Eat More…Weigh Less

If there is a Holy Grail of dieting, it’s any technique that would make it possible for us to eat as much as we want without gaining weight. Anyone reviewing the most popular diets of the last few decades will see that almost all claim to have found such a technique or strategy, and to be able to deliver miraculous weight–loss results. And while weight loss is all well and good, the real appeal of such strategies is the promise that we won’t have to starve ourselves to obtain the weight loss. You don’t see many diet books out there that focus purely on shedding pounds. “Chapter 1. Eat less.” No, that wouldn’t really fly. The truly crucial section of any diet book is the part where it tells you how you can lose weight without actually dieting.

The reason why just eating less is so hard was addressed in last week’s newsletter on cravings. We eat because the food we crave is either supplying a real need, or it’s making our bodies think that it is supplying one. We already know that just controlling our cravings and eating less is extremely difficult and involves ignoring all of the body’s messages. So diets of all kinds make the promise to us that we can indulge and still lose weight. Without that promise, the diet would not have much appeal.

The irony, however, is that most diets that make this promise are already planning to break it. An Atkins–type diet promises that we can indulge in fat– and protein–rich foods, but limits carbohydrates so much that our bodies may go through ketosis, a type of fat–burning process that isn’t supposed to take place unless you are truly starving—and which can make you binge on carbs like crazy. The old high–carb diets told us that while we couldn’t eat fat, we could happily indulge ourselves on carbohydrates, and without fat to make the diet more filling, people ended up being hungry all the time even after eating way more carbs than they could burn. Other diets rely on artificial sweeteners or other artificial starches, as well as fiber and textured protein, to make foods seem sweet and filling but without providing any real nutrients, ultimately leaving their adherents malnourished. The natural consequence of following one of these deprivation diets—all of which advertise themselves as satisfying—is that while we lose weight (because we are in one way or another eating less) we still have uncontrollable cravings. After a few months, the diet becomes unsustainable, we stop trying, and we gain the weight back.

What many people do not realize is that our “fallback” diet—the Standard American Diet (SAD) in which we eat all we want and continue to gain weight—is in itself a type of deprivation diet. Because the diet does not contain enough nutrition, such as the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients contained in fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbs, and natural fats, people who are on SAD eat constantly but are never satisfied. The human body doesn’t know how to ask for B vitamins, retinol, or magnesium, for example—but it expects to find those nutrients in sweet foods, fatty foods, or salty foods. So that’s what we end up craving, and if we go for processed foods with those flavors, we don’t actually get the nutrients, just the calories. Consequently, even though we have more calories than we could use, the cravings come right back.

hen it comes to losing weight, is “eat less” the answer? Absolutely not. It’s true that if we starve ourselves, we lose weight. But starving oneself is very unhealthy, not to mention ineffective in the long term (to put it mildly). The good news is that there’s a way for the very act of indulgence itself to be a factor in achieving a healthy weight.

If you are eating a balanced diet of whole foods, you will naturally approach your own personal healthy weight (faster or slower depending on whether you can also include physical activity in your schedule). Whole foods have just the right balance of calories and nutrition, so you only crave as much of them as you really need. In fact, once your body is used to properly cooked natural, whole foods, it will recognize their value and prefer them to junk food. The problem is that if your body isn’t familiar with these foods, it won’t naturally crave them. So what’s the solution? Like the title of the article says: eat more…weigh less. If you want a weight loss diet that actually works, it’s pretty simple: add healthy foods.

Let’s say you have chronic sugar cravings, and that you snack on cookies in between meals (like I tend to do when I’m in a state of imbalance), while at the same time, because you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve reduced the size of your meals such that you’re eating small salads for lunch. When you’re following the Live Free Nutrition Weiner Diet Plan, you’ll allow yourself to snack on all the cookies you want, but each time you have a cookie snack break, you’ll first have a glass of water, or a handful of cooked greens, or a piece of fruit, etc. When you get to lunch or dinner, and you’re actually having some homemade and healthy food, eat all you want (don’t forget to include plenty of healthy fat). Then, go for the dessert without guilt. Try this a few times, and suddenly you will find that you’re not quite as much interested in your snacks, or your dessert, even if you still eat them for a little while out of habit. Your body is getting what it actually needs first—and suddenly you are finding your cravings diminish without having had to control them at all. That’s right, you don’t have to restrict your diet one bit!

The biggest challenge in approaching weight loss this way is psychological. Because it’s a bit of a paradigm shift, it requires a change in your thinking. You may have been telling yourself for years that you just have to stop eating so much, while at the same time having such strong cravings that you can’t help yourself. Now you will be telling yourself that you need to try and eat more, while feeling full all the time. But even if thinking differently is a challenge, losing excess weight with this diet is not—and that’s as it should be. We were never meant to constantly starve and deprive ourselves just to be healthy. A healthy, fit person is a person who is satisfied and contented with their diet—who enjoys eating and still feels good 30 minutes (or even three hours) later. It all starts with eating more healthy foods, rather than trying to cut back on the junk food; after that, just relax and trust your body. As they always say, “You’ll be amazed by the results!”

How to Control Your Cravings

Did I get your attention with the title of this article? Who doesn’t have at least a few food cravings they wish they could control? I’m afraid, though, that my title is nothing more than an attention–getter, because I’m not actually a believer in controlling cravings. Food cravings do not arise spontaneously, and they are not just a product of your genes. They arise from your body’s deep–seated desire for nourishment. Whether your particular craving is for a specific flavor of ice cream, Coke or Pepsi, potato chips, M&Ms, white–flour pasta, coffee, or any of the other usual suspects, that craving is actually a sign of your body crying out for some type of nutrition. That’s why controlling your cravings doesn’t work. Even though we know on an intellectual level that junk foods are not good for us, those foods have been designed to appeal to the body’s desire for nutrition and balance. Our bodies crave salty foods like French fries because the body thinks saltiness is an indicator of high levels of essential minerals. We like sodas with high amounts of caffeine because they make us feel detoxified and re–energized. In other words, you have these strong cravings for junk food precisely because your body wants so badly to be healthy. While your mind may be saying “I know that’s not good for me,” your body is responding “Are you nuts? Eat that or else! We need it to survive!”

While it may be technically possible to control your cravings for a limited time through sheer will power, the only effective, long–term solution is to meet your body’s needs with foods that are truly nourishing, rather than foods that simply appear nourishing. The former bring you into a ongoing state of balance and satisfaction; the latter are satisfying for a very brief time but then leave you in a state of even greater neediness. Sometimes it’s not just nutrition that is lacking—for example, a craving for caffeine is usually a result of not getting enough sleep. A craving for sugary foods could be from a series of stressful events in your life. Just yesterday, I found myself starting to devour a bar of chocolate after a long and stressful day. However, I realized that the real problem was not the bar of chocolate, or my craving for it, but that at that moment I was unwilling to focus my attention on resolving the source of stress in my life. Once I did that, my cravings vanished. And in fact, that did take a little willpower—but the key is that it was willpower applied in a productive direction.

My recommendation for you is not to control your cravings, but to analyze them. Ask yourself where this craving is coming from, and what kind of need your junk food is meeting (however temporary a solution it may be). That method will put you on the right path to the heart of the problem, instead of leaving you stuck focusing on the symptoms. Maybe your body is craving junk food because it really needs whole grains and green vegetables, but isn’t familiar enough with those foods to crave them (and believe me, once your body gets used to well–prepared brown rice, you’re likely to crave it daily). Maybe you’re just looking for a physical sensation to block out the pain from some frustrating events in your life, and it’s really those events that need to be attended to. Once you have taken some steps towards understanding your situation, rather than simply feeling guilty, you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to “control” those cravings than you would ever have believed.