For those that don’t know the background story read How I Regained the Weight I Lost, The Fat Loss Bet and The Fat Loss Side Bet. In this post, I am going to outline my plan for losing 20 pounds and winning this bet.
Since I started researching and experimenting with nutrition again in 2007, I have been exposed to so many ideas. Some of the ideas that swayed me early on no longer do. There is rampant disagreement on the best way to lose fat. Unlike other bloggers that talk about nutrition, I’ll be the first to say that I don’t know the answers. I come from a finance background and I approach nutrition from the mindset of an investor. This means I assume I am working with incomplete knowledge.
Calories, Carbs, and Caffeine
Any discussion of dieting starts with calories. There has been an endless debate on “do calories count” in the blogosphere. People much smarter than I have been going back and forth on this never-ending debate. To me, it is all about appetite. Some calories stimulate appetite and some suppress appetite, but those calories do count. I want to have the appetite of someone who weighs 20 pounds less. Since my metabolism isn’t broken and I otherwise seem quite healthy, I must assume that reducing calories is the logical path to reach that goal.
I don’t think carbs are bad or inherently fattening. If I happen to reduce carbs, it is because I am reducing total calories or trying to reduce appetite. I’ll be seeking high-satiety foods, some of which may or may not be carbohydrates.
For me, caffeine helps suppress appetite. When I cut back, I get hungry, which is exactly what I don’t want to happen now. So this means it is unlikely that I will be reducing caffeine until I hit my weight goal (or lose the main bet ).
No cake for me!
Exercise is the least important part of the equation because it is where I am the most constrained. Due to my knee injury, I am limited by how much I can move. I can do some low-intensity cycling and rowing for rehab, walking – but not too much- and some upper body strength training. In other words, nothing is changing as far as exercise.
Adding more exercise could jeopardize my knee’s ability to recover, which is the entire reason for losing the 20 pounds. I am following the exercise ideas in the book Framework for the Knee.
Before I list my plan of attack, I want to say this is what I think will work for me, not everyone. The sequence of these items is important.
#1 Remove Foods that I Eat Past Satiety
I don’t eat fast food or many processed foods. For me, the two foods that I used to help gain weight when I was underweight were ice cream and dairy kefir. I have stopped eating both. I still consider both foods to be healthy, but just not at this time. I see these foods as tools.
I do not consider sugar harmful, but it makes sense to remove the foods that dis-regulate appetite the most. I disagree with the health bloggers that claim food restriction leads to binge eating. It may be for some, but my inner economist tells me that if you’re trying to cut your heating bill, the first thing you do is close all the windows. For me, ice cream and dairy kefir were the open windows.
#2 Create a Food Journal
I started writing down all the food I eat in a notebook starting on February 19th. I have zero plans to count calories, as I kind of know where the problem resides (see #1), but if I am wrong I will at least have a record of what I ate. I might even make the food journals available publicly as a form of accountability.
#3 Reduce Eating Window
I have found that reducing the number of hours a day that I eat is the most effective and sustainable path to lowering calories. Others get benefit from eating as soon as they wake up to jump-start their metabolism. All that did for me was cause me to gain more weight. I must eat right before bed. If I don’t I will not fall asleep and if I don’t eat enough, I will wake up in the middle of the night hungry. The often repeated “don’t eat before bed” if you want to lose weight is a myth.
This means I need to fast or eat very few calories in the AM hours. My willpower is very strong before evening and weakens before bed. I’m also more likely to eat socially and away from my kitchen in the evening. Building up a calorie deficit early in the day is important for me.
#4 Increase Protein
One of the reasons low-carb diets seem to work well is that they are usually higher in protein. Protein has the greatest effect on reducing appetite. From the Perfect Health Diet article Protein, Satiety, and Body Composition:
A number of studies have found protein to be the most satiating macronutrient, with fat moderately satiating, and carbs least satiating.
Thus, when people reduce carbs and increase protein, their appetite declines and they almost always reduce calorie intake. This can leads to rapid short-term weight loss. This is why most popular weight loss diets are high in protein: increasing protein causes dieters to quickly lose some weight, encouraging them to continue.
Since I dropped ice cream and dairy kefir, this means I’ll need to add additional sources of protein. I already consume red meat and eggs, so I’ll be increasing my seafood intake. Recently I’ve become a big fan of Vietnamese fish soup. I also love Korean fish soups.
#5 Cold Thermogenesis
Because of my exercise constraints, one way I could trigger more fat loss without movement is cold thermogenesis. For more on this topic see Shivering Thermogenesis. I don’t plan to start this at this time. I want to focus on getting the first 10 pounds lost using the above strategies. Then if I get stuck, start tinkering with cold exposure. I’ll be careful not to stack stressors.
Ice cream, liquid calories (kefir, juices, alcohol), wheat, most processed foods, nuts, and vegetable oils.
Some readers will want to know about my quest for increasing body temperature using some of the ideas from the Ray Peat / Matt Stone / Danny Roddy camp. I will continue to avoid nuts, as I still believe that excess PUFA is the common enemy in nutrition. However, I will be reducing my dairy and avoiding liquid calories such as orange juice and Mexican Coke. I also think Peat-atarians are wrong in promoting low-fat dairy, as it has lower satiety.
UPDATE Oct 2021: Low-fat dairy might be a better tool, as it is higher in protein. Fat-free Greek yogurt is a good tool for dieting.
If for any reason I start to feel uncomfortably cold, I will stop and consume some carbs. This might be a sign that too large of an energy deficit is happening. See the Calories Proper post Hypothyroid-like symptoms, energy balance, and diet quality for a detailed discussion on this topic.
I have no idea how much weight I will lose and how fast. I’ve never actually successfully dieted before. The weight I lost in 2008-2011 was unintentional. It just happened when I cut out the wheat, started cooking more at home, reduced my eating window, and embraced a diet based on nutrient density and diversity.
My plan is to use a combination of food restriction, eating window restriction, and accountability via food journal to create a caloric deficit. I believe this will result in a 20-pound weight loss that is sustainable.