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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Thank you, Sir! I am 59 and in some real battles! I remember reading your take on fiber several years ago and it made total sense to me. I have tried to stay up to date on nutrition through the years and when I kept getting fatter and fatter, I came across Weston Price and it made so much sense to me. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand about unlimited fats and have gotten nowhere in that battle over the years except when I added a moringa product first thing in the morning. The influx of nutrients has truly helped me, but after menopause at 54, I am getting worse in weight all the time. As an organic grower, raw milk drinker, pastured meat only consumer, and one terrified of restaurants and processed foods, I am at a loss. My heartburn and stomach pain is gone now that I rarely eat starches of any kind. (Rice is one of the worst, for me) This is all to say, someone may be able to help me understand why I am failing badly in this. Now if you could help me with my 4 month sinus infection, I will be on top of the world!
Thank you for sharing your travails. Visit this site, and implement their recommendations into your current lifestyle. It should help you to normalize your sinusitis: http://web.archive.org/web/20130325195625/http://urticaria.thunderworksinc.com/pages/lowhistamine.htm. High protein diet, unfortunately, tends to raise histamine level considerably, and this leads to the kind of problems you are experiencing.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS ISN’T A FORUM FOR DISCUSSING YOUR PERSONAL HEALTH OR PROVIDE COUNSELING. MY REPLY IS JUST A COURTESY. DO NOT POST ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS HERE RELATED TO THIS SUBJECT.
Sorry. That was merely a joke at the end!
Patricia, well, my answer was “deadly” serious. A low-histamine diet is the best thing one can have for overcoming upper respiratory infections, allergies, and autoimmune conditions such as asthma.
I am very interested… and want to follow on this site. So hoping with my comment I’ll be able to follow the thread!
I’m on the Dash Diet for weight loss, based of the book by Marla Heller. It’s the closest to these rules I have heard of a diet be. The only main exception is that the dash diet supports using artificial sweeteners . I try not to use them much as I have also tried to be a clean eater. I am having good success with this diet. 14 lbs lost and 1.5 inches off my belly in 5 weeks. And all the people I know who are following it are having great success and feeling great and having their blood pressure improve. So I’d be curious to see what Sarah would say about the DASH diet and how I’m avoiding artificial anything .
So, then, what do we eat??
white rice and some fish like wild salmon and grassfed meats and organ meats- from my understanding. check out fiber menace.
you can also check the western price foundation – they have a good site.
This is the most sensible approach I’ve run across so far….waiting with interest for the next installment!
Thank you for your feedback. I am so glad over you choice of words: “the most sensible approach,” rather than “the most sensible diet.” That is exactly what I would like readers to take away from this: the diet part is simple, but getting though one for as long as it takes requires “approach!”
Thank you again!
konstanin, thanks for your work! when you say, fats, but not unlimited fats, for those over weight, what about coconut oil? i’ve heard that we should take 4 tablespoons of coconut oil per day; what are your thoughts on this? thanks!
You are very welcome, and thank you for reading! Coconut oil is perfectly OK for weight loss plan, except that you need to scale it down into overall proportion of fats (and calories).
Unfortunately, all fats regardless of their health benefits are “fattening” when consumed in excess of what can be used for energy and structural metabolism. That just how the body works, and there isn’t anything else we can do about it.
The most important takeaway from this is: because reduced calorie diet has to limit the amount of fats by design, you MUST chose the healthiest possible fats during that period, so that your body gets all of the essential fatty acids in their natural, non-rancid form.
Wow, if you have a plan that overcomes all 12 of these rules, then I will be in heaven! These 12 rules are the exact things that have made other diets so challenging for me. Reducing calories is hard enough but then when you start experiencing side effects like the ones listed in the rules above, it doesn’t seem worth it anymore. I love that you are teaching us the principles so that we can be our own health coach. Thank you so much for offering us this free information, it is very generous of you! I would be even more excited if you decided to start posting twice a week!
You are very welcome, and thank you for your comments. Yes, I’ll decipher each one of these twelve rules. After that we’ll deal with a multi-step process of getting yourself into a diet “zen,” and, after that, I’ll go over the dominant side effects of weight loss. With all that information you’ll be perfectly able to coach yourself and others as well.
Two posts a week? Sorry, can’t do that. It takes about three days to write a new post, a day or two of back-and-forth with my editor, and another day to get it prepped for release. When the post is out, that’s my day off, and the process repeats.
Konstantin – Do me (and yourself) a big favor. If you think any of these 12 steps, or any other factors, are more important than the others–please tell us those first!
So many of these series roll out and people start following only to find out they were missing very important pieces of the puzzle.
For instance, a prolific blogger was leading people along on a “Leptin reset” last year, six months into it, nobody was getting any better–then the blogger started saying, ‘Oh, wait–you need to get your Vit D level above 70 for this to work” and “You need to get your adrenals working for that to work”.
It really p-sses people off when respected advisors withhold info!
All of these priorities are equally important. Their relative importance may differ from person to person depending on age, gender, health, initial weight, current diet, and some other factors. Skipping anyone will can easily compromise weight loss, but, again it depends not on the rule, but on the person. I will write them all up over the next 12 weeks, and will do so to the best of my abilities.
John Shafer via Facebook
As a parent of two children, I want my entire family to be healthy and I hope this promotes good health for my wife and I and for my little boy and little girl.
Every child deserves a parent like you. There is a lot of talk about genetics, and their role in familial disorders. My take on that — kids “inherit” the health of their parents not because of genetics, but because they pattern their bad habits into adulthood. There isn’t a more important thing that you can do for your children than teaching them the habits of health.
Another thing I find helpful is your mention of the potential pitfalls of dieting like hair loss. I switched to a Paleo style diet a few years ago and although I had sucesses (increased energy, effortless weight loss for several months) I also experienced some nasty side effects including massive hair loss. Everyone I asked said something to the effect of, “that’s just your body’s reaction to the diet change. I can’t help but think there was something (miconutrients?) I was missing. I have also not maintained my weight loss.
Yes, I will address all of these subjects, about thirty side effects of the weight loss, including hire loss. When people switch to Paleo, this problem is usually connected to the deficiency of vitamins C, K, B-12, and iron, and it is quite common. That you couldn’t maintain your weight loss — that’s probably because you never really lost much fat… For that, please go back to the first and second posts.
Another good article. However, I do not see how you find the Paleo diet to be
deficient in Vitamins K and B-12″ when eggs, beef, lamb, seafood/shellfish and organ meats are consumed in adequate quantities along with many dark leafy greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and other vegetables? Many Paleo diet advocates do limit fruit and I can possibly see the potential of inadequate Vitamin C intake.
Thank you for your comment. You are absolutely correct that the Paleo style of nutrition by itself isn’t deficient in vitamins B-12, K, or iron, especially when people do consume eggs, red meat, and organ meats in, as you said, “adequate quantities.”
Unfortunately, these amounts in reduced calorie diet are rarely adequate; most people aren’t accustomed to eating organ meats on regular basis; and few people start their weight loss diet with adequate stores of these micronutrients in their bodies.
Also, most adults over 45-50 aren’t able to secret the intrinsic factor (enough or at all) required to assimilate vitamin B-12 because of atrophic gastritis — a loss of glandular cells which secret pepsin, intrinsic factor, and hydrochloric acid.
This may not be an issue for younger people, but it is a serious challenge for most people past 45-50, further exacerbated by several protein-containing meals and snacks throughout that they simply can’t digest.
I think he KNOWS what he is talking about! I like his posts and can’t wait to read the next one. We don’t want to be told that we need self control but that is exactly what we need. We are an overindulgent people. Thank you for putting all this in prespective.
Thank you! You are right on the money. I tested exact same approach with my work on colorectal disorders, and it works remarkably well for anyone who takes time to read and understand basic concepts of what needs to be done. I do recognize that some people will need more advanced support and directions, and, as I wrote previously, I plan to train a number of registered dietitians, clinical nutritionists, and medical doctors to provide individualized counseling. But that is way, way in the future, and these professionals will have access to exact same information as everyone else.