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How to stick to any diet, regimen, protocol [#40]

Dominik Nitsch
4 min read
How to stick to any diet, regimen, protocol [#40]

A common problem that all of us have faced at some point is sticking to a routine, a plan, a diet. There’s a counter-intuitive way to solve this. 

Today, I want to share this way with you, and give you some peace of mind. Life isn’t just about doing things perfectly, but also about enjoying it. 

Let’s dive in.

… after the commercial break. Which is brought to you by … myself: 

I’m currently exploring different projects. For these, I’m looking for interview partners fitting one of the following profiles: 

  • Full-time employees that struggle to have free time
  • Startup managers responsible for international expansion 
  • Generalists with 0-2 years of experience looking to work in the startup world 

The offer is simple: you get to ask me anything for 30 minutes, I get to ask you anything for 30 minutes. No strings attached. :) 

Who do you know that fits these profiles? Send ‘em my way. 


Why don’t people stick to a diet?

Why don’t people stick to a workout regimen?

Why don’t people stick to a morning routine? 

Because it’s hard

And it’s especially hard because from the point when you decide to pursue a new diet, your mind thinks that it has to stick to it forever.


[1] 80/20 

Tim Ferris’ popularized the “Slow-Carb Diet” in his book “The Four-Hour Body” as a great way to lose fat. It has 5 rules: 

  1. Avoid white carbohydrates.
  2. Eat the same meals over and over again. 
  3. Don’t drink calories. (Exception: 1-2 glasses of dry red wine for sanity.) 
  4. Don’t eat fruit.
  5. Take one day off per week and go nuts. 

The last rule serves two purposes: 

  1. It prevents your body from adapting to the new diet and maintains your metabolic flexibility. 
  2. It helps stick with the diet. 

Here’s why: 

Whenever you feel like eating something that’s not part of the diet, you don’t have to defer it indefinitely. You just have to defer it until next Saturday, when you can go totally nuts.

This is much easier mentally - there’s a maximum of six days that you will crave something, and if you do your cheat day right, you don’t crave anything unhealthy the day after. Trust me. 

When I was on the diet, I made a note every time I craved something. On Saturday, I made a point to eat all the things, which led to epic breakfasts like this: 

A solid 2800 calorie breakfast. Photo by the author.

We can apply this logic to any other regimen accordingly: stick with the protocol 80% of the time, let it go 20% of the time. 

This could mean: 

  • Stick to your morning routine on weekdays, and allow yourself to dabble on your phone in bed on weekends 
  • Stick to your workout plan for 4 of 5 workouts, and make the 5th workout whatever you want to do (I like throwing footballs or frisbees and catching them instead of a structured cardio workout)
  • Stick to your focused work routine 4 days a week, and have an unstructured work morning one day a week. 

[2] Once, not twice 

In Lacrosse, we have the rule of “once, not twice” for shooting in transition. When we transition the ball to the opposing half of the field, we’re allowed to shoot directly instead of playing out the possession - unless we didn’t play out the previous possession.

This rule allows us to take shots in transition, but ensures that the defense gets some time to rest. It’s easy to give up goals when you play defense for 80% of the game.

We can apply the same logic to routines. On a diet, if you miss one meal, that’s fine. Just make sure you nail the next meal. So if you are on a diet, but have a pizza + beer for lunch, you absolutely cannot have another “cheat meal” at night. 

This way, you don’t have to beat yourself up for missing, but have clear boundaries in place to ensure you stick to your thing the majority of the time. 

“Once, not twice” is also key in habit building. When picking up a new habit, it’s okay to miss it once, not okay to miss it twice. 

Bringing it home 

Paradoxically, the best way to stick to something long-term is to be less strict about it. We’re all human and make mistakes. That’s okay. 

No need to beat yourself up about it. In the grand scheme of things, one missed meal, workout, routine won’t matter. 

What matters is the work that you put in, day in and day put. 

Play the long game and trust the process. 

But don’t forget to enjoy life in between. 

Do something stupid every now and then. :) 

Action Items

  1. Identify one routine that you struggle with 
  2. Pick a way to make it less strict 
  3. Reply to this newsletter how you did it (I would love to hear from you). 
  4. Do something stupid every now and then :) 

That’s it. Thanks for reading. If you liked this, please share it with one friend and show some love on LinkedIn. If you didn’t, please let me know so I can improve this newsletter. 

Much love


Dom’s Discoveries

(A section where I share cool stuff that I’ve dug up on and off the internet) 

  • I mentioned “metabolic flexibility” earlier, and it’s worth explaining: it denotes the ability of your body to take a variety of fuel to generate energy from. If you only eat a certain type of foods (eg. only super healthy foods), your body will struggle to properly deal with large amounts of unhealthy calories (sugar, fast food). Basically, you want your body to be an engine that can use electricity, gasoline, and diesel - not just one of the fuels. To test your metabolic flexibility - I shit you not - fast for four hours, then order the largest possible Frappuccino at Starbucks and drink it. For the next four hours, monitor your energy levels: if you crash hard, your metabolism is inflexible and you want to consider having unhealthy food every now and then. (Source: Starrett, Kelly & Starrett, Juliet: Built To Move, 2023). 
  • Adapted transcript of the Biden vs. Trump debate. Funnier than it should be. 

PS: Who do you know that struggles to stick to new routines? Send 'em this post.

Dominik Nitsch

Proud generalist: Entrepreneur, Athlete, & Writer.