The 3 Keys to Building Your Own Sustainable Nutrition Plan

sustainable weight loss

You know how to eat well.

You’ve been taught from a young age the difference between “healthy” and “not-so-healthy” food options, as well as what moderation and portion control look like.

But in a day in age where Google tells us there are a million and one different ways to lose weight, it can be incredibly challenging and overwhelming to find an approach to eating that helps you to feel, look, and be your best.

So, rather than trying to outsource this approach, why not do it yourself?

In today’s episode, Paul and Micheala distill their foundational recipe for building sustainable nutrition plans for the thousands of clients they’ve worked with over the years.

Although on the surface this recipe may seem extremely simple, you and I both know all too well that simply doesn’t always translate to easy…but it can when it comes to building a sustainable nutrition plan for YOU!

You’ll walk away from this episode understanding where to place your focus and how to begin when it comes to building your own unique, simple, sustainable nutrition plan.

Key Highlights

  • Taking ownership to determine how many times per day you want to eat may be the single biggest gamechanger when it comes to building your own sustainable nutrition plan.
  • Eating healthy should be – and can be – simple. Don’t let social media, marketing, or an app tell you otherwise.
  • Your approach should be rooted in flexiblity and should empower you to feel confident navigating social occasions. It should not work against you and leave you with feelings of stress, anxiety, frustration, guilt, or regret.

Episode Resources

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

Join The 5% Community

Learn Sustainable Weight Loss Nutrition Fundamentals


Paul Salter:

Hey, 5% Way Podcast listener. Welcome back to another episode of the show with your hosts and sustainable weight loss specialist, myself, Paul Salter and the wonderful Micheala Barsotti, and our goal on today’s episode is really to help break down and simplify how to approach building a foundational nutrition plan that is something you can actually follow with effort and ease for the long term.

And I’ll preface with this. Even if you, as a listener are someone who consider considers yourself to possess an intermediate or even advanced level of macros, nutrition, calorie, counting, portion control, we, Micheala and I are both still incredibly confident that you’re going to find a lot of value in two days’ episode. But of course, before we get rocking and rolling, Micheala, how are you today?

Micheala Barsotti:

I’m good. And yeah, before we dive right into it, I just wanted to share with you… I was glancing over at my phone a little bit ago, and I wanted to tell you that I saw a notification come through from our accountability pods. And it was just somebody who just mentioned, “Hey guys, what are your goals for this week?” So for those of you listening, within our big community, we also have an option to opt into accountability pods and what these are, are just smaller groups of three to four people or so who kind of hold each other accountable each week and they’ve just become genuine friends.

But it’s so cool to see them check in with one another because it made me think about how hard it is to find friends when you get older that are just similar to you, that have the same genuine interest as you do. So it’s cool within the community… They all kind of found their people and I don’t know… I just wanted to share that because I thought it was really cool.

Paul Salter:

Yeah. I couldn’t agree more and I love that you just said… Yeah, as you get older, it is so hard to find friends with similar values or even remotely on similar timelines in life. Yeah, you’re not in college surrounded by maybe a couple thousand or tens of thousands of people who are just at the same place in life and you get to meet 50,000 new people every day. It’s like…

When you’re older, maybe especially if you’re married or if you have kids too, it’s… Shit, you’re not getting out for much of a social life so if you don’t happen to already have friends that you kind of brought to you in this journey of life, it can… You have to rake a real struggle. Adult friendships are a two-way street that require quite a bit of effort. So yeah… When you can surround yourself with some like-minded folk, it’s always a good place to be.

Micheala Barsotti:

Yeah. I feel like you have so many more acquaintances where it’s just like, “Oh, I’m friends with this person because my daughter’s friends with this person.” Or whatever it is, but it’s-

Paul Salter:


Micheala Barsotti:

When you find that person that you actually have a true connection with, that’s cool.

Paul Salter:

Yeah. I couldn’t agree more and kind of building off that, I shared in last week’s episode, we completed this huge big end of year survey in the 5% community learning what we could do better, more of, less of, differently, et cetera, just to simply improve the one thing that people are here for, fricking results so that transformation from the inside out. And one of the questions we asked… Actually, I’ll get to that in a minute.

One of the correlations we noticed… Micheala and I were just joking along with Naomi about how obvious it was is that those 5% community members who make the live coaching call that we have every week, our 5% fire call, a priority are experiencing a significantly faster transformation, accumulating significantly more wins in their journey, whether they’re six weeks or six months into the online curriculum and community experience. By making that call a priority, it seems to have this huge, positive ripple effect through other self care habits and other actions aligned with getting the most out of the community experience, which of course is designed to give you that sustainable weight loss transformation from the inside out, designed to help you reclaim your confidence, certainty and inner calm.

I just thought that was so cool to see based on the survey participant feedback,. And then, some of the specific feedback about how valuable have our live Wednesday 5% fire coaching calls been. This person said, “I honestly love them. I have gained so much more information from the calls from both Paul and Micheala outside of just nutrition. They have been very valuable.” And another one said, “the coaching calls have been really useful and I’ve had plenty…” All caps. “… of aha moments watching the replays too.” And the last one is, “I have really benefited from the calls. There are always great takeaways. I always come away with a lot of notes when I listen.” And just… I like to share and highlight that because it again, reinforces the power of community, but it goes a step further here.

We’re humans. We like to freaking connect with one another and chat and communicate. It’s great to sit behind a screen all day. It’s great to DM people, Facebook, Instagram, whatever, but if you can replicate human in-person interaction as closely as possible, which our Zoom gives us a pretty strong capability to do, that is irreplaceable. And again, when you have a community of like-minded folk, you get to see and interact with every week from, learn from, find commonalities, share struggles, challenges, and solutions, it goes a long way in helping to accelerate results, to feeling, looking and being your best.

I’m just so, as if you can’t tell, freaking proud of our community members who just continue week after week to show up, do the work, even when they don’t feel like it, and are continuing to experience massive growth across the board.

All right. Well, let’s go ahead and dive in. So three things that I would love to discuss with you today, Micheala, to help our listeners really gain confidence in putting the fundamentals together of their nutrition approach… Whether they’re dieting or not, it’s not important. It’s really just grasping these fundamental elements to building a nutrition plan that is unique to them and something that is sustainable for the long haul. And by sustainable for the long haul, I literally mean the next 50, 60, 70, 80 years. And the three principles I want to discuss include: individualization, simplicity, and flexibility.

And I want to begin this discussion with a funny story. I consider myself quite knowledgeable in the nutrition department and when I was… Let me think here. A ju… No, I was a sophomore in college. I already declared a major in nutrition. I was already nerding out reading tons of nutrition books on Friday and Saturday nights rather than going out and what inevitably happened is I was turned on to the latest and greatest research of not only the ketogenic diet at this time, which started to become really popular in the bodybuilding world, the fitness world, and now it’s mainstream as much as any other diet.

But now, I was following this one professor closely, who I ended up going to his program for grad school. He was talking about the cyclic ketogenic diet in which you would follow a ketogenic diet from Sunday until Saturday morning, and then you’d have a 36 hour window to eat as many carbs as you possibly can to get out of ketosis, replenish all of your muscle carbohydrate stores, and you would dip back into ketosis on Sunday, the following week and you’d repeat itself.

And his whole premise or hypothesis I should clarify was that by doing so, you reap all the wonderful fat loss and fat burning benefits of keto, basically five and a half, six days per week. You get one glorious, gluttonous carbohydrate fueling day to restock all of your muscle fuel stores and then you repeat the process so that you can train hard all week because your muscle fuel stores are so well stocked and you still reap the fat burning benefits. It’s a win-win situation or at least, it sounded really good on paper.

Turns out, years later, multiple research studies show that by the time you finished your carbohydrate binge, because let’s be honest, that’s what it was, and got back into a ketogenic diet, you didn’t actually really enter ketosis until another four or five days later, which oh, by the way, that’s when you’re supposed to actually carb up again. So it proved to actually be a completely ineffective method that ultimately just bred a very unhealthy relationship with carbs, gave me kind of a free pass, so to speak, to binge on carbohydrates, and not once did I think, “Wow, this is really unique to me. I’m so different following this. I can follow up for the rest of my life.”

And it wasn’t simple. I remember setting an alarm and starting to think about on Thursday… Man, as soon as that clock strikes 9:00 AM on Saturday, my 24 or 36 hours begins. And I kid you not Micheala, I was buying boxes of cereal, making pancakes left or right, just trying to take this approach to… I thought it was this trusted resource on the internet, naive young Paul and trying to put together what sounded good on paper into action. It was not sustainable. I was planning my whole week around this 24 hour period. It wasn’t simple. I was counting and tracking everything in an app. I had spreadsheets galore on my laptop and we know, the rest is history. It wasn’t sustainable and it wasn’t flexible. It was quite rigid.

I had this 24 to 36 hour window for carbs and the rest of it was no carbs and that was again, not sustainable. So that was my introductory foray into realizing if I had known what I know now, I would’ve saved myself a lot of heartache, emotional pain, physical pain, and carbohydrate free living, which was not fun living.

But to begin, let focus on principle number one, individualization. And every time I welcome a one on one client or a new member into the 5% community or the 5% Fundamental Program, Micheala and I give them this wonderfully detailed questionnaire to learn everything about them. No, not really. But everything about their eating habits and lifestyle choices. And the first batch of questions is really geared around empowering said person with the ability to start forming their own approach to nutrition.

And I’ll tell you what, for those of you listening. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with their nutrition is they feel as if they have to outsource every single decision to somebody else, this app, this coach, this meal plan, this guru, this that the other way. And at the end of the day, you already know how to make relatively healthy decisions on a consistent basis. You know what it looks like. I’ll coin Micheala’s most infamous phrase: to eat like an adult. You should be eating like an adult and you know what it means to eat like an asshole. Something you really shouldn’t be doing.

So with that knowledge, you should be empowered to start asking yourself and then answering some of the questions related to individualization, such as how many times a day do you want to eat? How soon after waking do you want to eat? What are going to be some of your go-to foods and the premium protein, premium carbohydrate, premium fat and veggie categories? What meal styles and types do you enjoy? If family dinner is at six o’clock every night, are you going to participate and to what extent? Will you be cooking separate foods or eating the same foods? Are you going to track your food in any way? Are you going to log it in an app or track it pen and paper? Are you going to measure portions? Are you going to count calories? Are you going to do macros? Are you going to do some hybrid portion control method? What rules are going to be in place? What guidelines are going to be in place?

These are some of the questions that you should have a clear definitive answer to, to really check the box to ensure that your approach to building a nutrition plan, one that is sustainable is individualized to you. And with that, Micheala, I’d like to welcome you to the conversation now. I’m just curious. Have you found in the past you have made a similar, hopefully, not as an egregious mistake as myself, or seen this issue really recurring in those you’ve worked with?

Micheala Barsotti:

Yeah, so many times. And for myself, I tried every approach and every diet under the sun. I didn’t… My problem was that I didn’t do quite as much research as you did for them. I just saw the flashy labels that promised me the results I wanted and I was like, “I’m for it.”

But to your point, it was always me trying to adapt my life to somebody else’s plan or program or whatever it is. And when you realize it’s actually the other way around… Everything that you just said, all these different factors, whether it be how many times a day you eat or what foods you’re eating, the meal types and styles, all of these things, there is no one way to do it. Right? And we hear that all the time, but it’s so true.

How you eat is different from the way I eat and we both are pretty successful with our nutrition and their… Everyone in our community follows structure, but it looks a little different for everyone. And where people get tripped up is they see so and so had great success with this, so then they try to just do that thing, but it doesn’t really match their lifestyle or really what they want to do.

I was on a plan before where I was eating… I was on this… I was going to compete in a bodybuilding competition and I hired this coach. I had no idea what I was doing, but I hired him to take the reins and he gave me this cookie cutter meal plan. It literally was chicken, rice, vegetables, chicken, vegetables, oatmeal. It was just crazy but that’s besides the point.

I had to eat six times per day and I’ll tell you right now, after going through all of that, I do not like to eat that many times a day nor do I need to. There’s way more prep involved. I found myself way more food focused because I was always,,, when I ate, it was never enough to actually satiate me, and I was always thinking about when I was eating next, which was in an hour anyways. But it didn’t work for me.

So knowing what I know now with my nutrition, I eat four times per day and that works great for me. But that was a lot of trial and error that I… And it was a lot of working with you and breaking it down about what is my lifestyle like and what works best for me. And that’s what we do as coaches. That’s why it can be so beneficial is we… We’re not reinventing the wheel here. We’re just simply taking all the different factors that go into what a successful meal or nutrition plan can look like, and we help you. We help the shoe fit for you.

Paul Salter:

So well said, and I couldn’t agree more. There are literally 1,000,001 different ways to lose weight, but I will say the most successful diet out there is the one you can adhere to. So it needs to be unique to you. Just like you mentioned, you didn’t want to eat six meals per day. You didn’t want eat boring ass chicken, rice, and vegetables for every meal. And I’m the same way.

I came from that bodybuilding background eating six times per day. I even… God, this sounds so funny to say. When I was in high school, I would set my alarm for 2:30 in the morning and chug a protein shake, when I was trying to gain weigh, to get in a seventh or eighth meal. It was ridiculous, but I digress. And the other… And now I eat three meals per day.

Again, I went from six meals, a crazy seven or eight meal period. I eat three meals per day and I absolutely love it. A lot of you listening… And I’ve heard this and I’m not trying to pick on you too much, but sometimes we all need a kick in the pants. You might think like, “Oh, I’m lazy. I don’t want to be meal prepping and portioning that.” Well, guess what? I’m pretty fucking lazy too when it comes… I order all of my food from Trifecta. I order groceries online for the fillers in between. Two of my three meals every single day are almost identical aside from a protein substitution or occasional carb substitution and I eat the same breakfast… I have been for the last three plus years.

I’m a simplistic, bare bones, basic minimum effort as possible, but it’s unique to me and it helps promote adherence, which is the name of the game. So that when I have a specific weight change or performance goal, I just make a couple adjustments to my portions but everything else, that foundational commitment to simplicity and individualization remains in place, which makes adherence really, really easy.

And the other thing I wanted to add, Micheala, that you brought up which was so valuable is… If you’re going to go pay a coach to help you build this thing, great. Do it. Highly encourage it. Micheala and I have both spent countless thousands of dollars on coaching with Uber success. But ask why, learn. A great coach not only does everything to guide you in to the right direction to finding the appropriate solution or answer for you, but he or she empowers you with the knowledge, the resources, the support, and the confidence to be able to get to that conclusion on your own, be able to reverse engineer why you got there so you can apply the same logic or principles you learned to other challenges that you need troubleshoot in that area of your life or possibly even other areas of life.

So always keep open dialogue with your coach if you have one. That’s one of the many reasons that Micheala and I show up weekly in the community on live coaching calls and we also offer one-on-one office hours every single week in the community as well. So we can have those opportunities to coach to talk about the why to troubleshoot together.

Micheala Barsotti:

I just wanted to throw in there too, putting my hard coach hat on for a second and say that-

Paul Salter:

I love this version of you.

Micheala Barsotti:

… regardless of what your approach is to your nutrition, the people that are most successful, they do troubleshoot all the different factors. So those that leave too much freedom for themselves to just do whatever or what you mentioned about… “Well, I don’t want to meal prep.” Or like, “I don’t want to eat the same foods.” Whatever it might be, you can figure out what your approach is, but there has to be structure there or it’s all going to… There’s just… You’re not going to be successful.

So it goes back to eating like an adult and doing these things just simply because you know that that’s, what’s going to lead you to be successful. We don’t always want to brush our teeth at night before bed, but we do it because we know it’s good for us.

Paul Salter:

Yeah. I love the toothbrush analogy or the teeth brush analogy which… And great. Building off of structure kind of… It’s a great segue into point and focus number two, which is not only is a sustainable nutrition plan founded upon individualization, but also simplicity and structure being an integral component of this. Your structure should be simple.

If something is unique to you, it’s going to be simpler. So if eating six times per meal…, six meals per day, excuse me, is not unique to you, that’s going to make it harder. But if eating four times for you or three times for me is individualized to me, it’s simpler to execute that way because it’s truly in alignment with me, what I want, my goals, lifestyle preferences, et cetera.

So the area or the concept rather of simplicity needs to be something that is audited and you need to really ask yourself, how can I make portion control as simplistic as possible? For some people they count calories in an app. Others count protein in calories. Some people count every single gram of every single food they eat. Some people, like we teach in the 5% community, use this kind of hybrid. If it fits your macros-portion control method that we feel is more efficient and more effective than most methods, but are very candid. It’s not the best approach for everybody. Meaning it’s not the simplest approach for everybody. So you need to find a way to take your unique preferences and lifestyle and desires and make it simple to execute.

Micheala Barsotti:

Yep. And too, you can use that for this one. I always ask new clients or new members… When they talk about what they’ve done in the past, I ask them what did they like about that approach or that method? What were well for them? Because you can usually figure out… For example, I think it’s Beachbody is one that use these specific portions for measuring, your cups or whatever. They liked the portion control aspect of it.

So you start to learn things about clients about what helps them be successful and you can use that to create a more individualized approach as to how they tackle it but you can always learn from your mistakes and figure out what you liked and pull from that.

Paul Salter:

Yeah, very well said. I couldn’t agree more and remember, simple is just… Simple, sustainable. Alliteration there. If your plan is simple, it’s going to help it be more sustainable. And lastly, as simplistic as your plan is, as unique to you as it is, it needs to be flexible. And I’ll be honest, the flexibility… Inherent flexibility when it comes to building a nutrition plan, a lot of that can be alleviated by how you frame the approach in your mind. If you have rules and restrictions versus loosey goosey guidelines, so to say.

There’s a big difference between rules and guidelines, which is why we defer to guidelines. Rules are so rigid, restrictive, more set in stone, it’s almost bad if we break them where guidelines are much more neutral, they can positively influence decision making, but we don’t go down the rabbit hole of immense guilt or regret and anxiety should we go a different direction than our guideline. We just use the guideline to help guide an action, but it’s not a set in stone path. There are multiple paths we can take that still actually exemplify the guidelines we may have.

So you need to ask yourself how… And specifically find and identify how and where is flexibility baked into my nutrition approach that is now unique to me and now sustainable. If I am counting macros and portions, can I move them around? Can I still make my favorite foods work and enjoy them? Can I confidently take my simplistic approach and use it to still navigate social occasions, holidays, dining out, et cetera? There always needs to be a layer of flexibility because that is probably one of… It’s 1A, 1B, 1C here with these three points about what is essential to building a sustainable foundation of healthy eating habits with your nutrition plan.

Micheala Barsotti:

And when you do… When you have all of these three things in there, you’re never going to feel like you have to take a break from your nutrition plan or your approach. That’s something that always gets me when people are… Oh, well, life got crazy or the holidays came so I’ll get back on track later. And when you do find that flexibility or you create flexibility, you know what it looks like, you’re able to navigate these social occasions with more confidence, you… Regardless, it might look a little different than your typical Monday or Tuesday does, but you never feel like you completely fall off because you’ve learned how to handle those situations. That’s key.

Paul Salter:

It’s so funny you say that. So I’m just pulling up… Just this morning, Kayla, one of our 5% Fundamentals Program members… And this is where we really teach this program and community the fundamentals of sustainable weight loss, building your plan with you based on individualization, simplicity, and flexibility, and teaching you how to make changes, whether it’s for a diet, during a diet or after a diet to maintain the results for good. And she literally sent me this message today. I know she sent similar one. We were just checking in on her. And she said she left her job in September. She entered a job in the tax software business. And obviously, this is prime season for those in the tax industry right now. And she said, she’s working 10 to 12 hours a day. This week’s no different because she has got these firm deadlines of the IRS.

And she goes, “But good news. I’ve been sticking to my basics, hitting my portions of protein, veggies, healthy carbs and I’m down fat five pounds by focusing on the basics and feeling a lot more confident in my behaviors.” Because they are unique to her. They are simplistic and they are flexible to accommodate her 10 to 12 hour days. And I thought that was just such a timely, great example to infuse to really illustrate what you just shared.

Micheala Barsotti:

Yeah. So good. Yeah, that was… That made me so happy when I saw that message this morning because I was… Being so proactive and my response to her was like, “Awesome. What’s your one focus this week for you each day that… What’s one thing you’re going to check the box off to do for yourself during this busy time?”

Paul Salter:

Love it. I absolutely love it. So to recap for everyone listening. Again, your nutrition approach should be individualized to you. Not your friend, not your coworker. I don’t care if your friend or coworkers lost 30, 40, 50 pounds. If they took an unsustainable approach based on some marketing scheme or tactic on Instagram or Facebook, they’ll probably gain it all back and then some in the near future. It’s harsh to say, but it’s the truth.

So your plan needs to be unique to you. It should be simplistic and it should be flexible so you could implement literally, like I mentioned in the beginning of this episode, for the rest of your life. Never feeling like you’re always dieting. It just simply a nutrient dense way to eat that helps you feel, look, be, and perform your best, allows you and grants you opportunities to intentionally indulge free of feelings of guilt, regret, and anxiety, and all of that collectively together makes for a great recipe to feel your best and to eat and enjoy all of the most delicious foods that the world has to offer.

Did I miss anything, Micheala? Anything else you want to add?

Micheala Barsotti:

No, you nailed it.

Paul Salter:

Fantastic. Well, thank you to everyone for listening to today’s episode. We certainly enjoyed chatting about the topic and hope you enjoyed it as well and if you feel that someone you know, someone you kind of know, someone you once met might benefit from listening to this episode in particular or subscribing to the 5% Way Podcast as a whole, we would greatly appreciate you sharing it with him or her.

And if you haven’t done so already… Look, it truly… It’s no secret. It means a lot to us if you take a moment to leave a rating and genuine review on your Apple or on Apple podcast or your preferred podcast listening platform, because it is the true authentic reviews and the honest ratings that put our show in front of more people and that is all we really aim to do through this show. It’s to spread our thoughts, messages, past experiences and education about helping people just like you achieve sustainable weight loss from the inside out and feel the [inaudible 00:26:25] best.

Well, thank you again for listening to this episode. Have a wonderful rest of your day. We’ll talk to you next week.


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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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