There's a standard message around calories and health that you may have heard by now. It's calories in versus calories out. Part of this messaging is related to another phrase: All calories are equal. In case you've heard that one and/or follow the concept, science has debunked it. All calories are not equal.1
Let's take a look at what does work.
Attention and inspection.
Purpose and community.
Look across all diets, and they all have entry-level success. Yes, entry-level.2 Most people don't sustain weight loss or healthy habits on diets because once they get through the honeymoon phase of measurement, the purpose hasn't solidified. We have all seen some form or fashion of results in weight loss or health gains on a new diet regimen because we are paying attention to (or inspecting what we are doing). The adaptation takes care of itself within the biological functioning of our systems. There is no secret sauce to most methods. It's just that we are following a more precisely 'inspected' out version of what to eat versus what not to eat. Don't eat carbs. Don't eat sugar. Don't eat animals. Eat plants. Eat only 30 points a day. Don't eat gluten or dairy. Give yourself 12 hours before you eat again.
So what's the trick to sustaining healthy eating habits and maintaining weight? Purpose and community. You may be saying, great Brian, I don't need some Simon Sinek s$&t to get me to keep the extra 10 pounds off. To that, I say, well, you actually do. The greatest success of dieting programs has been widely studied. At the heart is the community and 'buy-in' to it.3 It's the driving purpose of many effective weight management programs today. I can attest to what the study cited shows because I've seen it in effect within the triathlon communities in Washington DC, Austin, and Portland. Find a community that cares about health, and your purpose will take care of itself. However, the thing is that community doesn't have to come first; it's just a strong driver, and you'll eventually find or create one if your individual 'why' is strong enough.
Most of us can boil down our purpose to serving others in our uniqueness or expressing our gifts in this world. My purpose is to learn, live, model, and share the realm of a healthy existence. I can put myself in many different communities that may prioritize health. Whatever your purpose may be, it needs to either connect you directly to your health or place you within a community the prioritizes their collective health. In the former, your 'why' needs to be bigger than the fear of failing in your health goals to carry you without a community to support. The example that comes to mind is someone who loses a close loved one unexpectedly to a modern health disease. We can be very motivated by loss.
No matter where you are at right now with your health goals, ask yourself two questions:
1) Am I paying attention to or inspecting data related to my health goal(s)?
2) What is my 'why' behind this goal, and who/where is the community that shares this vision?