A Diet System That Works

A DIet System That WorksWhy do most diets fail?

Personally, I think it’s because people become demotivated and start questioning the effectiveness of the diet, or just can’t keep up the momentum they started with.

What do you think?

I don’t think that’s the real problem though. Getting demotivated or giving up for any other reason is a symptom. The cause is something else. In my view the cause is normally this:

The diet is not sustainable.

A lot of people follow diets and get great results, but the diet is a temporary thing and when the music stops, the body returns to how it was before. Some people yo-yo like this forever, miserably progressing from one diet attempt to another following the latest ‘in’ diet of the day.

So What Makes A Diet Sustainable?

We’ll get to that shortly and I’m going to propose a system that I think not only works well, but is simple to follow (hence even more sustainable) and easily adaptable to your own needs and preferences (hence even more sustainable).

Firstly, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to tell you briefly how we got here…

My Diet Experience

I have never been bothered about diets or dieting. So in my lifetime I have been on diets twice ever and here are the reasons why:

Experience 1 – I Created A System To Track & Improve My Fitness

The simple system I’m going to share with you here is a re-incarnation of something I used very successfully in the past. It was in fact a system which I used to control my diet though at the time I looked at it more in terms of fitness than losing weight. It was still a diet. The reason I stopped using the system back then is quite simply because I achieved what I wanted to achieve with it and didn’t need to track my progress any more.

Experience 2 – Slow Carb: I’m Intrigued & I Love Experiments

I recently wrote an article about my experience with Tim Ferris’ slow carb diet. Essentially, though I do need to lose weight (and am doing so, if a little slower than claimed by the diet), I was intrigued by Tim’s book (well more precisely a particular chapter of his book) and thought more than anything this would be an interesting experiment. I’m still on that diet (Week 13 I think) but plan to slowly transition to using my own system (which I’m about to describe in more detail).

Why? To allow me to follow what I think are a more sensible set of criteria, incorporating my own beliefs about what’s healthy and what’s not, my preferences to make the diet more sustainable and most importantly (for me) exercise and fitness as well as what food and drink I’m allowed.

A Note On Motivation

Most people give up too easily – but often just because they’re focused on the wrong things.

I could have too, because I clearly am not getting the results I should be as quickly as I should be according to Tim’s claims about the diet. That being said, I realize that everyone is different and I am getting some results. What I care about is the experience (it’s an experiment, remember?), whether this diet could be a sustainable change for me (probably not but there are some aspects I do like) and most importantly if things are moving in the right direction.

I recently wrote an article about this too: The Only Two Trends That Matter.

If you haven’t read that article I think you should (it’s not very long) because it is an important consideration which forms part of the theory behind the diet system I’m about to tell you about but will also help you to stay motivated in pretty much any endeavor.

A Quick Note On Systems

I also recently wrote a post to tell you that as well as my love of tea, I also love systems, so I actually have a kind of tea system.

The point of that article wasn’t so much to tell you about tea or tea systems, but simply to introduce the idea of systems.

Once you have a system in place, you have something that can be refined and improved upon. That’s a pretty good feature to have when we’re talking about diets, right?

The 7 Key Ingredients Of A Good Diet

Well we already know that we want something that’s going to be sustainable. What do we need to increase the chances of the diet being sustainable? In my view (and you may have already guessed some of these from the notes above) it needs to have the following key ingredients:

the diet needs to be…

  1. SIMPLE TO FOLLOW – That means no complicated measuring and also no ambiguity or chance of getting it wrong.
  2. UP TO DATE – As we learn new things about health and nutrition these need to be considered and the diet should incorporate these or at least not contain anything that we have since learned is detrimental to our health.
  3. CUSTOMIZABLE – Because we are all different. One size fits all diets are just not optimal. What works well for one person may be the wrong thing for another so an effective diet needs to be flexible.
  4. A SYSTEM – What gets measured gets improved. Whilst the diet needs to be simple to track, it does need to be a system, because then it can be refined.
  5. (EASILY) TRACKABLE – If the diet is easily trackable then we can stay motivated by looking at the only two trends that matter rather than getting bogged down in day-to-day fluctuations which may demotivate us.
  6. FORGIVING/RECOVERABLE – Inevitably people may have ‘wobbles’ or actual reasons why they can’t adhere to certain aspects of our diet – in these cases the ideal diet system should allow for recovery if mistakes are made.
  7. COMPLETE– perhaps the most important point of all, the diet needs to be not just a system but a complete system. This means that the system should not just look at food and drink consumption, but also exercise and perhaps also other well-being factors that we consider important for our health.

The good news?

This system is all of the above.

Here is a 10 minute video clip where I try and explain it – please take a look and I’ll go through some of the key features and how you would go about creating a similar system for yourself below.

here are some questions you might be asking after watching that…

How Much Time Does It Take Every Day?

Literally a few minutes.

That’s it.

You can already see from the video above that it’s quick. Laying out the spreadsheet well makes it really easy to fill out. Obviously it’s much quicker for me than in the demo as I’m not explaining it to anyone. It takes me a couple of minutes each morning.

What Happens If I Forget To Update The Tracker?

No big deal at all. If you miss a day, or even two days, you can just fill out the information a few days late. This is why the system is recoverable. Sometimes you may not have access to your computer or the internet. If this is going to happen for long periods and you know in advance I’d suggest printing out the next few weeks on paper and filling it out that way so you don’t get too far behind (I can show you how to do this if you don’t know how).

It’s Just A Spreadsheet, What’s The Big Deal?

I agree. It’s really simple. That’s why it works so well.

What If I Don’t Know How To Put This Together?

Shoot me an email and I’ll help you (you’ll need to be on our subscriber list first if you’re not already – you can easily join below).

How Do You Do All The Fancy Formatting?

It’s really easy. See the point above. The formatting helps you define ‘rules’ which will guide you toward the particular goals you want to achieve.

Why Do You Call It The ‘Accountability Diet’?

Because the system is effectively acting like a coach and keeping you accountable. In the end assuming you are honest and you follow the system, the numbers don’t lie and you will have a very powerful set of information. You’ll be able to see where improvements need to be made and adjustments are then very easy to make (keep in mind The Only Two Trends That Matter).

Why Don’t You Show Your Weight On The Tracker?

Personal preference. I’m not at all bothered about tracking it. I used to the last time I used this system, and I know the system works. What it would show is my weight fluctuating on a day to day basis but in general going down over the weeks and months. This is because this is one of the things my system is designed to do. Yours may be set up for different goals (e.g. strength, health, stamina…). You could even use the same system to put on weight if that’s what you wanted to do. I don’t care about checking my weight (I haven’t done so for Tim Ferris’ Diet either).

What I do care about is following the system, that’s what I check that I am following the principles I set myself, beyond that I know it works well (I also don’t actually have bathroom scales to weigh myself with anyway). When diets work well you should be able to see and feel the changes.

Isn’t It A Bit Silly Having All The Different Fruit & Veg Written Out?

Maybe. For me it makes it quicker that way to remember what I’ve eaten. You could just have one row for fruit & veg if you prefer and put in there a number for how many portions you had – as long as you don’t cheat!

Can You Only Do 5 Press-ups?

No I can do more.

The important point here is about the system being sustainable and making a gradual improvement. It’s about forming habits. I’m deliberately starting small and quick so this becomes part of my routine. That is what makes the system sustainable. I’m also in no hurry. As long as all of these things are following a positive trend (again, back to the Two Trends That Matter) then that’s what I care about. Then I’m forming good habits.

Why Do You Keep Going On About Drinking Water?

Water is 0 calories, as is sparkling water. It’s also really good for you and your body needs it. If your goal is around health and losing weight (as mine is) and you’re not currently drinking plenty of water, doing this alone will have a huge impact. TIP: following the same principles covered with most of the other points here, you can always gradually improve your water intake. Work out how much water you’d like to be drinking each day and get there easily by tracking it until it’s second nature.

Any Other Questions?

This is turning into quite a long article so I think I’ll stop here. If you have any questions not covered above then feel free to ask in the comment section below or send me a mail if you’re on our mailing list.


A Diet System That Works — 11 Comments

  1. Well, I followed a personal diet and lost around 8 kgs in a month!

    To sum it up

    ~Lots of proteins rich and green veggies
    ~No sugar/dairy/processed stuff.

    That’s it and it worked pretty good.

  2. Hi Alan,
    I totally love your method with the spreadsheet. It is absolutely reasonable. Actually I am a big fun of the use of spreadsheets to organize and track things. For example I was using a method like yours during my world around trip in order to track my day-to-day expenses.
    I love your method and I am going to test it myself and suggest it to my boyfriend…LOL
    No, he is not fat but he needs to have a goal, a strategy..Something to control what he eats and how much…like a virtual coach.
    Thank you for sharing Alan.
    Have a great we!

    • Hey Lenia,

      yep – it’s a simple system but it works really well – even if you only use it long enough to see some results and start forming some good habits, then it is a good idea – plus what have you got to lose (especially if you love spreadsheets ;-)).

      Please do give it a go and let me know how you get on. I’d be happy to help in any way I can whether it’s to put together the right system for you or with some of the technicalities of creating or using the spreadsheet (though it sounds like you’re well covered there ;-)).

      If you want me to send you my spreadsheet so you can get started easily just changing around some headings etc then I can do that too – just drop me an email,

      take care & best wishes,

  3. I really enjoyed this article. As somebody who is seeking to lose a few pounds I’ve often found that when I’ve been in top shape in the past I’ve done things to reduce my calories but more importantly I’ve made shifts towards eating healthier and adopting higher standards for exercise.

    • Exactly, you need to look at everything together, anything else is going to be an uphill struggle by comparison.

      However you do it, considering all factors (rest, consumption and exercise) is the way to go.

      This system is just a very simple way of doing all of that and keeping track of whatever criteria are important for you,

      thanks for the comment Samuel,

      take care & best wishes,

  4. Very kind of you to share this. I believe that every diet is very easy to say, but is hard to do. As for me, i am a overweight person and it is so hard for me to get my limits.

    • Hi Mika,

      thanks – I think this is why this approach works well, because assuming you have just enough discipline to at least do the bear minimum and spend the 2-3 minutes each day to update it, then you have an accountability system which helps you stick to your limits – like a coach would.

      As Adrienne says below, the same concept can be used for pretty much anything – and by having a simple system to follow you’re much more likely to stick with it and even make small improvements here and there.

      take care & best wishes,

  5. Hey Alan,

    That’s pretty detailed so this spreadsheet is a simpler way of you keeping track of everything you’ve done for the day. I can see where that can benefit you because I’m using something similar right now for the 100 day biz challenge that I’m doing.

    It really does help when you have your schedule laid out in front of you so you know what activities you need to do each day and the time you’ve allotted your self to achieve them. That’s what I like about keeping spreadsheets.

    Thanks for sharing your system with us and I hope you continue to do well on your diet.


    • Thanks Adrienne,

      Pretty much yes, and yes it’s really simple. But that’s not the main reason it works well. Most people don’t do this kind of thing when they follow diets, and by doing so, the reason it works well, is that you’re holding yourself accountable by tracking your progress, as a coach would.

      The other powerful aspect about using something like this, or anything similar, is that it’s habit forming. Habits are formed when we follow the same patterns every day for 3-4 weeks, then incremental changes can easily be made to get even better results – and that makes it sustainable.

      So you’re right, it is just a spreadsheet, but there are some fundamental principles beyond that – e.g. ‘what gets measured gets improved’, habit forming, focusing on the right things (the only two trends that matter) and having a system that you can refine and improve upon and that gives you lots of information and feedback on your progress. The interesting thing is that data that is really easy to enter day by day becomes quite powerful when you start looking back over weeks and months (look at your Google Analytics stats for example).

      thanks for the comment, take care & best wishes,

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