Why principles matter more than your diet when it comes to weight loss (and life)

I gave a lecture today about the concept of “principles over methods.” Principles should drive your understanding and execution in everything.

For example, there are many different diets that people have used to lose weight. One person may have gone vegetarian and proclaim, “cutting out meat is all you need to lose weight!”. Another person may have used the Atkins diet and proclaim, “no way, you need to eat MORE meat and cut out carbs instead!” So they both got results using their respective methods, yet their pieces of advice are contradictory. How is this possible?

Is every diet right? Is every diet wrong?

Both end up seeming right because both of their diets worked on the principle of a calorie deficit. If you can get your body to burn more calories than it takes in, you will lose weight. End of story. It doesn’t matter whether you achieved this through exercising more, cutting out foods you tend to overeat, or whatever…. you will lose weight if you are able to adhere to the principle of a calorie deficit. (In RARE instances, we have seen some people who had to address other underlying hormonal issues to make progress with a calorie deficit, but the point remains in a body following normal patterns, the calorie deficit is what makes weight loss happen). 

The point here is that PRINCIPLES MAKE METHODS.

And so often do we get caught up in performing the “methods” correctly that we remain blind to the principles or even the actual goal itself. Subsequently, our effectiveness suffers for it.

Let’s say you do love meat and can easily cut out carbs… then why would you go on a vegetarian diet just to lose weight (or vice versa)? Why would you encourage yourself to fail and use a method that conflicts with your personality? Knowing the principles, you wouldn’t, right?

Similarly, we may be told from a young age that we “must” do certain things as an adult. We “must” be employed at a conventional job. We “must” have a fixed income. We “must” work at least 40 hours a week, whether or not we find the work fulfilling. We generally do not question these “musts”. But if we did, we’d remember that the goal of these “musts” is to help us find life satisfaction. And for many people, these “musts” genuinely do. But what about those for whom they don’t?

You see, the problem is that these “musts” are merely methods. And if a method proves to be useless in adhering to principles and goals, then the method should be discarded. What may work for one person may not work for another, but a blatant violation of principles will almost certainly result in failure every time.

Do you need to cut out carbs?

It doesn’t matter how many carbs or “processed foods” you cut out of your diet; if you still consume more calories than your body burns, you will not lose weight.

It doesn’t matter how many more hours a week you work or how secure your income is; if you loathe the majority of your waking hours, you will always be miserable. And what’s worse is that you may even grow to accept that level of misery as a given to your existence!

And there lies the next benefit in recognizing PRINCIPLES OVER METHODS.

In general, we believe in far more “givens” than what reality actually allows for. We may be so used to putting in a certain amount of effort to achieve a reward that we assume there is no way to work any less and still achieve the same result. We may think, “this is the way it’s always been done, so there is no easier way to do it.”

However, had we resigned ourselves to such limiting beliefs, we never would have domesticated horses to get around faster. Or invented machinery to create things once only produced by hand. Or even know we could still enjoy most of our favorite foods on a diet, so long as we adhere to the principle of calories.

Keep this in mind

If effectiveness and getting the most out of your time and effort is important to you, learn the principles behind successful methods instead of blindly following ones that just don’t work for you. You’ll be surprised at what happens and how quickly it can happen.


About the Author

Vincent's first passion is powerlifting. Over the years, his desire to master his body and mind have led him into deep explorations in stretching, mobility, and mindfulness.