A friend asked me how I would recommend improving diet and increasing fat loss. Here are my recommendations for someone who is just starting out:
Here is a rather long email on weight loss. Suffice to say that I have tried a number of things and a lot of it is garbage. Note that this includes what a registered dietician or nutritionist will tell you. It is really sad. Here is a list of known prominent health orgs supported by Coke and Pepsi, and their messaging has been manipulated over the years. How can we trust our highest medical organizations with this kind of sponsorship?
First I’ll tell you what I recommend, and then list some resources to read if you feel so inclined.
- Changing your eating habits is a behaviorial problem first and foremost. Please keep this in mind. Keeping on target and not breaking the process requires discipline to form the new habit and abolish new ones. So be prepared to make this a behavior modification project alongside the actual diet itself.
- Remove all added sugar from your diet.
What is not allowed: soft drinks, fruit juices, candy, sweet desserts, cookies, cakes, muffins, anything in a can or in a box or wrapper, sauces, salad dressings. Start reading labels; you’ll be surprised how much added sugar is in everything even if you do not perceive something as sweet.
What is OK: fruit, bananas. Anything that is grown. (Do note that in cases of severe obesity, you may need to remove even this sugar).
Notes: Despite being supported by Coke/Pepsi for many years, the American Heart Association has finally come out and said that sugar leads to obesity and heart disease. That link is to the recent announcement of a guidelines for *children*. You should know i’m leading an effort at PAUSD to limit/remove all added sugar from school grounds and activities. this is a major health issue for children right now. I did not have time to approach the OFJCC however on this issue.
Results: Most people should lose 5-10 pounds if you really remove sugar within 2-4 weeks.
- Remove all white and processed carbs from your diet.
What is not allowed: rice, potatoes, anything in a box or bag, breads, pasta. This includes brown rice and whole grain breads.
What is OK: green vegetables. you can try to add back sweet potatoes later, but not advisable in the beginning.
Notes: Remember breads are processed carbs using flour, no matter what’s in it. When you get carbs in processed form, it is delivered in concentrations that enter the blood stream faster and in greater quantity than when delivered in the original food.
- Try fasting. The easiest way is to simply skip breakfast and break the habit of requiring food in the mornings. Then eat lunch at 12noon and eat dinner before 8pm. If you absolutely need something in the morning, then try skipping dinner. Eat within a 8 hour window but shift it towards the morning. So eat between 7a and 1pm.
What is OK during fasts: Drink water or coffee and that’s it. If you feel hungry, just drink some water. Filling up your stomach will help reduce pangs of hunger.
Notes: There is no scientific basis for eating breakfast, or 3 square meals or even 6. Breakfast was ultimately created by and popularized by marketers early in the 20th century to sell more cereal: https://priceonomics.com/how-breakfast-became-a-thing/.
When you practice fasting, the body stays in fat burning mode longer. Since you are not taking in any food, you are forced to use up fat stores to provide you with energy.
- Increasing activity is always a good thing, but not before addressing what you eat and how/when you eat. Exercise by itself is not a good consistent method for weight loss. Conscious nutritional changes are almost always required. Note that when weight loss occurs with people exercising, it is nearly always because of unconscious diet changes that happen due to body needs and a general sense of needing to be more healthy.
- Cook everything yourself.
- Shop at the edges of a supermarket. Do not venture into the middle except for spices! This is where all boxed and processed sugars and carbs are.
- Remove all processed carbs and sugars from the house. If you do not buy it and it’s not sitting in your cabinets or refrigerator, then you will be less likely to eat it.
- Eating out is nice, but ultimately detrimental to diets. Restaurants are notorious for selling you stuff that tastes good. How they achieve that is generally through food that is not has healthy as options you would find and cook yourself. Read Real Food, Fake Food by Larry Olmstead. I don’t agree with his recommendations, but his reporting does raise the question of what restaurants are doing.
- Just because you walk into a Whole Foods does not mean you are buying healthy things to eat! Likewise, organic isn’t necessarily equate to healthy but it’s better than non-organic.
- If you must buy something manufactured, read the label. You’d be surprised how much sugar is in everything processed now.
- Pre-planning is necessary for our busy lives. Make sure you make time to cook each day, sometimes preparing meals days in advance like on the weekend for the week. I often buy the pre-cut vegetables in a box at Whole Foods just to save time when cooking.
- Always remember: eating fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat. You need many different fats to properly function and many people don’t get enough of the good fats and way too much of the bad fats. Note that vegetable oils contain almost 100% of unhealthy fats and cooking without them is a good idea. That includes olive oil which is better than the others but still has a high percentage of unhealthy fats. Saturated fats are not the demon they were made out to be.
- Eating sugar certainly does make you fat. For a good read on the subject, check out Gary Taube’s Why We Get Fat. Eating sugar causes insulin to be released in the body which signals fat cells to store sugar/carbs/fat in the bloodstream as fat. For years we were told it was a calories in/out model where to lose weight we must eat less and exercise more. This is inconsistent with how the body works. Unless you get control over what you put in your mouth, exercise alone will lead to inconsistent results, likely not the result you want. Or you will find that it is unsustainable as you workout for more hours during the day while trying to avoid eating too much, even as the body is craving more due to need to recover post-workout. It’s why people often lose weight in the beginning, only to gain it all back later.
- Most of the recommendations come from Tim Ferris’s most excellent book 4 Hour Body. I love how he basically takes everything and tries to optimize it. I think that simplifying it is the best way to go. I find that other nutrition systems tend to overcomplicate things. They come up with complex calculations and meal plans which boggle the mind. To me, keeping it simple makes things easier. Just stop eating sugar and processed carbs. Skip breakfast. That’s it and it works great.
Good luck and let me know if you have questions!