Provided the opportunity, most adults will overeat, however unconsciously, to store energy as fat. Also, given a chance, most adults will stay put to preserve energy (stored as fat) rather than move around to waste it. In practical terms, these two intrinsic biological traits – storage and preservation of energy – mean that weight loss is alien to the nature’s normal order, and that weight gain is a norm, not an exception.
With that in mind – that most of us are genetically pre-programmed to be work-lazy and food-greedy, maintaining normal weight is a huge challenge for anyone, while losing weight can be a lifelong fight against human nature itself.
No wonder, then, why it is so hard to crack the code of the obesity enigma. Still, it can be done by following a set of the following common sense rules:
Rule #1: Above all, a no-fail weight loss diet must contain less energy than you expend throughout the day, otherwise you aren’t going to lose any body fat, and may gain even more. Any time you encounter a plateau or begin gaining again a few weeks into your weight loss diet, it simply means that you are consuming more calories than your body can expend on energy and structural metabolism. I will elaborate on this rule in much greater detail in the next post.
Rule #2: A no-fail weight loss diet must be balanced. It’s actually quite difficult for many people to lose weight by eating unlimited fats as the late Dr. Atkins once suggested. A single gram of fat contains almost two-and-a-half times more energy than a single gram of carbohydrates, assimilates into the blood at a rate close to 98%, and contributes to weight gain just like carbs, only two-and-half times faster.
A high-carbohydrate diet, such as the Ornish diet, is just as fattening – many times more so – than the high-fat Atkins Diet. It is also a big no-no for health reasons because it shoots blood sugar, insulin, and triglycerides levels sky-high. Adding insult to injury, it may cause wasting of the bones and muscles because it lacks primary proteins by design. Even more damage results from its lack of the fats essential for assimilating fat-soluble micronutrients.
High-protein diets, such as the Paleo diet, are contra-indicated for most people past middle age (40+) because dietary proteins consumed in excess may cause gastric disorders, such as indigestion, heartburn, ulcers, gastroparesis, and other similar conditions.
Unlike these three extremes – high fat, high carb, or high protein, the most effective approach for weight loss contains all three nutrient groups in balanced physiological proportions, just as much as your body needs for its normal function, while, at the same time, allowing for sustained weight loss.
Rule #3: A no-fail diet must be simple to prepare, so you spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. If you really want to lose weight without failure, salivating over foods and recipes while cooking is not helpful. Neither is a lot of Food TV watching.
This is particularly true for people with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes – upwards of 80% of persons with adiposity – because even seeing pictures of food stimulates the release of first-phase insulin, which, in turn, incites hunger, appetite, and sugar cravings.
That is why any weight loss diet that comes with an accompanying cookbook or TV show is double jeopardy. First, it tricks you into believing that it works, and second – it sabotages itself. So don’t fall for this commonplace mistake assuming that you can pave your way out of obesity with gourmet meals and exciting menu.
Rule #4: A no-fail diet must reduce your appetite and hunger; otherwise you will not be able to stick with it much longer than a few weeks. Since both appetite and hunger are governed in part by primal instincts and unconditional reflexes, reducing them requires foods that are quick and simple to digest and assimilate, and that do not adversely affect the endocrine, immune, and nervous systems. And this brings us to…
Rule #5: A no-fail diet must not stimulate cravings for sweets and comfort food, otherwise you will compromise your weight loss even before starting it. To reduce cravings for sweets, which are a symptom of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, your diet should not contain anything that tastes sweet, even artificial sweeteners, because even the taste of sweetness stimulates the release of insulin – a sugar-craving hormone.
Artificial sweeteners while losing weight? Definitely not as they are totally counterproductive!
Rule #6: To reduce hunger pains you must prevent and eliminate gastric disorders. If you experience intense hunger pains, it may indicate that you are affected by an inflammation of your stomach mucosa, a condition known as gastritis. The pain goes away after eating because foods and fluids dilute the gastric acid and proteolytic enzymes, so the related pain is lessened. That is why hunger pains stimulate frequent eating and overeating – the exact opposite of what must to be done to lose weight.
Rule #7: To speed up satiety and prevent overeating you must consume low-density foods – a medical term for a reduced fiber diet. You must also avoid excess fluids, particularly after meals, because fiber and excess fluids distend the stomach, making it more difficult to fill it to the point of satiety the next time around.
Rule #8: To maintain a high rate of energy metabolism, you must normalize your thyroid function and prevent anemia. Early stage hypothyroidism deprives your body of energy, and slows down or interrupts weight loss. Elimination and prevention of anemia is an equally important condition for sustained weight loss. If your blood cannot transport oxygen efficiently, your energy levels drop, stimulating weight gain.
Rule #9: A no-fail diet must prevent undernutrition of critical nutrients, such as essential amino and fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and microelements. A deficiency of these nutrients slows down energy and structural metabolism, and reduces or halts weight loss. In addition, chronic undernutrition stimulates intense cravings for foods that may contain missing nutrients, and this leads to overeating.
Ironically, a badly conceived and incorrectly executed weight loss diet may also ruin your appearance and accentuate your age by causing muscle wasting, skin sagging and pigmentation, hair loss, periodontal disease and ensuing tooth loss, height reduction, decreasing eyesight, and other telltale signs of weight loss-related undernutrition – the complete opposite of what you want to accomplish (i.e. to improve your appearance) by losing weight in the first place. And it goes without saying, that diet-related undernutrition is behind most of the nastiest health complications related to weight loss, particularly the “yo-yo” effect.
Rule #10: A no-fail diet must assure good sleep, because the more you sleep, the more weight you are going to lose. There are three reasons behind this paradox: First, the longer you sleep, the less you eat; second, the rate of energy metabolism during sleep is quite high, so it contributes to the loss of fat; third, 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.
Rule #11: A no-fail diet must demonstrate ongoing weight loss constantly, otherwise you are not likely to continue your diet long enough to reach your desired weight. Since eating less intentionally is one of life‘s most difficult sacrifices, tangible weight loss is the best incentive to keep you going.
Constantly does not mean daily – the weight changes from day to day aren’t significant enough to register on consumer-grade scales. So, please, don‘t make a habit of checking your weight more than once a week to avoid discouragement and bathroom scale anxiety.
Finally, Rule #12: A no-fail diet must avoid and eliminate spoilers. These are not just foods and food additives that trigger hunger, stimulate appetite, diminish metabolism, or interfere with digestion, but also events, habits, and behaviours that result in overeating, and stop weight loss and diabetes reversal dead in their tracks.
This completes my top twelve list. Sharing with you these rules in advance should make it absolutely clear that a successful weight loss diet requires more understanding, skills, and support than simply switching from one menu to another. It goes without saying, that my weight loss program observes all twelve of these rules with a vengeance, and then some. That is what makes it so effective not only for weight loss, but also for protecting your appearance, preempting premature aging, and improving your health, energy, and vitality.
Previous posts from the “Why Diets Fail” series:
1. The Real Reason Diets Fail and What You Can Do About It
2. How Long Will It Take Me to Lose the Weight?
3. Why One Calorie For Her Is Half a Calorie For Him
4. The Top Four Misconceptions Behind Weight Loss Failure
5. Energy Metabolism: The Good, The Bad, and In-Between
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Dear Dr. Monastyrsky,
Have you encountered/treated people with fructose malabsorption? It is a challenge to eat a variety of vegetables when the naturally occurring fructose in many of them causes digestive problems. I’m not sure if this question is appropriate for this post, but was hoping you may address this topic in the future. Thank you for your time.
I don’t work directly with patients, so my exposure to obscure conditions is rather limited. Because of my former travails with late stage diabetes, severe IBS, and upper respiratory disorders, I don’t eat fruits at all, and only occasional fermented vegetables. It took me some time to get used to this lifestyle, but after a while I don’t miss any of them. To compensate for missing water soluble vitamins, such as B-group and vitamin C, I do take professional-grade multivitamin.
Konstantin Monastyrsky, I very interested in your work I too have struggled with my weight off and on a lot of me life… but since I have found that I am a MCADD carrier as well as symptomatic with Hypoglycemia…I struggle with needing food so often… Hungry in not a nice feeling for sure but I don’t feel this often as I eat often… ugh to keep my brain in tact!
Thank you for your interest in my work. I found a very simple method of dealing with acute hypoglycemia related to my late stage type 2 diabetes back in 1996: nothing sweet by mouth, not even artificial sweeteners (they are even more offensive), and, for the first two years, zero carbs diet. This technique “unconditioned” my pancreas from secreting stored insulin in response to sweetness and blood sugars, normalized my insulin secretion, and eliminated hypoglycemia. Obviously, it “cured” me from diabetes as well, and normalized my weight. Alcohol of any kind is also taboo since it drives blood sugar down profoundly.
I don’t know much about the interaction of this kind of diet with MCADD, so you need to figure this out on your own. As far as the hunger goes, I’ll address this subject in depth in future post because managing appetite and hunger is fundamental to successful weight loss.
Carbs are VERY important to a person with a fatty acid oxidation disorder, which MCADD is. My grandson died from MCADD. It is nothing to fool around with. FODs are fat disorders – the body does not have the ability to break down certain fats, so when in crisis mode (sickness, stress, etc.), carbs are needed for immediate energy. Please be careful, Deb.
Hi Konstantin and All,
This was such a fascinating blog post. I am in my mid-50s and I have tried to lose weight with Atkins, but did find it a bit challenging. I soon realized that I was simply eating too much – regardless of following the Atkins food recommendations. I also found that Atkins did not help at all at addressing binge eating or compulsive eating issues.
When I tried to cut back on the portion size, I did lose weight but found that I was not able to maintain the weight loss – – – plus I missed being able to eat a more varied diet. And, since my emotional issues tied to food had not been addressed with Atkins, it was almost impossible to sustain the proper portion size.
Howerver, I eventually discovered a program called “The Light Weigh”. http://www.lightweigh.com/ which I was able to combine with the WAPF way of eating.
The Light Weigh program helped me tremendously to overcome some of the emotional aspects tied to over eating as one of the previous posters discussed. If you have emotional issues tied to food, these really do need to be addressed before trying to lose weight. If food is how you comfort yourself through binge eating or compulsive eating, you need to find other ways to sooth yourself if you are ever going to be successful in losing weight. The Light Weigh helped me considerably with this.
Next, The Light Weigh really helped me get my portion sizes into the normal range. About a coffee cup full per meal. And it also taught me to watch for that breath that you take toward the end of a meal indicating that you’re getting full. When that breath came, I knew to only eat another two bites or so and that would be enough to fill my stomach.
Finally, what was great about The Light Weigh was that there are no recommendations on what to eat. So, I ate a WAPF based diet – just in a controlled portion amount. And this combination – The Light Weigh and WAPF have finally helped me to begin to lose weight and overcome my cravings and binge eating.
So looking forward to the rest of the blog posts!
Thank you for letting us know. I am glad that someone has already addressed this subject. Writing about emotional support is outside of my area of expertise (which is digestive and endocrine disorders). This a fairly specialized aspect of any nutritional treatment, not just weight loss.
Mary, This sounds like something I need to check into. I am also into my 50s and just need to lose about 10 lbs. I don’t want to “diet” but eat healthy which I am but apparently overeating because I can’t get to my normal weigh. I have a lot of belly fat. Thanks!