Newsflash: dieting sucks.

I mean, you have to agree, and if you don’t, you are totally lying to yourself.

You make big plans to totally change your lifestyle, do all of the prep cooking and follow that plan to a T on day one. Your alarm for day two goes off, you rush to the mirror and rip your clothes off, to only see the exact same body. I mean, come on, I dieted a whole day, shouldn’t I have lost the 40 pounds overnight? Come on, body!

Well, now I am way into it—day 22, to be exact. Victoria has still not called me to ask for my Secret or to strut along next to Taylor Swift like the “Bad Blood” music video #squadgoals.

Enter, Calvin.

Do you know Calvin? If not, you should get to know Calvin. Calvin is the man who made my diet plan, and he’s two parts nutritionist, and one part ninja.

The day I went to meet Calvin, my mind was running like a hamster stuck on a wheel that wouldn’t ever stop. Well, that was me on June 22nd, the day I drove an hour to meet THE man who was going to change the entire lifestyle I had created to that point here in Florida.

A million thoughts were racing through my head:
“How on earth is he going to get me to competition weight?”
“Do you think he will get my Mean Girls quote references?”
“Will this be like the cranberry juice cleanse Regina George did?”

“Is there such a thing as a healthy chocolate chip cookie?”

A little background on Calvin: Calvin Choy has been in the health and fitness industry for over 30 years, and those years have been busy. He’s been a nutritional prep coach for professional athletes, body builders, and Figure & Bikini athletes since 1995, an NPC show promoter for the past eight years, and he’s even been a top nationally ranked bodybuilder and amateur boxer (and is now a professional boxing promoter). Today, Calvin holds a black sash in Looang Fu Pai Kung Fu and is a Florida State NPC judge and nutritional food judge in addition to his health and fitness coaching career.

BC: Before Calvin

Those who know me well, know that I do not lack an ounce of confidence (I mean, I’m writing a whole blog … about myself). But in this moment, I felt weak. I was going to have to strip down to my underwear and pose for a “before” photo with a total stranger; a total stranger that was supposedly going to take me from start to stage.

There were no abs, not even one. I mean, unless you count my spray tan contouring (fake it ‘til you make it). I was nervous to show my body, which was nowhere near ready, to homeboy Calvin. But from the moment we met, he made me feel comfortable; and, more importantly, he made me believe in him and his plan.

Belief: I think that is the most important thing a coach can bring to his or her athletes. I bought into Calvin, and in three weeks I was to report back to him. But the next three weeks were going to be brutal. It takes three weeks to break a habit or make a new one, and I had a lot of dieting habits that I needed to break.

I mean, the first thing Calvin said to me was, “No Diet Coke.” No more DC? But it’s Diet Coke. It’s in the name. it’s only 10 calories. I never really understood what Dante was getting at in his Inferno, until I stepped into this Seventh Circle of Hell.

It was off to the grocery store to stock up on the meal plan.

Related: Your Grocery Store Is Making You Fat

Remember when we talked about me being all or nothing? Yeah, as you can see, I have gone FULLY into it. Even with Calvin, the nutritionist-ninja, there’s no instant gratification to dieting. I think that is why I have struggled with it for so long. It is a journey, and it can and will be a mostly uphill climb.

I can’t even keep count of the times I have started some crazy diet. Yes, I like diet trends; I totally admit that I see those obviously fake before-and-after photos of not-the-same-person and jump on Amazon Prime and buy the magical drops that’ll change your life … in just one day’s use! My dieting history is like a Little Mermaid song:

I’ve got cleanses and corsets a-plenty

I’ve tried juices and powders galore

I can lose weight eating bacon?
I’ll take 20

Do they work?
No way

I want moooore!

I will reluctantly admit, it’s true: none of them work. Sorry, universe. You have to change your life the hard, committed way. Blah. Dieting sucks.

Metaphor #2: Diet Coke is a Gateway Drug

There aren’t that many calories in a Diet Coke (which, I think, is part of why we all get so hooked on it), so at first I was a little confused as to why that was the first thing Calvin made me cut. Not fried cheese, not hot dogs, not maple bacon doughnuts … Diet Coke. The calorie ratio of doughnuts to Diet Coke is roughly 20:1, so why did he make me start with Diet Coke?

The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense. Making a serious long-term change in diet isn’t about quick fixes, it’s about cutting down the underlying habits of eating that lead you down the path to doughnuts and cookies and cheeseburgers. Like many women my age, I almost identified myself by my Diet Coke addiction. “Hi, I’m Barrett Gargala, and I consume 24 ounces of Diet Coke every morning before I’m functional” (which, by the way, is still below the average among all diet soda drinkers).

It brought back memories of when I was working to beat my addiction to amphetamines. Part of that process was cutting out the people, places, and things that led to usage of amphetamines. I just have to keep reminding myself that I kicked the one habit, now I can kick the other, and over time, it will become easier; I will become happier, and most importantly, breaking the control of the sodas will help me become a healthier person.

So far we are 9 pounds down, and I couldn’t feel more committed and focused to keep working that down, through the good days (like the past few weeks) and the bad (which there will definitely be). We do need the bad days, sometimes, to remind us of where we started and how much better the good days feel than the bad days.

So, while I haven’t gotten that call yet to don the oversized wings, I will keep pushing. And, most importantly, keep working on my walk, just to make sure I’m ready when that Victoria’s Secret stage calls. Look out, Alessandra Ambrosio and Adirana Lima, because here comes Barrett Gargala.

Trying to figure out your best diet plan? Read on…

Is A Gluten-Free Diet Right For You?

Is The If It Fits Your Macros Diet Right For You?

6 Tips To Start The Paleo Diet