Warrior or Not, Healthy Eating Starts In Your Head


Jay Cardiello is an industry-leading Health & Fitness Expert, respected in both the fitness and medical communities.  Jay uses his extensive knowledge of nutritional science, exercise medicine and empathetic, motivational listening to accomplish a single goal – To improve the “quality-time ” of your life – in a way that is fun and achievable – one step at a time…Jay co-starred in ABC television show “My Diet is Better than Yours,” and will be speaking at TEDx Worthington in March 2017. Jay Cardiello is one of the most sought after and recognized health and wellness professionals in the world. He is also a Strength and Conditioning specialist to celebrities and professional athletes, television and radio personalities, a regular contributor to leading media outlets, a published author, and a strategic advisor to global brands. Visit his website for more information.


For years, men and women have searched endlessly for that magic diet pill to reverse all the bad diet and poor lifestyle decisions that have been made in the past. Diet pills and over-night potions come in all shapes and sizes with different fantasies attached to each one. Many of them range from celebrity endorsed campaigns to more science-based programs that guarantee success. However, one major question still persists as to whether or not all this diet talk is simply a lie?

Over a year ago, I had the opportunity to star in the ABC Network show, My Diet Is Better Than Yours. The title probably sent the wrong message, but a clear theme emanated from the show. Individuals are sick and tired of being sick and tired. To make matters worse, a majority of the confusion about diet myths stems from the dietitians and fitness professionals, who cannot seem to agree on anything diet related. Are you following me on this?

This ABC network show consisted of five diet / and or fitness experts. I happened to be one of these experts. Over the course of a 14-week period, we worked with an obese client who would follow our specifically designed weight-loss / fitness plan hoping to create a sustainable life-style change and finally keeping the pounds off for good.

Unlike some of the other more known weight-loss shows, My Diet Is Better Than Yours aimed to address the crucial dieting component of a sustainable lifestyle change. This is in complete opposition to the typical weight loss shows that deprive contestants of reality. While at the same time, put them through countless and grueling hours of insane fitness regimens.

This ABC network show provoked my interest, being that I would be able to construct a plan that would seamlessly be implemented into my client’s normal day.

For me, this was the first diet / fitness reality-show where contestants could relate to and use the tips in their daily lives.  It brought realism to the often unrealistic notion of how to lose weight, maintain a healthy lifestyle or simply just eat better.

My goal was to illustrate to the viewing audience, that sustainable weight-loss, healthy eating and long-term healthy habits could be accomplished.

The comical thing here is that I do not believe in diets for long-term healthy lifestyle change.

I would like to break here and mention that I’m not writing this article to point fingers at fitness professionals or nutritional experts. My hope is that people will see the truth, and the truth is that diets don’t work. All diets are is a temporary fix with failure that is built right into them. The sadness lies in that we as a highly intelligent society continue to fall prey to these glorified diet traps.

Focusing back on the show, the title of my “diet” plan was  No Diet Plan: Food is just the habit, not the root cause. I intended to address my contestant’s ‘why’ factor or his root-cause.  I desired to get to his core of why he used food to suppress his emotion. This parallels much like how people use alcohol, sex and drugs as a means to suppress personal stress.

The premise of my plan was based on the concept of pattern disruption.

Throughout my contestants journey, I would use a host of positive solution strategies designed to disrupt his negative patterns, which had lead him into making numerous and repeated negative life-style choices. The idea is to disrupts these negative chain of emotions by introducing a new positive point of view instead. This pattern disruption, as I like to call it, helps to redirect lifestyle choices and create environmental changes. Both of which ultimately result in positive sustainable outcomes.

In addition, I created simple nutritional awareness strategies, such as understanding the psychology of the supermarket.  Like:

  • Did you know that the food at eye-level in a supermarket usually is considered a nutritional trap? We in the nutritional world call it the Bulls-eyed zone. Here, brands and marketers hope to attract you, at any means necessary, to buy there product.
  • The color red makes you fat! It’s true. Red heightens confidence levels. As well as your appetite. How many fast-food chains can you name with the color red in their labeling?

My goal at the end of the 14 weeks was for my client, or for that matter any one watching the show, was to self-manage their nutritional choices by first mastering the ability to self-manage his lifestyle behaviors. I simply drew upon Maslow’s Hierarchy, which helped lead me to creating positive momentum at each level of that Hierarchy until my client was able to develop self-management or self-actualization. The levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy from the bottom up are physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization, which is the goal for self-actualization.

Yet, I still needed to address my contestants ‘why’ or reason for whatever or whoever brought him to the point of making unhealthy food choices.  I wanted to make sure that he wouldn’t become triggered in the future long after he and I went our separate ways. Isn’t that we are all supposed to be doing as health professionals?

My client might have chosen a habit other than food to suppress his negative emotions. I believed that in order to create a sustainable resolution, think New Year’s here, I would have to help him resolve triggers, which brought him to obesity and making unhealthy food choices. This would be very difficult for him to make the needed small consistent changes within his daily eating behaviors if this emotional trigger were to resurface in the future.

Small, consistent behavioral changes can lead to a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

Research conducted by Dr. Brian Wansink of the Cornell Food Lab found this:

“Making small easy changes to our eating habits on a consistent basis can lead to sustainable weight loss. The challenge lies in figuring out which changes work for each individual and how to stick with them long enough to make them second nature. To find answers to these questions, Cornell University researchers launched the National Mindless Eating Challenge (NMEC), an online healthy eating and weight loss program, which focused on simple eating behavior changes, instead of dieting.”  Published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (Nov.-Dec., Vol. 14:6).

Small behavioral steps performed on a consistent basis, can lead to sustainable weight loss; healthy food choices and long term positive outcomes.

On the show, the other professionals and many viewers thought that I may have appeared as “quacky” in my methods.

However, my insight and plan stems from the likes of Maslow and follows the principles implemented by Dr. Brian Winsink. This is the same kind of program, which I developed along with my colleagues, is now being utilized by the employees of Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Let’s face it, there really is nothing sexy about this program. It will not get me a book deal. It will not have me on any social media pages posing with my shirt off or plastered throughout the pages of popular fitness magazines. However, figuring out your ‘why,’ intercepting negative patterns, and making small consistent behavior changes is what is needed towards creating long-term and healthy-lifestyle outcomes.

These days anyone can be a health professional. It’s easy! Simply post a bunch of highly appealing pictures of food, exercises that look insane or your gluteus maximus and ‘bam!” You are a health-expert!  Each one of us has seen this throughout all media fronts including YouTube, Reality TV and Social Media Platforms. People with minimal knowledge and a great smile become highly “liked.”

However, the whole dieting and healthy eating paradigm is completely false. They are all a temporary fix with failure built right into them. Yet, the marketing of diet solutions essentially lies to you, with the promise of “you are going to look sexy and be cool if you follow this plan.” Not going to happen!

How come these social media experts never address behavioral, neurological or hormonal changes when it comes to sustainable weight-loss? Why are we not educating the public about nutritional awareness and making small improvements with moderate exercise? Because these answers, though crucial to success, are not “sexy”, or in better terms…they will not attracts likes.

In 2012, Miley Cyrus tweeted, “Gluten is crap anyway!” I’m not about to say that Cyrus started the gluten-free trend. But, with the burgeoning popularity of the gluten-free diet and the almost nine-billion dollar value it has. Yes, this is true! Marketing of this label is only being fueled by uneducated bloggers, celebrities and social media who are doing more harm than good, and you are all falling for it. Sad. I know.

Currently, more than 70 million Americans are trying to cut back on gluten. Yet, check this out…only people with celiac disease need to be concerned with gluten. Celiac disease only affects about 1 percent of the population, which makes it hard to understand or even comprehend the popularity of the gluten-free diet. Celiac disease is a serious condition and should be addressed by a physician — not a blogger, social media nutritionist or your roommate. Yes, I said your roommate.

The grocery store is setup to have you spend money on food that you do not need. These food mazes, I like to call them, are designed to have you eat from a box, while you live in a box, so you can keep visiting your doctor in a box, telling him/her all about your illnesses that will eventually lead you to dying and being placed in a box.

Research has surfaced, like the study performed at the University of Notre Dame’s Psychology of the Grocery Store clearly illustrate the clever ways marketers and brands make highly unhealthy foods into attractive selections. Also, they use various colors, smells and visual imagery ensure that people are fooled into purchasing them time and time again.

You still want to eat healthy? Here, you go.

To help find your way to successful eat healthy and make smarter choices, follow these simple tips:

  • Focus on small consistent behavioral steps.
  • Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who support your journey. Have a little help from my friends…
  • Realize that what the food and beverage labels really mean.
  • Know that what people say on social media may not always be the truth.
  • Diets programs have failure already built into them and will send you down a path to more failure, so don’t fall victim to these typical ploys.
  • Focus on what’s going on in your body a cellular, behavioral and hormonal level, and stop worrying about a petty number on a weight scale.