Are you doing one (or more) of these? Russ says “STOP IT!!!!”

Written by Russ Howe PTI, and most recently updated 1 day ago.

12 min read

Losing weight is a tough journey.

I get it.

And I’m forever giving you guys advice on how to make it easier, which hopefully you enjoy, but day I’ve decided to flip the script.

I’m gonna show you 6 ways to FAIL a diet. These are things we definitely do NOT wanna be doing.

And if you know someone who does any of these, feel free to deliver them an epic Will & Grace slap.

Only joking. But maybe share this content with them, so it helps.

Right! What’s number one then?

how to fail a diet

1. “One Last Night Of Fun…”

Catherine’s new healthy diet starts tomorrow, so she’ll have one last night of fun…

You know, before condemning herself to an eternity of soul-destroying hell.


Because she wants to lose weight, and she must be punished!


Why on Earth do we tell ourselves that we need to live on rabbit food to lose weight?

The people who do this type of stuff are forever starting a new diet every Monday, and never seeing any results.

Truth is, you have no reason to binge the night before starting a healthy diet. In fact, it’s a sign that your new diet isn’t the best option for you. (1)

You can still eat all the things you enjoy; just eat a bit less of it.

But if you see yourself in this situation, you’re not alone. It’s a condition known as last supper syndrome, and I wrote about it in more detail here so go read up.

In doing this pre-diet binge, we create an unhealthy relationship with food – one where junk food is “fun” and healthy food is “boring”. We fail to see the benefits of healthier foods as such, so we only last a few days before craving the “fun” stuff again.

Come the weekend… binge.

why fad diets don't work

2. “That’s It! I’m Only Gonna Have 600 Calories!”

Frustration and weight loss go hand-in-hand.

The more frustrated we feel about our looks, the more we want to go on a diet, but our lifestyle has taught us to comfort eat when feeling stressed and frustrated, so the cycle continues.

Until one day, we snap!

“That’s it! I’m gonna eat 600 calories a day!”

But here’s the thing…

Once again, we are punishing ourselves for wanting to lose weight. And very few people have the resolve to stick to such a restrictive diet – especially if they’re coming from a history of unhealthy eating habits.

Our hormones (specifically leptin and ghrelin) will be all over the place and this will lead to regular binge sessions. (2)

Instead of taking a look at the bigger picture of our diet and making small changes we can stick to, we do something drastic because we want instant success.

We spent years feeling out of shape, but we want to reverse the process in just a couple of weeks.

And what’s the net result of going super low in calories? You guessed it!

Come the weekend… binge.

worst diet mistakes

3. “There’s Something Wrong With Me!”

There could be a medical reason preventing you from losing weight.

Untreated thyroid issues, for instance.

But if you haven’t got a medical reason, and you’re not gonna get checked for one anyway, just cut the bulls**t.

You’ll talk yourself right out of results.

Going into a diet believing there’s something wrong with you, and that the laws of thermodynamics do not apply to your body (because calories in, calories out doesn’t work for you), is a sure-fire way to fail your diet because you’ve already absolved yourself of all responsibility.

And what’s worse, is that when you do fail you’ll blame the f**king universe.

Come the weekend… binge.

the carb monster

4. “Carbs Are The Enemy!”

Except they’re not.

There’s nothing wrong with carbs.

But we tell ourselves they are the root cause of all weight gain (even though the opposite has been proven) to convince ourselves that we have pinpointed the reason we can’t lose weight. (3, 4)

And when that fails, we find a new reason.

Fat is the enemy!

Dairy is the enemy!

Tell you something… YOU are the enemy. With your incessant searching for a singular item to blame all of your problems on, and a mindset which will forever keep you from the results you want to achieve.

Come the weekend… binge.

does cheat day ruin diet

5. “Cheat Day!”

Cheat day is the cousin of last supper syndrome (from step one).

This is the day where we celebrate our week of dieting by gorging on all the stuff we told ourselves was s**t.

But if it’s so s**t, why do we wanna shove it in our face-hole so much?

And why have we been limping through the last couple of days clinging on to the prospect of this day?

Because we are dieting too hard. That’s why.

I’ve lost count the number of people who will diet hard all week long then go crazy at the weekend and undo all of their efforts.

Worse still, they can’t see where they went wrong…

(So they start thinking there’s something wrong with them – see above.)

eating low calories but can't lose weight
Image: Layne Norton, P.h.D.

“I’m eating low calories but can’t lose weight!”

But are you REALLY?

This is how the majority of us will diet, going hard during the week and relaxing at the weekend.

But, as you can see in the chart above, the issue is easily spotted in the numbers.

With maintenance calories at 2300, which gives us a weekly total of 16,100. If we eat 1800 per day for five days we’ve got ourselves into a 2500 calories deficit. But on the two days at the end of the week we smash 3500 calories, and the net result here is we’re actually back at maintenance calories overall (16,000).

Net result: we stay the same weight, even though in our minds we worked hard for five days out of seven.

Or worse, we go way over at the weekend and actually gain weight. Most of us don’t track cheat days, so it’s easily done.

And all of this makes us more frustrated… which makes us think there’s something wrong with us… etc. You see how it all clicks together.

Come the weekend… binge.

how to lose weight and keep it off forever

6. “Fat Burners Will Get Me There!”

They most certainly will not.

But this is the last throw of the dice, though. At this stage, we are so f**king desperate that we’re willing to throw money at the problem.

And you’ll not be short of offers, from snakeoil salesmen waiting to catch your hard earned dosh and tell you all the things you want to hear.

So let me clarify for you right now: fat burners do not work.

They are a placebo in a tub. Every fat burner contains a blend of the exact same ingredients (caffeine, green tea extract, bitter orange peel, etc) and they will have minimal impact on your results unless you change your diet.

The only type which do work are the illegal type (and they’re illegal for good reason).

But the most dangerous thing about getting sucked into this one is that it’s a slippery slope which leads us down a path of falling for every “next big thing”.

It’s easily done. Let’s face it, despite the fact fat burner pills have zero evidence to prove they work, the industry is booming. You know why?

Because “…what if?”

When we’re desperate, we’ll take that chance one hundred times out of one hundred.

And come the weekend… binge.

best diet to lose weight and keep it off forever

“What Should I Do?”

I’ve spent a bit of time running through the things that don’t work.

So how about we do the opposite now, and I show you techniques that actually do work?

Hell yeah!

There are only four things. All of my clients do these. Even the ones who have been using my training plans for years, they still only do these four things…

  1. Stay In A Deficit For The Week
  2. Eat Plenty Of Protein Each Day
  3. Don’t Cut Out Anything You Enjoy
  4. Track Your Food Intake

Why do these work?

Let’s take a look below…

the rules to ripped

1. Stay In A Deficit For The Week.

If you eat too many calories, you will gain weight.

Yes, even if those calories came from foods you thought were healthy. I spoke about this in my article Calories Are King. (5)

So if we currently eat 3000 calories per day, that gives us a weekly total of 21,000. If we reduce our target to 2500 per day this gives us a weekly total of 17,500 and will see us lose weight.

It’s also not such a mega drop that we’ll go crazy (“600 Calories A Day!!!”), which increases our chances of sticking to it.

weight loss advice that works

2. Eat Plenty Of Protein Each Day

We don’t just want to lose weight, we want to look awesome, right?

So getting adequate protein is key, because this will help us to retain (and build new) lean muscle tissue.

Plus, it has the added benefit of being the most satiating macronutrient, so eating plenty of protein will greatly increase your chances of staying on your healthy diet because you’ll simply feel fuller and be less likely to overeat.

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed us that the muscle building benefits of protein are “maxed out” at 1.18 grams of protein per lb of body weight. I wrote about this in depth here. Go read up. (6)

So take your goal body weight in lbs and multiply by 1.18 and you have your daily target (in grams).

track calories vs macros

3. Don’t Cut Out Anything You Enjoy.

Love fruit? Keep it in your diet.

What about ice cream?

Yes, that too.

There is no single food which will inherently cause you to gain weight. The only thing which will do that, my friend, is a calorie surplus.

So providing you are able to stay within your calories (and you’re eating enough protein to look after your muscle tissue), you can still eat the foods you love.

I know…

Game changer!

But this is how all my clients diet, and it works like a f**king charm. No more “can’t have this”, and “can’t have that”, because it all gets back to what I was saying earlier about creating a healthy relationship with food.

When you know you can still eat any food and still see great results provided you make room for it in your targets, suddenly your diet becomes a heck of a lot easier to stick to. It also renders the need for “cheat day” useless (because you won’t be craving things you’re missing out on) and stops you from seeing any particular food groups as “the enemy” (because they’re not).

But if it helps even more, let me really drive this home for you…

Research studies conclusively prove that when total calories and protein are controlled, we can take a number of different approaches with our style of eating and not compromise on results.

We can go high carb & low fat… we can go moderate carb & moderate fat… we can go low carb & high fat… it’s your choice.

The flexibility of being able to eat with variety seems to be a huge factor in diet sustainability, too. This was first shown in a 1999 study published in Appetite, where researchers compared the effects of following a rigid “clean” diet versus a more flexible diet. (7)

The participants using a more flexible approach to dieting experienced greater sustainability, as well as less mood swings, anxiety, and greatly reduced desire to overeat.

does tracking calories work for weight loss

4. Track Your Food Intake

This is the key to success.

You know you can have good days and bad days and still lose weight providing you’re under your calorie target for the week.

You know you can still eat the foods you enjoy along the way.

You know you can maximize lean muscle growth so you look as awesome as possible when you get to your goal weight.

But you gotta track it.

Refer back to my chart above in which I showed you a person who was unknowingly undoing their results by going off the rails at the end of the week.

That issue was easily avoidable.

Because if you don’t track, you don’t know.

So the first thing to do is grab a calorie/macro tracker like My Fitness Pal and log your food as you go through the day.

The results here are twofold, because tracking your numbers obviously keeps you on the right path and you’ll unlock all of your results – but also, interestingly, studies show that the act of simply using a tracking app tends to make us more accountable and likely to stick to our goal. (8)

If you saw yourself in any of my “6 ways to ruin a diet” above, try implementing one or two of my four step formula above and note your body’s response.

Getting on the right track isn’t complex, it just requires us to work at changing old habits into new ones.

Best of luck, and, as always, you can catch tons more training and nutrition tips right here on the blog so make sure to jump on my email list for those.

Outwork Everyone!


  1. Ogden J., et al. Cognitive changes to preloading in restrained and unrestrained eaters as measured by the Stroop task. Int J Eat Disord. (1993)
  2. Klok M. D., et al. The Role of Leptin and Ghrelin in the Regulation of Food Intake and Body Weight in Humans: A Review. Obes Rev. (2007)
  3. Leibel R. L., et al. Energy intake required to maintain body weight is not affected by wide variation in diet composition . Am J Clin Nutr. (1992)
  4. Golay A., et al. Similar weight loss with low- or high-carbohydrate diets. Am J Clin Nutr. (1996)
  5. Howell S., et al. “Calories in, calories out” and macronutrient intake: the hope, hype, and science of calories. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2017)
  6. Morton R. W., et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. (2018)
  7. Smith C. F., et al. Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes. Appetite. (1999)
  8. Patel M. L., et al. Comparing Self-Monitoring Strategies for Weight Loss in a Smartphone App: Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. (2019)

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I’m Russ. I’ve been a personal trainer since 2002, and I own

My job is to simplify fitness for my readers.

I send out free fitness tips to over 100,000 men and women every week, all in the same no-nonsense style as the article you’ve just read, so if you enjoyed reading it be sure to jump on my email list below.

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