Why is there a page on the best diet to lose weight here at ConsultingPhilosopher.com?
It’s a sample of how a consulting philosopher might be able to help you think better about some problem that is important to you.
One of every eight people worldwide who died in 2008, which is the most recent year for which figures are available, died of coronary heart disease. It’s the world’s biggest killer: it killed 7,300,000 that year [The Economist, 19 Nov 11].
Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for coronary heart disease as well as other diseases of civilization such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
Since about 7 of 10 North Americans are too fat, the odds are that you are too fat. Even if you aren’t, it’s almost certain that you have loved ones who are.
Furthermore, and this is very important, nearly all the suffering caused by the diseases of civilization are preventable! That’s right: almost nobody has to suffer from or die from the most prevalent killers among us.
Since living well or wisely is the goal and since it’s impossible to live well without being alive, it’s important to be alive. If you are too fat, understanding the best diet to lose weight is obviously important.
The purpose of this page is to help you improve your understanding about the best diet to lose weight. Whether or not you improve your behavior is solely up to you. Please do not make major changes in your diet without the prior blessing of your physician or other licensed medical professional.
Let’s try to minimize misunderstanding before laying out the most critical facts.
I’m using the word ‘diet’ in the phrase ‘the best diet to lose weight’ to mean ‘nutritional plan.’ It does not mean a short-term or temporary eating plan; in that sense, the diet described here is not the best diet to lose weight quickly. (Usually, a ketogenic diet is.)
The word ‘weight’ in the phrase ‘the best diet to lose weight’ really means ‘fat.’ There’s a difference between losing body weight and losing body fat. The goal here is the best lifelong nutritional plan for achieving and maintaining a healthful percentage of body fat.
Since it’s easier to lose body fat than it is to maintain a loss of body fat, it’s important to distinguish two phases: losing fat to achieve the desired percentage and maintaining that fat loss.
Using the best diet to lose weight quickly is likely to be counterproductive. The faster you lose fat, the more difficult it is to maintain the fat loss. For that reason, I recommend losing weight at the rate of about 2 pounds weekly.
Notice that that is weight loss rather than fat loss. Losing one pound of fat equates to losing about one and one half to two pounds of weight.
That is the goal for the best diet to lose weight: 1 pound of fat loss weekly, which is a loss of one and one-half to two pounds of body weight weekly.
What’s the best way to do that? What is the best diet to lose weight?
Since there are two groups of humans to model, we don’t have to guess. All we have to do is to understand their behavior and emulate them.
The first group is your own ancestors. Humans have been around for about 250,000 years and proto-humans have been around for several million years. Your ancestors were not fat. What did they do that we don’t do?
They ate differently and they moved differently. Let’s here temporarily set aside how they moved (exercised) differently and focus on how they ate differently.
They never ate unnatural foods. In particular, they never ate refined, processed carbohydrates. They were hunter-gatherers who ate a lot of flesh foods that were high in natural sources of fats and proteins.
Your ancestors didn’t start eating mostly grains (or potatoes or legumes) until the First Agricultural Revolution about 10,000 or 12,000 years ago. These days, the three top sources of human calories come from three grains!
Unfortunately, our bodies haven’t had time to catch up to that huge dietary change. Our genes are 99.99% the same as our ancestors prior to the First Agricultural Revolution. That is a chief reason why our modern diet is killing us unnecessarily quickly.
The second group are natural fitness models, bodybuilders, certain athletes such as swimmers and gymnasts, and some movie stars. They are not fat. They have strong, trim bodies. (‘Natural’ here refers to those in this group who have never used anabolic steroids.)
These people pay attention to their diets. If they do eat carbs, the calories from those carbs are burned up doing exercise (rather than getting stored as body fat).
The best diet to lose weight is the diet used by these two groups. While some scientists have studied our prehistoric ancestors, obviously it’s not easy for the rest of us to use them as role models. Still, it’s possible to read about them as well as to observe those in the second group.
There’s no guesswork involved if you want to lose body fat. Just understand the physical habits of these two groups and emulate them. Then tweak what you are doing by examining the results you obtain.
Here are the seven specific recommendations concerning the best diet to reduce your percentage of body fat:
1. Avoid consuming refined processed carbohydrates.
2. Keep your daily carbohydrate intake to 25 grams or less and get those carbohydrates from (preferably organic) above-ground vegetables as well as some (preferably organic) berries. It is likely best to ensure that calories from carbohydrates don’t contribute more than 5% of your daily calories.
3. The other 95% of your calories should come from fats and proteins, preferably from natural sources. (Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are the three macronutrients.)
4. If you want to lose weight quickly, consider a ketogenic diet, which restricts proteins to about 20% of your calories. If you are unfamiliar with it, here’s a post to introduce you to keto.
5. If you don’t need to reduce your percentage of body fat, consider a Paleo diet. Eating as human beings evolved to eat makes sense. Ideally, this means mostly avoiding or severely restricting consuming the products of farms and ranches.
6. Don’t neglect the micronutrients either. Drink plenty of clean water. As a starting point, consider drinking in ounces half your body weight in pounds. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs., drink 100 ounces of water. Tea is fine. A cup or two of coffee in the morning is fine. (Use organic stevia as a sweetener if you want.) No more than 1 alcoholic drink daily for women and 2 for men.
Especially if you use a ketogenic diet, don’t neglect to consume sufficient electrolytes either in foods or supplements.
7. It’s best to exercise regularly. I recommend 1 or 2 brief, intense weekly strength training sessions (see my Weight Lifting as an introduction) and 2 or 3 intense weekly aerobic sessions (see P.A.C.E. if you need a good program). Walking has psychological benefits.
Increase your metabolic rate to lose body fat. Doing that in a sustained way requires strength training to increase muscle mass.
Not all calories are created equal. That being said, using fats are your primary fuel source rather than carbohydrates, because they are more satiating, keto makes it much easier to eat smaller meals as well as fewer meals.
The more you understand the habits of people in the second group of models, you more you already understand that they actually follow this best diet, or something close to it, to reduce their percentage of body fat and keep it low. Surely, too, you understand that our ancestors had natural highs and lows in their daily caloric intake and, sometimes, starved for a while when their hunting or gathering produced meager or no results.
I recommend 2 or 3 days of starvation once every six months. It’d be a good idea to get the go-ahead from your health care professional in advance as well as instructions on how to do it properly.
In fact, it’s a good idea never to make major changes in your dietary or exercise programs without the prior consent of your health care professional.
If you reduce your percentage of body fat to below 20% for healthy men and below 25% for healthy women, your chances of having to endure overweight or obesity, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and the other diseases of civilization will decrease.
So there is good news here: it’s possible to maximize your chances of flourishing physically while still enjoying the benefits of civilization, which were unknown to our prehistoric ancestors.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of confusion about how to eat well. Partly that’s the fault of institutions such as the American Heart Association and medical schools, which train physicians to treat diseases rather than to prevent them.
Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to determine for yourself the most effective ways for you to eat well, exercise well, and reduce stress well.
I wish you well!