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Here's the easiest diet plan of all time: Eat as much healthy protein as you can.

That's the entire plan.

Okay, your brain just came up with several reasons why this plan is dumb and incomplete. Allow me to anticipate those objections and address them.

What about variety? You need a diet with lots of variety, not just protein. Wouldn't a focus on protein make you lose out on the variety you need?

In theory, that sounds like a problem. In practice, no one can eat the same thing day after day and feel satisfied. In my case, pursuing protein and preferring variety led me to get a blender so I could eat protein smoothies for some meals. And what do you put in smoothies to make them taste so good? Fruit and veggies.

My point is that your natural impulse for variety will lead you toward new ways to get your protein, and many of those methods will deliver variety in fruits and veggies at the same time.

You can generally gorge on fruits and veggies as much as you want without worrying about weight gain. In theory you could overeat and become fat from fruits and veggies. In practice, healthy food is almost always self-regulating in the sense that you don't crave an overdose of broccoli. You can eat as much as you want of those foods because you probably won't want enough to make you gain weight.

The beauty of protein is that it has three important properties: It suppresses appetite, it doesn't make you sleepy the way simple carbs do, and it helps build muscles that will burn more calories naturally.

Our brains are wired in such a way that it is always easier to run toward something attractive than to resist something attractive. So instead of resisting carbs, you run toward protein, which can also be delicious. There is no need for willpower when you can eat as much as you want of anything in the healthy protein category.

Simple carbs create a physical addiction. You crave your junk food and you might believe your craving is some sort of natural urge baked into your unlucky DNA. But in my experience, and in the experience of people I know, once you kick the bad carbs habit you lose the cravings in a few months. You don't need willpower to resist something you don't want.

Eating poorly is addictive. But it turns out that eating healthy can be equally addictive. It took me years to get there, but at this point junk food literally looks like poison to me. I couldn't be less interested. For me, no willpower is needed because my body is now conditioned for healthy eating.

There are lots of problems and risks with the "eat as much healthy protein as you can" diet plan. If you randomly picked ten people to try the plan, at least three of them would eat charred meat for every meal and die of cancer. But I think you have to compare my plan to all other diet plans - the ones that fail nine-out-of-ten times in the long run.

Dieting is a psychological process. Most diet plans get that wrong, focusing on portion size while relying mostly on willpower for success. My plan turns that around by removing all willpower from the equation. If you feel hungry, run toward healthy protein (some peanuts, a nice steak, a protein shake) and never feel deprived. It might take a few weeks to lose your carb addiction, but during that time you will be eating as much as you want.

Once your body is conditioned to prefer a healthy diet, it becomes almost automatic after that.

There is a lot for you to disagree with in this diet plan. So let me boil it down to one central point to focus the discussion: Your brain is wired in such a way that it is always easier to run toward something attractive than to resist something attractive. If your diet plan gets that wrong, you will fail. So, aggressively run toward good food (protein, fruit, and veggies) and the rest will happen automatically. No willpower needed.

In simpler terms, if your diet makes you hungry or makes you feel deprived in any way, you are doing it wrong. If you run toward healthy food, especially protein, you can crowd the bad stuff out of your life without even realizing you did it.

Again, I remind you not to take health advice from cartoonists. I have no idea if this plan will kill you or turn you into Hercules. But it kind of makes sense, right?

And yes, I have heard of the Atkins Diet. The Atkins diet is about "restricting carbs." That works against the way your brain is wired. My plan is about running toward protein, not away from carbs. You might say that works out the same, but you would be ignoring the psychology of it, and the psychology is hard part.

-----------------------------------
Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 



 

 
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0 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 8, 2014
This diet sounds very much like the South Beach diet, which works really really well. I started at 180 and ended at 145. I lost on average about a 1/2 pound a day (mostly front loaded). That was 5 years ago. Today I'm at 163.

The diet works wonderfully, but I don't think I will ever have the will power to start up another round. I have a very limited pallet to begin with and I quickly ran out foods I liked, and I ate those foods so much I became sick of them.

If you have a limited pallet, then you are not ever running to something attractive, you're just dreading every meal, and you eventually lose the will power battle.

Today, I much prefer the calorie limited diet. It takes the same amount of personal will power (because of my pallet issue), and I can eat wider variety of foods.

No easy way for me, but that's fine.
 
 
Sep 4, 2014
Hi Scott, having read your bookHow to fail etc and you talking about rewiring your brain, have you seen this?

http://www.iflscience.com/brain/it-may-be-possible-train-your-brain-prefer-healthier-food
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 1, 2014
a) The Atkins diet fails as often as all those other diets out there.

b) If you really, really analyze the "veggie vs. meat eater" or "junk vs. 'organic'" debate you'll find it all boils down to which diet allows you to overeat more easily.

Cowboys don't just eat meat, they eat it in excess with extra helping of fries, too much sauce and washed down with gallons of beer. It's not the "meat" part of the diet that's bad and causes heart attacks, it's the excesses.

The key is this: Don't overeat.

Everything else is placebo and mental juggling to convince yourself that yours is the best diet. It's not the diet that counts, it's the attitude behind it.

 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 31, 2014
One problem with this high-protein diet is that you need fat to balance with protein. Eating too much protein is not healthy and it probably won't help you lose weight, hence the fail of the Aitkins diet. The same is true of too much carbohydrates and too much fat. You need a healthy balance.

Of course, if you are naturally predisposed to eat too much in the way of processed carbs, too much salt, too much fat, and so forth, your diet would help balance your diet, probably at a lower caloric intake, but it would take effort and changes of your habits as stated by a previous poster.

Far better advice would be based on your idea that people have a limited amount of will-power so you have to use won't power--tricks and bargaining with yourself and careful preparation to avoid bad choices.

Americans have always been fast thoughtless eaters because they are work-obsessed and puritanical. They don't slow down and enjoy a meal--they eat out of vending machines and fast-food joints and have done so for well over a century since the advent of Marshallism in industrial Britain and America and the invention of the diner-a pre-fab junk food bar with short order cooks instead of nutritionists and chefs.

Another thing that would help is to get the right amount of sleep, thus reducing stress and stupidity to manageable levels. You can moderate your weight gain simply by avoiding caloric beverages. These account for about 10% of the boom in American waistlines over the period since the 1960s and the multiplication of burger joints and larger portions.
 
 
Aug 29, 2014
Hey, Scott, off topic, but interesting.

Have you heard about the 'holometer jitter' experiment, which will attempt to see if spacetime is quantum, as is matter? That's to see if we are actually living in a hologram.

The lead scientist on the project, Dr. Aaron Chou, said, "I have always believed that if indeed there is a creator, then the mechanism by which the world was created is not necessarily unknowable, and if we delve deeply enough we might reach some very interesting and inescapable conclusions."

Of course, in your world view, the universe created itself, so of course you will dismiss his statement that implies the existence of a creator. But for the rest of us, it provides a very realistic juxtaposition of science and theology.

Very interesting! If anyone wishes to see more about this, google "holographic experiment."

Rosanne Roseannadanna, signing off.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2014
I've done this and it works. But it does take the same amount of willpower as any other diet, except the willpower is mostly front-loaded. It is VERY difficult to start and stick with it for the first few days. Once the weight started coming off I found it easy to stick with it and fun to come up with alternatives to my favorite foods. But after life knocked me off- a birthday, family / work outing with limited food choices, holiday, etc. - it took the same amount of enormous willpower to get rolling again.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2014
I use a simplified version of your diet plan.

At each meal most people eat from each of the three food groups: Protein, fat, carbohydrates (any and all, this includes fruit!).

Simply replace carbs with veggies. Instead of preparing a carb to go with a meal, prepare an extra veggie. Like salad and green beans.

If you do this for every meal you prepare for yourself, then you can eat incidental carbs like bread in a deli sandwich, and not worry about it. Just don't eat the fries or chips that come with it!

Lastly, snack only on high protein foods like nuts, jerky, protein smoothies or cheese. If you're hungry just snack!

Don't worry about the fat! The latest research is pinning the blame for obesity on carbs not fats. If you can follow this diet plan you will lose weight. Remember, eat the right snacks when hungry!
 
 
Aug 28, 2014
OR, one might track their caloric intake... It's not hard and- bonus: it's full of science goodness.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2014
Oops, so sorry for posting 5 times. Please ignore.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2014
Yes this is without a doubt the best diet plan, but it will still fail.
Why?
Nobody makes money off of it.

If somebody figures out a way around that, then people might actually become healthier.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2014
Yes this is without a doubt the best diet plan, but it will still fail.
Why?
Nobody makes money off of it.

If somebody figures out a way around that, then people might actually become healthier.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2014
Yes this is without a doubt the best diet plan, but it will still fail.
Why?
Nobody makes money off of it.

If somebody figures out a way around that, then people might actually become healthier.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2014
Yes this is without a doubt the best diet plan, but it will still fail.
Why?
Nobody makes money off of it.

If somebody figures out a way around that, then people might actually become healthier.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2014
Yes this is without a doubt the best diet plan, but it will still fail.
Why?
Nobody makes money off of it.

If somebody figures out a way around that, then people might actually become healthier.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2014
Yes this is without a doubt the best diet plan, but it will still fail.
Why?
Nobody makes money off of it.

If somebody figures out a way around that, then people might actually become healthier.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2014
Yes this is without a doubt the best diet plan, but it will still fail.
Why?
Nobody makes money off of it.

If somebody figures out a way around that, then people might actually become healthier.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2014
The best diet plan, sadly, is "don't live in America, the UK, or Australia".

What do so many other countries have in common that we appear to lack? I'd suggest it's a sensible, family-based approach to eating combined with a lack of faddishness and a preference for home cooked meals.
 
 
-14 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2014
Not related to your blog post, but today's cartoon could be construed as being a little sexist.

Why is Wally explaining to Alice about the danger of engineers misreading social cues? And why does Alice then look like she's learning this for the first time from Wally?

Alice is an engineer herself.
 
 
Aug 27, 2014
The basic science behind your (and the Atkin's) plan is generally sound:

The easiest form of food for your body to consume are simple sugars. If you don't have simple sugars in your stomach, your body burns those stored in blood and cells. While this could expose a diabetic issue, in general, there are feedback mechanisms for your body to make simple sugars from other things, so once you no longer have an excess to burn, your body goes for things down the list.

The second things on that list are complex sugars -- i.e., starches, although there's a good supply of glycogen stored in your liver as well. Again, lacking a consumed supply, the body auto-metabolizes.

The third thing down the list are fats. Once simple and complex sugars are not in abundance, the body goes after fats -- again, first eaten, then stored.

Finally, if the body has nothing else to burn, it burns protein, again first eaten and as a last resort, it's own muscle tissue.

All of this is why a low-carb, low-fat, high protein diet is recommended. It works with your body's chemistry (if not your mental chemistry) to burn up excesses that were stored "for a rainy day".

So Scott has hit the nail on the head -- the problem isn't a lack of a "good diet", but a lack of "good plan", one that works with your mind instead of against it.

Speaking just for myself, I've found the following to be true:

- It's easier to deny yourself everything than to allow yourself just a "little" of something. It's harder to stop once you've started than it is to never get going in the first place.

- It's not that hard to psych myself out (using a form of self-hypnosis) and convince myself that "I'm not really hungry". This follows Scott's idea; that I don't feel as if I'm "depriving" myself of something (How DARE I !!!), but simply not bothering to do something that I don't feel like doing anyway (namely, eat.).

- Fasting is easier than you'd expect. Yes, your body goes into "starvation" mode and thus uses energy more efficiently and thus you don't loose as fast as you might on some other diets of "free foods", but at the same time, once you get used to it (after a day or two), it isn't that hard to do. I fasted for Lent this year (no, I'm not Catholic), lost 45 pounds (with only 5 coming back when eating -- reduced amounts since I'm "not as hungry" -- resumed).

YMMV
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2014
"Being wired to like some kind of foot" isn't too far off. Recently it was discovered that your gut bacteria release hormones to make you eat what they want you to eat.

If this is true, then you'll have a mix of bacteria agreeing on you to like whatever you're currently eating, and a lot of that please!

Another report told me that whatever diet plan you adopt, it will work at first (the stranger the better), then you'll grow fat anyway. If we stick to the story, your gut bacteria will tell you to eat less of that disgusting diet barf you chose to eat at first, then they will be replaced by a mix that likes that particular delicious diet you chose to eat ...
 
 
 
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