The most common mistake I see when people inquire about setting up a diet is that they concern themselves with the minutia before establishing what’s really crucial to the success of a diet. A good example of this is when someone has noted that they have a “healthy” or a “clean” diet. It’s important to understand that this is not only subjective but it’s also addressing the issue (somewhat) of food selection which is really only a small portion of the equation. This error is a major reason why people tend to struggle with setting up their own diets, they address the small subjective items before establishing the primary drivers to success.
Because I’m not a terribly long winded person I’ll cut right to the chase. Your first step above all else is answering the energy balance equation. Your net calorie surplus/deficit will be what drives your weight gain/loss goals. Once you have that addressed you can work on the little things such as food selection, macronutrient (carbs, fat, protein) splits, etc.
Energy Balance Equation
Calories Consumed – Calories Expended = net surplus/(deficit)
This formula by no means is perfect because we aren’t robots and caloric intake in its best light is an estimate. In the world of fitness we sometimes have to accept the mantra of “close counts”.
For more information on how to determine your maintenance calories and setup a deficit please see my post and presentation here: