The 2 Essentials to Losing Fat and Keeping It Off

Read time: 1.5 minutes

As the Internet Big Bang keeps expanding, we’re learning that there are hundreds of ways to lose fat and get lean. Many of those ways may seem like they’re on the fringe (the Cookie Diet), but many also work very well.

For me — and for most of you — the fat-loss method that works best is the one you can keep the fat off for a long time, maybe for the rest of your life.

It is also a method that should not make you unreasonably hungry, suppress your metabolism, and make you obsessive about food. You should not always have to think about what (or, more specifically, what not) to eat.

In theory, fat loss metabolism is a complicated matter; but in application, it should be a simple process. To me, this is the most important element in a fat loss method. Simplicity is what makes a method sustainable.

There are complex hormonal interactions involved in fat loss and, once the fat is lost, in staying there long-term. But to keep this application simple, we need to think about only the two essentials:

  1. Eat fewer calories
  2. Eat mostly whole, real foods

The scientific literature has shown that the first essential — eat fewer calories — does not work long-term by itself (nor with exercise).

However, anecdotal evidence (as well as my experience and those of others I’ve worked with) show that the first essential can in fact work long-term if it is accompanied by the second essential — eat mostly whole, real foods.

People who switched from eating a lot of processed foods to eating whole, real food found that they involuntarily eat fewer calories, even after a long period — longer than a year. For me it has been more than 3 years.

Perhaps whole, real foods provide increased nutrients that help nourish the cells of the body more efficiently; as a result, the body requires fewer calories. There could be several other (though related) complex factors contributing to the decreased need for calorie intake.

Decreased calorie intake, therefore, is a fundamental qualification to losing excess fat. But eating whole, real food seems to be fundamental in sufficiently nourishing the tissues of the body, so that fewer calories are required. It is this exact combination that I’ve found works the best for long-term success in losing body fat.

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8 Responses to The 2 Essentials to Losing Fat and Keeping It Off

  1. Jordan says:

    I think you’re saying that *adherence* is the key to calorie reduction being successful, and that whole foods help with adherence, is that right? There are oft-repeated statistics about how 90-something percent of dieters gain the weight back, and it can be a little depressing to hear stuff like that. I assume that it’s not a “metabolic problem,” but rather that people fall off the diet and go back to eating the way they used to. At least I hope so! I would be so pissed if I couldn’t lose all this weight *permanently*! lol. I believe I can though.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Jordan,

      “Adherence” is key, but there may be something else that determines whether or not the person can even adhere to lower calories. According to Gary Taubes’ explanation in his GCBC book, if the metabolism is still impaired with insulin resistance, leptin resistance, and inflammation, then a reduction in calorie intake is just starvation and is, at best, temporary.

      As such, you’ll need to eat whole, real foods for a while to repair the metabolism (to help decrease insulin resistance, lower inflammation, and shift the metabolism toward burning stored calories and metabolizing consumed calories), in order to NOT literally starve when you reduce calories.

      Otherwise, reducing calories leads only to starvation. The body’s homeostasis will do powerful (and often negative) stuff to fight starvation.

      Everything that I’ve read, all the experience that I’ve had in dieting, and all the successes (and failures) of people I’ve worked with, have indicated that you should employ the 2 essentials written in this post for effective and sustainable fat loss.


  2. Jordan says:

    Very clear explanation. Thank you.

    I wonder if weight loss, in general, isn’t a sort of low-level… well, I won’t say “starvation,” there are people starving in the 3rd World. But in order to create a calorie deficit, one has to go under one’s BMR. So in a sense, we’re giving our bodies less than what they need, at least for a while.

    I try not to get too worried about all of the scary stuff: slow metabolism, leptin, thyroid, set point, etc. I want to learn about these things, so that I’m prepared for them if they occur. But I don’t want to be too freaked out either! lol. Of course, I have a lot more weight to lose before any of this is even remotely a concern. But still.

  3. Johnny says:

    By eating whole, real food, we’re more likely to control insulin, which helps to free the fatty acids from fat cells and shuttle them to other tissues to burn as fuel. The body needs constant fuel, otherwise it won’t operate well. I’d imagine that if the muscle and organ tissues don’t receive the minimum requirement of fuel, then symptoms of starvation eventually start to appear.

    Teach the body to release fatty acids from fat cells first, before worrying about reducing calorie intake. This way, when you eat less, the body has a constant flow of fuel from the fatty acids (that were once locked in fat cells).

    Take care,

  4. Matt says:

    Don’t forget about another complimentary concept – that inappropriate processed food eating actually blocks the absorption of nutrients. As a result, one has to eat more food (and calories) to get the required amounts of nutrients. In doing so, there will be an excess (sometimes extreme) intake of calories in order to get enough nutrients, which can cause an increase in weight and fat accumulation.

    • Johnny says:


      Good point, though I’m curious about the exact basal needs for nutrients from person to person. I wonder if, even with the reduced consumption of processed food in the US, minimal nutrients needs aren’t met for the average person.

      I hope all is well with you! You need to come up to Palo Alto to see the completed facility soon!


  5. Lillea says:

    I find this interesting and perhaps relevant to this discussion (the link to the full post and analysis is below):

    “”One of the most intriguing findings in his 2007 study was the low calorie intake of the Paleolithic group. Despite receiving no instruction to reduce calorie intake, the Paleolithic group only ate 1,388 calories per day, compared to 1,823 calories per day for the Mediterranean group*. That’s a remarkably low ad libitum calorie intake in the former (and a fairly low intake in the latter as well).”

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