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What Research Says About Losing Weight and Keeping it Off


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In this episode I speak with Dan Pardi and Stephan Guyenet about the Ideal Weight Program, a new educational program on weight loss they put together that works in concert with the tools of Dan’s Plan. I’m very excited about it because it’s firmly grounded in the latest evidence on weight regulation, and it acknowledges the importance of behavior modification, tracking progress, and lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep.

In this episode, we cover:

6:30 Why Dan and Stephan created the Ideal Weight Program
14:30 The problem with most weight loss approaches and why they don’t work
19:00 Is it possible to reset the body fat setpoint?
27:55 How the Ideal Weight Program will help you with fat loss
40:38 Who the Ideal Weight Program is for (and not for)
47:59 The most common fat loss misconceptions
1:05:09 How does sleep affect weight regulation?
1:13:34 How to test drive the Ideal Weight Program to lose weight and keep it off

Links We Discuss:

Full Text Transcript:

Steve Wright:  Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of the Revolution Health Radio Show.  This is the first show of 2013, and this show is brought to you by ChrisKresser.com.  I’m your host, Steve Wright, from SCDLifestyle.com, and with me is integrative medical practitioner, licensed acupuncturist, and healthy skeptic, Chris Kresser.  Chris, how were your holidays?

Chris Kresser:  They were pretty good.  I spent a lot of time with family, which is always fun.  I have six nieces and nephews and Sylvie’s now old enough to have a blast hanging out with them, so that was a good time.  And just rested a little bit, caught up with some sleep, and feeling good.  How about you, Steve?  Happy New Year, by the way.

Steve Wright:  Yeah, Happy New Year to you, Chris and all our listeners.  I had a very nice time.  Kind of the same deal.  I just had a couple long breaks where I got to spend time with my grandparents and my parents and my brother and sister, so it was just nice to unplug from my phone a little bit and hang out with the family.

Chris Kresser:  Nice.  Well, I’m really excited about our first show of 2013.  We have two of the smartest scientists I know, Dan Pardi and Stephan Guyenet, and we’re going to talk about weight regulation and weight loss in particular.  As a clinician, I treat a lot of really complex conditions because I kind of specialize in working with people who haven’t been able to find help anywhere else, and when people ask me what the hardest condition for me to treat is, they’re often surprised when one of the answers, at least, is overweight and weight loss.  Certainly if somebody comes to me and they’ve been on a Standard American Diet, it’s often pretty easy to get them to lose some weight, but that’s not my normal patient population, as most people know, and a lot of people who come to me have already been on various diets, including the Paleo Diet, and they’re either plateaued, you know, they’re not losing any more weight, or in some cases they’re starting to gain weight again.  And those people can be really challenging to work with, so I’m always on the lookout for new — You know, I follow the literature, I’m always corresponding with Stephan and Dan and other people who are working in this area, trying to figure out some new, practical approaches that will work for people that haven’t had success with other weight loss approaches, and I think there’s a big gap, as we’re going to discuss on the show today, between popular ideas about weight loss and how it happens and which strategies are most effective and what the most recent science says, so that’s why I wanted to invite Dan and Stephan on the program to discuss the most recent science and also to talk about this great new program that they’ve developed that I’ve seen and was just released yesterday, so I want to make you all aware of it because I think it will be really helpful for folks that are having difficulty losing weight.

Steve Wright:  Well, I think this is a perfect show timing as far as the topic.  I’m very excited, and I just want everybody on line, because we have three experts right now, I want you all to go get some water, and I’m going to tell everyone quickly about Beyond Paleo.  You’re going to learn a whole bunch of weight loss tips in a little bit, but if you’re also interested in optimizing your health or you want to check out what over 10,000 other people have already signed up for, it’s an email series called Beyond Paleo, and it’s Chris’ best tips and tricks for burning fat, boosting energy, and preventing and reversing disease without drugs.  So, if you want to sign up for this free 13-part email series, go over to ChrisKresser.com and put your name and email in the big red box.

OK, this is going to be an awesome discussion, guys.  Take it away.

Chris Kresser:  All right, so Dan and Stephan, are you there?

Stephan Guyenet:  Yeah.

Dan Pardi:  Yeah.  Here, Chris.

Stephan Guyenet:  Nice to be here.

Dan Pardi:  Yeah, the same.

Chris Kresser:  Great.  I’ll just introduce you both briefly, and we’ll skip the lengthier introductions because you’ve both been on the show before and fairly recently.  Dan and Stephan are both friends and colleagues, and I’ll really excited to have them both back on the show.  Stephan, maybe you could just give us a little brief intro of your professional interests and what you’re doing now, and Dan, you can do the same, and then we’ll just dive right in.

Stephan Guyenet:  Yeah, sure, so I’m an obesity researcher working at the University of Washington, and I was trained as a neurobiologist and biochemist, and I specialize in trying to understand the role of the brain in obesity.  It turns out the brain is very important in obesity, and that’s what we focus on.  And also in my spare time I enjoy reading and learning about natural health and the evolutionary basis of health.

Chris Kresser:  Right, and if you don’t know Stephan’s blog, it’s WholeHealthSource.blogspot.com.  It’s an incredible resource, definitely one of my favorite blogs out there in the real food genre.

Dan, you’re up.

Dan Pardi:  OK, so I am a PhD candidate and I work with the Departments of Neurology and Endocrinology at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and I also work with the Behavioral Sciences Department at Stanford, and I look at how chronic sleep deficiency or lack of sleep will influence the decision-making process around food choice and food selection.  I’ve had an interest in weight regulation and obesity for a long time, and this was a niche that I discovered and found really fascinating, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to explore it further with my own work, and I’m also the CEO of a company called Dan’s Plan, and I think in a few minutes I’ll tell you a little bit more about that, but essentially it’s a system to try to optimize anyone’s lifestyle so that they’re able to focus on key aspects that are going to keep you healthy and keeping those aspects interesting and salient and keeping you mindful over them.

Why Dan and Stephan Created the Ideal Weight Program

Chris Kresser:  Sounds great.  So, Dan and Stephan, I know a little bit about this story, but of course, the listeners don’t.  Why don’t you tell everyone how you guys met and why you decided to get together and collaborate on this program?

Stephan Guyenet:  Sure.  Dan, correct me if anything I say is wrong, but I believe we met at AHS11.

Dan Pardi:  That’s right.

Stephan Guyenet:  And I remember Dan approached me and we talked a little bit, and I was immediately impressed by Dan’s research expertise.  Dan is a very knowledgeable person with really impressive expertise in his area of research as well as a couple of other areas, so that piqued my interest, and there are a couple of factors in body weight regulation that Dan has helped me to understand, and maybe we’ll get into those a little bit later.  Also Dan told me a little bit about his company, Dan’s Plan, which I thought sounded really exciting.  Dan will speak a little bit more about that in a moment.  But yeah, we talked a little bit, and Dan eventually proposed this idea that we work together and design a new version of his Ideal Weight program, which is designed to promote fat loss and long-term maintenance in a natural way.

Chris Kresser:  So, Dan, yeah, that’s probably a good segue for you to talk a little bit more about Dan’s Plan.  I know we’ve discussed it on the show, but some new listeners might not be aware of it, so can you give us just like a brief overview of what it is and how it’s relevant to this Ideal Weight program discussion?

Dan Pardi:  Yeah, absolutely, and let me just say first that when I approached Stephan, I was well aware of his work because I had read Whole Health Source for a while and like you, Chris, it’s one of my favorite blogs that I read.  I make sure to read everything Stephan puts out, and I’ve always been really impressed with how careful Stephan is as a researcher, how he analyzes the scientific publications incredibly thoroughly, so I was eager to talk with him at AHS, and I’m glad that we’ve been able to work on this program together.  We’re excited to share more with you about this today.

Yeah, so Dan’s Plan basically stemmed from this idea of if you want to help somebody be healthy, what do you do?  And how do you facilitate health in somebody else?  And after thinking about that for a while, I came up with a model that is based off of four different parts.  Part one is to try to inspire belief in somebody about a certain path being useful to achieve an objective like long-term health or weight loss, then to lay out the details of what that philosophy looks like in very highly actionable steps across a 24-hour period, things you do or don’t do.  The third part then is to help somebody be mindful of whether they’re actually fulfilling those steps, if they’re doing them or not.  And then the fourth part is validation, so periodic testing of blood work or physical performance, things that give you some additional insight into is this lifestyle actually serving me in the way that I would hope it would?  Dan’s Plan then, the website, is taking this model and then trying to turn it into a tool that people can use.  We’ve been in public beta for quite a while now, so it’s free to use and you can go there and sign up and see the tools that we’ve developed.

Basically a good way to think of Dan’s Plan is there are two different parts.  The first part is a toolset that we’ve created, and that toolset, again, looks at a variety of actionable measures, like going to bed at a certain time, daily steps, exercise volume, daily weight, consolidating all of that into one score, color-coding it, letting you know then on a rolling seven-day basis, am I living a healthy lifestyle right now?  And the second part is coming up with these programs, which are goal-oriented, like weight loss, and that lay out in kind of a multimedia educational experience, helping people understand what are the things that actually matter towards this goal, like with weight loss?  What are the things that are driving body fat either up or down?  And then also laying out those steps then, so now that we have an understanding of what’s really driving the process, how do you then turn this into something that you can do and get results?  So, these two aspects of the company are very integrated and complementary, and that’s what Dan’s Plan is.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, that’s a great summary, and again, I know we’ve talked about this before, but I’ll just jump in here.  As a clinician, Dan knows a lot more about behavioral modification than I do.  It’s something he’s studied extensively, but my knowledge is more in a kind of practical, clinical framework, and what I’ve definitely noticed is that as humans we’re pretty adaptable, and we can get accustomed to our circumstances fairly quickly.  For example, when I’m treating a patient and they’re making progress, it’s not unusual for the focus to be on the things that haven’t changed rather than the things that have changed, and so tracking can become a really important process because it helps the patient to determine that they are making progress.  They can see it visually charted out.  It helps them visualize the goal that they’re trying to meet and stick with it, and there just aren’t that many great tools out there like Dan’s Plan that focus on the things that really matter and make this kind of tracking possible, so I’ve been recommending it to all of my new patients, and they’re getting a lot of value out of it.  I use it myself to chart mostly my activity level and sleep.  Weight doesn’t happen to be an issue for me, but I find it really useful to help me keep track of my activity and movement goals and sleep, in particular, so it’s a great resource.  It’s free to sign up.  There’s no reason not to do it, so definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

Now let’s jump into the Ideal Weight program.  I’m really looking forward to talking more about it.  You know, at the beginning of the show, I said that it’s my personal experience as a clinician that weight loss is hard, at least with certain people, but I think that’s not just my experience alone.  I mean, obviously the weight loss industry wouldn’t be a multibillion dollar industry if it were easy, and we wouldn’t still all be here talking about it if we’d figured it out completely.  There’s a lot of not only just the science and how it’s evolved and our understanding of weight regulation over time, but the behavioral factors associated with doing the things that we know we need to do, so when you put that all together, it can be complex and confusing and just hard.  So, the need for a program that’s practical and works and works over time, in particular, because we know a lot of weight loss interventions work in the short term but aren’t sustainable over the long term.  Why don’t, Dan or Stephan, you tell us a little bit about why you’re doing this, kind of what the shortcomings are you see in current weight loss approaches, and how this will address those shortcomings?

The Problem with Most Weight Loss Approaches and Why They Don’t Work

Stephan Guyenet:  Well, the basic problem is that one-third of people in this country are obese, one-third are overweight, and a lot of those people would like to lose weight.  Essentially we have an unprecedented amount of overweight and obese people in this country and globally, and it’s pretty simple that people want to look and feel their best and they want to avoid health problems, and so a lot of a people put a lot of effort into losing weight.  The problem is that losing weight is not necessarily a simple proposition.  You go online and you see this and that program has this and that person.  It’s like the Subway diet, whatever that guy’s name is, Jared, who lost however many hundreds of pounds.

Chris Kresser:  A million pounds!

Stephan Guyenet:  Yeah, eating sandwiches!  OK, so does that mean the average person is going to lose a million pounds eating sandwiches?  Well, I don’t think so.  So, the problem is that available weight loss programs, the most popular ones have been studied under controlled conditions, and what we know about them is that for the most part, they have limited efficacy.  And that has to do with a couple of different issues.  One of them is just that a lot of people have trouble sticking to a diet.  It’s tough to change your diet and lifestyle from what it used to be, so that’s one issue, but the other issue — and I would say this is possibly the central issue — is that the body actually resists fat loss.  Just like your thermostat regulates the temperature in your house and when the temperature goes up or down, it applies AC or heat, the human body regulates body fat in a similar way.  And it actually regulates many things in that way, such as your body temperature.  You know, you’re never going to stick a thermometer into your mouth and see that your temperature is 50 degrees, or if you did, you would be dead, right?

Chris Kresser:  Right.

Stephan Guyenet:  So, a number of things in the body — blood pressure, temperature, etc. — are homeostatically regulated.  And what tends to regulate things in your house is there’s a microchip inside your thermostat.  That’s the information processing center of that homeostatic system that’s regulating temperature in your house.  Well, the informational center of the human body is the brain, and so homeostatic regulation of the large-scale processes in the human body tends to have its seat in the brain.  I’m getting into a lot of detail to explain something simple, but basically it’s hard to lose weight because your body doesn’t want to lose weight, and so if you just keep eating the same food you’re eating but just less of it and you go and exercise — You know, if you can do that faithfully, if you can cut your calories by 50% and go exercise a bunch, you will lose fat and you’ll lose it quickly, but it’s not the easiest and most sustainable strategy, and the studies that have been done suggest that it’s not really that effective.

Chris Kresser:  Right.  For the vast majority, something above 90% or something, depending on the study you look at, over time.  Is that right?

Stephan Guyenet:  That’s right.  And I’m not trying to say that none of these approaches are effective at all.  That’s clearly not the case, but what we’re saying is we’re trying to take a new approach, take a new look at this, and figure out a way to address the main barriers to fat loss and maintenance that we see.

Chris Kresser:  Um-hum.  So, if folks want more detail on the explanation that Stephan just offered in terms of how fat loss is resisted by the body and the homeostatic regulation of weight, Stephan’s been on the show twice, and we talked extensively about that system, so we’ll put a couple links to those earlier shows that have full transcripts, and if you want to geek out on the science behind this, you can check that out.

So, how does the Ideal Weight program address this crucial issue, which is that fundamentally the body has these hardwired evolutionary mechanisms to resist fat loss?

Is It Possible to Reset the Body Fat Setpoint?

Stephan Guyenet:  There are a couple of things that it addresses, and one of them is that resistance to fat loss.  The other big one — and I’m going to let Dan field this in a minute — is just keeping people adherent to the program and engaged and really giving them a program that gives them the tools they need to do the things that they need to do on a daily basis and be consistent about it and encourage them to do those things.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah.

Stephan Guyenet:  So, that’s something that I’ll let Dan field in a moment, but as far as addressing the body’s resistance to fat loss, the diet essentially draws upon existing research for strategies that specifically appear to reduce the “defended” level of fat mass.  I’ll talk about those more as we get into more detail and get into more of the nitty-gritty of the research, but for the time being, I’ll just say that there are certain strategies that have been identified that specifically target this system in the brain or are suspected to specifically target it that could potentially ease this resistance-to-fat-loss effect that many people experience.

Chris Kresser:  Um-hum.  Maybe we’re getting off on a little bit of a tangent right now, but is there an easy, practical way of determining if a diet is affecting the set point, that defended weight?  In other words, how do we know?

Stephan Guyenet:  Yeah, that is a really good question.  I’m glad you brought it up.  Most of the evidence we have is indirect.  However, there have been some more direct investigations.  The ways that have been done that are more direct are some of the animal experiments that have been done.  Basically they take animals and they put them in a particular context.  They put them on, for example, a specific diet, or they put them on a specific exercise regime, and then they change the animal’s calorie intake, so either by reducing the animal’s calorie intake by restricting their food or by increasing their calorie intake, and they see how body weight responds to that.  Basically if you take an animal at a particular weight on a particular diet and particular physical activity and then you restrict its food by like 30%, it will lose a certain amount of fat.  But if you then put it back on unlimited food and it pops right back up to the weight where it used to be, you can say:  OK, that is the set point in this particular context.  That is the amount of body fat that is being defended by this animal.  And there are a number of studies that show that the “defended” level of body fat is very context-dependent in these animal studies.

And there are also studies in humans where they’ve used similar approaches.  I’m not going to get into the details because it would take a while to explain it, but basically they use measures of satiety — satiety is fullness — to measure how different diets are affecting people’s set points.  So, when you lose a bunch of weight, one of the things that happens when you’re below where your body wants you to be is you’re hungry.  You don’t get full with the same amount of food.  Your body just wants you to keep eating and eating to replenish that body fat.  You know, it’s like if you skip a few meals, you’re hungrier when you do start eating again.  And you can measure that as a readout of whether someone’s at their set point or not.  So, that’s one way in humans.  Another way is you actually look at activity in the brain by a technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging.  They expose people to these food cues and they look at activity in the brain, and what you can see is that in people who are below their set point, their brain goes nuts when it sees food, whereas in people that are at or above their set point, they have a much more limited response in parts of the brain that are specifically dedicated to responding to food.  So, those are the more specific ways.

A more general way — and this is part of the approach that we took with this program — So, one of the things that happens when you’re below your set point, when you’re below where your body wants you to be in terms of fat mass, is that the body basically tries to conserve energy.  So, you have less energy, and it tries to bring as many calories in as possible, so you have increased hunger, increased preoccupation with food, and you experience less satiety for the same food intake.  Basically what we can do is we can look at studies and we can say:  OK, well, let’s look at studies where they didn’t actually manipulate calorie intake deliberately at all.  They just changed the quality of the food that was eaten or they changed something else about the lifestyle, like sleep or exercise or something, and let’s see what effect that has on body weight and spontaneous calorie intake.  So, you can find studies where, for example, people undergo a diet change, and all of a sudden, because of this qualitative change in diet, their calories drop by several hundred calories a day and they’re losing weight, and yet when you ask them whether they’re hungry, they say no.  They’re eating to the same degree of fullness as they used to.  They just don’t require as many calories, and they’re losing fat.

Chris Kresser:  Right.

Stephan Guyenet:  That, to me, is an indirect indication that those people have lowered their set point.

Chris Kresser:  Right, and when I’ve used this approach with people in the clinic, they mostly report that they’re not experiencing the hunger.  And I’m kind of on a practical level using that as an indicator that it’s working.  I mean, the most extreme example of that that I’m aware of was someone that we talked about, an older study where they fed people a bland liquid diet through a tube, and some people lost insane amounts of weight eating a really ridiculously low number of calories and didn’t experience any hunger at all.

Stephan Guyenet:  Yeah, that’s striking.  It’s striking, and I think that reflects a reduction in the set point, because if you had told that person to eat 500 calories of pizza every day, can you imagine the same outcome would have occurred?

Chris Kresser:  Haha, probably not!

Stephan Guyenet:  He’d be starving.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah.  I think this is a really key point to highlight here, this difference between voluntary calorie restriction and involuntary calorie restriction.  The former has been tried ad nauseam and is effective to the extent that it can be kept up, but there are two problems with it:  One, it can’t be kept up by most people, and that’s not because they’re weak and don’t have any willpower.  It’s because they’re literally fighting against hardwired evolutionary mechanisms, survival mechanisms that are there to preserve our fitness in a natural environment.  And it’s not easy to fight against those kinds of mechanisms because they’re literally hardwired into us.

Stephan Guyenet:  They’re specifically designed to override your conscious desires, no matter what they are.

Chris Kresser:  Right.  Exactly.  And then the second part of that is that with voluntary calorie restriction — and we’ve talked about this a little more on the other shows — there are some side effects to that that can occur, like down-regulation of conversion of T4 to T3, which can cause kind of hypothyroid-type symptoms and cold hands and feet and make the whole process rather uncomfortable, and I think that’s one way people don’t stick with it, but if I’m getting what you’re saying and from my reading of the research, those things don’t tend to happen as much or even at all in some cases when the calorie restriction is involuntary and the set point is dropping.

Stephan Guyenet:  Well, I don’t want to make any specific claims about thyroid hormone and specific hormones because I actually don’t know about that, but there are definitely the large-scale signs of how people feel and how full they are that suggest that there is a change in the set point under certain circumstances.

How the Ideal Weight Program Will Help You with Fat Loss

Chris Kresser:  Right.  OK, so can you get a little more specific now about the program itself and how is it structured and how does it work?

Stephan Guyenet:  Sure.  Essentially we brought together several researchers including Dan, myself, and a behavioral scientist named Larry Carter, and we put together a program that brought together all of our various expertise to bear on this issue of weight loss.  What we designed is an Internet-based, multimedia diet and lifestyle program for natural fat loss and maintenance.  It’s a diet and lifestyle modification program that we have based on what we see as the most cutting-edge research to date, and it consists of two basic tracks.  Based on a person’s individual goals, they get to select which track they want to go down.  There’s track one, which is our most intensive weight loss program, most intensive, most rapid, most effective.  This is based around a diet that we designed.  It’s called the FLASH Diet.  FLASH stands for Fat Loss and Sustainable Health, and this is essentially a high-protein, low-carbohydrate, low-fat diet that’s relatively low in energy density, and this type of diet has been studied extensively in the biomedical literature.  It is hands-down the most effective rapid fat-loss procedure that is known, and so that’s what we based track one on.  That’s the diet.  There’s also a physical activity and a sleep component.

And then track two is more flexible program, so track two is for people who want something that’s going to be a little more gentle and fit into their lifestyle in a way that isn’t as demanding.  Track two is based on a wider palette of foods.  Basically it focuses on teaching simple, practical cooking skills for making healthy food in your own home, and these foods are specifically selected for fat loss based on the criteria that we determined.

Both of these programs have very important sleep and physical activity components as well, and another very important component is modifying the food environment.  The changes in body fatness that have occurred in this country and in the world are basically due to changes in our environment — our food environment, our physical activity environment, everything like that.  Basically, if you have an environment that kind of guides you down this path, the typical path of eating and physical activity and sleep, you’re going to go down the typical path of health and body fatness.  So, we’re trying to get people to make achievable, realistic modifications to their food environment so that they can invest a little bit of effort, a little bit of willpower right up front and avoid having to exert a lot of willpower later on down the line when maybe you come home, you’re tired, and there’s a bag of chips on the counter.  Are you going to have the willpower, are you going to have the cognitive reserve to say no to those chips?  But what if the chips weren’t there?  You know?  If the chips aren’t there, you don’t have to have the willpower, the cognitive reserve, so a very important part of our program is designing a food environment that naturally funnels behaviors into a positive direction.  So, that’s the basic idea.  And also we really focus on providing engaging tracking and feedback tools through these innovative web tools that Dan and his colleagues have designed.  Dan, do you want to get into that a little bit?

Dan Pardi:  Yeah, sure, Stephan.  I think I’ll speak a little more broadly about a movement that’s currently taking place called Quantified Self, and in some ways it’s actually not novel.  Quantified Self is the practice of self-tracking, self-monitoring, in its simplest form, writing down something like weight on a piece of paper.  The novelty of this movement has to do with the sensors that are being developed and also the systems that these sensors integrate with.  I’ll give you an example.  Fitbit is an increasingly popular device where you wear it.  It’s a pedometer or a step counter.  You wear it in your pocket during the day.  It counts steps for you.  You can pull it out of your pocket at any point and check to see how you’re doing, and then it wirelessly transmits its data, and in our case, we integrate with that device to Dan’s Plan, and then that information can be represented in ways that will motivate you.

And a good system will also help you form specific goals.  There’s a lot of research in the literature that suggests walking 10,000 steps per day, which is about four miles, depending on stride length, is very healthy for people long term.  If you look at 5- or 10-year studies, people that tend to maintain that level of low intensity physical activity, like walking, tend to be in good metabolic health and weight stable.  But how are you supposed to know how many steps you’ve taken unless you have one of these devices counting them for you?  There are really very few ways to know unless you have a two-mile walk baked into your morning and your evening.  And so, because of these devices, we’re able to, I think, resist the environmental default.

Our health is no longer predicated on survival behaviors, right?  In order for us to be healthy or to survive, oftentimes we have to do a lot of deskwork.  That is what is kind of giving us the means in order to provide shelter, food on the table, etc.  And deskwork means that we’re sitting down all day, which is a very unnatural way to use our bodies over the course of the day.  We use technology products like televisions and iPads.  They keep us up late at night, they mask sleepiness that we feel, and they promote a condition where we’re getting less sleep than we were 40 or 50 years ago.  In fact, the average is about 20% less, which is equivalent to one night of sleep lost per week.  And we’re going to talk about some of this stuff later, but there are some very significant effects that directly impact weight regulation relative to sleep loss.

Anyhow, this sort of tracking and these devices and these systems that they integrate with make you able to form specific goals, so you have a very tangible, clear understanding of what you want to do, which then that information, once it’s given back to you, you can then know how am I doing?  Am I meeting my goals?  Am I off?  And that again is really, really powerful because for the first time we’re able to collect this information that’s otherwise hard for us to have mindfulness over or to understand.  So that’s, I think, the broader movement.

We have a specific philosophy about the type of information that we want to collect.  You know, just because you can capture information doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s useful.  And also, a lot of these actionable steps are rather mundane.  Like bedtime, right?  I think when you’re dealing with a very complex issue like weight regulation, there’s a tendency for the mind to want to find an exotic solution, right?  That black swan that explains why this is happening, this one thing, when really, I think, a lot of this has to do with the lifestyle that we maintain and going back to that belief that we are of nature and we have evolved using our bodies in a certain fashion.  Now our environment has changed drastically, and our lifestyles have changed drastically too, and what feels very normal to us in this modern world in terms of the lifestyle — going to school, sitting at work, watching television, lots of artificial light — is actually extremely novel.  And so, I think that these sorts of tools help us fight back.  We’re not in a place where we have the rejection of modern luxuries, but rather we have more awareness and we can take charge, we can take control because of that awareness of how we’re actually living.  So, we’re not being led down this path, as Stephan said, that is going to predictably lead to maladies like weight gain, diabetes, other sorts of chronic disease, early death, but rather we can fight back.

And I think when now you have a small investment in some of these devices, the willful choice to engage in some of these systems on a regular basis, like Dan’s Plan, to say:  I care about my health.  I am going to put in a modicum of effort on a daily basis and be able to answer this question:  Am I living a healthy lifestyle today, right now?  And it’s going to become a regular part of my process.  And when I do that, then I’m going to have confidence that I’m doing what I should be in order to be healthy.  So, that’s what our tools do, and I’m really excited about the potential of this movement.  I think that even though technology has been, I think, one of the major things that has actually gotten in the way of our health, it’s also part of the solution.

Chris Kresser:  As long as you don’t do it after 8 o’clock at night, right?  Haha, staring at a light screen that’s screwing up your melatonin, circadian rhythms, so don’t be on Dan’s Plan at 11 p.m. or 1 a.m., please.

Dan Pardi:  Touché, haha.

Chris Kresser:  Just wait until the morning to record your results!  All joking aside, I think that’s a really important point, and again from a clinical perspective, I see behavioral change as being one of the major obstacles to people recovering their health, and it’s something that I’m always thinking about because, you know, of course, sometimes the problem is that it’s just a really difficult case to treat and it’s hard to find out what’s going on and it’s hard to treat what’s present, but in almost all cases — my own journey with chronic illness included — there’s a strong behavioral component and some way that we’re contributing to our own difficulties.  And I think one of the reasons that many kind of canned, formulaic approaches don’t work is that they don’t take that into consideration.  They’re applying a program or a kind of formula to living, breathing human beings that make decisions not just based on information and logic, but on emotions and beliefs and habit and all of these other arguably much more powerful influences on behavior.

So, the thing that excites me most about this program is this element that we’re talking about now, even though I’m also extremely excited about the diet itself, both of the tracks.  I think it’s completely consistent with the research in a way that few other diet programs are, but when you put it together, you know, an evidence-based approach to weight loss together with all of these behavioral, like the focus on cognitive resources and behavioral change and the ability to track all of that with these really simple-to-use and engaging tools, to me it’s kind of the Shangri-La, so I’m really optimistic about it, and I think people are going to get a lot out of this.

Who the Ideal Weight Program Is for (And Not For)

Steve Wright:  Can I ask a question, guys?  We’ve talked a lot about fat loss so far, but who is this program really for?  Is it for anyone?  Say, someone wants to go from 15% body fat down to 8% or maybe someone who’s going from 40% down to 20%.  Those would be males obviously, not females, but maybe a female wants to go from 25% down to 18% body fat.  Is it for a certain range people or everyone, or what’s the deal with that?

Stephan Guyenet:  I can field this.  This program was not really designed with bodybuilders in mind, for example, you know, who are trying to cut down to an extremely low body fat and who are trying to get down just a few more percent.  This program is really designed for people who have excess fat mass and who are trying to lose excess fat mass.  I mean, elements of this program will be able to help anyone with any fat loss goal, but specifically we designed it for people who are trying to lose excess fat mass.

Chris Kresser:  Um-hum.  We touched earlier, Stephan, on hunger and the differences between voluntary calorie restriction and involuntary calorie restriction on hunger, and of course, hunger is one of the main obstacles that people face when they embark on any kind of weight loss approach, so let’s talk a little bit about satiety and how this program might be different than what other people have done in the past.

Stephan Guyenet:  Yeah, sure.  One of the easiest aspects of this program to describe and understand is its focus on the concept of satiety or fullness.  In addition to these long-term feedback loops that we’ve discussed at length that regulate body fatness, there are feedback loops that regulate meal-to-meal calorie intake.  Basically when you eat food, your digestive system detects what you’re eating, and it sends signals back to your brain to make you feel full.  It turns out that there’s been a lot of research on this, and the amount of fullness that you experience is only loosely correlated with the number of calories that you’re eating.  So, there are ways to manipulate your food so that on a meal-to-meal basis you feel fuller with fewer calories.  One of the main factors here is protein.  There are tons of studies showing that high-protein diets are useful for weight loss, and I think that’s really emerging as one of the key factors in an effective weight loss program.  Protein, when eaten, it releases a hormone called glucagon, and glucagon has a satiety-promoting effect.  There may be also other reasons why protein is satiating, but that appears to be one of them.  Protein is the most satiating per calorie, so for every calorie of protein you eat, you’re going to feel more full than if you eat fat and carbohydrate.  Carbohydrate is the second most satiating per calorie, and fat is the least.

Chris Kresser:  I think that would surprise a lot of people.

Stephan Guyenet:  Yeah, it would because if you eat something really fatty, you’re going to feel stuffed, right?

Chris Kresser:  Yeah.

Stephan Guyenet:  But the problem is it’s not satiating per calorie.  So, when you eat something that contains a lot of fat, you’re going to feel really full, but you also just ate a lot of calories.  Let me take a step back here, because fat is 9 calories per gram and typically is not saturated with water, whereas carbohydrate or protein is 4 calories per gram and is often saturated with water.  If you’re putting added fats on your food, you’re greatly increasing the energy density or the calorie density of that food, and consequently the overall satiating effect will go down.

Chris Kresser:  Right.

Stephan Guyenet:  But I think this is an important point to explain because now some people might be thinking:  Well, why then are low-fat diets not that effective of a weight loss tool?  Because there have been tons of studies on this.  People have tried it extensively, and just restricting the amount of fat in the diet, it does cause fat loss on average — and the more you restrict it, the more fat loss it causes — but it’s really quite a modest effect.  And part of the reason is there’s a certain amount of satisfaction associated with eating fat in the diet, and also paradoxically, some amount of fat can slow gastric emptying, so it slows the emptying of food out of the stomach, so a certain amount of it can promote feeling full for longer.  But the problem is that it also increases energy density.  But what you can do to solve that problem is you can eat fat in a way where it’s not increasing the calorie density.  So, you can eat foods that naturally contain fat, things like avocados and moderately lean meats, and those foods are still going to be relatively satiating per unit calorie, so then you get the benefits of the fat without getting the downside of the fat.

Chris Kresser:  Right.

Stephan Guyenet:  So, this brings us to another big factor in satiety that I’ve just alluded to, and that is the calorie density of food, so basically the number of calories per weight or per volume of food is another major determinant of how full you feel per calorie when you eat it.  For example, if you’re eating something like bread, which actually has a very high calorie density because as soon as you chew it, all the air goes away and it’s just a little lump in your stomach, if you compare that to porridge, for example, you took the same grain and you made a porridge out of it that’s highly saturated with waters, that’s going to be a lot more filling per unit calorie.  There’s a researcher named Barbara Rolls who published a nice weight loss book on this.  The title isn’t coming to me right now, but she has done a lot of research.

Dan Pardi:  Volumetrics.

Chris Kresser:  Volumetrics?

Stephan Guyenet:  Volumetrics Diet, yeah.  Thank you.  It’s called the Volumetrics Diet, and it’s a nice book, and it’s based around this principle of eating low-calorie-density foods.  So, the idea there is that you can eat more food while also eating fewer calories and feeling the same degree of satiety.

Chris Kresser:  Which, by the way, for listeners, most of the studies that have looked at traditional diets have found that they tend to be lower in energy density than the typical Western, industrialized diet.  So, this is an evolutionary approach to eating as well.

Stephan Guyenet:  That’s right.

The Most Common Fat Loss Misconceptions

Chris Kresser:  So, I know Dan’s going to talk a little bit about sleep and circadian rhythms and how this relates to appetite and weight regulation, but before we do that, I just want to bring up a couple of things that I often see that I think are misunderstandings of these concepts that we’ve been talking about on the Internet, objections that people raise sometimes when you write an article, Stephan, or maybe when I do about how food reward and food palatability affects weight.

One of the common objections is that this implies that people who are overweight are thus then gluttons because they’ve just been eating this highly rewarding food and they can’t stop themselves, and so it again points to individual failure as the reason for not losing weight, whereas the low-carb message was exonerating in a way because it was like:  It’s not you, it’s the carbohydrates, and as long as you take the carbohydrates out of your diet, then you won’t have a problem.  Of course, we know that that’s not always true, but that’s the message.

And then the second one is often something that goes along the lines of:  Well, I love eating food, and I love good-tasting food, and I just can’t believe that humans have to eat extremely bland food to maintain a normal weight.  That doesn’t make any sense.  So, can you speak to those a little bit before we go into the sleep issue?

Stephan Guyenet:  Yeah, absolutely, and let me just take a little step back first and explain a little bit about the context here for people who aren’t familiar with the writing on this.  The basic idea is that food, depending on its specific properties, has a certain motivational value associated with it and also a certain enjoyment value associated with it.  The motivational value is called reward, and the enjoyment value is called palatability.  Just to illustrate that, I’ll give you a little example.  You’re in a restaurant.  You just had a big meal, a really nice meal.  You’re full.  And then the waiter brings out a plate with a warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce drizzled on it, and they put it right in front of you, and the smell is wafting up your nose.  What are you going to do?  Are you going to eat it, or are you not?  And if you don’t eat it, how hard was it?  You wanted to eat it.  Or if you don’t like brownies, put something else in there that you do enjoy.  But what happens if that waiter had brought out a plate of steamed, plain potatoes and put it on your plate?  You’re stuffed after this meal, and they bring out steamed potatoes with nothing on them.  No salt, nothing.  Are you going to dive into those potatoes?  Of course not.

So, the point is that food has a certain motivational value associated with it.  In the case of the brownie, you’re more motivated to go in and eat those excess calories even though your body has no need for those calories.  So, basically the amount of food that you eat and whether or not you continue eating that food is determined by this reward value or motivational value of the food as well as the palatability or flavor of the food.  And so, if you’re always in a situation where you’re surrounded by these very tempting, motivating foods, whether it’s at a meal or whether you’re just at work and it’s on your desk or whatever, you’re going to have a tendency to eat more calories overall and less healthy food overall.  So, part of the thing that we try to leverage in this program is avoiding foods that are so far down that direction that they’re unnaturally motivating and they’re going to promote an excess calorie intake.

And also, I’ll just say basically that these pathways that regulate these things, that receive and process these factors in the brain, the reward pathways and the hedonic pathways, those things interact with the pathways that regulate body fatness.  So, there are some data — and research is ongoing on this — but there is some data, and some of this I’ve published in a review paper, that suggest that basically highly palatable, highly rewarding food can actually increase your defended level of fatness.  So, basically the body wants to eat those excess calories and wants to retain the fat, and when you reduce that reward and palatability value of the typical food, it makes it easier to lose.

OK, so that’s the background.  So now, getting into the questions that you asked, the first one that I want to address is, do you have to eat nothing but bland food?  And the answer to that is no.  Food reward and palatability is a tool that you can use that influences body fatness.  You know, there are many tools that you can use to influence body fatness.  That’s one of them, and we think it’s important, but it’s also important to create a balanced plan that people can enjoy and stay on and not feel like they’re doing something that is extremely draconian.  Some of the research that’s come out from a really interesting researcher, John de Castro, has suggested that in people’s day-to-day meals, really calorie intake increases the most at the highest levels of palatability, so we’re talking about foods that people think are really, really, really palatable.  They will eat approximately 44% more calories at a given meal of that type of food.

Chris Kresser:  Wow.

Stephan Guyenet:  Yeah, it’s a huge effect.  If you go down in palatability to things that people rated as fairly palatable or average palatability, you basically do not get any more benefit, according to this study, from going down to low palatability.  So, this suggests that we really don’t necessarily need to eat food that’s completely bland to capitalize on this effect.  We can eat food that we’re designed to eat, which is simple, natural food, and reap the benefits for appetite and body weight control.  I mean, we’re talking about the kinds of foods that our ancestors ate, which is simple, natural foods as close as possible to their natural state.

So, that’s one thing, and the second thing is this idea that this food reward concept implies that people who are overweight or obese are kind of losing control and that’s why they’re obese and they’re gluttons or whatever.  This is something that has come up repeatedly.  I can understand why people can get sensitive about this subject, but it couldn’t be further from the truth, that perspective.  Basically we all live in a food environment that promotes overeating and promotes fat gain, almost all of us.  I mean, almost without exception, we live in an environment that promotes fat gain more than our grandparents, more than our great-grandparents, more than people 10,000 years ago, more than people 50,000 years ago did.

Now, different people have different levels of susceptibility to that environment.  So, if you were going to take 10 people and get them all to eat nothing but pizza, ice cream, chips, and fries, what you would see is that many of those people would gain fat and become obese or overweight, but not all of them would.  There are different levels of susceptibility, and even when you overfeed people the same number of calories — This has been studied.  If you take 10 people and you overfeed them all by exactly 1000 calories per day, you’ll get 10 whole differences in fat gain among those different people just because of how their bodies react.  Some people are able to literally burn off the excess.  So I mean, the fact that food reward and palatability contribute to that drive to eat excess calories does not imply that anyone is weak-willed if they’re obese in our society or overweight.  Those people might have been doing the exact same thing as the person next to them that’s lean.

Chris Kresser:  Right.

Stephan Guyenet:  There are different levels of susceptibility, and we’re all dealt a different deck of cards in life genetically and in every way imaginable, and the question is, what are you going to do with the cards you are dealt?  What can you do with the cards you are dealt?

Chris Kresser:  Exactly, and that’s, I think, where this program really shines because it’s addressing both factors that are modifiable on a conscious level, and then it’s addressing things that maybe aren’t accessible to us consciously, but through the structure of the program, can be changed, like the body fat set point and how that relates to food intake.  So, I think that’s a great point and really important for everyone to keep in mind, particularly the susceptibility to fat gain.  I talked about that in an earlier article I wrote, where I think we all know people who eat like crap, you know?  They just eat the worst foods, they don’t exercise, and they’re rail thin.  And then we know people who are exercising and eating a healthy diet and they’re overweight, and so clearly there’s something else going on there.  You’ll hear people make these ridiculous comments like:  Oh, the overweight person must be sneaking food.  Obviously there are influences here that are outside of our control, so like you said, Stephan, it’s just how do we address the hand that we’ve been dealt in a way that is sustainable and healthy for our bodies and fits into the context of our current life and lifestyle?

So, Dan, along those lines, we haven’t talked that much yet about sleep and how sleep interacts with all these various influences.

Dan Pardi:  Yeah.  Chris, would you mind if I actually mentioned one other thing about our environment first?

Chris Kresser:  No, go ahead.

Dan Pardi:  OK.  Stephan did a nice job articulating various factors that affect satiety, so things about the composition of food that will make us feel a sensation of fullness more quickly or more potently, but there are other reasons why we eat food that are considered external factors versus internal factors, so the perception of feelings.  And these things are really powerful drivers of food intake.  I’ll give you an example of a now-infamous study done by Professor Brian Wansink who is at NIH.  It was a soup study, and he had rigged up a soup bowl that was self-refilling from the bottom of the bowl.  And as subjects in the study would eat, to an undetectable level the soup would continue to fill in.

Chris Kresser:  Haha.

Dan Pardi:  Haha, I know.  It’s really ingenious, actually.  And what he found is that people that ate from the self-refilling bowls ate 75% more than the people that ate from the normal bowls.  So, what they were looking at or what they concluded is that people were actually using visual cues to determine how full they were.  And I think probably one of the most interesting aspects of that study was that these subjects that ate almost twice as much didn’t rate themselves as any more full than those that ate 75% less.

Chris Kresser:  Hmm.

Dan Pardi:  Yeah.

Chris Kresser:  That is fascinating.

Dan Pardi:  Fascinating study.  So, this speaks to a whole area of research that looks at all of the different external factors that modify how much food we put in our mouth.  And that includes things like plate size, package design, the number of options that are available to us.  Factors like ambient noise and lighting.  If you think about one of your favorite restaurants that you enjoy going to, they try to make the environment as conducive to you staying, enjoying that meal as much as possible, multiple courses.  All of these things will serve to distract you from your own internal cues.  We love novelty.  You know, small plates, trying a lot of different things.  If you were to take potato chips and you were to put them in twelve different bowls versus two different bowls, you would eat more, even just the perception of variety, even though it’s the same item, will have you eat a lot more.

Chris Kresser:  Hmm.

Dan Pardi:  Then there are things like social factors, so when you eat in the presence of company, there tends to be what’s called a pacesetter.  So, somebody at the table that eats the most will then influence and affect how much everybody else eats.

Chris Kresser:  Haha.

Dan Pardi:  So, Chris, when you sit down next to —

Chris Kresser:  John Welbourn!

Dan Pardi:  — John Welbourn and he has three pounds of bacon, you might end up having a pound of bacon where otherwise you might have had three strips.

Chris Kresser:  That could explain why I was so full after I had breakfast at AHS last year with Welbourn, Robb Wolf, and Mat Lalonde.  I walked out of there feeling like I needed on a stretcher or something.

Dan Pardi:  Haha, absolutely!  So, I think what the program — and Stephan and I have talked about this — There are these incredibly important internal factors that we want to operationalize to take, OK, high protein, volume, etc., and turn these into dietary advice that people can follow, but when we talk about environment, we also need to make that environment conducive to people not having too many distractions, not having highly palatable foods sitting out on the counter.  You’re much more likely to defect or not comply with your own desire to achieve this goal if your environment is rife with a lot of poor options.  And then also we want to maintain awareness, so we actually do recommend specific calorie amounts in our program because even if you are — there are other reasons why you could take in more calories, right?  These external factors.  And so, those are other thoughts about what’s driving calorie intake.  It’s not just the food, but it’s also kind of the context where we are, and that also includes our upbringing.

So, I wanted to mention that because that’s really important, and any good program is going to really consider all of these factors because they’re significant.  I mean, Stephan mentioned the 44% increase in calories from highly palatable foods.  We see things like people are more likely to take in almost 80% more calories just sitting at a table with a pacesetter that eats a lot of food.  So, there’s a variety of things that can significantly alter the amount of calories we take in, and we need to identify them, understand them, and then have a program that helps us make better decisions consistently because it’s a long haul usually, right?  People that have weight to lose, it’s going to take some time to get there, and we need to find something that’s practical and conducive and achievable.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah.

Dan Pardi:  Yeah.

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How Does Sleep Affect Weight Regulation?

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, that’s helpful and really kind of surprising in a way.  I wouldn’t have expected it to be that big of an influence, but it just goes to show how important the food environment is and how significant behavior is in all of this.  But what about sleep?  I mean, we talked a lot about that when you came on the show, but can you give us a summary of how important that is in terms of weight regulation and what your research has found on that topic?

Dan Pardi:  Yeah, sure.  I won’t go into all the different aspects of it today, but at this point, I was fascinated when I first became aware of the connection between lack of sleep or sleep loss and weight regulation.  I was dubious, but at this point, 81 out of 89 longitudinal and prospective studies have shown a positive finding for weight disturbance.  So, the connection seems to be very, very consistent.  And there are different aspects that you can look at.  Part of them are what is happening metabolically, so you see regularly if there’s impaired glucose regulation and altered hunger hormones, various hormones that are released that regulate body fat and also hunger.  And they will alter in a manner that you would expect would then promote weight increases or increases in hunger.  But there are also things like diminished physical vitality.  You see that fairly consistently across the different studies.  So, when somebody either has their sleep restricted or total sleep deprivation studies, they’re less physically active during the next day.  And what’s also very difficult to capture unless you’re in some sort of metabolic chamber where you’re really looking at how much energy is being consumed, is the non-exercise activity, like fidgeting, and postural muscles that are working to keep you upright.  You will decrease the amount of energy that you’re expending in that manner as well after sleep loss.

And then there’s also impaired cognition.  And this is a really fascinating area.  We now know that the decision-making apparatus, or how we decide, is significantly altered when we undergo sleep loss, so there are very objective impairments, so things like decreases in diligence or alertness.  Now think about how I just mentioned maintaining diligence or alertness over your satiety signals.  You’re in a distracting environment where there’s a lot of people eating food or you were served a very large plate of food.  You need to have enough alertness to even be tuned into your own satiety signals.  So, that’s one area, but we also know — there’s some work from Christian Benedict that looked at brain activation after both sleep and sleep deprivation, and similar to what Stephan had mentioned earlier, they did FMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging, where they were looking at the brain while people were making choices.  They were showing them high-calorie and low-calorie food images, and then they were looking at what parts of the brain would light up.  And what they saw is when people were sleep deprived, that this area of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex had altered activity.  This is a unique part of the frontal cortex, and it’s involved in emotional processing, and it stores reward information and therefore can influence subsequent behavior.  What that means is when you have a certain experience with a type of food, that experience is stored in memory, and then it can reinforce that behavior next time you’re hungry.  It can make you want to attain or acquire that food again in a future time.  So, this area of the brain plays a key role in the evaluation of food.

And interestingly, actually you do see higher activation in obese when anticipating food, and this might have to do with part of the broken neural circuitry of the obese state.  But it suggests that the rewarding quality of food is enhanced in obesity, and this is basically the same thing that you see with sleep deprivation.  So, the rewarding value of food becomes enhanced when you’ve lost sleep, and we’re getting, again, 20% less sleep than we used to.  And we know that the effects of sleep loss are cumulative.  In this study, it was one night of total sleep deprivation.  However, we know that with a lot of these cognitive impairments, if you have less sleep than a completely sufficient amount over a five-, six-, seven-day period, then you will be operating equivalent to as if you’ve gotten one night of total sleep loss.

Chris Kresser:  Wow.

Dan Pardi:  Yeah.  So, it’s not unreasonable to think that these are having very real effects on the amount of food that we’re taking in.  And if you look at a variety of these different studies that look at sleep loss and food intake, the average amount of calorie intake is about 300 more calories per day, and in some studies that correlated with increased hunger, and in some studies it didn’t.  So, these people were eating about 300 calories more per day, and in some of these studies they didn’t even really feel that they were more hungry than they were.  Like, their hunger ratings prior to meals were not altered compared to the sleep-satiated state.  This is having, I think, a very powerful effect on what we’re choosing to eat.

And additionally, we make about 200 or more choices about food per day.  And there are also elements of impulsivity.  We tend to be more impulsive when we are sleep deprived.  So, if you’re in an environment where there are food choices that don’t align with your goals, you’re more likely to say yes to the candy bowl at work.  You’re more likely to kind of say yes to an offered treat that you know you like but you don’t have the inhibitory control, which is the ability of the brain to suppress an impulse.  An impulse happens first, and then there is the suppression of that impulse, and with sleep loss, the suppression mechanism is weakened.  So, this is, I think, a really critical aspect of weight and weight control and the degree of people that are overweight and obese.

Chris Kresser:  And one that’s really not given much attention in the conventional discussion of weight loss.

Dan Pardi:  No, and Jean-Philippe Chaput is a researcher who works up in Canada, and over a five-year period he had looked at a variety of factors that predicted overweight and obesity, and sleep predicted both of those more so than caloric intake and physical activity, which are two things that are often studied most frequently with weight loss studies or, you know, talked about most frequently.

Chris Kresser:  Wow.

Dan Pardi:  Yeah.

Chris Kresser:  I just want everyone to take a moment and let that sink in.

Stephan Guyenet:  Well, I do want to point out one little thing about that, and that’s that it’s really difficult to accurately assess calorie intake in observational studies.

Chris Kresser:  Sure.

Stephan Guyenet:  I mean, the techniques that they usually use are actually not very good at accurately determining individual differences in calorie intake.  So, you do these studies where you’ll find that people who are obese are eating the exact same number of calories as people who are lean, but that’s all self-reported.  When you actually measure it directly, you find that there actually are differences.  They’re not large differences.  They’re like 20%.

Chris Kresser:  Doesn’t have to be.

Stephan Guyenet:  Yeah, it doesn’t have to be large.  I mean, it’s not something you would even notice on a day-to-day basis, 20% more, but there are differences there when it’s measured using objective methods.

Chris Kresser:  Right.  But of course, sleep could be affecting those differences, too.

Stephan Guyenet:  Absolutely!  Oh, yeah.  I’m not challenging what Dan is saying in any way.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, I know Stephan.

Stephan Guyenet:  Haha.

How to Test Drive the Ideal Weight Program to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

Chris Kresser:  Haha, so we’re kind of at the end of our time here, and I’ve really enjoyed the discussion.  Of course, I’ve seen the program and I’m already excited about it, but I even learned a few new things today, so I can’t wait to start being able to get this out there to people, so where can they learn more about it?  It was just launched yesterday, I think, and so how can people find out more and sign up?

Dan Pardi:  Yeah, so they can go to the website, DansPlan.com, and it’ll be fairly intuitive from that point.  I recommend that everybody sign up for a free account.  You know, why not play with the tools, see what suits you, what interests you?  And then you can find out more about these programs.  There are some advertisements on the site that just show you where to go for more information about them.  Yeah, so that should be pretty intuitive once you go to the site.

Chris Kresser:  Great.  Well, thanks to you both for coming on the show again.  And maybe we can have you back in about six months once the program has been going for a little while and we can kind of talk about our various experiences with it and maybe answer some of the common questions that are coming up and recap a little bit.

Dan Pardi:  Great idea.

Stephan Guyenet:  We’d love that, Chris, and we really appreciate the opportunity.  It’s always nice to come onto the show and chat with you guys.

Chris Kresser:  My pleasure.  Happy 2013 to everybody listening, and we’ll see you in a couple weeks.

Steve Wright:  And if you want more info from Chris Kresser, you can always go over to Facebook.com/ChrisKresserLAc or Twitter.com/ChrisKresser, where he posts a lot of different studies and stuff that don’t make it to the blog.  Please keep sending in your questions for 2013.  I still have plenty of questions from 2012, but we’ll be getting through those as they year goes on.  And really special thanks to our guests today on the podcast.  If you head over to iTunes, make sure you leave us a review.  Those help the popularity of the show and help spread it other people in 2013 who might need to learn about weight loss or other health benefits.  So, thanks for listening, and we’ll talk to you soon.

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Join the conversation

  1. To lose weight and actually keep it off it’s important to change the way you’re living!
    The way I did this was to introduce more exercise into my daily routine, change my relationship with food (no diets here), and change how much sitting I was doing every day!
    If you can, I’d suggest getting an adjustable or standing height desk at your office. I switched over to a NextDesk about 4 months ago and feel better, healthier, more energetic, and as I mentioned, have lost some weight.
    Check them out at http://www.nextdesks.com, or see the one I use called the Terra here: http://www.nextdesks.com/models

  2. I believe in High Intensity Training and I believe that it is the best way to lose weight on early stages and to keep it off when the goal is already attained. Of course you have to limit your food intake, but regular exercises burn your fat and give you a good shape. It is also vital to provide enough nutrition for your body, and I’ve found the perfect solution for that – military grade nutritional supplements. They give me perfect tone and energy, so I am always prepared for intensive workouts.

  3. Just listened to the podcast and was eager to visit dansplan.com, but doing so am getting a nasty screen full of text meant for debugging, starting with “Server Error in ‘/’ Application.” Same problem in Chrome, Firefox and IE, so it’s not browser problem. Please let me know when it’s fixed. Thanks!

  4. Hi there,

    I listen to the RHR podcast regularly and have enjoyed every episode (yes, I’ve listened to all of them). This podcast was so weirdly off base that I feel compelled to comment, if only to caution other people like me — those who are metabolically broken — to think long and hard before going forward with the ideas presented in this podcast.

    I am not a scientist, but I have struggled with obesity and so I am only speaking from personal experience. My first reaction to this podcast is that it sounded as if this plan was designed by people with no personal experience with obesity and weight loss. Meaning that neither of them have ever struggled with weight loss. I also wonder whether or not either of them have experience in intense one-on-one work with people helping them lose weight.

    Things I heard on this podcast that left me scratching my head:

    1. the claim that reducing calories and increasing exercise would result in fat loss. I think it would result in loss of glycogen stores and muscle loss, but not actual body fat. And loss of body fat is the actual goal, at least for me.

    2. Eating a low-fat, low-carb, high protein diet. Low fat? Are you kidding?

    3. Eating bland foods. Again. Are you kidding?

    I can only speak from my personal experience: thin, athletic (completion of numerous marathons, an Ironman distance triathlon, etc.) healthy diet (low fat, lots of fruits and veggies) until age 38. Then, in one year, I started taking medicine that regulates neurotransmitters and I became pregnant. I gained 80 pounds in 12 months. I eventually lost about 60 of those pounds. Became pregnant again. End result? Permanent weight gain of 80 pounds. I have never been a junk food junkie. Through this entire period, my diet was mostly low fat, tons of fruits/veggies. I have always exercised daily. If you have never experienced getting up daily at 4am to run 4 miles when you are about 250 pounds, please take my word for the fact that it is not easy.

    The idea that people like me are overweight because we have been gorging on highly palatable foods isn’t just wildly off base, it is kind of insulting.

    But I digress.

    I have been losing weight on a high fat low carb diet and I have been taking metformin because it turns out that I am prediabetic. I consider it a miracle that I ever stumbled onto the idea of testing my own blood sugar (thank you Tim Ferriss for your “Four Hour Body” book) which brought me to my doctor to request metformin. It is also a miracle that I stumbled upon the idea of eating fat in my diet (thank you Dave Asprey, Jimmy Moore, Robb Wolf, Jenny Ruhl, and many others).

    After losing about 40 pounds, I have stalled and I do wonder if I am bumping up against Dr. Guyanet’s set point theory. I thought this podcast might offer some useful ideas. Very disappointed to say that the only useful thing I heard was the idea of making sure you get enough sleep. Which is, again, something I’ve already been implementing.

    I would urge anyone struggling with the pain of being overweight to start first with ideas from people like Tim Ferriss, Jimmy Moore, Jenny Ruhl, Dave Asprey, Abel James, and Chris Kresser (his Beyond Paleo program is AWESOME) before turning to this plan.

    Last thing, I realize this post is pretty negative. I am sorry for that. I know from personal experience just how difficult and debilitating obesity is. I do not think there is one solution for all. This health crisis needs lots of approaches. I do believe that Stephan and Dan are genuinely in the business of helping people. For me, personally, their plan is not my cup of tea. Anyone who is dealing with messed up hormones, like me, will probably be disappointed with this low fat, calorie-restricted approach to weight loss.



    • Dear Susan and Dan,

      There is some overlap in your comments so I’m going to respond to both of you in one message.

      Susan, thanks for your comments. Let me start by saying that I glad you’ve been able to find a dietary style that you feel works well for you. Despite desiring to lose another 40 lbs, losing 40 lbs is a great achievement.

      I was an obese child and in order not to gain weight as an adults, I must maintain focus on a daily basis. In 2007, I was working a demanding corporate job and was about 40 lbs heavier than I am today. I employed the many of methods we discuss in our program and reduced my weight from 207 to 170. I’m proud to say that I’m 169 this morning a, indicative of the fact that I was able to both achieve and sustain my best weight for almost 6 years now. Many people have had much greater weight challenges than myself, but this is my story.

      At the time of my own weight loss, I had already been working with friends and family to help them lose weight. The first person that I worked with intensely was a good friend who was 420 lbs. As friends, we would talk about his frustration and I would share science theory with him. In graduate school my mentor’s primary research areas was leptin so I had gained reasonable understanding of the homeostatic processes that are fundamental to weight regulation. Eventually, we embarked on a process together to help him lose weight. However, I’d like to state here that he did all the hard work and I remain very proud of him for what he accomplished. Less than 2 years later, he was down to 215 lbs and looked like a new man. Since that time, his weight has fluctuated between 230-280. Most of the fluctuation depends on how much he’s able to stick the fundamentals. He’s a programmer and he easily slips back into the lifestyle that make him gain weight. At this point, eight years later, he has less fluctuations and a firm understanding of what he needs to do to not let his weight increase. Since that time, as I indicated in a previous response, I’ve worked with several hundred people, many of whom I’ve had direct ongoing contact, including lots of dialog and feedback.

      Undoubtedly, my own weight struggles have led me to this areas of research. I maintain awareness to not allow myself to develop biases that would prohibit me from interpreting research findings in an objective manner. However, biases always insert themselves into your thought process. I, like all other humans, have beliefs and those beliefs color my interpretation. On this note, this is one of the main reasons why you don’t see Dan’s Plan describe itself as: Low carb, low fat, paleo, WAP, etc, etc. Instead, we define ourselves by our aims, not our methods. Our aims are:

      Through optimizing lifestyle
      1. Reduce the risk of chronic disease
      2. Maintain physical function throughout life
      3. Optimize life performance
      4. Optimize life quality
      5. Optimize longevity

      I would change methods without reservation once I was convinced there was a better path to achieve these five aims. Despite all of this, I do have biases and beliefs that are based on assumptions. I believe that a lot of wisdom about our health can be gained by looking into the past to identify how we lived prior to the rapidly-changed modern environment. There is a lot of interpretation about what historical patterns looked like and how to apply concepts to today’s world. Will you be fully healthy if you eat a lot of highly processed Paleo food’s, as long as they don’t contain omega 6, fructose and gluten? Maybe, maybe not.

      Moving back to weight regulation.

      The way I think of effective calorie restriction is only when compared to metabolic rate. If you expend 3500 kcal per day and you consume 3000 kcal per day, you’re going to likely lose weight until average expenditure is equivalent to average intake. I say “average” because these things net out over stretches of time.

      Dan, in one of your posts you say that you need to feed people who want to lose weight more calories. Please explain why you think this works. The suggestion is that by eating more calories, you can accelerate metabolism to create a disparity between intake and output. But, “I know a guy” is not enough. Please point to some validation of this concepts.

      I think the higher fat method(s) of weight loss have merit but limitations, mean that they may work great for some, partially for others, and not at all for the remainder. I also think there is some pride amongst the community of people who has fought back against the doctrine that there is only one way to lose weight and that fat is evil. People tried this for year with varying success – and a lot of failure – and then tried lower carb, higher fat approach and had success. If you look at the research in controlled clinical trials that compare dietary styles for weight loss (e.g., high fat, high carb, zone, etc), you see that people in each group fail and succeed. On average, low carb groups show better results in head-to-head trials at one year. However, at 2 years most subjects, regardless of group, are back to baseline (or beyond it). We talk more about this in the program.
      I think a lower carb paleo approach to dieting is a good strategy for long term weight maintenance, however, I don’t think it’s a complete and optimized fat reduction method.

      So, we outlined our rationale in an E-Book (which is really well supported by the literature), and created a program to help people implement the guidance. The high protein, lower fat, lower carb approach is far and away the most effective dietary strategy in the literature. In some cases, results are an order of magnitude more impressive that what you see with macronutrient restriction. This approach is definitely worth considering for those who desire to lose weight.

      Bland foods comment: We have designed diets that ask people to eat whole, natural foods, that don’t include much added fats, sugars, or lots of seasonings. We talk about how hyperpalatable foods encourage excess calories consumption.

      The idea that people like me are overweight because we have been gorging on highly palatable foods isn’t just wildly off base, it is kind of insulting.

      We basically said the opposite on the show and I encourage you to go back and listen to that segment again. There is individual susceptibility to how these food effect set point, energy expenditure, and drive eating. All of this has been demonstrated. An obese person would eat the same amount as a lean person but not compensate for excess calories in the same way and therefore accumulate fat. Additionally, there are many ways to overeat. One way is to consume a few more bites per meal, most meal. Imaging studies show that some obese phenotypes have a delayed satiety response to food. This degree of overeating would be undetectable to both the eater and a casual observer. Modifying palatability of the diet is one way to prevent overeating and there is some excitement in the research community that palatability effects set point which means that one could potentially use this technique to both experience greater levels of fat loss and to more successfully maintain a reduced fat level. More research needs to be done in this area, but it’s exciting.

      Dan, you mentioned that the “set point theory is just that, a theory.” Sure, like most models designed by the human mind to attempt to understand a process that you cannot be observed directly, the hypothetical construct of set point theory serves as an explanatory variable to explain phenomena that are observable. The extent to which studies reveal “scientific truth” depends, in part, on the extent to the unification of observable traits faithfully reflect the “essence” of the hypothetical construct they have been assigned to represent. The body is incredibly dynamic with a lot of variation between individuals. This theory, however, remains in use by scientists because of the large body of evidence supports that body fat is homeostatically controlled and because new data has not served to sufficiently replace this theory with a better one. However, we always remain open for this later possibility to happen.

      At the end of the day, we are trying to help people maintain a deficit between expenditure and intake so that body fat serves as the energy source for remaining energy needs. Our program aims to leverage many potential mechanisms into one temporary lifestyle approach that leads to weight loss success.

      Susan, at the end you state: “I know from personal experience just how difficult and debilitating obesity is. I do not think there is one solution for all. This health crisis needs lots of approaches.”
      I agree and that is why we devised this approach and based it off of (what we think) are the most validated drivers of weight control.

      Thank you for taking the time and energy to add your thoughts to this thread. I wish you both the very best in your health and Susan, success in your remaining weight loss objectives.

        • My apologies Dan with the plan,
          I wasn’t aware my last reply didn’t post. Don’t know what was up with that.
          Anyway, you asked where do I get my information essentially. This is what they taught us in college. Like I said previously, when it comes to building up the body for athletes, burn victims,
          youth, adults, elderly, etc… The science has been done and backs it up. Yet, when you get to fat loss it all gets thrown out the window.

          So when I say that calorie restriction fails it has been proven in the labs as well as on the average person. Basically, it doesn’t fit into a sustainable lifestyle. People aren’t learning how to live. They’re just performing a means to an end. When it is finished they gain fat again.

          One of the biggest problems is (I’ll start with a comparison) people don’t jump into a car for a journey without filling up the fuel tank. If they did they would end up on the side of the road with an empty fuel tank. This is the problem people do to themselves. They don’t know how many calories they are consuming. Too much and you get fat, too few and you run out of fuel. Our bodies don’t come to a complete stop though. The body switches to an unhealthy alternative fuel source. This also slows the metabolism and becomes more efficient at storing future energy in the form of fat. Your body does not start using more fat for fuel when you start cutting calories. That is why I was suggesting to Susan that she up her calories.

          My friend had a biggest loser challenge he just completed. He finally followed my directions and lost 22lbs in 6 weeks. He won again. He has won in the past through cutting calories. In the past he felt terrible and didn’t look that good. Each year he did this he lost more muscle mass and retained his gut. Then he would regain some of the weight no matter what he did. Ultimately, he is skinny yet flabby with a big gut.

          This year he did it easily and felt great throughout. And better yet, he hasn’t been restricting his dietary habits so there wasn’t anything he was craving, there’s no wagon to fall off.

          This biggest misconception is the calorie range. Very few people can go below 2000 calories and have a normal metabolism. You cut calories it slows. This is based on resting metabolic rate which is really based on a body in a comatose state 24/7. This range is based on the frame size, muscle mass, etc… for 1400kcals to 1800kcal. That means when you are awake just sedentary lifestyle you need an additional 500 kcals. That would be 1900kcals and up depending on factors. Basically, small stature women are in that range. The bigger (height and frame) and more active you are the more calories you have to take in.

          If you look on boxes the recommended diet is based on a 2000kcal diet. They didn’t just make this up. It is proven through science.

          People are just not aware of how many calories they are consuming at one meal, throughout the day, throughout the week. This knowledge is critical to losing or gaining weight. You don’t have to turn into a calorie counting freak. You do have to keep track for a couple of weeks to a month to see and modify your dietary habits. It is made even simpler by all the free websites that help you do this. They even have gadgets that you wear that does most of the work. You just have to know the serving size of the foods and drinks you take in. The only thing when using these calorie counting websites is that when setting up your profile you enter in you goal weight for your actual weight. Also, you enter maintain weight verses trying to lose weight. This gives you a more accurate calorie range. More people have had success doing it this way.

          When you actually know how many calories you take in and actually eat several meals verses one or two per day ie. behavior modification, success is attained.

          If you want actual references talk to a research scientist who has a Phd in exercise science. He or she could tell you where the formula is for factoring size into caloric needs and anything else. Everything I have said and used on people and have been successful is taught in college.

          the other dan.

  5. You responded to Amy “none of the diets are very low cal, a small person will be over 1000kcals. That’s not low cal? An infant requires a minimum of 1000kcals. A small diesel truck and semi in comparison to humans. The small truck has a smaller fuel tank and the semi has a much larger fuel tank. The semi requires much more fuel to move its greater mass. An infant is growing rapidly but an adult has more mass to move, rebuild, etc… In a comatose state the resting metabolic rate is on average 1600kcals.

    You replied that lower calorie intake so that energy requirements are supplied by body fat not food intake. The only problem with that is when you restrict calories you shut down the beta oxidation cycle, put more stress on your adrenals, produce more cortisol, etc… All you end up doing is store more body fat and lose muscle mass and bone density. Now you are just like Jenny Craig and weight watchers. Lose some put more back on.

    You guys have the behavorial modifications and sleep deprivation going. If you could break the mold and get out of the restriction of calories you would have a gold mine.

    If you look at those calorie counter programs and enter in your goal weight for your weight, then put in for a maintenance program vs. weight loss it will give you a more accurate calorie requirement. This has worked for several obese people. I don’t have the means or desire to go big. But if you were to forget your complex satiety program based on a faulty study to begin with and go simple…

  6. This is going to come out in a torrent because I have long-standing questions about dietary approaches to weight loss. I’m really curious about this topic, and I was hoping for some answers from these well-regarded Science Guys. 🙂

    I understand that much of the plan is about lifestyle changes, quantifying progress, and providing psychological reinforcement. I have no issues with those things. However, like others here, I was also disappointed with some of the holes left in the explanations of the presenters regarding the nutritional approach. Here’s what I took away, and the problems I’m hearing.

    The plan increases the satiety of meals by:
    – decreasing the energy density of a meal in relation to its volume — but a full stomach isn’t necessarily a the most important signal of being satisfied with a meal.
    – lowering fat intake — but haven’t we established that low fat diets are miserable, unhealthy and not sustainable?
    – increasing the water content of food — the feeling of being full of water is not going to help me make better food choices and feel satisfied. Sorry.

    I don’t think that lack of satiety is a core problem in weight loss anyway unless you are severely restricting calories. And, I think I can say with confidence that it’s generally accepted that severe calorie restriction is a perilous place to play, especially if you have metabolic issues, and difficult to sustain.

    So, reading between the lines (I haven’t been able to locate this info on the plan site) I assume that the FLASH plan is a very low calorie diet, which is why you’d need to emphasize satiety. That is, if you go on an involuntarily calorie-restricted diet, you’d better have a way to turn it into a voluntarily calorie-restricted diet or else you are not going to get the set-point reset you are looking for. Is this assumption about the plan and approach correct?

    If so, where is the evidence that your FLASH plan makes people happy on 500 calories a day? That is, how does it keep your body from thinking it’s starving and increasing hunger signals? By keeping your belly full of carbs and water? Seriously? Please close the loop for me on the logic here, ’cause I’m not getting it.

    I’m also curious: What distinguishes your plan from the HCG protocol (aside from the HCG itself and the lifestyle components)? Plenty of people get huge losses but no permanent set-point reset from the HCG diet, which is identical to the protein-sparing modified fasts that get mentioned as being so effective around these parts. How do people on FLASH avoid regaining the weight the way they do on other PSMFs?

    Most importantly, have people tested your plan? VLC diets have complications. Where’s the support? Where’s the proof? Did you beta test the plan? How many people succeed?

    I’m obviously very interested in whether and how this plan can be successful for those of us who haven’t found our way to our ideal weight. Thanks for any further info.

    • The set point theory is all it is, a theory. All the studies haven’t proved it. People just make it sound like it is a possibility. The reality is that everyone has been misled by calories. When you get to elite athletes for example olympic athletes, they have their calorie requirements dialed in. Men and women both are taking in calories from 2500 to 5,000. They don’t have a different metabolism. Their’s is just running at full speed. Anyone’s metabolism can do this.

      The only set point which is individualistic is calorie requirement. This is why people lose weight on low cal diets but weight gain comes back. People have been mislead about calories and it takes a little bit of work to figure out. No one should ever consume less than 2000 calories and many need significantly more. Dan’s plan is totally right with behaviorial changes and sleep deprivation.

      A high fat diet doesn’t mean you should do the atkins diet. Your fat intake should be in the 30-40% range with plenty of vegetables for your carbs. You don’t have to go low carb per se. Just have to cut back on potatoes and rice and eliminate the processed starches.

      When your metabolism is running full speed you can indulge yourself but within reason.

      This information was in a sports nutrition class and since then people that were willing to modify their lifestyle lost weight, kept it off, and improved their muscle mass and bone density. Not to mention they didn’t have to deprive themselves and try to trick themselves with whether or not they actually ate or not.

    • Hi Amy,

      Thanks for your questions, comments, and interest.

      First, there is no way that one radio show can cover all the concepts of the program thoroughly. We chose to mention key aspects of the program, provide an example of the concept in action, then move on so that people left with a more well-rounded understanding of what the program covers.
      Let me just say that there is a reason why we offer a 30-day refund policy. We want people to get full access to what we’ve developed, read the materials in the order we feel makes most sense, and then decide for themselves if it’s something they derive value from. Check out our manifesto if you’re curious to know more about our perspective of mixing business with health advice: (http://www.dansplan.com/company/company-information/manifesto)

      You wrote: Decreasing the energy density of a meal in relation to its volume — but a full stomach isn’t necessarily a the most important signal of being satisfied with a meal. Increasing the water content of food — the feeling of being full of water is not going to help me make better food choices and feel satisfied. Sorry.

      There are multiple ways in which we are trying to increase satiety per calorie. Volume is only one component. Others include, location of calorie absorption in the intestines and the release of various other satiety peptides; both dependent on the quality of the food. The variety of signals that are generated by a meal are transmitted in the blood and via afferent nerve supply to an area in the brainstem called the Nucleus of the Solitary Track. Multimodal integration of these satiety signals takes place here, then one unified signal is transmitted to the hypothalamus (among a few other neural targets) to trigger meal termination and satisfaction.

      – Lowering fat intake — but haven’t we established that low fat diets are miserable, unhealthy and not sustainable?

      We are utilizing fat and carb restriction to varying degrees (depending on the diet you choose, FLASH or Simple Food Diet) to modify palatability (among other reasons), which we feel is exciting method to reduce fat levels, perhaps in a manner that is more sustainable than with alternative methods. These weight loss diets are temporary, we feel that dietary fat can be a part of a healthy diet going forward. Also, the effects of certain weight loss techniques (e.g., fat restriction) in one context (e.g., Snackwell generation) are not automatically transferable to all other methods that utilize similar techniques but have significant differences in overall design and structure of the program (e.g., whole foods, reduced added fats).

      So, reading between the lines (I haven’t been able to locate this info on the plan site) I assume that the FLASH plan is a very low calorie diet, which is why you’d need to emphasize satiety. That is, if you go on an involuntarily calorie-restricted diet, you’d better have a way to turn it into a voluntarily calorie-restricted diet or else you are not going to get the set-point reset you are looking for. Is this assumption about the plan and approach correct?

      None of the diets we devised are very low calorie. Even a very small person will be over 1000 kcals per day. We provide food quantity recommendations as a starting place but also suggest people modify those recommendations by up to 50% depending on their hunger. We want the diet to allow for reduced calorie intake over time so that additional energy requirements are supplied by body fat not food intake. We give starting recommendations in the first place because, as we discussed, people eat for reasons other than hunger; for example, ‘plate cleaners.’ Plate cleaning is usually a habit developed over a lifetime and hard to break. Yes, if people are eating from these high-satiety foods, overeating should be more challenging too. We are trying to address the various influences to establish high efficacy.

      The first version of this plan was tried by about 400 people starting several years ago. Rigorous results analysis was not performed on that this group but anecdotal reports suggested that many people found it efficacious. However, the plan was not for everyone and many people were lost to follow up (typical). We can’t make any claims about its efficacy but we felt the signals were there to develop it further. The new version is close to the original method but we feel significant improvements have been made. The new plan has been tested with a small group of beta testers for ease of use, general impressions, but not efficacy.

      As Robb Wolf says, [if you’re feeling compelled to try something, but are uncertain about it], try it for a month and see how you look, feel, and perform. This is obviously up to you and you may prefer to wait for a few years to hear about result and efficacy now that this version is launched.
      I hope this was helpful and I sincerely wish you the best in your weight control efforts,

  7. I was a little disappointed in this series, but that is because the biochemistry of weight regulation wasn’t really addressed, it was more about lifestyle changes to effect the biochemical changes. There is likely a good future in leptin + leptin sensitizing agents, or supplemental T3 as means to assist bodyweight maintenance and help people become stable at a lower weight. I was hoping those issues would be addressed on top of the holistic advice about diet and lifestyle. That isn’t meant to be a knock on the presenters (I enjoy reading their blogs and these podcasts), just that I was hoping for the biochemical aspect of obesity to be addressed as well as lifestyle changes. But Stephan said earlier that he didn’t really feel he knew enough about the subject, and I know this is a blog devoted more to lifestyle than pharmacology. However I do feel those subjects need to be broached to have a well rounded discussion of weight maintenance. If leptin deficiency (due to either fat cells producing less as a result of weight loss, or leptin resistance) or a reduced conversion of T4 to T3 play a role in why people can’t keep weight off, medications to address those issues are going to become more important down the road.

    Also I wonder what role micronutrient deficiencies play in hunger and weight loss. I was reading a book called ‘the gabriel method’ where the author states that micronutrient deficiencies can lead to hunger as the body tries to get you to consume what you are missing (he claims to have studied the science of weight loss before devising a plan that helped him lose a couple hundred pounds, I don’t remember what all cites he had though). I have noticed that since I started taking high quality multivitamins and green smoothie powders I can cut 1000-2000+ calories a day out of my caloric intake w/o hunger like I was getting before. But I don’t know what all research there is into this area or what role, if any, micronutrient deficiencies play in hunger or if hunger is mainly/solely about macronutrient deficiencies. I notice earlier in the comments Stephan says he has not seen any compelling evidence of micronutrient density playing a role, and I’m sure he knows more than I do.

    Also on the subject of sleep, when Chris and Dan mention avoiding electronics at night because of how they can mess with your sleep patterns, it is my understanding it is mostly light in the blue spectrum around 460nm that controls sleep patterns. Supposedly orange/yellow/amber glasses can function to block that spectrum of light and allow you to use electronics at night without messing up your circadian rhythm. Some shops sell them, I have no idea how effective they are. But that can be a middle ground between wanting to use electronics at night and still having a healthy sleep pattern.

    Anyway, thanks to the presenters for approaching obesity intelligently. That is rare in this society sometimes. So many people seem to want to default to moral judgments and tired, failed arguments.rather than discussing the biology of the issue.

  8. I registered myself on Dan’s Plan but my first impression was not good. Apparently it is not meant for European insomniacs. Weight and height had to be filled in feet/inches and pounds. And the only sleep parameters that are tracked are the times you get into bed and out of bed. As any insomniac can tell you this tells you nothing about how well you slept (or if you slept at all!). Disappointing.

  9. Ok so first red flag for me was the low-fat, having read research relating to the brain/Alzheimer’s and having the good fats I find this doesn’t sound right to me. The other red flag was incorporating grains like oats, definitely not in the Paleo Plan.

    Why do all so called “weight loss experts” think that people trying to lose weight are hungry? I’m not hungry, I don’t overeat, BUT in my opinion there must be something with my diet (as in the actual food, maybe there is an allergy I”m not picking up), hormones or some other body function that is not working properly if I am not losing weight. Studies need to be done on those of us who don’t fit into the NORM and maybe it will reveal an answer for others too.

    I must say I was a little disappointed with this interview I thought i might reveal some new information but I have already read about the importance of sleep, the problem there is that the weight will have an impact on that so it’s a catch 22.

    I would be interested in your response Stephen & Dan.

    • Hi Jeni,

      There are different diet strategies that we offer as a part of the program and we encourage people to chose the one is right for them. As a part of the program we offer an E-Book that explains the scientific rationale behind our guidance and it includes over 175 references to support our position. We do not feel that dietary fat is necessarily unhealthy. The low fat movement of the ’80s viewed fat as an evil nutrient and since then many of the suppositions about the evils of fat have been rejected. Still, we restrict fat in the program to modify the palatability of the diet. The E-Book explains the many reasons why this strategy has great utility to induce a stable reduce fat level.

      Regarding hunger, everyone get’s hungry every day. Episodic hormones wax and wane according to meal timing that tell us to know when to eat. It is well know that when people lose weight, it is common that hunger is increased. This not only includes things like higher pre-meal hunger ratings but also things like delayed sensation of satiety, which means that people will need to eat longer before they feel full. The concept here is to manipulate satiety variables so that we encourage a higher degree of fullness per calorie. Regardless of other mitigating factor that may be influencing weight loss, the fundamentals eating concepts remain solid.

      Undoubtedly, there is much to learn about individual variability and other factors that influence metabolism and weight control. However, we feel that the concepts that are delineated in the program and well supported and provide an compelling option to those who are interested in this subject.

      By the way, we do not describe the program as Paleo, per se. But we do discuss the research related to the Paleo diet and weight control. For those who are interested, pursuing a version of the Ideal Weight program that is Paleo compliant is definitely achievable.

      Hope these comments are useful.

      • I agree with Jeni. Low fat diets have been proven to be the unhealthiest diets out there. BUT what I really want to talk about are those people who aren’t in the norm. You make the statement that everyone is hungry everyday. That is incorrect. I have found that a lot of obese people are actually rarely hungry. One guy was shocked that hunger will wake me up at night. There are a lot of people like this guy for example. They don’t eat breakfast or lunch. They only eat dinner. They might or might not snack heavy after work. So basically, I have found with a lot of these people hunger isn’t the issue, a slow metabolism is. They are, in their minds, too busy to stop and eat. Plus, they think it isn’t necessary. They don’t realize the down the road effects.

        Continuing with this guy for example, calories were the biggest problem. Most of the week he didn’t have enough. Weekends he might end up with way too many.

        Everybody looks at calorie restriction. There are so many people out there who eat too few of calories daily, with too many occaisionally, who end up obese. I convinced this guy to eat 4 meals a day taking in 2800 calories to meet his size and energy output. He lost 50 pounds in 6 months without increasing his exercise regimen.

        I have seen this with a lot of women who think they have to stay at 1200-1600 calories. They only eat one or two skimpy meals. When I can convince them to eat 3-5 meals a day at 2000 to 2500 calories they are very successful. A lot of them can’t make themselves eat enough or add meals and they get no results.

  10. Thank you for covering the loss of sleep/obesity connection. I am just learning more about this which I feel is pertinent to those like myself who suffer from anxiety and PTSD. So often the co-morbidity issues are not discussed. Not just the weight but issues like elevated blood pressure tied to sleep loss, etc. Thanks again.

  11. Chris, the diet and exercise recommendations in Dan’s Plan seem to be quite a bit different from those in your Perfect Health series. For example, the diet recommendations seem to focus on high protein, low carb, low fat — with seemingly little focus on gut health, toxins, etc. Also, as another commentator has pointed out, Dan’s Plan doesn’t really seem to fit with the recently-recommended Perfect Health Diet by the Jaminets. Finally, the exercise recommendations seem to contradict what I’ve read in Body by Science, which I also found through your series. What are your thoughts?

    • I agree with JQ. I have to put a plug in for High Intensity Training. As far as exercise goes, it just makes sense, especially with the science/ancestral perspective behind it. Plus because of its efficiency, it requires a small time commitment. Walking is definitely better than slouching in a chair all day, but, as mentioned, exercise in general is not a great way to lose weight.

      For those interested, I highly recommend the book Body By Science; I know Chris has mentioned it in a past article. Drew Baye’s website is equally as useful.

      • Hi Wade and JQ.

        Here is my take: Higher intensity activity is more efficient than lower intensity activity. The damage induced cause increases in excess post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) that can last for 24-72 hours. This EPOC causes increased energy expenditure so the 10 minute lifting session really burns as much as 2 hours of cardio when looked at over a 2-3 day period.

        This is why we give people greater credit towards their weekly exercise goal ascending the intensity categories in our exercise tracker: Moderate, Strenuous, Aggressive. However, I personally don’t think the goal should be to minimize the need for physical activity in one’s life. There are many more ways to be physically active than to do very heavy lifting and sprinting. I think a life rich with movement, that involved the cross training of different body abilities (particularly, strength, cardio, and mobility), is ideal. I do heavy lifting and sprinting but sometimes I just want to jog for 30 minutes. I listen to my body and then have an arsenal of activities that I can use in that moment. Standing and walking are in a different category. If you do HIIT training, its not the perfect anecdote for too much sedentary behavior. You want a mixed intensity movement practice that involved standing, walking, and exercise. See our infographic for more on this: http://www.dansplan.com/blog/1744-infographic


        • Thanks for the response! The infographic helped me to understand your overall view much better than either the website FAQ or the podcast. The recommendation for 30 minutes per week of high intensity exercise runs counter to Body by Science, which I’ve been finding successful, so I’m afraid that the Activity Score would be somewhat demotivational for me. I agree with the recommendations for standing and walking, though I’m not sold on the need for 10,000 steps per day.

          Overall, I think I’d find the tracking software useful if I could customize my goals. To be honest, though, I have little need for more ebooks, recipes, etc. Having recently bought two books recommended by Chris (Body by Science and Perfect Health Diet), I think I’ll stick with those for now.

          Chris, you might want to ease up on the sales pitches for a little bit. Between the promos for all these books and Paleologix, I’m starting to feel like your emails and podcast are a bit heavy on the marketing. Just one fan’s response …

          • Hey JQ,
            Glad you liked the infographic!

            Here are some additional figures for 10,000 steps per day.
            AHA: Reduced initial heart attack rate by 90%
            AHA: Reduced stroke rate by 70%
            ADA: Reduced T2DM by 50%
            NIH: Reduced cancer rates by 30-70%

            It’s estimated that average non-industrialized cultures walk about 6 miles today and run another 1 miles per day. 10,000 steps per day is about 4.5 to 5 miles per day depending on stride length.

            But you’re right, these figures are contextual. What if you’re also doing HIIT training? Do minimum requirement for steps change? Very hard to know but for me, aiming for 10K doesn’t appear to have a downside. I’ve been maintain 10K step a day (now that I’ve been tracking) for about 2 years and I feel I have noticeable benefits from it.

            You CAN modify your exercise settings at Dan’s Plan. Once you log in, go to the PLAN DETAILS & SETTING link that you’ll find on the left nav of your Dashboard page. From there, you can change your daily step goal or exercise levels. So, for example, if you want to make your daily step goal 7000 per day, you can do this. Once you do, if you achieve 7000 per day, you’ll be at 100 percent for that measure so your score will be in the green. For exercise, if you’d like to do few Aggressive (HIIT) sets per week, you can change the default of ‘30’ up or down. Again, if you hit your goal, that will show 100 percent. In summary, we have defaults that we recommend however, you can modify these targets to suite you and still use the tool to see if you’re hitting your goals.
            Regarding the statement, don’t have the need for more ebooks and recipes: We have a different take on a lot of concepts that are discussed in the bloggospher, and there also areas of overlap between our opinions and what others write about. With these complex health behaviors like diet and weight loss, there are no answers. Rather, these concepts models. You construct an argument about why you’re model has merit. Hopefully, the rationale is supported by correct interpretation of the literature, but at the same time, each and every research study is highly contextual based on the condition in that study. This is why things can get really confusing. You can literally get the opposite effects depending on study design is constructed. So, for our weight loss program, we have created a model that we feel is well supported and can help people. However, this shouldn’t discredit the person who lost 70 lbs on low carb paleo because there are differences in our guidance. Maybe the person would have had better or worse results on our program. But, we now provide an option that people can consider as a part of the range of dietary options they can choose from.

            Regarding your comment to Chris about sales pitches, here is my comment relative to Dan’s Plan: Is my personal career purpose to create solutions that help people be healthier. Dan’s Plan is a business. In order for me/us to continue to work towards the larger purpose, the business needs to be successful. I think transparency is the best solution. We want to create high-value products that people benefit from and I think it’s fair to be able to charge a fee for the huge amount to time and effort that we’re putting into our services. Additionally, we give away a lot of free information (like, for example, all of our tracking tools). You could use Dan’ Plan for years and never buy a single thing from us and that is okay with us. I like to know what my options are and then chose which products are right for me (or that I would like to try).

            Cheers JQ!

  12. Interesting podcast, thanks! What intrigues me is that it seems Stephan and Dan’s approach is very different from that of the Jaminets. On the one hand, obesity is viewed as neurological, psychological and even sociological problem, while on the other hand it is viewed as a problem of malnutrition and poor health. So far, it seems the published research is more on the side of Stephan and Dan, but I can’t help but think that general health and nutritional quality is very important as well.

    Luckily, of course, it doesn’t matter much in practice, since the recommendations are very compatible, so there’s no reason not to follow both: gently cooked, whole ancestral foods are both micronutrient dense and not generally very calorie dense. Home cooking takes one away from the obesogenic environment and lowers food reward sufficiently while keeping palatability quite high. Etc.

    • Hi Ulrik,

      Our diet plan is designed to be highly nutritious. That will tend to support any aspect of health, including fat loss efforts. However, at this time we don’t have compelling reason to believe that micronutrient density is a major factor controlling body weight.

      • Hi Stephan,

        thanks for your reply! I agree, your plan looks highly nutritious, and I know from both your and Dan’s blogs that you both deeply care about quality nutrition. You just happen to think it’s not a main factor in obesity (and I acknowledge that the research seems to support that).

        The plan also tackles stress, which seems to be really important, but wasn’t mentioned in the interview.

        All in all, even though it seems you believe that excess fat mass is largely orthogonal to issues of general health, your plan seems likely to provide great improvement in both areas, which is awesome.

  13. Great podcast, it got me interested in Dan Pardi so this morning I started reading his blog at http://www.dansplan.com/blog/index.php. His first article is “Vitamin D Revisited” which claims we must not take vitamin D supplements. This is getting me worried, in winter should I stop taking my vitamin D pills? Or perhaps this is a reason to get D only from fermented cod liver oil instead? or should I use Mercola’s safe tanning bed instead?