As of today, I’ve lost 147 pounds. So – at this point, I do feel I could consider myself a bit of an expert in the weight loss realm. However, I haven’t lost muscle, I’ve gained muscle. So I am considering myself not just a weight loss expert, but a FAT loss expert.
If you’re reading this, there’s a high chance you’re one of the people in the United States that is overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. These numbers have grown almost to a pandemic level in this country over the last 40 years.
Odds are, you’ve tried to lose weight before. Perhaps you were successful to some degree. Perhaps you gained it all back and then some. Perhaps you’re like me and spent most of your time on this earth on some form of diet, only to fail dozens of times.
What I’m going to talk about in this writing is addressing hunger. The reason I have been successful this time and wasn’t other times had to do mostly with hunger. This might surprise you, but 90-95% of my weight loss I’d attribute to my dinner plate, not all of my exercise I post. The exercise helps, but it’s not the driving factor.
If you do have weight to address, you’re dealing mostly with a hormone problem. I’ll get into that below. But how do you correct those hormones?
Most exercise and fitness gurus will tell you, “it’s physics, stupid! If you put less in than you take out, you create a deficit and there is your weight loss”. If you fail at this – YOU ARE WEAK! YOU CAN’T COUNT CALORIES RIGHT!! YOU ARE A DULL BULB BECAUSE YOU DON’T GRASP THIS. JUST EAT A FUCKING SALAD ALREADY! Those are some of the nicer things people have told me over the years. I’ll withhold the more colorful and painful things people have said to me, because, well, that’s a conversation for a therapist someday and not you folks.
But let’s boil this down. All of those people telling you to eat less calories than you put in, there’s one GLARING problem. They cannot tell you, accurately, how much you are expending. Ask 100 fitness pros, and they will give you 100 different answers based on formulas. They will get you your BMR, or basal metabolic rate. I can tell you, this is a BARE guestimate of what’s used to keep the lights on, so to speak. So my BMR shows up around 2100 calories. If I did nothing but stare at the wall, breathe, and drool myself, this is the number that is break even. Walking to the mailbox, cleaning, weight training, biking, eating, shaving – all of these other activities then burn more calories – but no one can tell you exactly, precisely how many. To complicate matters, food products that are labeled with calories could be off as much as 20% either way.
If you do the calorie math, that means if my BMR is 2100 and I do 500 calories of exercise a day, I am creating a 500 deficit per day, or 3500 per week. This means you then have 1 pound of fat loss per week. I used to do this. I used charts, graphs, etc and many times I’d have 1000-1200 calories per day when 300 pounds while running 2 miles. I would have estimates that would have had me at about 2/3 of a pound per DAY of deficit – or about 5 pounds per week. Some weeks I’d have 2 pounds loss, some zero, some I’d gain a pound or two.
Before you really get on me about being that dull bulb, I did win some accolades with math competitions when younger and took calculus and advanced physics 1 and 2 in college.
So. In 30 or so years of trying to lose weight using “physics”, I can tell you that this method doesn’t work like you think it should work. Why?
This isn’t to say calories don’t matter. They DO. But for calories, I will tell you that if you understand the caloric values of food, it helps you make better choices to limit them. What you can find online on youtube are people doing 4,000 or 6,000 calories per day and LOSING weight. They set out to prove that calorie counting is a myth. It’s not really a myth, but it’s a little complicated about WHAT you are eating that is causing the problem. If I ever do write a book, this is primarily going to be a main focus.
As Jonathan Bailor (The Calorie Myth) has said, “The QUALITY of what you eat will determine the QUANTITY of how much you eat”. He discusses how certain foods break your governor switches and when you clean up your foods, you will then be able to listen to your body again. In 27 months of “dieting”, the last 6 months I’ve not counted one calorie and have lost about 40 pounds. This is after reading Jonathan’s book.
This was something that killed me with “diets”. I am a product of the “low fat dieting” generation. This left me hungry as shit most of my life when dieting. The human body was not meant to intentionally starve itself. There are hunger hormones that say, “eat, you sonofabitch”. Many morbidly fat people you see have heard that internally so much that you just have no clue how much that they HAVE ignored it. You basically see them and feel they are weak people. Trust me.
We have people who are alcoholics, they get treatment. We have all kinds of drug addicts, they get treatment. But you see a fat person, and they just need to fucking lay off the donuts and be invisible. Trust me, I’ve tried to be invisible a lot during my life. It inconveniences the rest of you for me to sit there and feed. But under the hood – the regulators are broken. Poor food choices, for a variety of reasons got someone into this loop – and the problem is, it’s not just a donut. The entire lifestyle has to change. But it’s not easy because all of our lives have been built around these mechanisms that….
“I tried to get out, and they pulled me back in”.
At one point I smoked, drank, and ate terrible 95% of the week. But my poor eating was maybe 20-25% of the year. The rest of the year, every year, I was low calorie dieting. I’d take off 20 and then add 30. So on, and so forth. I’d spend a lot of time a year hungry as shit.
Let me tell you about a short “gaining” period.
Breakfast. I’d wake up ravenous.
- Two cups of coffee, each with 2 TBSP of sugar and powdered coffee creamer
- On the way in to work, I’d get two ham egg and cheese croissants with ketchup and one orange soda and one grape soda to eat during the day
- Lunch was one of two meals. Around 11AM, I couldn’t stand my hunger anymore, so I’d leave to get food
- I’d go to McDonald’s and get a quarter pounder with cheese meal, large, with diet coke (of course) and a double cheeseburger. I estimated this meal about 1400 calories and 1700 if the soda was a coke. Don’t worry, I got a diet soda, so I’m keeping my calories down.
- I’d go to the local gas station (Sheetz, rutters, Wawa, those types) and get a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich on a roll, a bag of chips (or crisps for some of my England readers), and fruit like grapes/banana. This was about 1100-1200 calories
- Dinner – on the way home, I was SOOOOOO hungry at 4:30. How the hell am I going to go to the grocery store, take an hour to make dinner, and then eat at like 7PM? Hell no. Let’s order a pizza. I’ll eat 2 slices to keep the calories down, but I know I’m going to eat 4. Maybe I get a side of fries? Maybe wings? Maybe I will get a meatball sub? Maybe I’ll just make up a ton of pasta and eat that over the next 3-4 nights?
OK – the above was probably 4,000-5,000 calories and these were my more egregious days. I’d say most days I’d float around 2,500-3,000. You have to remember, for a 350 pound guy that was somewhat active – this is a caloric deficit. Keep that in mind.
The point was, my decision making was completely compromised by my hunger pangs. I was feeding an animal inside of me I had no control over. I didn’t understand how to control this. And for most of my life, it was in control.
For many of you people who have never really been overweight, congrats. You do not know what this is like. Look up above with alcoholic and drug addict. I can tell you, when you have some form of addiction, it controls you.
When you invite an alcoholic over to your house, do you offer alcohol? Do you then pressure him into drinking? I can tell you that because a majority of my life I was dieting, I’d go to events and TRY to be good, only to have people pressure me to eat things. Nate – you’re weak, you just have to tell them no. Good luck with that. Your hunger is in the background. People are telling you it’s ok.
“OK – I’ll just have this little bit. I’ve been good ALL WEEK. I will do better tomorrow. Or Monday”.
You have just given an addict that has been trying to stay sober, permission to engage.
But what are they addicted to? I’d like to tell you I have the answer on this, but I don’t. A lot of this comes down to hunger signals and your gut biome.
With hunger, I can tell you from my above scenarios my hunger would hit a “9” after maybe 4-5 hours without food. I couldn’t understand how people ate 1800 calories a day and weren’t fucking hungry 24/7.
I can tell you – if you want to lose weight, you have to solve the hunger problem. Everything revolves around that. Everything.
From my experience, here’s what affects hunger
- salt intake
Most people when losing weight, what do they do? 1200 calories and exercise their face off.
Quick. We’re going to an all you can eat buffet tonight. What do you do to make yourself hungry?
- Skip eating or eat light
- Exercise to build up a good hunger.
With the “carb burning” universe, number 1 will deprive you of food for well past that 5 hour window I’d get ravenous at. Maybe 10 hours of not eating, I would have crushed a lot of pizza back in the day. As of this writing, I’m 42 hours fasted and have a hunger at about a 3. We’ll talk about that below.
So if you’re trying to lose weight the traditional way, every day you are making yourself STARVING and not feeding yourself enough. Every night you go to bed hungry. You ARE creating these calorie deficits. YOU SHOULD HAVE LOST 5 POUNDS, but you GAINED A POUND!! You get frustrated after a month or two and cave in to how fucking hungry you are all the time….and you over eat. You eat ALL of the things you deprived yourself of. You feel like a failure and this depression makes you eat more.
So your traditional dieting that you took off 10 or 20, then gained 20 or 30 back. How has that worked for you? For me, I spent most of my life dieting, only to wind up at 372 pounds. People think you must be eating 10,000 calories a day, every day. It doesn’t happen like that. When you eat 1200 calories a day for 2 months, you are lowering your BMR. When you do go back to your 3,000 calories a day, which should be a deficit, you start gaining a pound a day back or so. It’s frustrating!!
Stop the 1200 calories a day and high amounts of exercise. Start with:
- Cleaning up your diet to hit your 1800-2100 calories per day
- Do some low intensity steady state cardio – most likely walking – to burn more fat
- Add some strength training. Building lean body mass will improve your calorie burning and improve your body’s ability to exercise more down the road.
But how do I solve the hunger issue?
If you saw what I ate above, I was probably eating 300-400g of carbs a day. Lots of sodas, buns, breads, pastas, high sugar fruits, potatoes. All of these carbs would increase my blood sugars. In order to remove the sugar from my bloodstream, the hormone insulin would be released to pull the sugar out and put it into glycogen stores – and when they were full – fat cells. Over time, the more and more you pound your body with insulin, the more resistant it gets. Meaning, you then need to produce MORE insulin to take the sugars out of the bloodstream.
What many people do NOT know is a side effect of insulin is when insulin does it’s job, insulin then does two things: it makes you tired, and it will make you hungry. Ever wonder why after eating Chinese food for lunch you want to take a nap and are hungry 2 hours later?
What steps should I take to remove hunger?
1) Remove excess sugars. I do a ketogenic diet of about 50 or so grams of carbs per day. Extreme for you, I get it, but if you want to begin addressing your hunger, significantly reduces carbs – AND consult the glycemic index. Something like blueberries may have 15g of sugar per cup, but the glycemic value is much lower than a baked potato. So you might think 15g of carbs from a potato might be ok, but that potato is higher glycemic value and requires a LOT more insulin to take those carbs from the bloodstream. If you do have carbs in your diet, please remove the high glycemic ones and keep your total carbs under 150 per day. The human body is not designed to process a bag of Swedish fish.
2) Drink water. Often, when you get hunger pangs, it could be you are thirsty. I used to eat a LOT of pasta, which had a lot of water. Many times, my body knew if I ate pasta, I’d get water. My total liquid intake for maybe 20 years would be 1-2 cups of coffee and 2-3 sodas/diet sodas. No pure water. I now have about 3 quarts of water a day, maybe 4.
3) Increase fiber. This is more for my carb-burning friends. The more fiber things have, the lower on the glycemic index it usually is. Fiber helps fill your belly, and it helps reduce the insulin wave about to hit you. I would say that “wheat bread” fiber may be higher, but it’s still a shitty food that is about 100 calories a slice and doesn’t get you a lot for it. Wheat pasta is higher in fiber, but your processed tomato sauce with MSGs is going to screw up your ability to know you are full. Add veggies with high fiber. Over time, you end up craving them. At first, I added them as a throw in I’d have to choke down, now I crave it. You have to re-wire the shit in your brain.
4) Avoid processed foods, when possible. 95% of my meals are prepared by me. That is a 180 from years ago. Processed foods have all kinds of added sugars, dyes, MSGs, added chemicals to “enhance flavors” and “shelf life”. You have no idea what’s in that bag of shit. McDonald’s also “engineers” their food to smell and taste certain ways to more or less addict you to their food. Do food prep. Whether you are doing weight watchers, IIFYM, or keto, I have a TON of ideas here.
5) Salt intake. For me, on keto, I don’t have the same amount of sodium and potassium as you stored. I noticed when I have low sodium intake, I’m hungrier. I NEVER thought to look at my potassium intake. We need 3000-5000mg of potassium per day. Eat the salt. Eat the potassium. It will help with your satiety. A handful of peanuts for me might last me 4 hours.
6) Proteins/fats – both of these are proven to increase your satiety. This is not debatable. For many years, I’d boost my carbs to help my workouts. I was conditioned to have low fat as a product of the 80s/90s. I also didn’t eat a ton of meat. Most days, I think I got 40-50g of protein. When dieting, maybe 20-30g of fat. I am now at about 100-120g of protein and maybe 100-150g of fats and am rarely hungry.
What I would recommend:
- Do a “If it fits your macros” diet of 40/30/30. 40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat. TRACK YOUR SHIT. Don’t go crazy cutting calories. Use the items above to change the quality of your foods. This is your interim step. It will get you slowly off of your carbs. Maybe do this 3-12 months. Maybe have 1-2 cheat meals a week. Over time, your body will tell you to stop giving it the terrible shit. If you want to have a “cheat meal” out at a wedding or the like, you’ll be fine if you get to it the next day
- Eventually, look into a keto/paleo/low carb lifestyle. I am saying low carb here to be about 150g of carbs or less per day. I went the keto route and once I hit my goals, I’m going to mostly stay at 100-125 or so g of carbs per day.
What many people don’t know about the low carb/keto way of life is that with the increased protein, fats, salts, and water, that your satiety level starts to regulate itself. Meaning, about 2 weeks into keto, your hunger starts disappearing. Because of this, you can then entertain:
- Intermittent fasting
- one meal a day (OMAD)
- fasting for 24-72 hours
- alternate day fasting
Going back 2.5 years, I couldn’t go 4-5 hours without stuffing my face with mcDonalds. Now, I have relatively zero issues going 42 hours without food and lost 147 pounds. The hunger struggle is real. I beat it. So can you.
See above. Best wishes.