Am I Ready to Diet?

sustainable weight loss

You may want to diet, but when was the last time you asked yourself if you were ready?

Ready from the inside out, mentally, emotionally, and physically, to welcome the stress of a diet and to follow through on your commitment to ensuring you set yourself up to achieve significant, lasting results?

Lost in the excitement of feeling and looking better after a diet, it’s easy to forget that dieting is a major physiological, psychological, and emotional stressor. If you’re not appropriately prepared to begin a diet, you run the risk of not only coming up short of your weight loss goal, but of putting yourself in a position in which you’re primed for weight regain.

No bueno!

In today’s episode, Paul walks you through nine critical questions that you need to have a clear answer to in order to ensure you are in fact ready to navigate a successful diet that yields sustainable results. 

As you listen to today’s episode, he encourages you to write down each question or prompt he shares so that you can reflect in greater detail after you finish listening to the episode. 

If you’re able to answer each question confidently, you’ll guarantee a successful diet that provides lasting results.

Episode Highlights

  • There’s immense value in gaining clarity on why you want to diet.
  • Gaining clarity in what a successful diet looks like before you begin will help to solidify expectations and also appropriately align action steps to achieve success.
  • If inconsistency in your nutrition plan is present before you begin dieting, it will only be magnified when you begin dieting. Fix those holes before dieting to guarantee significant and sustainable results.
  • Less is more. Instead of focusing on adding multiple new habits to your plate to set you up for a successful diet, instead, consider focusing on improving the current habits you have in place. 


Episode Resources

Read our “Maintain Your Weight Loss After A Diet” Blueprint

Apply to Join The 5% Community

Learn the Fundamentals of Sustainable Weight Loss


Hey, hey, 5 percenter welcome to another episode, the first official episode of the 5% Way Podcast. I’m your host and Registered Dietician, Paul Salter and today I will be flying solo to help you determine whether or not it makes sense to begin a diet at the turn of the new year or regardless of when you end up listening to this episode, you’re going to really have a thorough understanding of whether or not you are ready to begin that diet you have been contemplating for some time. But before I dive in, I want to welcome each and every one of you listeners, new and old as I personally make the official transition away from the Screw The Scale Podcast show after more than three years. And for those of you who have been a listener of the show, thank you so much. And you know how near and dear that project was to me for such a long time, 162 or 4 episodes, something like that.

But I am incredibly grateful and excited about the next chapter and evolution of the show, especially because I will be joined by my wonderful coach, friend and co-host, Micheala Barsotti for multiple episodes in the weeks and many months to come. And before we discuss whether or not you are ready to diet, I want to just remind you and highlight with a quick overview of the structure of the new show, The 5% Way Podcast that you can expect moving forward. And we, and when I say we I mean Micheala and I and everybody on our 5% Way team strongly believe that there are four critical elements that you need to gain proficiency in to achieve sustainable weight loss.

And each episode of ours moving forward is going to cycle through a focus on each of these four particular elements which are as follows, sustainable weight loss nutrition education and strategies, positive psychology self-talk and mindset, behavior change and habit formation and wait till Micheala starts leading some of these episodes in particular. This is her bread-and-butter, her niche of expertise and then element number four is emotional awareness and management. And I think if you’re listening to this show you agree that losing weight and keeping it off is about much more than the food you eat. And by stepping outside your comfort zone, and this is where we’re here to really help you and by peeling back another layer of the onion, so to speak, doing the deep work, you truly can make sustainable weight loss possible.

So thank you for being here and for listening today. We are incredibly happy that you’re here. Let’s go ahead and dive into this timely discussion. The purpose of today’s episode is to provide you with several questions to ask yourself to help you determine whether or not you are truly ready, inside and out, mentally, emotionally and physically to not only begin a diet but to begin, have massive success and follow through in a way that promotes sustainable weight loss. And as you listen to today’s episode I encourage you to write down each question or prompt I share with you so that you can reflect in greater detail after you finish listening to the episode.

If you to engage in further discussion about anything I share, any prompt that we converse about, please feel free to DM me on Instagram at @paulsaltercoaching, or to DM Micheala who is well aware of what we’ll be discussed in this episode @michealabarsotti. I’ll link both of those in the show notes for us and we can further exchange messages or even voice notes to make sure you are crystal clear on whether or not you are truly prepared like I mentioned, inside and out to begin your upcoming dieting phase to have the most successful dieting phase possible in the most sustainable manner possible.

And the last thing I want to preface before I dive into our discussion is this, do you really want to make dieting your annual January hobby for the rest of your life? Personally I don’t and I have a hunch you don’t either. So listen carefully, buckle up and let’s begin reviewing some of the most critical questions that you need to have an answer for before you begin dieting. And the first thing is this, why do you want to diet? Like seriously. Now I know this comes across as simplistic and I might sound like a broken record and you’ve heard this a million times but I can’t stress the importance enough of having a crystal clear why behind your reason for dieting. In fact, this is literally the first exercise and teaching moment I have every single one-on-one client of mine go through, every single 5% community member, every single 5% fundamentals program member go through because it is that integral to both short and long-term success.

And many people I begin having this conversation with tell me they want to lose X, Y and Z amount of weight. Usually it’s just one number. I don’t know why I said X, Y, Z. They want to lose 20 pounds and when I ask why they say something along the lines of, “I want to feel better, I want to be healthy.” And there’s nothing wrong with that answer but the thing is no matter how prepared you are for a diet, you are going to experience a plethora of expected and unexpected challenges. And when the going gets tough it’s incredibly valuable to have a crystal clear, powerful, emotionally charged why to fall back on because there are going to be plenty of instances when you know what you need to do to weather the storm but you don’t fucking feel like it.

Leaning on that why will help bridge the gap, help you to overcome that lack of feeling like doing what you need to be doing. And that’s what’s going to help promote adherence which drives consistency which drives sustainable progress. So a couple of prompts and sub-questions to consider when really gaining clarity on your why. And first and foremost is who are you dieting for? Is it for someone else or is it for yourself? And that’s really important to have a good answer to because if you’re dieting for someone else like your spouse or for just a one-time event or for your coworkers or for your friends or for your family, I’m not saying that’s a bad reason but you want to make sure that you have an inherent reason why personally attached to this as well because you have got to want it.

You are the only person who lives with and experiences the consequences of your specific food behaviors, decisions, actions or lack of actions. So it needs to come from deep within. And as you begin thinking about your why, it’s okay to begin with, “I want to lose X amount of weight because I do want to feel better,” but you need to peel back another few layers of the onion. And I encourage you to ask yourself why a handful of times. Why do I want to lose weight? I want to lose 20 pounds. Why? I want to feel better. Why? I want to be a role model for my kids. Why? Because I grew up with parents who didn’t model the best food-eating behaviors and I know the toll it took on me emotionally, psychologically and behaviorally and the pain it caused me, the money it cost to me and I don’t want that for my children.

Then all of a sudden you’re like, holy shit, that’s powerful. There’s a lot of emotion in that answer compared to the, I want to lose 20 pounds to feel better. So keep asking yourself why until you arrive at an emotionally charged reason why you want to lose weight in the first place then write that sucker down. One, two, maybe three sentences, plastered everywhere. Put it on your mirror, put it in your phone, put it as an auto reminder that you see once if not twice per day. Write it down twice per day. When you wake up, before you go to bed and I promise you, it will be a true game changer for your sustainable weight loss efforts.

Number two, what does success look like besides, oh success looks like losing those 20 pounds. Have you ever given any further thoughts of that question? Like truly, what does success look like for you? If you’re going to diet for 12 weeks and you’re going to complete one of these 12 week transformation challenges, 90 day overhauls, cleanses, detoxes, whatever, what does success look like? I promise you, if the only answer you have is just a number on the scale you’re setting yourself up for failure. Like just hands down, period, end of discussion. You need to have a clear vision of what success looks like. And here is the approach that I have found to be most effective when it comes to answering this question. When we talk about weight loss and achieving a health related goal what often happens is we gravitate toward a scale based goal. But what I’ve found to be incredibly true is that scale based goal is really just a mask or a cover behind what we want to feel like.

Anything we set out to accomplish in our life is because we are chasing a feeling. It’s not that actual achievement itself it’s the feelings associated with it, the growth that transpires along the journey that we’re truly after. So to gain clarity on what success looks like, it’s okay to have a scale number in mind. And we’re going to talk about realistic expectations here in just a moment but I challenge you to come up with three powerful adjectives you want to feel at the conclusion of your diet. Maybe those adjectives are confidence, control, accomplishment, energetic, fit, strong, arriving at a sense of inner calm. That’s more than one word but you get the point. Come up with three powerful adjectives, how you want to feel at the conclusion of your diet because what this does is it creates an opportunity for you to reverse engineer these feelings. And it really sets the tone and the right steps in motion to align your actions with the desired feelings. And that’s really powerful.

Question number three, are your expectations not only realistic but sustainable? I know there’s diets out there, coaches out there, programs out there right now promising you these stupidly ridiculous results, 30 pounds in 30 days. And to be honest they’re stupidly ridiculous but they are possible. The human body is just fucking phenomenal and really capable of things that we can barely fathom but that doesn’t mean that they are sustainable goals. And like I mentioned at the beginning of this episode, if you truly want to break away from this annual January dieting tradition of yours you need to set realistic and sustainable goals. And a realistic and sustainable rate of weight loss you to keep in mind is 0.5 to 1% of your body weight per week. So if you are a 200 pound individual, that would be one to two pounds of body weight per week.

And to be honest the first couple of weeks the weight might come off a little bit faster and that’s great, ride that sucker out. But if you start losing weight faster than that rate, really starting to lose it at the rate of 1.5 to 2% percent of your body weight per week, well you run the risk of a few things. This is going to likely increase the likelihood of binge like behavior because your appetite and cravings are through the roof. It’s also going to lead to loss of muscle mass. And that’s a bad thing for many reasons. First and foremost, I don’t think you’re dieting to be skinny, fat and losing muscle mass will lead to that outcome. But also it’s important to recognize that muscle is very energetically costly meaning your body has to expend a lot of energy or burn a lot of calories to maintain your muscle mass.

If you can maintain a lot of muscle mass that means your body has to continue to expend a lot of calories per day which means you are afforded the opportunity to be able to eat more food. That’s a beautiful position to be in. So you really want to make sure you are keeping within that recommended weight loss range. And when it comes to duration, like I kind of alluded to a moment ago there’s going to be so many 12 week transformation programs touted and promoted all across social media and the internet blowing up your email. And I would encourage you to instead take a shorter approach. Your optimal diet duration is probably six to eight weeks. That’s what I found to be the sweet spot over the 10 or so years I’ve been doing this and here’s how I recommend you approach the duration of your diet.

And I do this with all of my clients is you set a tentative initial timeframe. And let’s say we’re going to set that timeframe at six to eight weeks. We don’t set a specific end date. We allow some wiggle room, I plus or minus a week or two. So if I begin with this tentative timeline of six to eight weeks, here’s how I teach it. We’ve got multiple metrics of progress we’re tracking week by week. And as we get to week five and now week six which is the early stages of that tentative estimated timeline we began our diet with, we double down on really understanding what the metrics of progress are telling us. And we dig a little deeper to assessing how we are feeling at that point in the journey. And we really want to use all of this information to make an informed decision as to whether or not continuing another week with the diet is in our best interest.

And what I mean is if come week six you feel like absolute shit but you’ve committed to this 12 week diet and then you decide not to finish, well now you feel like a failure and that’s not a good place to be. Or you do push despite feeling like from shit week 6 to 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and you have just done so by you’ve made it through by slogging along eating this really restrictive diet with an unsustainable amount of calories and you are just priming yourself for a vicious rebound on the scale. So instead, we just get closer to that estimated timeline and we take it one week at a time. If at week six you feel fricking great, consistency is spot on, we push another week. If after seven weeks you feel the same way, great we push another week. But the moment we start to feel the return on investment of dieting another week is not worth it, we simply transition to a post diet maintenance phase. It is as simple as that.

Question and number four, what do your current eating habits look like and are they consistent? The biggest mistake I see people make when gearing up for a new year’s diet is that they really let their consistency go between Halloween and the end of the year. And then they dive head first into a diet. And here’s the thing, when it comes to reigning inconsistency in the realm of your grocery list, your grocery shopping, your meal prep, your workout routine, your nutrition and eating habits both during the weekdays on weekends as well as navigating social occasions. All of these are many skill sets that need to be developed. And if consistency lacking, you’re better off focusing on consistency before you start slashing your calorie intake. Because when you create a calorie deficit to initiate a diet, you are now welcoming in emotional, physiological and psychological stress into your life because that’s what a calorie deficit brings.

Well if you welcome all three of those wonderful things into your life when you’re coming off of a period of strong inconsistency, now you’re trying to dial inconsistency, learn new skills in a very stressful environment. That’s not a recipe for success. So if your consistency is not in place, you don’t have your ducks in a row, rather than jumping head first into a diet, instead, focus on cleaning up your consistency because not only are you going to feel better but you’re probably actually going to lose a little bit of weight because you have cleaned up this consistency. So definitely focus on consistency first. And I would recommend having at least a foundation of three to four weeks of strong consistency and you know what consistency is. And it might look a little different to everybody but you know of your deepest of depths what consistency means for you.

So having at least three to four weeks of strong consistency under your belt before you make that nutrition portion adjustment to kick off an intentional weight loss or dieting phase. Which brings me to point or question number five, are you eating enough? Here’s the biggest mistake I observe in this department. People they have the best of intentions when finishing a diet and they are aware that they need to start eating more after a diet. So they make this initial increase in their portion sizes after finishing a diet back in like July or August and they never make another increase there. So maybe they ended their diet eating 1200 calories for example, super arbitrary example. And they bump up their calories to 1400 per day. And then it just stays there for 3, 4, 5, 6 months.

And then come the new year they want to diet again. But if you’re starting with 1400 calories, okay, you’re going to make a reduction to what? 1100 calories, 1050, then what? You are just automatically inducing high levels of hunger and cravings. Fatigue is going to be through the roof sooner rather than later. You’re not giving yourself enough wiggle room to work with. So it’s imperative that you take an honest objective look at whether or not you are eating enough. Most people who are seasoned diet veterans are not eating enough. And the reason being is our metabolism, our body is incredibly dynamic. So if you constantly eat 1200 calories per day for example maybe at one period of time that was a calorie deficit. But the way your body operates is it makes several physiological and psychological changes so that that 1200 calories will eventually become your new weight maintenance intake.

And if you never take the steps of gradually increasing the amount you’re eating over time, which your body will also respond to, then you’re going to be starting a diet from a place in which you don’t really have much to reduce from which means you’re welcoming early onset of fatigue, cravings and hunger and binge behavior which is not a recipe for long term results. So if you find that after some honest reflection you’re not eating enough, spend the next four to six weeks with another increase in food. Increase your food by 10 to 20% of your total caloric intake at this time. And if you need help walking through this DM me on Instagram, I’ll help guide you through an example, send you a couple helpful resources as well. But spend time increasing your food. There’s no rush to diet. Remember, if you diet right you never have to diet ever again.

So that means you should spend 99% of the rest of your life in a weight maintenance, forever maintenance cruise control phase where you’re eating plenty of food, feeling incredibly energetic, strong, confident, fit and recovering really well. So be patient here. You don’t have to diet at the turn of the new year. You want to make sure you’re truly in the best place possible to diet. Question number six, do you need to add a new habit to your foundation or focus on improving your current habits? This time of year more than any other there is so much discussion and talk about habits stacking and anchor habits and keystone habits. And add this habit, this simple habit will improve this. This little habit will improve this. Truth is you probably already have a good foundation of habits or at least the awareness of what those habits are that move the needle the most for you.

So rather than trying to add another new habit, another new habit which takes time, which takes repetition, which is energetically draining. Instead, make sure you’re getting all that you possibly can out of your current base of habits. Less is truly more and true until the habits you have are incredibly auto piloted. Like really, you don’t have to think about them anymore. But if there’s a lot of inconsistency in your foundation right now, stop trying to add all these new habits, focus on the little things you know you’re supposed to be doing already that you are doing from time to time, get those ducks in a row to the point you’re operating on autopilot. And then if there’s a need to add a specific habit, focus on it then. Question number seven, what are three potential challenges that may derail your diet? Chances are there might be some travel, a social occasion, a celebration, a family member, a friend, your work, emotional management, stress management.

There’s a lot of potential challenges that will derail your diet. And one of the best ways to really identify those is think back to previous diets that didn’t end how you wanted them to. What derailed you? Maybe it was a lack of a clear why. Maybe you weren’t eating enough to begin with. Maybe you didn’t know what success looked like or you ran with unrealistic expectations. Gain immense clarity on three potential challenges. Identify them, visualize them happening and proactively problem solve each one so that when that challenge does present itself, you already have the solution in mind to conquer. And I encourage you to write this down. This is a great journal prompt, what are three potential challenges that may derail my diet? Boom, go, thought download, brain dump, work through your answers.

Question number eight, where will you make a change to your food choices to initiate your first portion reduction to begin your diet? Are you reducing carbs? Are you reducing fats? Both? When during the day will this reduction in your portions occur? How will it occur? Will you get rid of peanut butter here? Will you substitute egg whites for eggs here? Be as specific as you possibly can. A recent member of the 5% community, Seneca, I’m going to shout him out right now did a phenomenal job. He watched all of the content to learn how to initiate his own diet. He scheduled a one-on-one office hour with me to review what he had put together to modify his own nutrition blueprint to initiate a diet. And he really went the extra mile. He regurgitated back to me, “Paul I know I need to count. I need to reduce fats. I’m going to reduce fats by this many servings per day. I’m going to reduce them at this meal and this meal and here’s how I’m going to do it.”

It was picture freaking perfect. He knew what nutrient he was reducing first. He knew when during the day, he knew how he was going to do it. And he knew with what food choices he was going to do it with. This makes the change incredibly simple. It helps make it digestible. You can literally see where the change is and that way it becomes simple and it doesn’t deplete your energy reserves. Question number nine, the final question or prompt I have for you. Where and how will you track progress outside the scale? The reason you have been so successful in any goal setting endeavor in the past is because of your ability to spot progress or at least the perception of progress. And where so many people get hung up when they are chasing sustainable weight loss is they only set a scale based goal. But you and I both know that it’s inevitable that you will reach a plateau.

That means the body is doing what it’s supposed to, your body is in fact, working incredibly efficiently, that’s actually what’s happening. It becomes more efficient. But that can be incredibly frustrating and lead to emotionally charged irrational knee jerk decisions which don’t set us up with sustainability in mind. So we want to make sure we have multiple metrics of progress taking place, just like we have multiple investment or revenue streams where if one area is not doing well we’re not relying only on that area. We’re relying on multiple areas to paint the big picture for us. That way we can really make an informed decision about whether or not we need to make any changes. So a couple examples of where you can track progress include of course the scale, progress photos, body composition measurements, but how about tracking your meal compliance on a daily or weekly basis. Your energy levels, your self worth, anxiety, your confidence, your ability to navigate the weekends compared to the weeks. Your ability to navigate social occasions and your ability to navigate both compared to the past version of you?

I challenge you to choose at least three non-scale metrics to measure progress. And you need to link these back to those three adjectives you used or you learned about earlier to describe how you want to feel at the end of this diet. This will be incredibly powerful for you. It’ll create an opportunity in which you are constantly seeing progress take place in at least one if not multiple areas on a daily or weekly basis which continues to supply your brain with adequate amounts of dopamine to keep you excited, focused and going to follow through on your commitment. And the last thing I want to leave you with as I wrap up this episode which I really hope you found incredibly valuable are just a couple reminders. And first and foremost is avoid shiny object syndrome and maintain a singularity of focus.

You might be two or three weeks into a diet and you might have followed all of the advice you’ve heard from me in this episode. And then you might meet Karen or Mike or Jane or Jessica and they’re coming in and telling you they’re doing this diet and they’re down this amount of weight and you get jealous and you are just sick of what you’ve been doing lately or you just want results yesterday so you jump ship. No, keep your singularity of focus. Keep your focus on you. And with that my reminder to share is embrace boring, embrace monotony. Success is founded upon consistent action regardless of how we feel of the bare bones basics. The most simplistic, boring action steps possible. So embrace monotony and celebrate consistency. Those are the true makers of long term significant success. And lastly, make sure you leverage some type of community or support system. You’re going to experience inevitable challenges on your journey, both expected and unexpected. And they’re going to come in the form of physical, emotional or psychological challenges.

Having a community to voice these concerns and challenges and how you’re feeling with is truly going to be a difference maker when it comes to helping you stay strong through your commitment but also accelerating your progress. And if you really want to surround yourself with like-minded people, I can’t recommend enough learning more about the 5% community or our 5% fundamentals program and community. I will simply link more information for you in the show notes below. This is literally the best place to surround yourself with like-minded women in particular who share your challenges, can relate to your frustrations, relate to what you have on your plate, the priorities you have and the to do list you have but they all aspire to feel better, to be the best versions of themselves and are committed to taking massive actions despite the odds, despite what’s going on in their life to make that a reality.

Thank you so much for listening. I hope you have enjoyed the first official episode of The 5% Weight Podcast. I’ll be back next week on Thursday, every Thursday moving forward alongside my co-host, Micheala Barsotti. We can’t wait to connect with you and further our discussion then. But in the meantime, hey, if you found this episode helpful we would greatly appreciate if you share it with a friend, someone you know who would find a lot of value, someone you know who is planning to diet at the turn of the new year or sometime soon.

And we would also greatly appreciate an honest review and rating on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, wherever it is you listen to this podcast. Thank you so much for listening. And the one thing I will remind you of is that sustainable weight loss is a collection of skills which means it is learnable. And learning these fundamental skills is made possible when you surround yourself with the expert education and the right like-minded people in a community and we are here to support you every step of the way. Never hesitate to reach out, connect with us via Instagram or via email to get the information, the resources and support you need to truly feel, look and be your very best. Until next time, have a wonderful rest of your day.

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Paul Salter

Paul Salter is a Registered Dietitian and Founder of The 5% Way. Since 2013, Paul has worked one-on-one with nearly 1,500 men and women, helping them to collectively lose tens of thousands of pounds of body fat and keep it off for good. He’s also published nearly 1,000 articles, two books, and 175 podcast episodes (and counting) on all things related to our five core elements of sustainable weight loss.



Micheala is a Transformation and Community Success Coach. She specializes in bringing out the absolute best in you and helping you see that you already have everything you need to achieve the transformational results you desire. Micheala will be an incredible asset for you on your journey since she went through the process herself and has seen long lasting results.

The Maintain My Weight Loss After A Diet Blueprint

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