Before I explain my 1980s-influenced easiest diet ever, we need to talk about Pat Benatar.
In 1983 she sang that “Love Is A Battlefield”.
It is Pat — it still is to this day.
But do you know what else is a battlefield Pat?
Trying to stick with a strict, regimented diet to shift some excess weight, when you’ve a house and/or kids to take care of and a job to hold down.
Sing about that Pat…
Because this is what threw a major monkey wrench in the works when it came to my attempts at following any diet in the past. I couldn’t follow the diet ‘rules’ because I had a bajillion other things (and several small people) that needed my attention.
So for someone like me their early 40s trying to stay in shape and lose weight while keeping the job and family plates spinning too, this was my battlefield.
“What’s this got to do with the 80s?”, I hear you ask…
Having tried lots of snazzy workout plans over the years, I eventually got back to basics with an approach that was both dull and crazily effective — Lift Increasingly Heavy Things & Walk More.
Lo and behold I am in better shape now than 20 years ago when I was bouncing from shiny new training protocol to protocol (each one having promised to have uncovered the true ‘secrets’ of gaining muscle and losing body fat that the experts don’t want you to know).
I figured this ‘Getting Back to Basics’ thing could work nutrition-wise too. Dull-but-crazily-effective sounded good to me. But when was the last time nutrition was simple and uncomplicated? Finding the easiest diet ever seemed unlikely.
As I pondered this suddenly a Bon Jovi riff could be heard in the distance.
I swore I could smell Cherry Coke in the air.
That was it — I needed to Marty McFly the sh*t out of this and get back to the eating habits of the 80s*.
Within a couple of months of eating the normal, cheap food I ate in the 1980s, I had shifted 10lbs of body fat without really trying hard at all. I had found the easiest diet ever.
*For this reason 1980s GIFs will feature prominently in the rest of this article. I make no apologies for this WHATSOEVER*
Why most diets don’t work
Let’s face it, any diet that ensures we are normally taking on fewer calories than we burn on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, will lead to fat loss in theory.
But if the ‘rules’ of the diet stipulate that we do things that we just can’t stick to, because y’know we have lives and all, then we will ‘fail’ on that diet.
If we need to constantly:
- source foods that are hard to come by;
- eat foods we don’t like;
- eat too frequently or not frequently enough for our lifestyle/preferences,
then that diet won’t work for us.
Regardless of all the cheery testimonials about a diet, with the obligatory shot of someone wearing their old fat-person jeans, if we can’t stick with it longer term, we won’t lose the weight we want.
We will feel like we have failed, when in actual fact the specific approach to getting into a calorie deficit to lose weight just wasn’t right for us.
The Simple 1980s Solution
The 80s is the last time I can remember eating being less stressful and complicated. Maybe it’s the same for you.
I got by on normal foods — eggs, potatoes, some meat, rice, pasta, bread, vegetables, fruit, and also the random processed stuff from the freezer aisle that caused me to be hyperactive while corroding my insides.
As kids we ran around a bit hungry sometimes between mealtimes when we were out and about with friends, and that was OK.
So I decided to embrace all the good things about 80s eating — normal food, not-massive portions, a little bit of junk, being OK with hunger, and obviously ditching the God-Knows-What’s-In-This processed stuff.
Let’s briefly sum up my planned approach to the soon-to-be-patented (not really…) Easiest Diet Ever:
– 3 meals per day.
– Normal, good quality, unprocessed food.
– Be OK with being a bit hungry.
I would ‘only’ have breakfast, lunch and dinner. If it wasn’t mealtime I didn’t eat. I needed to break the spell that the tiniest bit of hunger had over me, having me running for fruit, muffins, ANYTHING, the minute I felt a pang of hunger.
The thing is, I’ve missed meals at times at work by being busy — I didn’t end up in hospital or fall asleep at my desk. And I knew from various dalliances with intermittent fasting that I coped OK with hunger when it felt like part of the plan.
Straight off the bat, eating became amazingly unstressful.
Sticking with 3 meals per day of normal foods rather than seeking out the all-over-instagram superfoods and weird ‘healthy’ recipes made grocery shopping and meal planning super simple:
- All the foods I needed were fairly cheap and available;
- I just picked the natural foods I genuinely liked eating and stuck with those most of the time;
- Eating 3 times a day instead of trying to plan/prep snacks meant minimal meal preparation and simplified eating as a family too.
A Day on my 1980s Easiest Diet Ever
Most diet books I’ve read would now have 5 more chapters, listing every meal you need to eat for the next 4 weeks, involving new fancy recipes to learn, a lengthy shopping list for you, and a long list of RULES.
That’s why this 1980s Easiest Diet Ever could never be a book — there isn’t enough material to fill a pamphlet let alone a book!
Here in a nutshell, is how I used normal foods on a daily basis to stay healthy and lose weight:
A couple of eggs and a piece of toast
OR a medium portion of porridge
Maybe some fruit if I wanted.
No fruit juice, just water, milk or coffee
Biiiig Salad with some vegetables I like, and some dressing
& lots of protein from boiled eggs, meat or fish
OR an overfilled sandwich/wrap with plenty of meat and salad.
Plus a large glass of water.
1/3 plate meat/fish/eggs,
1/3 plate vegetables (stir fry/salad/roast veg/whatever),
1/3 plate carbohydrates (white rice, potatoes, whatever).
Plus a large glass of water.
I know what you’re thinking — apart from that it really would be the dullest diet book ever written, you already kind of eat this way a few times a week, right?
The problem is it’s not how you eat 5–6 days per week. And that’s where I was going wrong, having a couple of decent days on a diet, then the wheels falling off for half a week.
So it felt like I was ‘on a diet’ without actually making any progress at all.
You’re possibly in a similar situation:
- Maybe you often have sugary snacks between meals.
- Maybe you have ‘supper’ or junk in front of the TV most evenings.
- Maybe you have too many dinners that are convenience foods or take-out.
- Maybe you go out for big lunches at work too often
- Maybe like me hunger doesn’t happen much without being acted upon ASAP!
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of all this
I love this way of eating, as dull and ‘un-diet-y’ as it seems — possibly it looks TOO simple to you though?
We’ve been so conditioned to expect a ‘diet’ to have a list of rules and Evil Foods, that something this simple seems too good to be true.
Let’s look at WHY it’s the easiest diet ever, how things can be so simple and still ‘work’ for us, to put your mind at ease!
- Breakfast is low sugar. Ditching the fruit juice and sugary cereals, and replacing with slower digested eggs and lower GI oatmeal means we stay fuller for longer throughout the morning, as energy from the meal is released more slowly. This means less of an energy dip and no hunger pang mid-morning which would normally have me searching for a muffin at 10am!
- Water throughout the day means everything is efficiently digested, I feel less run-down, and can concentrate at work. Coffee is fine, but it can’t be our main source of water!
- No snacks — we need to learn to be hungry and not act, to slowly chip away at the excess body fat we are carrying.
- ‘Real Dinner’ — this is often the crappest part of a diet, when you don’t get to sit down with your family and have a proper, filling meal like the rest of them. Any of your go-to dinners can be adapted to this Thirds split — making sure you are getting plenty of vegetables and protein, and not being scared of carbohydrates.
That makes perfect sense right? I was able to start eating like this immediately, and could earn some wiggle room for indulgences at weekends.
Don’t wing this, do some preparation
As simple as this all was, here are a couple of things to look out for, so it goes even more smoothly for you than it did for me:
- You will feel hungry at first, and will no doubt focus on it as you know you can’t do anything about it. You are just hyper-sensitive to the hunger when teaching the body to get used to a new flow of meals.
- After a week or so you’ll notice hunger less, and may even find concentration and energy improve during the days as your body isn’t constantly side tracked with digesting food every few hours!
- For most of us breakfast and dinners are more controllable as you’re at home, but lunches can be tricky if you’re at work or out and about. So you’ll need to figure out how to handle lunches — can you take a lunch with you to work or get what you need in/around your workplace or wherever you’ll be at lunchtimes?
A bit of advance planning, including adapting your grocery shopping accordingly, will go a long way to ensuring you don’t continually find yourself unable to eat lunch according to plan!
Removing stress (and body fat)
Just like me, you’ve probably eaten like this before — it was just a couple few decades ago when you were a kid, when you got told to Go Away by your parents if you asked for a snack between meals!
We’ve all fallen into bad habits in the meantime, and convinced ourselves we ‘deserve’ or need certain things more regularly than is actually healthy.
Nothing is off limits now we are Marty McFlying this, but obviously overdoing it with certain foods or certain portion sizes is counter productive.
For the most part we’re not adding extra stress around foods and learning new weird recipes — we are removing the stress around food by going back to the natural foods we grew up with, before the sheer volume of media coverage of diets confused you and me!
We are learning that a bit of hunger between meals is OK and actually beneficial for controlling our weight.
Eating this way make sense even if it doesn’t sound exciting and new. I hopped from fat loss/muscle-building diet to diet for years, intermittently trying to make progress with crazy schemes and foods, then giving up and eating too much junk again while I licked my wounds.
I got tired of that crap, and I’m so glad things are so simple now AND effective. Aren’t you tired of this crap by now too? Isn’t this the easiest diet ever?
So let’s get back to the 80s, keep things simple and stress-free, and hit this way of eating with our best shot (bonus points for anyone getting that corny Pat Benatar reference).