Diet & Fat Loss
My position is that you should be focused on manipulating your body to burn fat. This is a very different focus than calorie-counting and is based on the scientific explanations of Dr. Jason Fung (and our own experience running diet studies and supporting fat loss coaches).
To manipulate your body to be in fat-burning mode, most people will have two options: reduce carbs or increase fasting time.
Try both at once if you want to burn fat quickly, but also know that for long-term health you should be looking for a permanent change. In our experience as behavior designers, the 16:8 intermittent fasting option — where you skip breakfast everyday — is a much easier permanent lifestyle change than avoiding carbs for the rest of your life.
There are a couple of caveats. We haven’t covered diet changes for people with significant pre-existing health issues. If this is you, trust your doctor, not us. Also, many women have told us anecdotally that they experience low carb and fasting differently than it is described by men. I feel like this is a blind spot in our coverage, and I’m sorry.
Last, a huge amount of diet writing comes with a heavy dose of fat shaming. We’ve tried to avoid that, but if you have arrived here feeling like you’ve been fat-shamed in the past, please read Ragen Chastain’s piece about Leaving Toxic Diet Culture Behind.
We don’t have an intro to fasting article yet. If we did, it would be focused on eating windows. That form of fasting is commonly called 16:8 and refers to an 8-hour eating window: say, noon to 8pm. You do all of your eating in that window, and then fast for the remaining 16 hours.
- Science: Does Fasting Burn Muscle? ~Dr. Jason Fung
- Case Study: Tracking Ketones and Energy During Intermittent Fasting ~Mark Moschel
- Case Study: I lost 50lbs on a 5:2 Intermittent Fast ~Dave Wentworth
There are a lot of variants of Low Carb that are mostly on the spectrum of how aggressively you will avoid carbs. Keto is the most aggressive.
Tim Ferriss’ Slow Carb uses a weekly cheat day to make the diet change easier to follow.
- A Blueprint for Fat Loss with Slow Carb, Low Carb & Keto Diets ~Dorothy Stainbrook
- How to Eat According to Your Carb Tolerance ~John Fawkes
- How to Check if a Food Label is Keto ~Abigail Roaquin
Comparison of Diet Approaches:
In 2014, we ran a weight loss experiment using control groups and randomized assignment. Our goal was to compare popular diet approaches and what we found was that they all led to weight loss (even as compared to the control group). As part of that experiment we wrote up helpful diet cheat sheets that you can use now as quick guides to different approaches:
Slow Carb | Paleo | Whole Foods | Vegetarian | DASH
The importance of these articles is in the behavior change. It’s easy to know how you should eat, but much harder to follow through. Hopefully, these skills will help.
- How to Use Mindfulness Meditation to Overcome Emotional Eating ~Stefy Uotani
- How to Conquer Food Cravings ~Dr. Jason Fung
- How to Meal Prep Like a Champ ~Jen
- If You’re Going to Count Calories, Make Sure You Also Count Macros ~Serdar Tuncali
- Case study: How I Lost 40 Pounds in my 50s by Combining Strategies ~Steve Spring
- Case study: How I Lost 12 Pounds During My Month of Whole 30 ~Steve Spring
- Case study: Lose Weight and Get Fit After 40 ~Larry Cornett, Ph.D.
- Case study: How I Lost 65 Pounds and Reversed Pre-diabetes ~Abigail Roaquin
Fasting vs. caloric restriction:
So many people are unhelpfully locked into caloric restriction as the way they view fat loss, so here are some ways of looking at it. The TL;DR is that yes, you do end up in a caloric deficit with any fat loss, but that’s a side effect that you can ignore and instead focus on hormonal manipulation.
- Obesity is a Hormonal Imbalance, Not a Caloric Imbalance ~Dr. Jason Fung
- What is the Difference Between Fasting & Caloric Restriction ~Dr. Jason Fung
- The Science of Why Caloric Restriction Fails ~Dr. Jason Fung
- Why Fasting Succeeds Where Caloric Restriction Fails ~Dr. Jason Fung
Just seven articles — obviously there’s a much bigger world that we haven’t covered yet.
- The Complete Guide to Overcoming Gymtimidation ~Ragen Chastain
- How to Prevent Injuries Even if You Work a Desk Job ~Carol Moynham
- The 1,000 Calorie Protein Shake ~Jesse Warren Tevelow
- How to Stick to Your Fitness Habits ~John Fawkes
- How to Overcome Resistance to Running ~Odille Remmert
- Grease the Groove — The Russian Military Secret to Strength Endurance ~John Fawkes
- How I Squatted 100 Kilograms After Just 37 Hours of Training ~Reinoud Schuijers
Sleep is the ultimate brain training and health habit. You get more done when you’re rested and so it’s almost always worth the trade-off of giving yourself a full night of rest.
Of course, getting to sleep and staying asleep isn’t always easy:
- How to Fall Asleep Quickly and Wake Up With Energy ~Melissa Chu
- The Complete Guide to Curing Insomnia ~John Fawkes
- How to Power Through Sleep Deprivation When You Have No Other Choice ~K. Markle
Your morning routine:
- How to Stop Struggling By Building Your Own Morning Routine ~Jason Gutierrez
- How to Wake Up Early ~George Halachev
Give Up Caffeine
The benefits of doing this are often for sleep, but also to save a small amount of money, and, counterintuitively, for productivity.
- A Very Thorough Guide to Quitting Coffee & Caffeine ~John Fawkes
- How to Kick a Caffeine Addiction in 5 days ~John Fawkes
- Case Study: The Effects of Caffeine, Alcohol, and Exercise on Sleep: Analyzing the Surprising Results ~Max Frenzel
- Case Study: What I Learned From Quitting Coffee After 15 Years Of Daily Consumption ~Angelo Belardi
Give Up Alcohol
A lot of people develop unhealthy habits around alcohol that turn into a drag on their health, their sleep, and their productivity. Here are some ways to turn those habits around.