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Can You Eat What You Want and Lose Weight?

Girl eating cotton candy

Some people endorse diets that seemingly restrict everything — like if you want to lose weight, you can never enjoy your meals again.

Others say you can achieve the same results eating whatever you want.

Which way is right?

I’ll tell you. But I need to explain something first.

What We Say

Megan and I have been together a long time, which obviously means we never have any miscommunications. Right?


From my perception, women don’t always say exactly what they mean.

So when Megan says, “Would you mind doing the dishes,” sometimes I think she really means, “Go relax on the couch for a bit while I clean up after the dinner I just cooked.”

She can’t get mad about that, right? I mean, I’m not a mind reader.

OK, I’m being ridiculous, but it’s true that we both sometimes say one thing, and the other person takes it to mean something totally different.

When it comes to Fitness Porter, we post stuff all the time about how you should enjoy the foods you eat, and shouldn’t feel guilty about having a treat, even when you want to lose weight.

My concern is that you hear us say this, but think we mean something else entirely.

I want to set the record straight.

What We Mean

Here are 4 things we commonly say, and what we do and don’t mean by it:

1. “There are no ‘bad’ foods.”

What we DON’T mean: Whether you eat a cookie or a carrot, it’s all just food — your choices don’t matter.

What we DO mean: Some foods nourish you and some don’t. Just because something doesn’t nourish you doesn’t mean it’s “bad.”

Scraping and eating dried up gum off a subway handrail is bad. Washing down dinner with a bottle of window cleaner is bad.

Eating a cookie? That’s not bad. It’s just not very nourishing, so don’t do it all the time.

2. “Eat foods you like.”

What we DON’T mean: If you only like waffles and pop rocks, just eat waffles and pop rocks.

What we DO mean: Eat the specific nourishing foods you like, in a way you like.

Don’t like plain, dry chicken breast? Eat something else. Or try a better recipe. These Chicken Pesto Kebabs are delicious, and work well in a weight loss diet.

That said, if you genuinely don’t like many nutritious foods, you should make the effort to acquire new tastes. What meal is currently on your roster that could be made a little more nutritious?

3. “You don’t need a restrictive diet.”

What we DON’T mean: If you feel like eating something, just eat it—never restrict yourself.

What we DO mean: There's a difference between flexible guidelines and a diet that's so strict you can't enjoy life.

For example, you don’t need to restrict yourself from eating pizza, but you need guidelines so you know how often you can enjoy it without setting yourself back on your goals (and so you don't devour the whole box).

Those types of guidelines help you enjoy foods like pizza even MORE compared to a diet that's too restrictive and makes you feel guilty.

A good strategy, rather than cutting foods, is to add foods to your diet. (Read how to do that here.)

4. “Follow the 90% rule — be compliant to your diet 90% of the time.”

What we DON’T mean: 9 out of every 10 meals needs to be perfect, then go crazy on the tenth one.

(This is a recipe for disaster. You could offset your entire diet every few days with a 5,000 calorie meal.)

What we DO mean: Try your best to make every meal as nourishing as possible, knowing you won’t be perfect, and that’s ok.

As far as treats, or less than nutritious foods — a small venture away from your diet every few days won’t hurt anything.

We believe in a diet that allows freedom, but you can’t take advantage of that freedom with an all out binge-fest.

Not if you expect results.

One More Clarification

Now that we’ve explained how freedom in your diet still takes discipline, it’s important not to misunderstand and fall to the other end of spectrum.

Most people have a tough time accepting that their diet can be free from intense restrictions and still promote weight loss.

Your instinct will be to drastically cut carbs, or fats, or calories, and that’s so unnecessary.

It can be difficult to find the middle ground between not having any self control and setting too many limitations. Once you find it, you’ll realize just how much freedom you do have.

That’s when “dieting,” in the traditional sense, becomes a thing of the past.

For a self-guided, step-by-step approach, download our free ebook, “Forever Fat Loss: 12 Habits for Lasting Change — Never Diet Again.”

Photo by Lesha on Reshot​


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