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Sustainable Fat Loss Diet

I'm relatively certain that there isn't one system of eating that works well for everyone, and that our dietary needs for optimal health invariably changes as we go through different life stages. So ultimately, it's up to each individual to try dietary strategies that make sense and are in alignment with human biochemistry, to observe how their body and health respond, and to make modifications when necessary.

When looking to lose fat, I feel it's vital to keep the following in mind:

  • The loss needs to be sustainable.

  • Muscle, strength, and energy should be preserved.

  • Bowel movements should be regular and comfortable.

If a diet fails you in one or more of these categories, there are worthwhile modifications to be made.

There are two diets that biochemistry and endocrinology tell us are supportive of healthy sensitivity to insulin, which allows for ongoing burning of fat tissue and maintenance of lean tissue mass:

1. A diet that is high in minimally processed foods that are rich in carbohydrates and low in foods rich in fat. Nutrient-dense vegan and vegetarian diets tend to fall into this category so long as one does not eat unusually large amounts of fat-rich foods like olives, avocados, and plant oils.

2. A diet that is high in foods rich in healthy fat and low in foods rich in carbohydrates.

So generally, if you are not depriving yourself of sufficient calories to fuel your days and you want to keep fat to a minimum while preserving muscle tissue, one of the two approaches outlined above should work for you.

What you don't want to do is eat large amounts of foods rich in fat plus substantial quantities of foods rich in carbohydrates - eating both such foods together on a regular basis is a recipe for creating cells that are insensitive to insulin, which leads to accumulation of fat in the belly region and in and around the organs.

Please keep in mind that with these principles, it's what you do 80 to 90 percent of the time that determines your overall body mass and health. Put another way, if you have a doughut, an order of French fries, or a plate of fettucine alfredo once in a while - all are high in carbs and fat - you should eat with a grateful heart and enjoy, and get back to making healthier choices over subsequent meals.

For those who tend to thrive on a mostly plant diet, the following is an example of a sustainable fat-burning menu and eating schedule:

Upon awakening and until noon or 1 pm, have all the healthy liquids that you would like, but don't take in any liquids that have sugar, natural or not.

Lunch: A large salad, cooked vegetables, a grain dish, avocado, organic eggs. Fresh fruit and/or nuts for dessert.

Dinner: Same as lunch, but perhaps with a sweet potato, hummus, and even fish where one is not opposed to it. Fresh fruit and/or nuts for dessert.

Liquids with little to no caloric value are fine to take in between lunch and dinner, as well as after dinner so long as they don't cause frequent urination at night which hurts sleep quality.

For those who thrive with substantial quantities of flesh meat, a sustainable fat-burning diet and schedule would look something like the following:

Upon awakening and until noon or 1 pm, have all the healthy liquids that you would like, but don't take in any liquids that have sugar, natural or not.

Lunch: A large salad, cooked vegetables, avocado, and any animal food that provides a total of about 30 grams of protein - this can be in the form of eggs, fish, chicken, pork, beef, wild game, etc. If dairy doesn't cause any health issues like congestion, rashes, and excessive mucous production, cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt, and other forms are also viable options. Nuts or seeds for a snack.

Dinner: Same as lunch.

Liquids with little to no caloric value are fine to take in between lunch and dinner, as well as after dinner so long as they don't cause frequent urination at night which hurts sleep quality.

Please remember that beyond dietary choices and timing of meals, sensitivity to insulin and partitioning of nutrients within the body are dependent on other factors as well. To review, these factors are outlined below:

5 Keys to Losing Fat While Improving Health and Longevity

Any diet or pattern of eating that relies on calorie restriction to a point where real hunger is an ongoing challenge isn't good for longevity.

The reason is simple - calorie restriction leads to loss of fat and muscle. Losing fat is generally good for longevity. Loss of skeletal muscle - called sarcopenia - is very bad for short and long term health. The amount of skeletal muscle mass we carry is a strong predictive marker for longevity.

In fact, it's most likely better for long term health to carry a bit of extra fat plus a good amount of skeletal muscle rather than to have very little fat and muscle.

So let's be clear in knowing that we don't want to lose weight. Rather, we want to lose fat while maintaining as much lean muscle mass as we can without injuring ourselves.

Here are five principles that I have found to be helpful to many:

1. Eat less frequent meals.

Rather than give your body calories through meals, snacks, and beverages multiple times a day, strive to fuel up less frequently. If you currently eat or drink calories 10 times daily, begin by working your way down to 3. If you are at 3 per day but carry more fat tissue than you feel healthy with, aim to cut down to 2 fuelling sessions daily.

Please note that I'm not suggesting that you deprive yourself of calories needed to feel physically capable and mentally clear over the course of the day. The idea is to give your body longer breaks from having to process foods and drinks that have caloric value. You can drink all the cold, hot, and sparkling water that you'd like in between meals. Ditto for herbal teas and even black coffee if they don't cause discomfort, though it's generally best not to have more than 1-2 cups of coffee daily.

2. Eat less sugar and foods made with white flour.

Sugar and white flour are excellent for energy, but if you take in more than you need during any given window, they end up making your fat cells larger, and also prevent your cells from burning fat for fuel.

3. Chew your foods well, until liquid if possible.

Chewing well allows your body to get more nutrients out of what you ingest, and also promotes a mindset that is naturally protective against overeating. It also doesn't hurt to eat with gratitude.

4. Be physically active.

If at all possible, do something daily to improve or maintain your muscular strength, be it a brisk walk, push-ups, pull-ups, body weight squats, anything that requires that you challenge large muscle groups - think legs, chest, and back. If you only have time to work on one body region, focus on your legs. Doing just one set of as many body weight squats as you can daily should help you lose fat and be metabolically healthier. Better yet, try some of the squat variations in the brief leg and balance workout below.

5. Get sufficient restful sleep.

Do whatever is needed to give your body a chance to get quality rest daily. An eye mask, ear plugs, a cooler temperature, a separate bed just for yourself, a CPAP machine if needed, even melatonin - all of these are worth trying if you aren't waking up feeling refreshed. Restful sleep improves fat oxidation in all of our cells - put another way, when we are well rested, we burn more fat throughout the day.

 
 

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Comments

Dr Kim I have a question for you. My husband and I are currently on a Keto diet reflective of the recommendation for weight loss that you outlined in your article and it is working great for us! (We are in our 60’s)....the only thing is that we miss the fruits and grains that are restricted. Can a person switch out the two types of diet? Say do the Keto type for a few months and then the high carb diet for a few months? Or should we simply occasionally enjoy one of the “prohibited” foods once in a while like you mentioned (French fries, donut......) ?

Karin - in my experience, yes, it can be healthy to cycle between different eating plans. As long as you are striving to eat mostly minimally processed foods and following your cravings, you should do well. As the body becomes healthier and more sensitive to insulin, it is better able to make use of macro and micronutrients in a wide variety of foods.

You say "Upon awakening and until noon or 1 pm, have all the healthy liquids that you would like, but don't take in any liquids that have sugar, natural or not." What do you suggest drinking?

Water and herbal teas are good choices. Black organic coffee would be another option, though I suggest not having more than 2 cups of coffee per day.

I've been having a mix of your Greens and Organic Multi powders in water whenever i wake...would you suggest delaying that mix until i'm ready to eat my first meal and drink water or tea instead until then?...i know you suggest those powders are beneficial on an empty stomach. thanks!

I actually do the same thing, Suzy, and I find that I do well with the powders in the morning with water. If you are happy with your current health status, I would continue with your routine. If you feel there is room for improvement, you could try delaying the food supplements until about noon.