The secret to success is learning how to use pain and pleasure, instead of having pain and pleasure use you.

Why Most Diets Fail & how to keep on Track

I am a big fan of Tony Robbins (self-development guru). One of his most powerful ideas is that there are two forces which motivate people: a desire to avoid pain and a desire to gain pleasure . These, in turn, affect our beliefs which impact our behavior.

For example, I have a belief that doing the household chores is boring. The pain of not doing the household chores (a dirty house), is more painful than the pain of doing it (getting all dirty and smelling like bleach for two hours).

The same with pleasure; the pleasure of not doing the household chores (having more free time to have coffee and hang out with friends) is greater than the pleasure of doing the chores (having a clean house).

If I have this belief system, am I likely to ever clean the house? Only when the pain of not doing it becomes more painful than doing it, e.g. when my mum arrives and complains for 4 straight hours about how dirty it is (true pain to me).

Whereas my partner is different. He loves household chores and takes massive pride in doing so. The pain of not doing the chores (visitors thinking he is slothful) is greater than not doing it. He also takes pleasure from doing it (pride that his “castle” is clean and he can listen to an audiobook at the same time).

This same principle is why most diets fail, people start with good intentions, knowing that in the long-run they will lose weight (avoiding pain) and feel healthier (moving towards pleasure), but the pain of continuing the diet (e.g. not being able to eat out with friends) is greater than sticking to the diet. Also, there is often no pleasure in the diet either (it is seen as much more pleasurable to just eat cake than a boring salad).

Generally people fail to start or maintain diets because:

  • It is a “diet” – Diets have become synonymous with pain.
  • They are for martyrs – Only eating cabbage for a month? That definitely sounds like pain!
  • Inconsistent with lifestyle – Some diets are hard work, requiring a massive lifestyle change which is seen as a lot of work (pain) hence it is easier not to change.

For me, a diet should be pleasurable and the pain of doing them should be less than not doing them. Some criteria that I look for:

  • Fits in easily with my lifestyle – It does not require a massive change outside of my current lifestyle.
  • It should be a “lifestyle” not a “diet” – It is a long term solution, not a temporary fix (hence the well-known concept of yoyo dieting).
  • The food is pleasurable – I want to look forward to eating my food.
  • It is easy – I am not a chef, and want to be able to make simple delicious food quickly.
  • The benefits of the diet are aligned with my goals – What are your goals and is this type of diet right for you?

The ketogenic guide and the recipes in this book aim to fulfil all of these requirements:

  • Fits in with my lifestyle – I do not need to change my eating patterns massively (I can still eat breakfast, lunch and dinner).
  • It is a lifestyle – Ketogenic is aimed at long term health and not a crash diet.
  • Food is pleasurable – I associate “fat” food with being delicious. I am able to eat steak, cheese and a whole host of other great foods more often.
  • It is easy – there are 100 recipes in this book all of which are easy and can be made within 20 minutes. Also the ‘’80% principle” (explained later) helps too.
  • Aligned with my goals – I want to feel better on the inside and lose fat, these are some of the key benefits of ketogenic diets.

Preparing for a Positive Start

Before beginning the diet, below is a good primer of what to expect and some helpful tips for when you start out.

Understand your body is adapting in the first two weeks – You may feel slightly low on energy as your body adapts to using different energy sources. Simply recognize it for what it is (your body is adapting), and know it is only temporary. Ultimately you will reap the benefits.

Clear out the cupboard in advance – If you are like me, if it is in the cupboard, then it gets eaten. Clear out the cupboard of anything you will not be eating on the diet (mostly processed carbs), thus removing the temptation.

Get a calorie counter – Such as the MyFitnessPal app. While the idea of calorie counting turns a lot of people off, they provide the fundamental knowledge of how many calories/carbs are in different types of foods. This allows you to move from calorie counting to a “principle based” diet in the future (more on that later).

Don’t be obsessed with weighing yourself – Your weight can vary as much as 4 lbs. on any given day. While I recommend tracking weight (every 2 weeks at first then monthly), weighing yourself every day is counterproductive. Focus instead on the general health benefits.

Think ahead of social situations – It is all too easy to get caught up in social situations and revert back to old habits. Instead think ahead of time, for example, bring your own snacks to work rather than eating the biscuits everyone else is having.

TDo not keep it a secret – Let your friends and family know what you are doing. People tend to be more understanding and supportive if they are aware you are working towards a change in lifestyle.

Plan ahead and create a routine– Particularly in the first few weeks. You are attempting to establish new habits, which requires a conscious effort to establish and to not fall back into old habits. Plan your meals the week/day before, otherwise it is too easy to grab a chocolate bar “just this one time” because you are in a hurry.

Monitor your ketone levels – Not compulsory, but recommended. I would suggest some cheap ketone test strips from Amazon (more on their use later).

General Eating Principles to Remember

A calorie is not just a calorie – It may sound obvious but not all fats or proteins were created equally, focus on good quality fats.

Eat enough calories – This is not a low calorie diet, nor is it an excuse to eat as many hamburgers as you want. Follow the guidelines below and ensure you are getting the right amount of calories

Eat your vegetables – It can be very easy to focus on the fat sources and neglect a balanced diet. Try to have at least one cup of vegetables a day.

If you really have to drink alcohol then try to go for low carb options. Spirits with low carb mixers are probably the best option or dry white wines (obviously in moderation). Avoid any alcoholic drinks with added sugar (e.g. Bacardi Breezer).

Drink plenty of water – It goes without saying!

Try to eat natural as much as possible – While there have been many studies for and against the benefits of organic food, it really comes down to personal preference. I would suggest trying it for 2-3 weeks and see if you feel a difference.

Eat clean as much as possible – Try to eat foods which are still in their natural state, e.g. fresh fruit (rather than frozen), fresh beef (rather than processed into something else), chocolate (if you have to have it) in as raw a format you can (rather than processed and additives/sugar added etc.).

Adjusting and customizing the recipes

These recipes have been created to be:

  1. Easy to make
  2. Delicious
  3. Easy to find ingredients

However, there is not a one size fits all recipe, everyone has different tastes, some have allergies and not everyone will be able to get all of the ingredients. Consider the recipes as a guideline which you can then customize to your own taste or to what you have in the house.

  • Do not like cilantro? Consider switching it with parsley… or leave it out entirely.
  • Do not have any pink rock salt in the house? Just use some normal table salt instead.
  • Do not like venison? Try beef instead.
  • Prefer your eggs a bit runnier? Cook them for slightly less time.
  • Do not want to cook 4 servings? Simply halve the ingredients and only cook 2.
  • Do not have a spiralizer? Just cut into strip or just use a peeler.

I have included some suggestions throughout for alternatives, but could not list every single one. Only you know what your preferences are, so have some fun with it and play around with different ingredients and recipes.