What Actually Gets You Results From Diet And Exercise

The first several months of a new program are often the most rewarding. Strength improves rapidly, body composition changes completely, and confidence within your ability soars. 

For this reason, this phase is is commonly known as the ‘transformation phase’ because of the large improvements from the start point.

The transformation phase is great – motivation is high, results are flowing and the return on investment is massive. Everything seems easy!

Once the transformation phase is complete is when the results begin to slow. The same amount of work creates less results (the law of diminishing returns).

If you do not set new goals and review progress, motivation might begin to wane and progress can grind to a halt.

It should be noted that after the transformation phase and as progress begins to halt, significant amounts of fat have been lost, muscle built and strength enhanced. So when you are honest - these diminishing returns are actually a good problem to have!

Understanding why you go results initially is important for maintaining progress in the longer term and avoiding the dreaded plateau. 

It usually comes down to three big things - strategy, adherence and execution.

The minutia of foods, exercise selection and protein intake are important, but nothing more so than the big three.


I am glad I asked!



There is a saying goes ‘the best diet is the one that you stick to’ and this holds true for almost any beginner to intermediate level clients.

Even as someone who designs personalised nutrition plans for people, I can tell you that the nutrition system is not vital. Paleo, low-carb, Atkins, or whatever else can all deliver results, provided energy balance is matched to your goal.

What is important is selecting the right system that they will adhere to, but more on that later.

Whilst the system itself can vary, important is that you have one. You need something to adhere to and replicate on a consistent basis, otherwise there is no guidance.  

It is very hard to manage energy balance when the diet is changing drastically every day. The simpler, the better. A large part of why paleo (unprocessed foods) and low-carb diets are popular for this reason – they are simple and relatively easy to adhere to!

Once you reach the intermediate-advanced level of training does the strategy itself become more important but even then, the principles of energy balance, adherence and consistency all remain the same. The main difference comes from the programming and any trade-offs that might be need to made for the individual.



It would come as little surprise to many that pre-wedding clients have phenomenal adherence rates to fat loss programs. The deadline is set and since the photos are a one-off (hopefully) it is important to people to look good on their special day.

Most people have some sort of plan - it could be a workout routine they used a while ago or something they have jotted down in their head. Either way, they have something they want to stick to. 

To facilitate adherence, we need to create a plan that people can and will stick to.

If the recommendations are too hard or complicated, they cannot do it! If the first thing someone asks is 'when can I stop this' or 'when is a cheat meal (break)' there is a great change it is not adhereable, and certainly not sustainable.

Noe the strategy becomes important here, as it needs to be adhereable. This means that there a reasonable assumption that the person will adhere to it. 

Here is an example.

A person has eaten a hamburger, large fries and large soft drink for lunch every workday for the last two years. If you wanted to alter their nutrition intake for a fat loss goal (ie. the goal is to create an energy deficit) we would want to decrease energy intake.

Here are a few ways we can do that:

  • Keep the hamburger, switch to a small fries and drink water.
  • Keep the hamburger, no fries and drink water.
  • Switch to a grilled chicken burger, no fries and drink water
  • Switch to a grilled chicken salad, no fries and drink water.
  • Go somewhere else to eat a salad.
  • Prepare their own meals.

Prepared meals are the ideal, because we can precisely control intake. However, they are not everything. There are five other options that are all in line with our goal, and four of them involve the exact same fast food venue!

Once you consider other reasons such as social, time and habit - it makes sense to keep as much similar as possible. That sounds familiar!

It is important to understand where someone is at and what is most adhereable for them.

It sounds simplistic, but those of you who follow will know I don’t believe in excuses. Not because I am macho-man and tough, but simply because there are no excuses, just reasons. Excuses are made up, while reasons are real.

Non-adherence is as much the coach's responsibility as it is the client's. When adherence is not present, it can be very easy think that 'client A stuck to this plan, so client B must just not want it' or even worse 'I stick to it - why can't they?'

This is exactly why coaches need a blend of experience and knowledge, not one or the other!



Consistency and adherence sound very similar, but they are quite different. Let me explain.

Adherence is sticking to your strategy.

Consistency is repeating this adherence. Repeatedly not adhering to your strategy is still consistent, although it will not be analogous with you desired results.

Consistency is important. Are people consistently NOT adhering to the plan (weight gain), consistently adhering to it (get results) or fluctuation (probably staying the same).

I have said it before – the first step to losing fat is to stop gaining it (read: you can’t put a car into reverse while driving at 100kmh).

Weight changes are not sudden and in fact are a gradual process. Not many people gain 20kg is one year and even few will lose that weight in the same timeframe. 

If you are consistently over consuming for you requirements, weight will be gained. 

If you are consistently under consuming, weight will be lost.

Many people are not over-consuming everyday. Monday to Friday involve energy balance, or even slight deficit, but then the weekend is a large surplus. This is a typical pattern and leads to people becoming frustrated, because they are eating well the majority of the time (Monday-Friday) but not getting results. 

The same can also occur with accelerated weight gain during shorter time frames. People can gain weight during a few period of the year (Christmas, Easter, other holidays) and then revert to maintenance for the rest of the year. Over time, more weight is gained but none lost, leading to accumulation.



For those of who you don't want to read 750 words...

  • Results are dictated by the big three - strategy, adherence and consistency. 
  • Having a strategy is more important than having the best strategy. 
  • Adherence is as much the coach's responsibility as it is the clients - create a strategy that they can stick to!
  • Consistency is what delivers results - good or bad. 

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