Ask Justin The Trainer: My Friend Can't Stick To His Diet, How Do I Help Him?

Q:  Justin,

Long time reader of your blog, thanks for the tips and advice that you send out every week. I truly do enjoy using your blog and you as source of great information. I have a question for your "Ask the trainer" column that you do.  Late last year, my best friend told me that he wanted to start losing weight. He saw that I had been successful in cutting the pounds and he wanted me to give him advice and hold him accountable.  I put him on a few diets: The Atkins, Paleo, and even the South Beach Diet.  All of which he can't stick to.  I keep making him stick to it but he seems to be getting more and more frustrated, and he slowly falls off the bandwagon. I got him from taking in 6,000 calories a day of junk food and fast food down to just 2,000 calories a day of whatever diet I have him on that month.  He always seems to give up.  How can I help him and keep him motivated?


First things first.  You cannot take someone that has been eating 6,000 calories a day and cut their diet drastically like that.  Even though 6,000 calories is a lot for any person, his body was still accustomed to it.  Basically you're starving him, as a sudden 4,000 calorie a day calorie deficit is way too much.  He's becoming discouraged because right now this is something that he cannot commit to.  He needs slow, impactful changes over a period of time.  If you restrict his calories and put him on a diet like you have been doing, you are setting him up for failure.  It's easy to bail out when your body is practically starving every single day.

Here's what you do:  First, realize that you can only be a positive influence.  At the end of the day, your friend is an adult and will do what he chooses to do.  Don't beat yourself up so much if he's not following your lead and doing exactly what you'd wish.  Remember, he's going from a lifetime of sedentary eating and jumping head first into taking your advice.  He's obviously somewhat motivated to even give that in itself a thought!

Secondly, don't cut his calories so drastically.  If he's accustomed to taking in six thousand calories per day, then adjust what he eats-- not how much.  Allow him to eat 6,000 calories a day of healthy alternatives, switch him to sugarless drinks, show him other options.  After a while of him becoming accustomed to this change, then change his diet a little more.  Introduce organic and whole foods.  Show him the variety in fruits and vegetables.  Get him eating properly balanced meals and eating 5 times a day.  At this point, and only then, you can start restricting caloric intake.

I wish your friend luck, as it's never easy to adjust your lifestyle-- but believe me (and others), in the end, it's completely worth it.  It's one of the best things you can ever do for yourself!

Here's to your fitness success!

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