By Bruce Burke

Hearing that “fad diets don’t work” is hardly new to most of us. However, what might be new is a simple concept that can yield long-lasting changes: the “less is more” concept.

When most of us consider weight loss and dieting, we want to start big. We are highly motivated for our new diet plan and often make drastic changes: meal replacement shakes, low-carb diets, salads three times a day, skipping meals, etc. We seek out revolutionary change in search of revolutionary weight loss. However, thirty years of helping people realize their health and fitness goals at One on One has shown us that fad diets and other extreme changes don’t work for the long term. They may help us lose weight, but they won’t provide the lasting, meaningful weight loss that we all should strive for.

Our experience shows that those who have lasting success at losing weight do so by committing weekly to small, manageable changes. A couple examples would be replacing your afternoon candy bar with a piece of fruit or trying low-fat instead of whole milk for a week. The short-term nature of these commitments makes them significantly less daunting and prevents the potential discouragement that can come from overly ambitious diet plans. Part of this “less is more” strategy is to re-evaluate each week and decide whether you want to continue your changes and/or make additional changes. This process of checking in has another advantage: it reminds us to review and adjust our habits regularly.

Keeping the commitments small is key. What can you commit to and be 99% certain of success? If you don’t drink enough water, decide to drink an extra glass at each meal. If sweets are a problem, find a healthy substitute to replace half of your desserts. If over-eating at mealtime is a problem, set a well-defined beginning and end to your meal rather than snacking while cooking and cleaning up. None of these changes is revolutionary, but all are achievable and will significantly impact your health and body composition over time.

In order for “less is more” to work for you, commit to not letting yourself feel deprived. We often feel deprived when we change too much at once, creating excessive focus and desire for something we’ve given up. By committing to small changes and making a conscious effort to focus on the good feelings of increased health, we can avoid the feelings of deprivation that often accompany extreme diet plans. We have heard successful clients share many times that “nothing tastes as good as healthy feels!” Let your friends or family members know what you’re doing so they can help you set reasonable goals and help you stick to them.

Finally, don’t take your food for granted. We are extremely fortunate to live where we live and have what we have. Focus on and be thankful for what you have, not what you are missing. Often you will find that the more thankful you are, the less you will tend to feel deprived.

If you have any comments or could use some help implementing these strategies, please contact me at

Bruce Burke is the founder of One on One, Fitness Consultants Inc., in State College, PA