The Real Reason Diets Fail and What You Can Do About It

by Konstantin Monastyrsky March 15, 2013

Lose weight now

By Konstantin Monastyrsky, author of Fiber Menace

Editor’s Note: Konstantin will be answering questions in the comments section at the end of this post so feel free to chime in with your thoughts and questions to keep the weight loss discussion going.  Konstantin will be posting a column on The Healthy Home Economist for the next few weeks.  If you haven’t been able to attain your dream weight no matter how hard you’ve tried, these posts will help transform your understanding of how to best attain your optimal weight using Traditional Diet  - without failure and side effects – for life!

Statistically speaking, losing weight and keeping it off permanently is just as challenging as becoming a millionaire, perhaps even more. I discovered the core reason behind this enigma while investigating the weight loss plateau phenomenon of low carbohydrate diets. This finding has helped me to cross the last nine yards toward attaining normal weight, and remaining that way for the past twelve years.

As all serendipitous discoveries go, this one was remarkably simple: weight loss diets fail because doctors, nutritionists, dietitians, and celebrities who promote them (and people who follow their advice) do not make a distinction between the reduction of body weight and the reduction of body fat. In other words, losing weight and losing fat isn’t exactly the same thing!

To understand what the distinction between the body’s fat and weight means in real life, let’s review the most basic physiology of weight loss:

  • There are two principal components of body weight — constant weight and variable weight.
  • The variable weight is a sum of all the digestive fluids inside your GI tract, the undigested foods already in your stomach and the small intestine, the stools inside your large intestine, and water, which can be safely lost with sweat, urine, and perspiration. These variable components of your body weight represent between 15 and 30 pounds, depending on your original diet, your current weight, and your digestive health.
  • The constant weight is everything else – the remaining fluids, such as the blood plasma and lymph, the weight of your skin, bones, internal organs, muscles, and adipose tissue, or body fat – the sole substance you actually want to get rid of.
  • Variable weight swings from day to day depending on the amount of foods and fluids you consume and expel, workload, and environment. A day on the beach, an hour in the hot tub, or an intense workout in a sweat suit, for example, can reduce your body weight by several pounds simply from sweating.
  • Constant weight remains stable for longer stretches of time because loss of body fat is quite slow on any diet, and requires a considerable time to produce measurable and permanent results.

In practical terms, when you start a weight loss program, the first 10 to 20 pounds of weight reduction are almost exclusively made up from the following components:

(a) A reduction in the total weight of foods that you have consumed over the past few days. It may be considerable, especially if you love to eat.

(b) A reduction in digestive fluids. As soon as you start eating less, your body reduces the amount of saliva, gastric, and pancreatic juices involved in digestion. This amount ranges from 6 to 7 quarts per day, and may be halved by the reduced calorie diet.

(c) A loss of water throughout your body, particularly with urine. This happens because reduced calorie diets have a pronounced diuretic and dehydration effect.

(d) Loss of stools from your bowels. As you reduce food intake, particularly fiber, the total volume of stools inside the large intestine may drop three to five times.

I refer to the total of all of the above as a phantom weight loss. This universally ignored fact of human physiology is behind the ubiquitous promise of the near instant weight loss of 10 to 20 pounds on the covers of diet books, supermarket tabloids, and diet plans.

The precipitous – two weeks or less – loss of phantom weight also explains why so many people yo-yo back to their original weight as soon as they stop dieting – the cumulative weight of foods, digestive juices, water, and stools starts to come back the moment you return to your regular diet.

A quick reduction of the waistline is also a popular diet hoax: as your stomach, intestines, and bowel clear out their respective contents, the waistline around them shrinks down a few sizes, even though practically all the body fat remains exactly where it was before commencing the diet.

The proverbial weight loss plateau is another gimmick intended to absolve weight loss counselors from any responsibility for their advice, and to blame you and your metabolism for an inability to lose weight. The truth is – when you can’t overcome weight loss plateau, it simply means that you have lost only phantom weight, but not an ounce of body fat, and, quite possibly, you have gained even more!

So, let’s summarize what I have just described:

  • Anyone commencing a reduced calorie diet will demonstrate an appreciable loss of weight, but this is not a loss of actual body fat, but a loss of phantom weight related to the much smaller intake of foods and fluids.
  • Weight loss diets that have a pronounced diuretic and dehydrating effect may demonstrate an even larger phantom weight loss at the expense of body fluids. You can accomplish pretty much the exact same effect by restricting fluid intake or sweating out in a sauna.
  • Reaching a weight loss plateau simply means that you have lost only phantom weight, but have not lost and won’t lose any body fat.
  • A rapid weight rebound shortly after resuming a regular diet simply means that you’ve simply restored the weight of fluids, undigested foods, and stools in your body back to their original volume.

At this point you may be asking yourself a rightfully indignant question: why have all those diet books I’ve been reading for so long not been telling me about this?

Two reasons, I believe. First, their authors simply may not know or may not want to know about this unsavory phenomenon. Second, telling readers the truth — that it actually takes a LOT of time and a LOT of effort to lose body fat — gets in the way of selling no-sacrifice diet books, cookbooks, classes, tests, and diet-branded foods and snacks.

Since I am not constrained by similar goals, I can tell you the hard truth as it is: If you are contemplating losing weight, it must the fat under your skin, not undigested foods, fluids, and stools inside your gut. Losing actual body fat takes time, because even on a very low calorie diet you can (at best) count on losing just a few ounces (under 60 to 90 grams) daily.

So, the next natural question then is: how long does it take to lose real body fat, and how much effort is involved? Well, that is exactly what I am going to explain in the next post: How Long Will it Take You to Lose the Weight?

Once you realize and appreciate the difference between the loss of fat and the loss of mere phantom weight, you will have a much easier time managing the actual process of weight loss (not the make-believe one), and attaining your desired weight and size.

 Next post >>

About the Author

konstantinKonstantin Monastyrsky graduated from medical university in 1977 with a degree in pharmacy. He is also an expert in forensic nutrition, a new field of science that investigates the connection between supposedly healthy foods and nutrition-related disorders, such as diabetes and obesity.

In 1978 Konstantin’s family emigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union, where he decided to pursue a career in the high-technology field, taught himself advanced programming languages, and his eventual work has had a major influence on the development of modern user interface that has become ubiquitous with the introduction of iPhone- and iPad-like devices.

In 1996, Konstantin began to suffer from diabetes and a host of related ailments, including the debilitating carpal tunnel syndrome. Unable to use the keyboard, he turned his attention back to his roots in medicine and nutrition to find solutions for his rapidly deteriorating health.

Since then, he has written four books about health and nutrition, including the acclaimed Fiber Menace, and is a past speaker at the Weston A. Price Foundation’s Wise Traditions Conference.  He is the principal writer of GutSense – the web’s leading resource for people affected by colorectal disorders, such as constipation, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticular disease, and colorectal cancers.

For your health and safety, please read these important Weight Loss Common Sense Warnings and Disclaimers before commencing a reduced calorie diet.

Picture Credit

 

Comments (155)

  1. Your article about phantom weight loss was a real eye opener. Can real body fat loss and weight maintenance be achieved on low carb diets like Atkins? Many thanks/Chris

    • Chris, thank you for reading and sharing. Technically speaking, the loss of weight can be accomplished on any kind of reduced-calorie diet. That said, the low-carb approach is best because it spares your body from the loss of bone and muscle tissues, as well as the ensuing complications. I will tackle all of these issues and distinctions in the consecutive posts.

    • Sara,

      Weight loss dieting isn’t about “having a clue,” but about regaining health, preventing premature aging, averting cancers, affirming self-esteem, confronting persistent disinformation from Big Food and Big Pharma, nurturing healthy and well-adjusted children, conforming with societal expectations, finding a better job, meeting a partner, and a myriad of other equally important wants and needs that each of us is entitled to.

      If you already have all of the above and are happy with your weight, please enjoy your good luck, but show some humility for those who don’t.

  2. This was information I have never read before…very interesting. Looking forward to the next article.

  3. Konstantin, can you please add comments (or include in a future article) regarding the effects of parasite cleanses on weight loss? (and the effects of carrying parasites in your body on weight/weight loss)? Thanks…

    • Eliza,

      Great question, thank you. You’ll be happy to learn that people who are affected by parasites are usually underweight, and their overall concern is to gain weight, not lose it.

      The so-called “parasite cleanses” may demonstrate a considerable “weight loss” not because they relieve your body of any parasites, but because their laxative and diuretic properties cause an immediate loss of phantom weight, a phenomenon that I just described in my post.

  4. Very interesting, can’t wait to read the next post. Hopefully topics like thyroid will be covered? What about hcg? It’s taken me about 2 years, but I’ve lost 55 pounds doing hcg. Could I have really lost 55 pounds of phantom weight? (started it a year after baby #4). Curious if anyone has thoughts on hcg. Although, it is funny…..I’ve been at a “plateau” for quite some time….

    • Jodi S, I’ve lost 75 lbs on hcg, which I started over a year after switching to a WAPF-style way of eating and eliminating gluten. I also have thyroid issues which the hcg seemed to overcome weight-wise when nothing else could. I think hcg is a medical miracle, but not for everyone…I think it works best on those of us who are metabolically and hormonally damaged or sick, but isn’t necessarily for those otherwise healthy people who just want to drop a few pounds. And no, I don’t think going from size 18 to size 6 was just a loss of phantom weight, but certainly some of the weight lost was from eliminating food and fluid from my digestive tract (and there’s an allowance for regaining those lbs as you transition to a stable weight).

      I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series. Often, I don’t agree with the diet experts since my own illnesses have made me realize that most of what we “know” is wrong, but I do like to read and learn, and I keep an open mind.

      • Jodi I am so interested in how you lost so much weight, I am going to watch the post Konstantin has on here. This is going to be interesting, I started traditional eating too. I also have thyroid problems, but also other health issues. I would love some tips if you have time.
        Thanks
        Kathy

  5. Alana Juliana Sheldahl via Facebook March 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

    I’m eager to hear part two of this series. I’ve given up trying to lose weight.

    • Alana,

      Thank you. Actually, there will be 35-40 more parts to this story, well into the autumn of 2013, and perhaps longer! So, please don’t give up. The genetic difference between you and me is only 0.1%, so if someone like me was able to lose weight, so can you. There is a great deal of technique in this process. Once you master it, it is still a challenge, but it is no longer insurmountable.

      • Me too! I have gone to such lengths to lose weight and stay the same! It is so frustrating!
        I am looking forward to hearing more!

  6. Alexandros Agelastos via Facebook March 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

    the real reason is because people keep on eating eggs dairy and meat, and because their meals contain more than 20% fat and more than 20% protein. Eating plant/starch Carbs does not make people gain weight, i’ve lost 20 pounds by eating more than 3000 and 4000 calories a day. Mostly Carbs, a little bit of fat and only plant based protein. Legumes, Starches, gluten free grains, fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables… Not only you lose weight, but you regain your health and peace of mind.

    • Alexandros,

      You must be a miracle of nature, and I envy your physiology. Consider writing your own weight loss book on how one can eat 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day and lose weight. As they say, the proof is in the pudding.

    • Alexandros, indeed you are an anomaly! I am not acquainted with a single soul who has been able to lose real weight and regain true, long lasting health on such a diet, particularly women who are bearing children like myself.
      I ate the way you did for several years and it wrecked my health, all the while it caused me to gain considerable weight. And I was eating high quality foods, not the junk!
      What many don’t realize is that if you can gain health eating a plant-based diet it is only for two reasons: one, you have given up bad food (including conventionally produced meats & dairy) and two, you were at least reasonable well nourished as a child. Our future generations are breaking down at a rapid rate for this very reason-we are on our 3rd and 4th generation on a poor to very poor diet-our off spring don’t have much of a chance anymore! Epigenetics and Francis Pottenger come to mind here-check them out!

    • Alexandros, I suppose you stopped eating processed foods. Am I right? If that is the case, it is the elimination of those in your diet and not the animal products that have caused you to lose weight and feel better. I was a vegetarian for almost 10 years and several of those I was a vegan. I still ate processed foods. I ended up overweight, diabetic, and had major brain fog. Most “vegetarian” books or documentaries out there eliminate processed foods. Then the participants feel so much better, and they attribute it t to eliminating the animal products not the processed foods. That’s fuzzy logic. You might feel great eating that way now, but add in some animal products and you’ll feel even better.

    • This sounds like a 80/10/10 where most of the calories comes from fruit. These fruiterians do a lot of running to burn off the sugars and calories.

    • I’ve been on the weight watchers program for the last 16 months and lost 61 pounds. The one thing I do differently than they suggest is the dairy. I still drink full fat milk, (raw when I can get it), eat lots of real full fat butter and use raw cream. I eat meat, (preferably grass fed beef), and have recently started eating… LIVER! I feel so much better!!!!!! I still have 100 pounds to lose, so I am really looking forward to this series! Previously, I have gotten to within 54 pounds of my goal weight and just quit losing.

  7. This is going to be a wonderful series! I am really anticipating the future posts. As a 56-year-old post-menopausal women who can’t seem to get rid of 10 lbs, I am very interested in this. I am fit, eat real and traditional food, and very healthy – but “cosmetically” 10 to 15 lbs overweight. I am beginning to believe that maybe there is nothing I can do about it without losing valuable bone and organ mass – which I won’t do. I strength train so don’t worry about losing muscle mass. I hope I can either gain some helpful insight or acceptance from your series. Thank you so much for doing this!

    • Tina,

      Thank you. As we age, our body composition changes, and by the age 50 the ration of body fat to muscle and bone tissue increases considerably. The only answer to this dilemma is what is called a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD). These diets are quite phone to side effects, especially in our age group (55+), and I’ll address the ins and outs of them in the future posts.

    • This is me too! I am 56 yrs old post menopause and about 10 lbs overweight its like it is glued to me and can’t rid it no matter what! I eat a good tradtional diet. i have pretty much given up all sweets- only occasional. Hope I can get some good insight from here. I will follow this series for sure.

      • Hmmm, I’m 53, post menopausal, 120# and about 17% body fat–that’s my winter weight. I eat around 2300-2500 cals a day with macros of 20-25% prot/20-25% carbs and the rest from healthy fats. I do exercise regularly and when I do want to lean out–even at this age, I drop my cals (mainly fat/carbs) by about 15-20% and voila it melts right off. I find an online food diary helps me know where I am and what to adjust for the first few weeks.

        • We are all different, Paula. Good for you though. I think the other two post-menopausal women have similar problems that are more common than your experience. Maybe the expert guest author can help them and others that share their difficulty.

  8. I have lost about 50 lbs. over about 2 years. During this time I had to also give up my regular exercise routine but only switched to a whole, mostly organic diet. I am still considerably overweight, but have, by necessity, been seperated from my husband for about six months and will continue for the next two years or so. In the past six months my diet has been largely processed/convenient food and about 10 pounds have crept back on. Going back to whole, not always convenient food and hope to get back on track…thanks for sharing!

    • Holly,

      Staying at normal weight for people with a genetic predisposition for weight gain is a challenge even in the best of times. Don’t give up and watch your diet, so by the time your husband is back you don’t need to be overly concerned about your weight. Hopefully Sarah’s work and my contribution will help to accomplish this goal.

      Incidentally, we, men, love our wives regardless of their weight, so whatever you are going to do, do it for yourself.

  9. Jodi,

    Congratulation, you’ve lost real fat! In general, phantom weight rarely exceeds 20-30 lbs. unless a person is incredibly obese and consumes a prodigious amount of foods and fluids daily. Yes, I will tackle the subject of an underactive thyroid. Interestingly enough, most weight loss diets actually make this health issue even more pronounced, so it is a biggie on my list.

  10. All this diet stuff is so confusing. It is hard to know exactly what to eat. Aren’t whole grains carbs? And the benefits of whole grains necessary to the body? What about raw milk? How do you get all your vitamins from your food if you limit it? I would like to lose weight also but I have been avoiding all the so called diets and trying to eat traditionally to lose..and it is not happening.

    • Susan,

      If this subject was simple and not “confusing,” we wouldn’t have obesity epidemics in our midst, so don’t despair, you are not alone being confused. 70% of American nurses are overweight, and 40% are clinically obese, and they are just as confused as people without any medical education!

      Please note that my posts aren’t intended to explain which foods are classified as carbs. For that, please read any basic weight loss primer. My work is intended for advanced dieters who know what they are doing but can’t attain their optimal weight regardless of their best efforts.

  11. Would it be reasonable to assume that someone who has been very fat for an entire lifetime to have a harder time losing weight? Do you know if epigenetics play a part in weight gain? I have never been one to blame fatness on genetics, but it’s kind of hard to ignore the possibility with my daughter. I’ve been fat since I was a toddler, and at 18 months, my daughter started putting on a large amount of fat, despite very little changes in her diet and exercise habits. A year later, her weight has continued to climb along with her height, she has not thinned out at all. Our naturopath wants her to be admitted to the children’s hospital for a full work up, including a bone age scan, meeting with an endocrinologist, etc. I can’t help but cry every time I think about it. I do not want her to live my life of shame and ridicule, but feeding her a whole foods organic diet with all the good fats, limited grains/carbs, etc., has done absolutely nothing. Other kids her age eat twice as much as she does, yet she’s 70lbs (albeit at 3’5″, but still).

    • Cassandra,

      Yes, evolutionary genetics are a primary factor in one’s ability to gain weight, but they don’t apply to toddlers in the same way that they apply to teenagers and fully grown adults.

      Case in point: my wife was a chubby toddler and a prodigious eater all her life, yet at age 58 she is still a svelte 125 pounds spread over 5’7”, the same shape and weight as she was at 25. So you can’t automatically presume that your daughter will be overweight or somehow “defective” this early on.

      In addition, please don’t transfer your prejudices and expectations to your daughter. Your negative attitude toward her weight may poison your life and damage your relationship with your child. It may also cause her to develop personality disorders that will ruin the rest of her adult life.

      If you really want her to become a healthy, normal-weight adult, get her into sports and stimulate her curiosity so that she exercises her intellect just as vigorously as her body. Agile minds burn even more calories than agile bodies.

      Turn up the thermostat in your house (consistent low temperatures may stimulate a precipitous weight gain, especially in young children), make sure that she gets plenty of sunlight year-round, and get her checked for iodine deficiency (a common occurrence among toddlers in the USA). Lastly, read Sarah’s new book on good fats vs. the bad ones and modify her diet accordingly.

  12. Great info- mixed emotions about you lumping all nutritionist into the same category, although as one battling everyday within my own profession I do understand. Looking forward to reading your future post.

  13. Thank you so much for these articles! I work in a bariatric practice and am surrounded by patients who have ‘tried everything.’ Even the physicians and dieticians, who I know have wonderful intentions, still fail to give sound advice sometimes.
    I’ve made the switch to lots of traditional foods, exercise regularly, and would still like to lose 10 “vanity pounds”. However, I believe, like in your previous comment, I would have to go on a very limited calorie diet to do that. Can’t wait for the follow up articles!

    • Amanda,

      Thank you for your insightful comments. Coming from an “insider,” they are particularly poignant. I hope this and future information will help medical professionals address these issues with much less drama and more certainty.

      I’ll definitely address the issue of the “last ten pounds” in future posts.

  14. What if:

    1. You are off all sugar and 90% off wheat/gluten
    2. You are expending more energy than you are taking in calorie-wise
    3. You are eating healthy (fermented foods, REAL food, etc)
    4. You are on that plateau and have been for months
    5. You are within your normal BMI range (smack dab in the middle) but want to lose another 10 lbs.
    6. Your normal day does consist of activity (i.e. cleaning house, walking or running with dogs, etc.
    7. You do weight lifting 1-2x per week for toning.

    What are your recommendations? I am curious to hear what you have to say. It is very frustrating. I lost 10-15 lbs within a couple months after getting off sugar, but have stayed here stubbornly at my current weight for about 3-4 months now.

    • I’m not expert, but plateaus typically occur when your workouts and diet are too constant/predictable. That may not be the problem for you, but if it is, try changing around what you’re eating and modify your workouts (intensity, what you lift, frequency, etc.). When I shake things up (in the gym and kitchen), my mind and body respond with exuberance.

    • Rebecca,

      It all boils down to energy and structural metabolism arithmetic: the body doesn’t start to shed weight (preferably fat) until your diet provides more nutrients than your body uses for energy and renewal. What’s the solution? Decrease the amount of food that is required for energy and provide enough nutrients to take care of renewal. I’ll address all of these issues in the following posts. This is one of the most challenging aspects of permanent weight loss and can’t be addressed in several quick bullets. So, please, stay tuned.

    • Rebecca, I am with you. Konstantin, I would love to hear your thoughts on Rebecca’s question. I feel like I have little room for change in my diet because I eat so cleanly now. I workout. I sleep about 9 hrs a night and try to keep my stress low. What can I change to get off the 7 or so pounds that have creeped onto my body?

    • I am in a similar place to the above post except that I have at least 50 lbs to lose. And I have dedicated a lot of time to varying workouts. The weight does not come off. I am stronger and firmer but never lose anything beyond 5 lbs up and down. I will be interested to read these ongoing blogs to see if I can learn something new.

  15. This is so timely. I have just been diagnosed with stage three adrenal fatigue. I was given a bunch of supplements including DHEA and pancreatic enzymes. But, my doctor’s major suggestions to me were rest and drop grains and dairy. I’m on week five of eating in this manner and lost ten pounds. But, here’s the thing, I am eating tons of veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and meats. This was another thing my doctor insisted on me doing for my health…eat frequently so as to keep my blood sugars as level as possible. I’m also doing yoga to strengthen my muscles. I know I’m in for the long haul…I still have fifty more pounds to lose. Could it be that the ten pounds was more constant or do you think it was still the variable weight?

    • Heather,

      Any time you start a diet, the initial weight loss is ALWAYS phantom. Incidentally, if you continue eating “tons of veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and meats,” your adrenal fatigue and some other types of fatigue will only get worse. Moderation and balance are the key to health in general, and weight loss in particular. And when you already have preexisting medical disorders, balance and moderation alike are even more critical.

  16. Konstantin, I have read your book and really enjoyed the material. From my understanding, you don’t agree with the consumption of grains in any form. Is this still correct?

  17. Each person has unique dietary needs. What your body needs in order to restore balance and health will be different from the person next to you. Exercise is crucial of course but diet is determined by variants such as genetic background and your lifestyle history. Someone who is prediabetic or suffering from hypoglycemia would NOT benefit from a high carb diet. But likewise someone with a diet history heavy in processed foods or animal foods would benefit from a plant based diet. I believe in balance. I only believe in extreme diets (plant based for instance) for a period of time for healing. Children who are born healthy need to be on a balanced diet and not an extreme one. But pay attention to your own body more than any article. It will tell you what you need. It’s strange how most animals can do this except for us. :)

    • Crissy,

      Your beliefs and my beliefs are identical so long as they apply to healthy and normal-weight individuals. However, when it comes to elective weight loss, it is only attainable when things are intentionally out of balance. If that’s what overweight people want, we need to set our well-meant believers aside and help them attain their goals without incurring further damage.

    • Actually for some people eating more carbs IS just the ticket. Eating more carbs has cured my lifelong hypoglycemia.

      Konstantin I have read your book and every page of your site. Love your work!

  18. Excellent article. So much of our society is obsessed with achieving things as easily and quickly as possible with little diligence around understanding health impacts and long-term effects. I don’t believe in diets, but I believe in having a good diet; there’s a world of difference between those two in my opinion.

    If a person wants to lose weight, I believe they’re best off to evaluate the health of their current diet and work to refine what and how much they eat for the long-term. If “a diet” is only a temporary fix, it’s guaranteed to fail.

  19. Ive been thin all my life…so, weight loss is something Ive never had to struggle with.. However, I eat the way I was raised. Meat, starch, and a veggie at the table. Dont like the feeling of being full so when my stomach seems satisfied , I stop. To me its pretty simple. Dont eat fast food, ugh!..Stop drinking all soda. Anything thats not all natural it garbage!..Yes, its hard as heck to find food thats not altered but it can be done. Oh, here’s another “issue” that most people ignore. Stop watching TV!!!…seriously?..what is there to watch thats more important than the world that surrounds you?..take a walk, hey, here’s another idea…try actually cooking your meals from scratch..people say they dont have time but make the time to sit and watch hours of TV a night…well, if you absolutely have to have the TV on then turn on a cooking program and LEARN something….sorry, Im getting on my soapbox here..lol…Just tired of hearing people blah, blah, blah about their weight and shove a burger in their mouth while doing so. Self control peeps,,,,,self control….my thoughts….:)

    • If only it was that simple. I gained 30 pounds after giving birth, not during, maybe from BC, stress, and lack of sleep. IDK. But we don’t watch TV, I run everyday, haven’t had a soda or stepped into a fast food “restuarant” in over 4 years, rarely eat out for that matter (once a month, if that) cook all meals at home. Been switching from an organic diet to traditional slowly this past year… My sister on the other hand eats out all the time, fridge is full of frozen/processed foods, she always have candy in her purse, yet she never goes over 120 pounds, she’s 5’4!
      I understand what your saying and agree with you about all those things! Get rid of tv and quit eating junk… but those things don’t always equal a thin person. I’m not obese, just slightly overweight, but you can imagine how judged I feel around my skinny family. Just remember some of us are TRYING and not shoving burgers down our mouths :)

    • Mary, not all overweight people sit around eating hamburgers and watching tv. I’m happy for you that your body functions correctly and that you have a balanced diet and get exercise, but don’t assume others are lazy or that they eat garbage just because they aren’t thin. There are so many variables that can cause weight gain, like genetics and environment. Ask yourself this: would you still be thin if your body wasn’t able to signal you when it had enough food? If there was never a “feeling of being full?” That is just one difficulty some people have to overcome.

      Being judgmental of those who are “too fat” or “too thin” helps no one. The people who are reading this article are not, generally, going to be the type that you described. We are here, reading this, because we care about our health and are looking for answers. Advising “self control” to a group of people who have been trying everything under the sun to figure out how to lose weight is really quite rude.

      Less Judgement, Mary, more compassion.

      • mary….have you ever heard of cushings disease? or pcos?
        i do believe they affect close to 10% of the population, and make you gain weight uncontrollably. what I mean by uncontrollably is, you grow up eating the way they tell you to in the doctors office and at school, and you have a hormonal balance or tumor on the pituitary gland which makes you gain weight easily. when you have these problems you become addicted to sugar. addicted like a crack addict. literally.

    • my weight gain was also mostly from having babies and sitting around taking care of them afterward. no nanny or whatever to watch the baby (who was tethered to an oxygen tank) while I went out and jogged. I am quite put off by Mary’s comments. I guess this post isn’t for her so hopefully she won’t comment anymore.

    • Mary, boy did u hit the nail on its head! U explained the total problem with childhood obesity too which includes feeding them junk. At the end of a busy day, i find my self gravitating to the sofa. If i sit down, thats it for me for the day. It takes real willpower to go for a walk or finish up house work etc. we all need self control in all areas of our life.

  20. I have been following a low carb traditional diet for years now – I have found that I am serotonin deficient – Don’t I need carbs to produce serotonin – I don’t know how to eat carbs without putting on weight – I am 55yrs old and have had a very difficult menopause – I don’t want to take hormones as I had breast cancer 6 yrs ago.

  21. Thank you so much for this post!!

    I realized a few years ago that the few pounds I could lose were variable weight. I’ve struggled to lose weight since my last baby was born, almost 5years ago. Part of the problem was my thyroid, but I’ve spent a lot of time getting it to work properly again. It’s been hard for me to jump back on the weight loss bandwagon again though. Not knowing the best way to move past the variable weight loss into fat loss has kept me from trying something that would likely fail. Instead I’ve focused on moving my family to a traditional diet, hoping it would help.

    I really look forward to the next posts in this series. I will be hanging on every word :)

  22. Thank you so much for your post Konstantin! This makes things so clear for me. I gained 30 pounds within 2-3 months of giving birth! I was fine during pregnancy… I think the weight gain after might have been a combination of going on birth control, stress, and lack of sleep combined. Over these past three years I have been desperately trying to lose this weight, but as soon as I lose it, I would gain it back within a couple of months. Most of those diets were crazy low calorie diets and working out up to two hours a day. Recently, I decided to only run ever day and cut out sugar/sweets. First month I gained one pound! Second month I lost 9 pounds. I am on my third month and have yet to weigh myself.

  23. What about pregnancy. My doctor told me to watch my weight it was getting yo high, but I have ten more weeks to go. And he won’t really tell me how to do that. I have not been eating processed foods or sugar much at all. I feel like I have been eating very healthy. Do you have any suggestions?

    • I am not a doctor. However, if you are taking care of your body and eating healthily, just let your body do it’s thing. My doctor at my first baby was amazing at making me nervous to even be weighed at his office, because he would tell me things like I could only gain 10 more pounds. And here I am growing a baby, and he is telling me this while he is overweight himself. I never gained more than 30 pounds in a pregnancy anyway. The second baby I had a midwife and she believed that the body knows what to do and how much weight it needs to gain to take care of and grow a baby. I felt so much better in that environment. So if you are doing your part by eating right and doing appropriate exercises, I say don’t worry about it.

  24. SteveandPaula Runyan via Facebook March 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Low carb always, always, always, drops my basal temps by up to 2 degrees, and my energy leaves just as fast.

    • Yes, I’m curious about this as well. I’ve been trying to lose 25-30 lbs since the birth of my last child. At the beginning, I went very low carb and also did hcg. I believe both diets left me in worse shape than before. I finally found an integrative physician that diagnosed me with low thyroid and adrenal fatigue. I really want to lose this weight, but I know that low carb can lower my thyroid. I also know that low calorie diets can reduce seratonin and I’ve struggled with depression since giving birth. I feel stuck, not knowing how to lose this weight safely without messing up the other systems of my body. I dare say, I’d rather be fat than depressed or without energy, but I’d rather be healthy all around. I should mention, I’m gluten and mostly dairy-free, walk 4-5 miles daily, and follow a traditional foods diet. I’m currently counting calories (about 1400 a day), and I’m seeing the same five phantom pounds going up and down.

  25. so doing a raw milk fast would be phantom weight loss, correct?
    If i drink raw milk but balance it by adding more fat (coconut oil), so that my blood sugar stays stable, would i only lose phantom weight?

    • Heidi,

      The raw milk “fast” is a very efficient diet regiment because (a) it provides you with water; (b) it provides you with essential fats (absolutely critical for side-effect-free weight loss); (c) it provides you with highly digestible proteins; (d) it provides with beneficial bacteria to prevent constipation; and (e) raw milk is less likely to cause lactose intolerance because innate bacteria continue fermenting lactose inside your small intestine (lactose is a good source of carbs needed for your brain and central nervous system).

      Yes, past the “phantom stage” you can lose real fat on a raw milk diet, assuming your total calorie intake will remain consistently lower than your body requires for energy and structural metabolism. However, I can’t tell you what that threshold is (of how much milk to drink) since this amount differs for each individual. If you are planning to stay on that regiment for a long time, I suggest that you add 500 to 1000 mg of vitamin C and 1000 UI of vitamin D3 because raw milk, particularly in the winter, isn’t particularly rich in these nutrients. Or you can substitute vitamin D with liquid cod liver oil, as recommended in Sarah’s book.

  26. As someone who grew up thin and then gained 60 pounds due to a medication I was taking but lost all the weight after switching medications (with healthy eating and hard work, too), I can understand the “plateau” at the beginning of a diet program. But how does that explain that plateau that many people hit after working out and eating right and losing weight for a longer period of time? I lost 45 pounds over a period of just over a year – 60 in total – but after I hit that 45 pound mark, I just stopped losing. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to lose any more weight. I was only 2 pounds from the top mark of my goal range at that point, so I wasn’t obsessive about it, but it was still upsetting. Obviously I ended up beating it, but it took a major dietary change (not weight-loss related) to do it.
    Katie\’s last post: Lasagna Soup

  27. Konstantin (and Sara) thank you!!! I am so looking forward to this! I lost a lot of weight a few years ago on a low carb/fairly high protein/high fat diet and felt great. I was exercising moderately 3-5 times per week. Then I injured myself and stopped the exercise cold-turkey. I have regained more than half of the weight back and in spite of exercising for the last month, the weight isn’t budging. I am beyond discouraged, and am not sure what to do, so will be very attentive to your posts.
    I’ve always referred to your Fiber Menace book and web information btw, after hearing you at the WAPF conference several years back. Great information!
    Again, thank you!

  28. I read a mention of adrenal fatigue, and have been trying to find more information on how to combat it lately. Unfortunately certain orthorexic (overly restrictive) habits and suppositions from the past few years may have contributed to my (yet-undiagnosed yet very probable) adrenal fatigue and inability to lose the last 20 pounds. There is also a lot mentioned about the link between thyroid insufficiency and adrenal fatigue. How does it all play together? There is also info that thyroid fuction is long term better if certain carbohydrates are maintained in the diet. Personally, I do much better on a diet with certain carbohydrates (properly prepared oats, buckwheat, sourdough bread, rice, lentils & beans) then on a low carb, high protein diet. Im sure this information will be in future posts, but any insight would be appreciated.

    • I’m another with poor thyroid function and adrenal fatigue. Low carb diets have left me feeling unwell. I do much better (energy-wise and mood-wise) when I include properly prepared grains in moderation. However, neither traditional foods nor low carb has helped me to lose weight.

      • I have gotten my poor/low temps up and energy is improving slowly. Restricting is the worst thing to do with adrenal fatigue.
        I have a short list of real supplements, and an even shorter food restriction list, that is working extremely well for me.

        • Krystyna, celtymom, Paula,

          I will address these conditions in future posts. As strange as it may sound, they are natural reactions to reduced caloric intake and have deep evolutionary roots. Unlike us, our ancestors didn’t have an immediate access to supermarkets, so when foods were in short supply, their bodies dropping their metabolic rate to survive the shortage. In fact, Weston A. Price addresses this very issue in his phenomenal “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.”

          • I will be a hard sell. I had low body temp all my life, for over 30 years. Even for 3 years after switching to a full traditional diet and discovering I had Celiacs. I had to add even more extra real food carbs in, along with lots of fermented veges, bee pollen, magnesium chloride, FCLO and HVBO before I saw the temps start to slowly climb. It took a long time! I am finally at what is considered normal and healthy, and no way am I going to go low carb again and sabotage all that hard work.

          • I just read Dr. Price’s book (finally!). Any chance you remember what chapter he addressed this in? I can’t seem to remember reading that or maybe I didn’t catch what he was saying. Thanks!

  29. Wow! How enlightening! I can’t wait for the next post! I am trying to lose weight the healthy way. Apparently I have lost a good deal of “phantom weight.” I look forward to learning how to get the fat off!

  30. I really enjoyed your post here and look forward to more.
    I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on low body temp, adrenal fatigue, and PCOS. The last two dr.’s told me I probably had PCOS since I wasn’t loosing weight yet have a healthy lifestyle. Do you know if PCOS could be a symptom of hormonal imbalance instead of the cause? I’m getting confused with the different advice on carbs for balancing hormones and raising body temp. I find my carpel tunnel and digestive system acts up when I eat grains/carbs. Thank you for taking the time to answer comments on the blog.

  31. I’m 53 and just starting menopause and in just the past few months I’ve gained around 15 lbs although I’ve been eating primally for several years now. I tried the Eat Fat, Lose Fat diet without success. Does the fluctuation of hormones during peri- and menopause really prohibit any fat loss? I also do 20 minutes of Kettlebells 3 times a week.

    • Valerie,

      A precipitous decline of estrogen typical indicates an early stage of menopause. This state in a healthy woman’s body is very similar (from the physiological prospective) to being pregnant. Not surprisingly, your body lowers its rate of energy and structural metabolism in order to conserve nutrients (especially fats) for fetus development and lactation.

      So what can you do about it? Eat less, eat natural, exercise more.

  32. Thank you for taking the time to write this post!

    I am looking forward to reading more of your posts, Konstantin.

    @Sarah, thank you too, for all the work you do to help people be informed with the truth. Your site has been a great resource for me.

    • Sarah, you are very welcome, and you are absolutely right. I have the dubious benefit of being 58, and when I was growing up in Ukraine in the sixties and seventies (oh dear God), older people around me consumed natural unprocessed foods in prodigious amounts, but the obesity rate was below 5% of the population.

      Judging from the historical record, it wasn’t that much different back then in the United States. And take a look at present-day France: despite their gluttonous lifestyle and enormous consumption of alcohol, the obesity rate there is under 12%. So it isn’t only how much we eat, but what we eat.

  33. So far, this all sounds so complicated when it seems so simple to me: if I am in ketotis, I must be burning FAT… Please correct me if I am misunderstanding…

    • Kat,

      You are the lucky one enjoying another stage of weight loss. The article above is addressed to people who are in the first phase of their weight reduction diet, and it explains why it is so easy to lose weight in the first few weeks but often becomes an insurmountable challenge later. You’ll see that this is a serious issue for many people by perusing other comments.

      • Thank you so much for your quick response; however, it was only two days of my not eating any carbs and testing went from “negative” to “trace” the day after and this morning, to “small,” but my understanding is that one is either in ketosis or not, so I am where I need to be to burn fat. Of course, the process will get even better and the ketones increase. I find it extremely easy to get into ketosis, the challenge is to just stay there and keep on losing weight. But once I indulge in any carbs, I am immediately out of ketosis and can’t resist when carb cravings immediately return with a vengeance. It is far easier for me to resist the temptations without having to regain a state of ketosis over and over. About a decade ago, I lost over 40 pounds without the temptations because I was not hungry and this assisted my determination to stay in ketosis. I only need to lose 20 pounds now so this will happen easier/faster since I have decided to just maintain a ketogenic diet: no carbs except for few low-carb veggies daily and no fruit. I don’t understand why I would be considered lucky and why anyone could not just do the same… It only takes a few days of concentrated effort and the willingness to hang in there while suffering the discomfort experienced during the initial carb withdrawal phase… It will pass soon enough… thankfully!

        • Kat,

          Natural appetite suppression and sustained ketosis are key to successful and permanent weight loss. I’ll address both of these objectives in future posts.

          Meanwhile, keep in mind that it takes time to reach and go beyond the “carb withdrawal phase” because your body stores a considerable amount of carbs in the form of glycogen. Until these stores inside the liver and muscle tissues are completely utilized, ketosis (actually, lypolisis is the proper term) does not start.

  34. Can you use body fat percentage over a period of time to determine if your weight loss is in fact fat loss?

    • Mandy, yes, you absolutely can. However, determining the real percentage of body fat is exceedingly difficult unless you have access to a $30,000+ device specifically built for this purpose.

      Typical body fat monitors or scales like Omron or Tanita are using a computer algorithm to calculate an approximate fat ratio based on your age, height, weight, and gender. Their measurement is just an approximation relative to other people with similar weights and heights in your age and gender group.

  35. I’ve never been overweight, but from what I understand in order to lose weight you need to focus on the source of calories not the amount of calories. Sure a potato contains a ton of calories though its still a natural food unlike processed chemical-laden potato chips.
    Kelli\’s last post: Rare and Deadly: Causes Of Ovarian Cancer

    • Kelli,

      By the time your digestive enzymes break potato starch into glucose, fructose, and galactose, and these three basic building blocks of all digestible carbohydrates are assimilated into your blood stream, your liver will not know the difference between a potato and a potato chip. As a result, it will keep converting all of the excess nutrients into fat. Thus, for anyone wishing to shed pounds, a presumably healthy food can be just as fattening as overprocessed junk foods.

  36. I’ll be following your future installments. I have been off of gluten for a few years now, lost about 20lbs, quite naturally and gradually during the first 6 months after I went off of gluten. Eventually about 10 pounds of it had crept back on. Since then I’ve lost a bit here and there on HCG, on a 15 day juice fast, on a 5 day water fast and on GAPS. There is always some rebound weight gain even in situations where I remain on the program (or a reasonable maintenance program after a fast) with no cheating. It is almost never an immediate weight gain as many people describe. Nevertheless, I am about 55-60 pounds down from my high point weight and trying to persevere with a mixture of GAPS and some raw milk fasting. It is such a journey. And quite painful to realize I will probably never be anywhere near where I want to be and my twenties and thirties are gone and will never return no matter how much health I regain. So I spend a good bit of energy trying to educate others in hopes that they will make fewer mistakes that I have made, such as my low-fat years, “diet” sodas, etc.

    • Sheril,

      Don’t despair…if you can gain weight, you can also lose it. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Just be patient and allow me to “give birth” to all of the ensuing posts. In the greater scheme of things, another 30-40 weeks isn’t that long.

  37. This article really caught my attention. I have been on the path of working towards traditional foods, but I was wondering how I was going to lose weight. I am about 50 pounds overweight by my standards. If we look at the BMI chart I am more like 90 pounds over. I have done diets before, mostly weight watchers. In fact I did it for a short time in January and lost eight pounds. Of course it came back. Now I know why. I don’t want to be different from what the rest of my family is eating. One, I like food. Two, I am the one who prepares it, I want some too. Three, I have a daughter and I don’t want her to see me being critical of my body or always being on a diet. So, I am convinced Traditional Foods is the way to go, low fat is out, and have been working on that for almost a year. I really would like to read part 2 right now, but I will have patience. And it sounds like I will need patience to lose this weight, but if I will be healthy and weight stable for life it will be worth it. So no questions here, just thanks, and I’m interested for part 2.

    • Rebecca,

      You are absolutely right — traditional foods are the way to go because eating them is the best way to attain permanent weight loss without failure and severe side effects. That said, traditional foods require moderation just as much as “untraditional foods,” and especially so for people with preexisting weight issues.

  38. Konstantin, I would be curious to know your thoughts on adding coconut oil into the diet, especially prior to meals, to boost satiety, curb appetite and provide energy from the unique medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil.

    • Beth,

      Dietary fat is a principal agent of satiety and appetite suppression. That’s why we crave fatty foods, and why they are so much more satisfying.

      The goal, however, is to pick the right kind of fats, so I suggest that you read Sarah’s new book, “Get Your Fats Straight”. It provides a detailed road map for selecting the right kind of fats and explains their role and function in health and nutrition. It is exceptionally well written and provides clear and unambiguous instructions.

      Yes, eating coconut oil (or raw/free range butter) before meals will provide greater appetite suppression than when consumed with other foods because the appetite suppressing effects of fats kick in inside the duodenum — the section of the small intestine that follows the stomach. The fats are likely to reach the duodenum faster when the stomach isn’t yet loaded with undigested foods.

      Keep in mind that “healthy fats” doesn’t mean “unlimited fats,” and particularly so when commencing a weight loss (low calorie) diet. When it comes to sustained and permanent weight loss, a calorie is still a calorie regardless of its source, expect that healthy fats are significantly less “fattening” than junk fats because a larger share of them is used for your body’s own biochemistry and cellular renewal (i.e., structural metabolism).

  39. I have been on this real food journey now for 18 months or so and saw some immediate weight reduction in the beginning as I cut out processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and added coconut oil and raw dairy to my diet. But now my weight has stayed constant, despite my desire to lose another 15-20 pounds, for a year. But 2 things have come up over the last few months. 1) I am learning more about our pH and how toxins back up into our fat cells, making it harder to burn the fat that is in them. I am in the early stages of learning about that but now, after hearing about if from several completely different sources, I am intrigued. And 2) realizing that it is many women’s (and men’s, likely) DESIRE to lose that last 10-20 lbs. But I have started to wonder, is this a plateau, or is this where my body wants to be? I don’t know the answer to that, but I find myself wondering how much media and the world has influenced my view of what I WANT my weight to be, and whether that is as messed up from bad information thru my life as what foods are truly good for us. So, I am hoping you might touch on either or both of those!! Can’t wait to read it!

    • Colleen,

      Yes, this is definitely a plateau, and I’ll address this conundrum in the next post.

      Just keep in mind that after a certain age, you should concentrate on getting down to “optimal weight” rather than your “lowest adult weight.” Otherwise, your appearance may suffer from sagging skin, wrinkles, hair loss, hormonal disturbances, and some other undesirable aftereffects.

  40. I’ve recently lost about 14 lbs by exercising, choosing healthier foods, and counting calories, but the scale has been stuck for about two weeks now. I was kind of depressed to realize that I probably had just lost phantom weight. I can’t wait for your next post, because I’m becoming very frustrated…usually this is the phase where I give up counting my calories and working out, but I don’t want to do that this time. Your next post can’t come soon enough!

    • Leanne,

      Don’t get depressed or frustrated. You are are healthy and close to your goal, and that’s what really counts. In fact, depression and frustration raise the rate of circulating stress hormones, which in turn stimulate appetite and the retention of fat to conserve energy — a typical reaction to sustained high stress.

      My next post will not necessarily resolve all of your concerns, but by the time we reach the last post, you’ll definitely be there, and much happier to boot.

  41. Konstantin, I am fascinated by the information here, and I am looking forward to following the posts in the upcoming months.
    Thank you and Sara so much for taking on such a project.
    Kathy

    • Thank you, Kathy Lynn, for your kind words. I am also grateful to Sarah for building up her amazing blog and entrusting me to share my expertise in this subject with her loyal readers and followers!

  42. First of all I want to thank you for this post and tell you that I am very much looking forward to the next one.

    What a great explanation. Maybe others know this (like you said, and maybe it is explained somewhere and I just haven’t stumbled upon it), and just aren’t sharing it with the general public but I have never actually read something that explained what I in my layman ways have learned..but was unable to put into words quite eloquently as you. Thank you for that!

    I just have one question..is there any way you can maybe write a post on weight gain? Is it really true what common wisdom suggests..3500 calories = 1 lb of fat? How does fat really form in our bodies? Does it even matter if you’re eating too much sugar, or grains, fat, veggies..etc. Does fiber help you digest all that and maybe get rid of it, before it turns into fat? I’m just interested in learning about the weight gain as well. I may not be asking the right questions, but whatever you can share with me would be greatly appreciated. Maybe some of it will be explained in your post on how to lose fat, and I’m jumping the gun..but you can see I am very excited to learn more.

    • SKN,

      You are very welcome, and thank you for reading and participating in this discussion.

      You’ll be surprised to learn that I am getting just as many questions about gaining weight as about losing weight. And, yes, eventually I am going to write about this “paradox.” It affects about 20% of men and women, and it is just as emotionally bothersome for many of them as being overweight for the remaining 80%.

      Just like weight loss, weight gain has components related to age, genetics, body morphology, personality, environment, nutrition, occupation, gender, and overall health. It is just as challenging to attain and sustain as weight loss, particularly for people with certain health issues.

      In the most general terms, a weight-bearing exercise program along with a balanced traditional diet is the best and most effective option for gaining and keeping weight.

      One thing that really helps is the total elimination of anything and everything with a sweet taste, because sweetness stimulates the release of insulin, which begins (in susceptible individuals) the “burning” of exogenous (external) and endogenous (internal) sources of carbohydrates (glucose, glycogen), proteins (from foods and muscle tissues), and fats (dietary and subcutaneous). That is why a properly balanced diet is so important.

      Alcohol of any kind is also a taboo because it drives up the level of insulin and other stress hormones even more so than sweets, with similar outcomes.

      Other things that help are stress management (through meditation), high-quality sleep, and targeted supplements to address metabolic, skeletomuscular, endocrine, and neurological disorders that are often present in underweight people.

      As you can see from this brief explanation, weight gain involves a far more complex strategy than the brute approach of eating more.

      • Fascinating. I know someone who has always been thin and unable to gain weight. I look forward to more info on this.

  43. I think I got missed – May I present my question again? I have been following a low carb traditional diet for years now — I have found that I am serotonin deficient — Don’t I need carbs to produce serotonin?
    Thank you for the posts and the answers!

    • Yvonne,

      Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is synthesized from tryptophan, an essential amino acid that can be obtained most efficiently from primary proteins (meats, fish, fowl, dairy, and eggs).

      Yes, plant foods may provide tryptophan as well, but with the inevitable penalty of excessive carbohydrates. These carbs, in turn, will drive weight gain and the mood-altering effects of elevated insulin. These two consequences may negate all of the positive effects of the serotonin that you are seeking.

      To summarize: you don’t need carbs to produce serotonin. You still need some carbs to spare dietary proteins and muscle tissue from being “burned” into glucose, but that’s a different issue.

  44. Hi. Thanks for writing this post. What about inflammation? Can a lot of the “water weight” people lose be inflammation?

    • Kristen,

      Obesity and inflammation go hand in hand because weight gain is just one of the components of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Both of these conditions cause a profound inflammation throughout the body, water or no water.

      Thus, normalizing weight or, at the very least, containing weight gain is the right strategy for reversing and preventing inflammation from affecting your health and your body.

  45. HELP! Dealing with low thyroid (had thyroid cancer but no more!) , adrenal fatique and medically induced menopause for over 6 years. I eat WAPF and have 20 more pounds to shed after losing 15 pounds with HHCG but weight and size has not budged for a couple of months. Getting pretty upset about it because I hate how it makes me feel and slows me down. I have battled this for years and have tried SO many different things. I am hoping and praying that your advice will do the trick. I’m waiting (impatiently?) for the remainder of information ;) Thank you and I hope this is the ticket! I have too much to do to be slowed down by fat!

  46. Konstantin, you’re obviously going to be a very busy man answering the flood of questions from all the many people eager for this type of insight and guidance!

    Sarah, thanks for doing this brilliant series!

  47. So I know you said earlier that this post is for “seasoned” dieters and those who are very knowledgable about weight loss. What do you reccomend for someone who is not as successful with a healthy lifestyle. By that I mean that I know all the rules of good nutrition/traditional diets. But being raised on the typical american diet, the switch can seem overwhelming to say the least. I have incorporated bone broths, started using better fats and whole fat dairy and we include grassfed beef. Though I still feel lost and unable to plan out meals and snacks for a family of 6. I go to the store and I feel like I’m being attacked by ideas and products and I end up buying stuff I know they will like, but are not the best things to buy. Price can have a lot to do with my decision as well. What do you think is the most important aspect of a traditional diet and what do you feel should be an absolute must of good nutrition. I know incorporating all aspects of a traditional diet are important but I’m hoping to take things one step at a time so as not to get too overwhelmed and quit. Weight has been an issue for me my entire life. I have always been a little heavy, but after the birth of 4 children I am holding onto 60+ extra pounds. I am tired, foggy, irritable and just plain feeling old. I am constantly craving sugar and/or caffeine and I just can’t seem to stick to my efforts. I am also a nursing mama…maybe that keeps weight on me? Thanks for your help. I hope this post isn’t too off topic, but I do appreciate any advice :)

    • Kristin,

      I don’t have easy answers or recommendations. Reaching and maintaining a normal weight is a daily challenge for all, including myself. Until the rest of this series is complete, the best advice I can share with you boils down to the following:

      1. Follow Sarah’s recommendations regarding a traditional diet to the tee.

      2. Moderation in everything IS everything.

      3. Don’t expect quick results (this point will be the subject of the next post).

      4. Concentrate on staying healthy and happy, not just (or exclusively) on your weight.

      5. Raise up your thermostat in the winter (to stay warm) and don’t lower it too much in the summer (also to stay warm). The moment the temperature inside gets below 76-78F (even though you may not feel it), your “hibernation” gene lowers your body’s thermostat, the rate of your energy and structural metabolism goes down, and the weight gain goes up.

      6. Nothing sweet by mouth, not even artificial sweeteners, and no alcohol of any kind. (See my responses above for explanation).

      6. Keep on reading my ensuing posts and share them with your family and friends. This will reinforce your self-confidence and motivation to stick with a lifestyle that is the key to successful and permanent weight loss.

  48. Great post. This is such a hugely overlooked area for most people. If they do a juice fast, like my husband recently did, they are losing the type of weight you describe. He lost 15 lbs but it was back on within 2 weeks. Looking forward to your next post. I hope I see it on FB feed.

    I want to mention that my husband eats a mostly whole foods diet and he has really struggled with his weight. We rarely eat out and when we HAVE to and get in a jam, we eat at Subway (which I know isn’t great, but at least you can choose to load up on veggies).
    He’s not super active, works out 1-2 times a week, but neither is he sedentary. I don’t know what else to do to help him, I am basically cooking whole foods each day. He doesn’t eat breakfast regularly and that’s the only suggestion I know of other than increasing activity. His mom has struggled with weight her whole life, and I just wish that it were easier for him. I worry about it a lot bc I want him to live a LONG life with me!

    • Marie,

      Not cooking all day is the first step toward helping your husband manage his weight. I couldn’t get my own weight under control either until my caring and loving wife did the same. And there is nothing wrong with an adult man not eating breakfast, particularly if he is overweight.

      I will address both issues — loving spouses with culinary talent and healthy breakfasts — in future posts.

      • This brings up another area I am curious to know your thoughts on, and which I trust you’ll cover in future posts. As with most anything in the field of health and nutrition, there are conflicting and confusing opinions that recommend intermittent fasting (skipping meals) vs eating three square meals without skipping meals and without snacking (a la The Leptin Diet) vs eating frequent smaller meals. I will await your thoughts on this fascinating topic in future posts.

  49. Sarah, thank you very much for hosting this awesome guest series!

    Konstantin, I appreciated this post and look forward to future ones. My question is about sleep. Is there a causal relationship between sleep deprivation and weight gain?

    During the last few months my sleep has been limited to about 4-5 hours per night, with waking 2-3 times in that period to tend to children. At the same time I’ve gained 15 pounds (bringing me to about 35 pounds overweight), and it’s all seemingly in my belly. Is this related to some hormonal change from chronic lack of sleep? Or just an association with a stressful time when I may be eating more than I realize? Thanks for sharing your expertise.

    • Meghan,

      As bizarre as it may appear, lack of sleep is a major factor in weight gain, and this statement has been confirmed in the last several years by a lot of academic research, though the “scientists” behind this “research” (observation, actually) can’t figure out the reasons why. So here are they are:

      (1) The longer you sleep, the less you eat.

      (2) The rate of energy metabolism during sleep is quite high, so it contributes to the loss of fat.

      (3) Cellular renewal takes place mostly while you are asleep, so the longer you sleep, the more resources, including body fat, are used for structural metabolism.

      (4) High-quality sleep reduces stress, and, consequently, reduces/prevents stress-related weight gains (I already addressed the connection between stress and obesity in prior answers).

      (5) Compromising your circadian rhythm lowers your body’s energy and structural metabolism, and it turns on “hibernation mode,” as was the case for most of human evolution, particularly for people who were residing in the regions with pronounced seasonal changes (and, correspondingly, shorter days and longer nights). That is also why people who are working night shifts tend to gain weight.

      Nurses are good examples — 70% of all American registered nurses are overweight and 40% (!!!) are clinically obese. Round-the-clock air conditioning in hospitals with temperatures held steady around 72 F exacerbate this problem. And once you attain a bit of fat around your body to keep the internal organs warm and free from harm, a “thermos effect” (my term) kicks in, lowering your body’s metabolic rate even more.

      So what can you do? Well, bring you thermostat up, try to expose yourself to as much as daylight as possible, take melatonin to “fool” your circadian rhythm clock, don’t overfeed your kids with carbohydrates before bed to ensure that they sleep better and longer, take liquid cod liver oil (read Sarah’s new book on that), and, most importantly, consume fewer calories, particularly from carbohydrates and the wrong kinds of fats (back to Sarah’s book again), regardless of how little you sleep, because the fat under your skin doesn’t come from air, but from your plate.

  50. I’m very interested in this next round of posts. Why is it that all of these presumably healthy eaters and exercisers (like me) are still overweight? I completely overhauled my eating, went from no exercise to daily workouts, expend more than I take in – I’m 45 and the scale hasn’t budged after 2months. Not even phantom weight loss. I’m not on a diet, I’m on a lifestyle change. Yes, I feel better. But I’ve fought the weight battle my whole life and I want to SEE my body change. So I’m looking forward to some answers. I’m very discouraged at this point. I feel like no one knows what they’re talking about and we have to accept that what we are is what we are……

    • Lisa,

      The answer to this question is very simple — you consume more nutrients than your body can utilize for energy and structural metabolism. THERE ARE NO OTHER CAUSES, period, except in people with pronounced edema (water retention). For people whose bodies are very efficient, a near-permanent reduced calorie diet is the only way to break out of this logjam. And, yes, I will address this phenomenon in the future post in much greater detail.

      I know this quite well from firsthand experience. My body happens to be incredibly efficient because I am a compact man (5’7″) with a low-impact lifestyle, minimal expectations (this keeps my emotions in check), and a “meditative” intellect — I only work well in a primarily semi-conscious, almost sleepy/dreamy state.

      The last two factors — emotional states and intellectual activities – are huge consumers of energy. This explains why so many active scientists are usually normal-weight despite their often prodigious diet.

      Back to my body: I live on two small meals a day, usually under 1,500 calories, and that’s the only way I can keep my weight under control. If I need to lose weight, I have to go down to 1100-1200 calories for a considerable stretch of time.

      Now, back to your dilemma: women’s bodies, particularly close to menopause, are even more efficient than men’s, and this is particularly pronounced in women who aren’t tall. The taller you are, the easier it is to lose weight, and vice-versa — the shorter you are, the faster you gain weight and the harder it is to lose it.

      But eating so little and for a long period of time is easier said than done because all very-low-calorie diets come with a list of 30 to 40 challenges and side effects, which I will tackle one by one in future posts.

      So, please stay tuned!

      • Very, very interesting.. I have never read that before. I seem to be the exact opposite. I can eat a lot and maintain weight. I am 5’3″ and not “young” (53) but have a high impact lifestyle, a lot of expectations, emotions are kept “in check” with great effort and have an extremely active intellect — and I only work well in an alert/ hyperactive state. Would that mean my body is “inefficient” or just uses a lot of energy?

  51. Interesting post which I think deserves lots of thought. Although most peoples weight problems stem from too many carbohydrates and eating lots of sugars….cut out potatoes and wheat products to start with along with all sugars and the weight will fall off…fat doesn’t make you fat, sugars do. Carbohydrates turn into sugars if not burnt up by the body so keep sugars out of your diet if you don’t exercise. Eat good fats like avocado and nuts, organic coconut oil and avocado oils too. Eat a rainbow coloured palate of fresh fruit and vegetables and some good sources of protein like pasture fed beef and good oily fish like salmon and tuna.
    As for the hCG diet, this does work but it must be used in conjunction with plenty of nutritional supplements and drinking lots of water to eliminate toxins. I lost 30 kilograms in 12 months and have kept it off…now I keep to the above regime of eating healthy.

    • Alyson,

      Congratulations on your weight loss. Unfortunately, what works so well for you may not work well for others, and it may eventually stop working for you as well.

      I’ve known a lot of people (Dr. Atkins was the most famous among them) who, at one point in their lives, went on a diet, lost a lot of weight, and then proceeded to proselytize others based on their providence.

      Guess what: despite a countless number of celebrities and medical doctors involved in the weight loss “racket,” our compatriots are fatter than ever, and I am writing yet another opus about attaining permanent weight loss without failures and side effects.

      Please, keep praying for your good luck, but don’t presume that everyone around you is just as lucky!

  52. Wow… This explains alot!.. I look forward to reading the next post. Everyone needs to read this. Thank you, sir!

    • Judy,

      You are very welcome. Let’s hope everyone will read this and have less suffering and more happiness. It isn’t so much a matter of being overweight as the connection between diabetes and obesity — around 80% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, and, inversely, 80% of people with excessive BMI are also affected by diabetes or prediabetes. That is what’s ruining our beloved country and our beloved family members.

  53. Pingback: Interesting link about initial weight loss on 'diets' | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page

  54. Konstantin, this is the best explanation I have ever read about why I can never lose more than 15 to 20 pounds. At that point I get discouraged and can not maintain the eating plan, so I eventually gain it back. Just as life has had its ups and downs, so has my ability to eat in a healthy way. Just as life has had its ups and downs, so has my ability to eat in a healthy way. When I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes two years ago, I changed to a raw plant based diet and I felt ten times better than usual. I have since left my husband and changed jobs, and effectively reduced most of my stress. I am also studying to be a Holistic Health Coach, in an attempt to learn as much as I can. I wish I had only 10 pounds to lose, unfortunately it is more like 50. By the way, Fiber Menace was of great help to me, as I also have chronic constipation. I very much look forward to your future posts. Thank you.

    • Cindy,

      Thank you for sharing your insights and travails. I am sure you’ll become a great health coach, so stick with it. It takes a great deal of humility to do this job well, and it usually comes from having to deal with/overcome one’s own demons and failures. I am confident that by the time this series is over, you’ll be well on your way to your desired weight!

  55. Thank you for taking time to answer so many questions. I’m really enjoying this conversation. I was wondering if you had any thoughts about the research that shoes obese people have different gut bacteria than normal weight people. I read a study about an obese man who rapidly lost weight after the researchers targeted his particular bacterial overgrowth/imbalance. I’m curious to know what you think.

    • @Celtymom,

      You are very welcome. I too am enjoying this experience and learning a lot from it. Thank you to all who have contributed their stories and questions!

      In regard to your question: yes, it is quite possible that obese people may have gut flora markedly different from healthy people with normal weight. This happening isn’t related to their weight per se, but to their propensity to consume more processed foods, taking/needing more medications, and having a high rate of inflammatory GI conditions.

      The important takeaway from all of this is that obese individuals aren’t necessarily obese because they have a different composition of intestinal flora, but because they lead less-than-wholesome lifestyles.

      Thus, if you are obese, you absolutely should concentrate on fixing up your gut flora because it is essential for good health and critical to avoiding weight-loss-related complications such as constipation or IBS. But improving one’s flora by itself will not have as much impact on one’s weight as lifestyle changes required for sustained and permanent weight loss.

  56. This makes so much sense, I always manage to,lose between 20-28 pounds then put that and more back on really quickly. I am the heaviest I have ever been and have around 112 pounds to make me within a healthy weight range.

    • Heather,

      Sarah and I can both relate to your story, and we are both looking forward to helping you with getting back to your optimal weight and staying that way for the rest of your long and happy life.

      The reason for your “weight creep” after each dieting cycle is fairly prosaic: anytime your body experiences “starvation” (which is what all reduced calorie diets are), your “starvation” gene reduces your level of energy and structural metabolism in order to assure your survival by (a) preserving and (b) accumulating precious resources, and particularly fat.

      And this trait is significantly more pronounced in women of child-bearing age because of extra energy needs for fertility, lactation, and offspring care.

      This is just one of several mechanisms behind the epidemics of obesity in the developed countries, and I’ll deal with all of them in future posts. Stay tuned!

  57. Thank you so much to you all for sharing your gracious thanks, comments, concerns, stories, and questions.

    I’ll be working on the next post (coming Friday) and may not be able to answer additional questions. I look forward to resuming our conversation after the next post, “How to Determine Your Rate of Fat Loss and the Duration of Your Diet.”

    I realize that this subject may make a lot of people upset after realizing just how long it takes to lose weight, even under the best of circumstances. On the other hand, gradual, deliberate, and consistent weight loss is best because:

    (a) A slow rate of weight loss allows your skin to shrink gradually, preventing wrinkles.

    (b) You are less likely to get derailed by the most common side effects for all weight loss diets (a deliberate semi-starvation).

    (c) It is so much easier to stick with your weight loss protocol when your expectations are in check.

    While waiting for the next post, please read “Get Your Fats Straight”. The more you know about the metabolism of dietary fat, the easier it is to lose your own.

    See you soon,

    Konstantin

  58. Pingback: The Real Reason Diets Fail and What You Can Do About It | CookingPlanet

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  61. Pingback: Calling out to women re: calories - Page 4 | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page 4

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