My extended family has been vacationing in North Carolina every August since before I was born. With the exception of a year here or there, I’ve been on every trip.
There are eight cousins in my generation and we were all usually in the ocean the entire week.
Each trip looked much the same. Wake up, have breakfast with Grandma, hit the beach with Grandpa, get slathered in sunscreen by Mom, get some in our eyes, cry, wipe it off and jump in the ocean.
We’d stay in there all day with only a short break to eat some sandy, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and get slathered in more sunscreen.
Because the family motto was “sink or swim”, none of us kids were allowed to latch onto an adult in the water. You either swam like a big kid or you took your pansy ass to the beach. And with a bunch of little kids in the ocean unable to request the assistance of adults, Grandpa thought it prudent to teach us from a very young age about riptides.
If you felt the ocean pulling you quickly and directly away from the beach, you were caught in riptide. And the only thing to do when you’re caught in a riptide, is to stop struggling against it. You have to relax. And then you have to swim left or right, parallel with the beach and never, ever toward it.
You see in a riptide, if you struggle against it, you’ll become exhausted quickly. You won’t get anywhere. And then you’ll likely panic and drown. Even strong swimmers, like Grandpa, could not out swim a riptide.
Riptides were the scariest.
I still almost exclusively swim left or right in the ocean, riptide or not. Safety first. You know what I mean?
So why am I telling you this in an article titled “How To Lose Weight”?
Because the way I see it, our collective struggle to lose weight through the conventional diet wisdom of the past few decades is a lot like swimming against a riptide.
And now here we all are, drowning in our own fat.
Almost 40% of us are now obese. Another third are overweight. We spend billions of dollars and much time and energy, on almost zero results. We’re sick. We’re exhausted. We’re sad. And we’re not getting any thinner despite all of this effort.
As I said a couple of weeks ago, we do not get fat because we eat too much and move too little. So this conventional wisdom of eat less move more, is useless.
We get fat because the hormonal activity in our body decides to accumulate fat, and that hormonal activity cannot be beaten by willpower, no matter how great.
Trying to eat less and move more in order to lose weight is a lot like trying to swim to shore in a riptide. It’s just not going to work.
You have to relax and then swim left or right. You have to understand the cause and work around it, not just endlessly battle the symptoms.
Eating too much and moving too little are actually symptoms of fat accumulation.
And the good news is that since they’re not the cause, you don’t have to try to eat less and move more in order to lose weight, which is sweet, because trying to do that sucks. A lot.
If you’re reluctant to believe me here, just ask yourself this: how well has eating less and moving more been working for you?
My guess is that it’s not working at all.
My guess is that you’ve been trying the same thing week after week, month after month and year after year with very little in the way of actual results.
And it’s not just you. It didn’t work for me for years. It didn’t work for Bridget either. And it’s not working for the 40% of Americans who are currently obese.
This conventional wisdom of eat less, move more is bullshit. It’s like taking Advil when you have a nail in your foot. Screw the Advil, just remove the nail.
The scientific community knows this now. And after decades of following the wrong experts and the wrong advice, it’s time for us to let it go too.
Following that advice is fighting a battle against your body that you’ll never win. Just when you’re getting tired and hungry, you’re supposed to exercise more and eat less? It’s miserable. And it doesn’t work anyway.
So why bother? Why not just give up? Why not just decide that losing weight is too damn hard and just enjoy your life, eat the ice cream and bagels and pizza? Right?
Well, I know why. Because deep down being fat makes you miserable. You don’t want to give up hope that one day you’ll have a body you feel really good in. I get it. I didn’t want to give up either.
But there is a better way. It of course requires sacrifice but, the sacrifice will be worth it because you’ll finally see results and start feeling better. And Taubes, and Hyman, and Ludwig, and Sisson and many others will all tell you the same.
So screw calorie counting, and Weight Watchers points, and low-fat foods, and pills and potions and powders. Let’s turn off the fat accumulation process and get some abs already, eh?
Here is how we do that: reduce insulin.
More carbohydrates = more insulin = accumulate fat
Less carbohydrates = less insulin = release fat
It’s that simple.
And it’s also not.
Genetics play a role here too.
Genetics are why skinny Italian men can eat lots of pasta and never gain a pound. It’s why some families have the same body shape. It’s why Joel and I gain weight easily while some of our best friends are lean, bean poles who never gain an ounce regardless of what they eat.
Everyone is different.
It’s not only carbs that dictate your fat accumulation, your genetics play a role too. But for those of us who do get fat, carbs are the largest driving force. For those of us who do get fat, cutting them out is our best chance at getting lean.
We can do this in many ways. As long as we’re eating real food, and not processed garbage, we can go vegan or gluten-free or pescatarian, or vegetarian or primal or paleo or Atkins or South Beach or a ton of others. It doesn’t matter. Any diet that is essentially reducing the carbohydrates we eat, especially in the form of processed grains, flours and sugars, will most likely allow us to release fat.
Some of us can go vegan or vegetarian, eat lots of grains and beans and fruit and still lose weight. Like I did for a few years. Others among us might have to cut out carbs almost entirely. It all depends. It always depends.
That’s why there’s no one perfect diet for all of humanity. There’s no one 30-day meal plan that will work for everyone. And that can be really frustrating when we’re tired and busy and we just want to be told what to do. It doesn’t matter, the fact remains.
We have to get to know own own bodies. We have to experiment, track, and understand how food affects us individually. It’s the only way.
In an oversimplified, universal rule though (which we all love): eat real, whole foods, and avoid processed grains and sugars (carbs).
That right there might be enough for you. You might be able to lose all the weight you want by eating brown rice and beans and fruits. You might not. You might have to go 70% fat, 20% protein, 10% carbs, or full-blown ketogenic.
The point is, you’ll have to experiment a bit if you’re serious about losing weight. But eating real, whole foods, and avoiding processed grains and sugars (carbs), is the best place to start.
Reducing insulin is a lot like swimming left or right in a riptide. When you understand what’s happening, you can relax and get yourself out of the mess. Understand the true cause of the weight gain in the first place, and then work around it, instead of just endlessly struggling against the symptoms.
And while it will definitely take some self-experimentation on your part, Bridget and I are going to help you with this.
We want to help you lose weight, feel better and put this struggle behind you. It’s one of the main reasons we started this site. The majority of our readers (perhaps yourself included), tell us that losing weight is the biggest struggle they’re facing right now.
So let’s change that.
We’ve created a program to help you finally put an end to this struggle. It’s coming out shortly so, stay tuned, get pumped and in the meantime, start cutting some carbs (or ‘carbos’, as my mom calls them).
And if you’re interested in a our quick, 3-day reset in the meantime, pop your email in below and we’ll send it over.
Also published on Medium.