately the easiest to accomplish.. Read more about how to fix your diet to lose weight and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get back on track after breaking my diet?

You cant.

How do you fix irregular eating?

It is difficult to fix irregular eating. If you are experiencing this, it may be due to a medical condition such as anorexia or bulimia.

How do I get nutrition when I cant eat?

There are a few different ways to get nutrition when you cant eat. The first is through supplements, which can be purchased at most pharmacies. Another option is taking a multivitamin that has iron in it, such as the Centrum line of products. Finally, if you have access to an IV drip, then this could provide nutrition for you until you can eat again.

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • how to fix a broken diet infographic
  • precision nutrition diet
  • hand diet
  • portion control without counting calories
  • portion control hand method
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