Weight Loss Topic
In my opinion, whether your goal is to lose fat or gain muscle, they key is developing a set of healthy habits that are sustainable in the long-term You want habits to encourage eating the foods that move you closer to your goals and to discourage eating those that don't.
That's a big part of the reason I like to advise guys to drop the bulk/cut mentality. It leads to extreme mindsets and behaviours that are rarely sustainable and sometimes not even effective. I think its better to view things as a year-long (lifelong even) effort to improve your body composition, strength, and health. Sure, you may be eating in a surplus or deficit but in the end, the ultimate goal is to improve those three things and doing 1000kcal daily surplus from Big Macs and Chocolate Milk may make you bigger and stronger but its not helping you achieve the ultimate goal. The same goes for severe calorie restriction, no matter how clean the diet.
The best thing most guys who are struggling with their diet can do is develop an awareness of what they are actually eating, both in food quality and total calories. Heavy guys will almost always be underestimating what they are eating. The guys who have given up because they are skinny and think they are hardgainers are often eating next to nothing but claim 4000kcals daily. People across the spectrum are often not eating good, quality food. If you suspect this might be you, download an app on your phone or go to a site like FitDay where you can track your intake. Record everything you eat for two weeks (you don't have to measure, just learn how to estimate effectively) and then ask yourself these questions: Is this consistent or wildily erratic day-to-day? Does my Monday (and so on) in week one look similar to my Monday in week 2 (or more broadly your training days and rest days each week)? What are the major contributors to my diet? Are they healthy? The bottom line is that if you don't have a general level of consistency, you are shooting in the dark for answers. Its more effective to treat this like a science experiment and hold everything as consistent as possible (you don't have to be 100% but somewhere in the 80-90% range is needed). This way you can change a single variable (in this case, diet) and evaluate the effectiveness of what you changed. Do that for weeks and months on end and I almost guarantee you will be shocked by the results and at how well you know your body's responses to different things.
A final point I'll make is that I believe the calorie is a calorie/calories in vs. calories out perspectives are a bit simplistic. Sure, maybe in a single meal the effects of going into a calorie surplus or deficit are the same. But this fails to take into account the hormonal implications that occur hours or days later and that will be sustained over the long-term if someone eats consistently. It is my suspicion that over the next few years, we are going to see a lot of nutrition guys putting much more emphasis on vitamins, minerals, ratios of certain types of nutrients, etc... and how they effect your hormonal profiles. Leangains is an example of this. Tim Ferriss has a few interesting ideas on this. The targeted, carb-cycled method of eating I wrote about in the "No Hassle Diet" is a simple and easy way that the average guy can effectively take at having control over one of the most important hormones in body composition, insulin.
Here's a somewhat extreme example: the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 that you eat determines your systemic inflammatory response. Chronic, low-level inflammation is caused by too much Omega-6 and not enought Omega-3. So a high 6:3 ratio will raise cortisol levels and then also lead to adrenal fatigue due to low-level fight-or-flight response happening nearly continuously. So cortisol will put you at a hormonal disadvantage in making gains in your physique. Adrenal fatigue will then sap some of your performance, making your training sessions less effective. Grass-fed beef is high in Omega-3 (what you want). Grain-fed beef is high in Omega-6 (what you don't want). So if I ate 500kcal from grass-fed beef each and every day, you'd be hard pressed to convince me that it was the equivalent of eating 500kcal of grain-fed beef simply because a calorie is a calorie.