I wanted to do an updated post on getting lean and keeping the weight off. I stress the second goal as much as the first. The reason is that somewhere between 70% and 95% of people that lose weight will gain it all back. And many of those will gain even more.
You see the brain remembers where it once was (setpoint) and the moment you run out of willpower, it will send signals to upregulate appetite above and beyond what you need to survive at your new healthy weight.
The brain also becomes more efficient at energy management when it notices calories have been restricted. This means metabolism is reduced. Restoring metabolism will take longer than the fat loss period. Depending upon how much weight is lost, it could be months or years. See section #3 in my post Defending Fat Loss for a deeper explanation.
How do you build a calorie deficit consistently and yet not fall susceptible to regaining the weight later? When I researched this very question a few years ago, I came to the conclusion that the highest probability one had of succeeding would be if one lost the weight without experiencing hunger. This flies in contrast to the experiences of most dieters that try and tough it out with a moderation strategy that restricts calories without addressing (or respecting) hunger signals. And yet we know most dieters fail. Either in losing the weight or in keeping it off.
The brain can outlast your willpower. It may take months or years, but eventually, it usually wins. The brain needs to trust the fat loss process or you will likely not be successful. Check out my post Approach Fat Loss Like You Would Approach a Cat for an instructive analogy on this point.
The brain will trust the process if you can turn down the hunger signals. Here are three strategies on how to do that.
#1 Eat High-Volume, Low-Calorie Foods
You know where I am going with this tip. Fill your belly with boiled potatoes. Maybe one day a week or one meal a day or a one at the start of a meal. You can add salt or red wine vinegar, but nothing else. Replace enough meals and you’ll get leaner.
If you think potatoes are a fattening food, you’ve been misled. I explain all in the post Tater Haters Have Some Explaining To Do.
Potatoes aren’t the only food in this category, but they suppress hunger the most. Veggies are good too. Just don’t cover them in butter or oil.
The key here is to view your stomach as a limited space that when empty is sending a hunger signal to the brain. If you fill it to a certain level, you turn off the signal. Finding the big volume, low-calorie foods is the key to this trick.
#2 Eat High Protein Foods
The first tip helps you leave the meal satisfied with low calories. Increasing the protein will help you feel full for a longer duration. Higher protein is the real magic of almost all successful diets, be they low-carb or low-fat.
Increasing the protein levels becomes more important as you get closer to your target weight. See the P-Ratio section in the post High Volume or High Protein Foods For Fat Loss.
#3 Eat Higher Fiber Foods
I always knew that fiber-rich foods were more filling, but recently I learned the mechanism. At 3:30 in the video The Science of Vegan Fat Loss, Mic the Vegan explains propionate, which is a short-chain fatty acid that is produced when the gut breaks down fiber. This sends a signal to the brain to reduce appetite.
Of course, this makes total sense, especially if you think about the opposite case, which would be eating a diet of processed foods where fiber is low. There you can consume a lot more calories before satiety is reached.
Now when choosing foods or meals, try and select items that meet one or more of those three criteria. A food that scores high in protein and fiber and is pretty good on volume would be lentils. Dirt cheap too and quick to prepare (compared to other legumes – especially if you use a pressure cooker).
Replace enough meals with high-volume, high-protein, or higher fiber and you’ll drop weight without hunger.
Don’t make the mistake of walking away hungry with these techniques. Eat until you are full. Even if you don’t have much of a calorie deficit at first. You are training your brain to connect satiety with healthy foods that by modern standards are bland. Just keep at it and you’ll find your appetite will down-regulate. Trust the process.
And if you have cravings for foods that meet none of the 3 rules above, see my “BUT FIRST” tip in the post How I Beat Food Cravings on the Peasant Diet. Follow that and you’ll not only be dropping calories but rewiring your brain to be more resilient in a food environment with endless high-calorie choices.
My final piece of advice is to see this process as skill development. The more you practice these techniques, the easier it gets.
Chewing is hard 🤦🏽♂️