Nailing the Big Fat Diet Lie

I have a confession to make.  My name is Ness Byrne, I am a Personal Fitness Trainer and a Nutritional Adviser, and I have spent far too much of my adult life trying to ‘Beat the Yo-yo’.

OK, that sounds rather cryptic, but I’m not talking about a children’s toy, or the latest online challenge craze here.  I’m actually talking about that age-old problem (which predominantly affects women let’s face it) and that is weight loss and the dreaded yo-yo diet effect.  

So let me start by asking you a question.  
How many of you have seen pictures like the one below, and been seduced by the thought that you too can shed those pounds, change your body shape, and look great?
A couple more questions.  
For those who have had a baby (or may be having one right now!), how many of you bought into the excuse, “Oh go on then, I’ll have another, I am eating for two after all”?  
How many of you seem to endure a constant struggle to shed the extra few pounds you seem to have picked up as you have enjoyed your life?  Or just smooth out those ‘cuddly bits’ that come about from those little indulgences you have allowed yourself over the years?  
More importantly, how many of you feel that it is an uphill battle to keep the weight off, and keep that shape you desire?  How many feel that a life that self-evidently turns one night of indulgence into a month of starvation and craving is inherently unfair?    
Does this sound familiar?  And the answer to all of these problems is seemingly to go on a diet.  To starve yourself on a steady intake of protein bars, drinks, low-sugar, high-fat, low-fat, high-carb, low-carb, no-carb, and a myriad more diets, that all promise one thing.  To help you shed those unwanted pounds.  
So let’s talk about dieting.  I had intended to begin this paragraph with a list of the most common diets out there; but there are so many and they change so often that I’m not even sure what the latest fad is.  What I do know is they invariably involve calorie restriction in one way or another.
So, several things happen when you decide to lose weight through strict dieting and calorie restriction and your body goes into self-preservation mode as a result of that decision: 
  • Firstly, your brain tells your body that you’re starving and that you need to eat, so that’s when the cravings start. 
  • Your brain also tries to slow down your metabolism, the mechanism for processing your food, so that your body returns to the weight it thinks you should be. 
  • Your fat and muscle cells become more sensitive to insulin which, whilst that is generally good for overall health, the downside is that it makes the body more efficient at storing excess energy (in fat cells) instead of burning it off (in muscle cells). 
  • Finally, weight loss and dieting initially suppresses your ability to burn fat while sending extra energy to fat storage.
All of these things contribute to making weight loss difficult in the first place and virtually impossible to keep it off long-term even if you are successful at shifting it in the first place.  
For those of you who have tried a reduced calorie diet and lost weight successfully at first, how many have put the weight back on again, WITH INTEREST?!  I would be willing to put money on the table and bet that over 95% are back where you were (or worse) than before you dieted?
OK, so now you want to know, ‘well how am I going to shift this unwanted weight?’
Well, it just so happens that I have an answer for you… and it’s called ‘Clean Eating’.  
So this has nothing to do with hygiene, (although that is obviously important too!) rather it has everything to do with eating in a way that helps to maintain a healthy body and it can be used to promote healthy weight loss.  So the question on everyone’s lips has to be “What is Clean Eating?”

Getting Started

I guess the first question has to be ‘Which foods are considered clean?’  Well I’ll tell you which are not, and that’s anything that comes packaged and processed and has a use by date two years from now!
The healthiest, cleanest foods are the ones that are as nature intended.  Foods that will actually go off, like whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, eggs, seafood and lean meats.  Stick somewhere close to this and you’ll be eating pretty clean.
Steer clear of packaged, pre-prepared food.  Contrary to public opinion this need not be expensive and time consuming.  Clean eating is something the whole family can get involved in, so there is no need to make separate meals to accommodate your new diet.  There are plenty of “convenience” foods out there that qualify as clean, I’ll share with you a recipe for a granola bar for breakfast on the run if you read to the end.  How is that for a deal?
If this sounds like a tall order to you and you really can’t do without the odd glass of wine (or two), chocolate, chips, or whatever your guilty pleasure might be, then you’ll be pleased to know that there is a compromise. This means you are more likely to adapt to the clean eating philosophy and who knows,you might choose to ditch the treats altogether in time!  
So, here it is, the 80/20 promise and it’s very simple.  80% of the time you eat clean, and I mean clean because the remaining 20% allows you a small indulgence.  This is not permission for a binge weekend of course, more a little of what you fancy.  So the odd glass of wine or two, a chocolate bar, that portion of fish and chips you have fancied all week.  Well, you get the idea.  
What you have (if anything) for your 20% should be a guilt-free choice though.  If you’re going to beat yourself up about it afterwards then don’t do it, simple.  Food is nothing more than fuel for our bodies, it may be pleasant but it is not a reward; we humans do not operate in the same way as your average pet dog.  So treating food in this way makes for an unhealthy relationship with eating!  Enjoy what you eat, and don’t feel guilty about your little indulgences.
Let me explain clean eating in a different way.  You may have to use your imagination here but bear with me…….
Think about this.  You own a high powered exotic sports car, maybe a Ferrari, a nice red one with a fold down roof.  Now some models carry a price tag in excess of €300,000 but they all have one thing in common, they are a good deal faster than your average Renault Clio!  
Now, would you pull into the Carrefour petrol station and put plain old low-octane petrol in the tank?  I would hope not.  That car will never run as well as it was meant to do, and eventually you may well be faced with a significant bill for repairs.  In the same way as that car needs top quality fuel to be at the top of its game, your body operates best with fresh, natural, unprocessed food.
There you have it, clean eating in a nutshell.

Secrets of Clean Eating

So what are the secrets to long-term, clean eating success you might ask.  Well there really are only five.
Secret #1: Keep It Balanced.  To make your clean eating plan last, keep your diet balanced with a range of healthy, real foods from each of the food groups, carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta etc.), protein (lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts etc.), fats – yes FAT (olive oil, avocado, oily fish etc.), vitamins, minerals.  Keep it colourful, aside from being more interesting a variety of different coloured foods should give you the right mix of vitamins & minerals.  Drink water - staying hydrated is just as important as eating the right things, often being dehydrated is mistaken for hunger pangs.  The next time you experience that feeling outside of your usual mealtime try drinking a glass of water, 9 times out of 10 it will quell those pangs.
Secret #2: Don't Put a Label on It.  How many times have you uttered the words ‘I'm on a diet’? Ugh, just saying that puts one in the mood to cheat on said diet. If eating clean means that you're on a diet, then you've missed the point.  It should be a sustainable way of life. True fat loss success comes when clean eating is second nature, and not a temporarily imposed sentence.

Secret #3: Have Patience.  Wouldn't it be great if a week of clean eating could erase decades worth of indulgences?  But, alas, you didn't gain unwanted weight in a week, so unfortunately you won't lose it in a week either.  (I’d love to know that secret!).  Set yourself small goals not just one big one and try to resist the call of the bathroom scales every day.  Your weight will fluctuate anyway by small amounts and you will only get disheartened if you find you have gained a lb or two overnight.  Just be consistent and focus on living life, not what the scales have to say.  That way you won’t have to worry about a piece of cake or a takeaway every now and again.

Secret #4: Have a Plan.  This is the most important step in your clean eating quest, without it you'll flounder around without direction and will just as likely find yourself staring into a bowl of ice cream. Spend time planning your meals for the week and shop accordingly.  You could even prepare some of your meals in advance and freeze them. Put together a list of the sorts of foods that your diet should consist of and that you really enjoy and then make another list of completely off-limits foods.
Secret #5: Portion Control.  Even healthy food will contribute to an expanding waistline if you eat too much of it!  Listen to your body and follow its advice.  Take the time to enjoy each mouthful, chew it thoroughly and swallow completely before you take the next mouthful.  This gives your brain the time to process the fact that your stomach is full, at which point you simply stop eating.  Remember my point about food being fuel rather than a reward?  I know what you’re saying, ‘fat chance of taking the time to enjoy a meal with my kids constantly demanding my attention’, well, get them on board too, how about a nice family meal at the table where you try and get them to tell you about their day at school?  Ok, stop laughing, it’s just an idea!
So I hope I have given you the basics of clean eating; something for you to think about, and a viable alternative to that vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting.  Combine this clean eating approach with a steady increase in physical activity and you’re well on the way to the body you deserve.  
I am confident that this can work for anyone, having myself lost three stones in as many months, a couple of years ago by simply following the advice I have outlined above.  At that time I was a detective in the police.  A stressful job, tied to a pretty gruelling shift pattern, and with an equally demanding family at home!  With a bit of advanced planning I had no problem eating clean and exercising at least three times per week, all whilst working and maintaining a happy family life.  In fact, I was so inspired, I retrained and qualified as a Personal Trainer and Nutritional Advisor.  
So I am Ness Byrne.  If you would like to know more about me and my journey and what I do now, or want to know more about clean eating and physical wellbeing, please do visit my Facebook page:
Or my website:
Then drop me a line to see how I can help you.
And the recipe I promised?  Here it is, thanks for reading
Simple and clean granola bars


  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 2 cups walnuts or Brazil nuts
  • 2 cups desiccated coconut
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 tbsp water

  1. First toast the walnuts slightly in an oven heated to 170 degrees. Let them cool down before adding them to your food processor along with dates, desiccated coconut and cranberries.
  2. Process until the mixture is well combined and has a crumbly texture.
  3. Now add gradually the water, a tablespoon at a time and keep processing until the mixture is sticky and holds together.
  4. Next get a square baking dish, line it up with cling film and press the mixture in. Press down firmly to ensure the mixture sticks well together.
  5. Pop in the fridge for a couple of hours, then cut in to bars and sprinkle with some more desiccated coconut

If you want to make it nut free just replace the walnuts with either pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. 
Same goes for cranberries which can be swapped for raisins.  Just do what pleases your taste buds the most.

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