The Progressive Diet

By: Will Kuenzel

I hate the word diet. It’s associated with all kinds of bunk quackery these days. From 30 day detox diets to fad trends that create eating disorders or spread bad information. Your diet is what you eat, yes. The most important thing about your nutrition is its sustainability. Consistency works better than any crash course fad or current trend. Your food needs to be able to fit your life. I don’t make my life revolve around my food. Well, at least not with a negative connotation. Usually my wife and I are discussing our next meal while we’re still eating our current one but that’s because we enjoy eating and don’t have negative thoughts about food.


How many folks do you know, go to the grocery store over the weekend and plan on starting some new diet on Monday? They plan and prepare and have all the best intentions. They plan all these meals, lay it all out, and have delusions of grandeur about where they’ll be in 5 or 6 weeks. What they don’t take into consideration is their life and how they’re currently eating. Time constraints, daily routines, access to microwave, or any other variables suddenly throw a deadly monkey wrench in their diet plans.

Same as I’m not going to squat a 1000lbs tomorrow, I can’t be 100% dialed into a brand new diet right off the bat. Proper planning needs to be applied after thoroughly assessing life. We have more control over nutrition than life. Let life run its course and fill in the nutrition as appropriate. When working with a new client, I always ask what they’re doing right now. Sure, what they’re doing right now isn’t working but it’s a start. As Brian Carroll has mentioned in his article about having a baseline, we have to start somewhere. In moving from point A to point Z, you have to move to point B first.

I’ll use myself as an example. In prep for my last competition I made the decision to drop from the 220lbs weight class down to the 198lbs class. I dropped my weight from 242lbs, when I was at my heaviest weight, over 5 months down to 218lbs where I made my final weight cut. I followed my weight cut using Brian’s Weight Cutting Manual. The process of adapting my diet was a slow one. I’m as routine as they come. I love a routine. I’ll get a little bent out of shape if something messes with my routine, but we have to understand that things happen outside of our control. We can, however, control how we respond to those things.

Over those 5 months, I never changed breakfast. Never. I get up at 4am. I’m lucky to get anything done much less get food down. It’s a protein shake. That’s it. Oh, and some coffee if it’s cold. Otherwise a little bit of straight caffeine and it’s off to work. The rest of my day was still very oriented but planned out over the long term. Slow changes that I adapted as I needed to continue my weightloss progress. I’m fortunate to have developed a fairly regular schedule with my clients and training so it’s really easy for me to plan and prepare for the day.

I’m a huge fan of “The 7 Ps”. Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Proper planning being the big key here. You can plan all you want… for scenarios that aren’t real or you can actually plan for how your day is going to go. If you’re a nurse or school teacher, don’t plan on being able to eat 2 snacks before your lunch every day because it probably won’t happen. Hell, sometimes you can’t even plan on having lunch.

So I start with what I’m currently doing. Let’s use lunch as an example. I used to eat sandwiches for lunch every day. I love ‘em. As the weeks progressed I started changing one training day’s lunch to rice and turkey. A couple weeks later, I’d change another one. I started to learn how long it would take the cook the rice. Did I need anything else with it? Was it too much? After another couple weeks I would switch turkey for chicken and then cut the portion a bit. Remember the whole plan was to slowly cut weight. So over the long term here’s what my lunch progression has looked like:

  • Microwavable pizza (yeah, I know, don’t ask)
  • Sandwiches and chips
  • Sandwiches, but with increased protein
  • Turkey and rice
  • Pre-cooked microwavable chicken and rice
  • Chicken I’ve prepared and rice
  • Reduced portions of same

There’s 5 steps in there before it actually gets healthy. But I didn’t have to go straight to chicken and rice. As things progressed, I gradually made the changes. My thing is, why play all your cards on your first hand? What happens when that runs out? What do you do next when progress stalls and you can’t make any other changes?

Don’t make too many changes at once. One, you don’t know if they’ll work. Two, you might not be able to sustain them. Three, your body and mind will really hate you. The thing about nutrition, for whatever your goals, is to be able to stay consistent and sustain it over a long period of time. Despite what all the rage diet fads are out right now, real progress takes time. As you evolve so, too, will your diet.


One other mistake is to think the diet will be perfect. It won’t. Your day won’t be perfect so neither will your diet. I have a plan for what my day will look like but after that, I have a backup plan. I’ve stolen this from Tony Cowden, P.A.C.E. He talks about it from what he learned in the military and I’m sure some of you know what it is. When planning I have my primary action plan. In case of changes, I have my alternative plan. If things go wrong, there is also a contingency plan. If shit hits the fan, I have my emergency plan. More than likely it’ll never get that bad but if it does, you have a plan of action. Remember, proper planning. Same as that old saying that practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Practice makes permanent. So, too, is the consistency of your nutrition. Doing it every day. Practicing. Most don’t see nutrition that way but we practice the things we want to be able to do consistently. Not every single day goes as planned but I still do my best to get it as close to perfect as my life allows.

Does this all mean that I’m meal prepping like a man preparing for the doomsday? No. I’m not stepping on stage so I’m not taking it to that extreme. I’m lucky enough to have an active job and relatively good control over my nutrition so it’s unwarranted. But I do know each day what I’m eating and when. It doesn’t have to be tucked away in Tupperware. It can easily be still in the same package I bought it. Practice makes it easy so that I can eyeball my portions and make some things fresh every day. Taste great and allows for flexibility. That way I’m not wasting food if I deviate from the plan.

Overall, have an idea of what you’re doing. Understand that there might be a couple steps between you and the end goal. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect right away. Our lifting isn’t perfect either. As we get stronger, our workouts evolve. As our bodies progress, so will our nutrition. That means the plan will change. Your diet needs to be yours. Your life isn’t the same as everyone else’s. You can’t mimic my diet because you don’t have the freedom I do. You also can’t mimic my wife’s diet unless you have the exact same schedule. Create an understanding of your own nutritional requirements. Build the diet around your life that you can consistently sustain. That’s where you’ll see results.

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Low Country Strength

Will Kuenzel is the owner of Lowcountry Strength ( in Charleston, SC. Will started his athletic endeavors as a pole vault; finishing up his collegiate career with a best vault of 16’9” at a whopping 160lbs. He the track and field world to pursue bodybuilding, his first show in 2005, he won 1st place in Men’s Novice as a middle weight. One year later he took 2nd as a Men’s Junior heavy weight. Since 2007 he has been a competitive powerlifter and totaling elite as a 220lber. His best lifts in multiply equipment are a 710lbs squat, a 605lbs bench press, a 615lbs deadlift and a 1930 total. In 2008 Will started Lowcountry Strength out of his garage. Since then it has moved into a 16,000 sq/ft facility and shares space with a mixed martial arts studio. With all disciplines of powerlifting, strongman, MMA, jiu jitsu and other sports in the Charleston area getting trained under one roof, Will heads up the strength and conditioning for a wide variety of athletes and clients.
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