Monthly Archives: November 2017

Nov 23

What To Eat

By Georgie Fear | Uncategorised

This question is stationed prominently on many people's minds. Paradoxically, the more you read about nutrition and diet, the less you might feel like you know how to feed yourself. When did it get so confusing? You have to eat something, so what should it be? 

Let's go through it, in a comprehensive, science-backed way. We'll answer the question of what to eat, depending on your goal. A woman wanting to run a faster marathon needs to choose differently than her friend who wants to lose weight, and their pal who is worried about preventing cancer has different priorities completely.

  • For weight loss, your most important task is to eat things that help you create a calorie deficit. 
  • For sports nutrition, your most important task is to eat foods that help you take in enough energy, carbohydrates, and protein for optimal performance and recovery.
  • For disease prevention, you want to choose foods that are high in some nutrients, and low in others
  • For mending a disordered relationship  with food, follow the guidelines for everyone, eat some of everything, and don't let your brain get wrapped up in details of what foods you choose. Stay focused on  how much and why you are eating (and yup, those guides are coming soon).

Learning which foods are best for your particular priorities takes some effort, so various shortcuts have been created. They save you from thinking as much, but they also limit your freedom. Here are 2 of the most common ways people oversimplify what to eat.

Oversimplification 1: Following A Meal Plan Someone Else Created

A meal plan tells what to eat and how much of each thing. You can find meal plans in fitness magazines, on pinterest, and as part of many popular diet books.


The big draw here is you don't need to think. Grocery shopping is easy because you can see on one page what you'll be eating that week.


Monotony and inflexibility. You might not like the food on the meal plan, or you might want to eat out. Are you going to bring your own food to social events and special occasions? Usually your favorite foods won't be on the meal plan. You also might find yourself very hungry and annoyed. The meal plan won’t adjust to your workouts, rest days, illness or hormonal cycles, so some days it might be not enough food, other days more than you need. Sticking to a meal plan can end up adding more stress to your life than it saves.

Oversimplification 2: Diets which forbid various foods or require eating from a “clean” or “approved” list.


It can give you a sense of control and organization, even superiority to choose “clean” or “approved” foods.


Research doesn’t support it. Swearing off foods is associated with worse outcomes, including weight gain and binge eating.

What’s Left? Eating Intelligently

So if you don’t want to take a shortcut, and are ready to learn a bit, it turns out that you can eat everything, and reach your goals by choosing some foods deliberately more often, others less often. This is the method we recommend because it is effective for reaching various physical goals and the method most supported to contribute to mental wellness. And it’s one of our core tasks at One By One Nutrition, teaching people What To Eat.

Thing to Eat: Protein

Guidelines for everyone:

Proteins are formed from long strings of amino acids linked together. Some amino acids our bodies can make, but others (so called essential amino acids) we have to obtain from our food. Like vitamins and minerals, not getting enough amino acids can lead to a deficiency, and cause health problems.

Protein rich foods include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, milk and dairy products like yogurt and cheese, tofu, soybeans, other beans and legumes, as well as supplemental proteins like protein powders. Some foods like wheat, nuts and seeds contain smaller amounts of protein but also contribute to our daily total. The amount of protein that you need to maintain health and prevent deficiency is not all that much. Getting 0.8 - 1 gram of protein per kilogram you weigh is enough. That's pretty easy for most people even if you are vegetarian. Extra protein certainly won't hurt, though, so bear in mind that's just a minimum. And you can feel free to choose the protein sources you enjoy most, it’s perfectly okay if you play favorites in this category and variety is not as crucial as getting enough.  

Specifics for weight loss:

If you want to lose weight, there are a lot of benefits to including extra protein above the minimum amount required for general health. Higher amounts of protein are helpful in reducing hunger which makes it easier to stick to a lower calorie diet. Research supports getting  about 30% of your daily calories from protein if you're trying to lose fat and keep muscle. And easy way to think about that in real life is getting 30-40 grams of protein into every meal. That looks like a palm size of poultry, meat or seafood, or a cup of egg whites, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt. Foods like tofu, whole eggs, beans, cheese, whole wheat bread, soybeans, and peanut butter can help you reach that protein total if you have several servings or combine 2-3 of them together at a single meal, but a single serving of any of them provides only 6-10 grams of protein. Getting 30% of your calories from protein is tough if you are a vegetarian, but getting close is better than not trying, so do what you can with the knowledge that more protein will aid in meeting your goals.

Protein supplements are an option which some people choose for convenience but they are absolutely not a necessity. Some evidence points to whey protein as being more advantageous for weight loss than other protein types.

Specifics for sports nutrition:

Athletes need more protein than the average person. Since they also need more calories, this often works itself out naturally because they eat more! Athletes need 1.2-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram body mass, depending on their sport and the degree of muscle mass they maintain.

Similar to general health and weight loss guidelines, a variety of protein sources are suitable. Spreading protein intake over the day helps with getting enough in, and many athletes find adding a post workout recovery shake or meal combining carbohydrates and protein aids performance.

Specifics for disease prevention:

The sources of protein in a person's diet can have a profound impact on long term health. Getting more protein from seafood and legumes has been linked to lower cancer rates according to a 2017 paper published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (Farvid). Extensive population studies have indicated that consuming more plant protein reduces risk of dying, especially if that replaces processed red meats in the diet (Song). So if you want to take extra steps to minimize your chronic disease risk, consider adding in more vegetarian protein sources like beans and tofu and dialing back on red meat intake. However, vegetarian diets which contain more unhealthy foods like juice, refined flour, french fries and sugar increase heart disease risk, so don’t be fooled into thinking that omitting meat or animal foods automatically makes a diet healthy (Satija).

Things to Eat: Vegetables and Fruits

Guidelines for everyone:

Fruit and vegetables are sources of essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and fiber. Inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables can lead to several dietary deficiencies. For the general population, adults are recommended to consume a minimum of 5 cups of combined fruits and vegetables daily. What to choose is up to you, since there are really no poor choices among fresh fruits and vegetables. Choosing a variety and preferentially selecting the most colorful ones will help you attain the widest spectrum of nutrition, and prevent you from getting bored.

Specifics for weight loss:

Because they are low in caloric density and high in fiber and water, fruits and vegetables play an important helpful role in weight loss (Rolls). To reap the maximum benefits, aim to fill half of your plate or bowl with raw or cooked fruits and vegetables at every meal. Try to avoid canned or frozen fruits with added sugar, vegetables overloaded with high calorie sauces or dressings, or fried vegetables, since these aren’t as healthful as their whole food counterparts.

Specifics for sports nutrition:

Athletes have similar needs for vegetables and fruit as non athletes, however two points can help maximize performance. Filling half of the plate with vegetables could possibly lead to inadequate carbohydrate intake if you get too full, so adjust the portions of fruits and vegetables to ensure adequate complex carbohydrates can still fit in comfortably. Second, high fiber meals may contribute to discomfort if eaten immediately before intense exercise, so athletes should determine their own individual tolerance for fruit and vegetables in the hours before exercise. Bananas, strawberries, spinach and other potassium-rich fruits and vegetables can help replace electrolytes lost in sweat, and are easily digested after a long sweaty workout. Consider blending up a smoothie with fruit, spinach and protein powder after a hard training session in hot weather.

Specifics for disease prevention:

Consuming ample amounts of fruits and vegetables, as well as a broad assortment of colors has protective benefits for coronary heart disease, cancers, diverticulitis, and stroke (Van Duyn, Steffen). The lowest risk of all cause death has been determined to be 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day according to one analysis (Wang), whereas other papers report additional protection against heart disease in people consuming 7 or more (Oyebode) or 8 or more servings daily (Joshipura).

To ensure a wide range of disease fighting compounds are ingested, consumers should aim to include dark green leafy vegetables, orange carotenoid-rich vegetables, as well as members of the cruciferous family (cabbage, broccoli, and related plants). Particularly beneficial fruits include flavonoid rich berries and citrus fruits.

Things to Eat: Fats

Guidelines for everyone:

Dietary fat intake can healthfully range from 25% to 35% of total calories for the general population, though certain medical conditions may call for extremes of low or high fat consumption. Fats can be obtained from many foods, including nuts and seeds, oils, butter, cheese and other dairy products, meats, seafood, avocados, olives, chocolate, coconut, and egg yolks. Scientific evidence also supports limiting saturated fat to 10% or less of total calories, and minimizing trans fat to as low as possible. 

Specifics for weight loss:

No specific changes are necessary for a person seeking weight loss, as the moderate intake of fat appropriate for general well being is also optimal for satiety. However, creating a calorie deficit typically calls for the average person to reduce their fat intake somewhat, in particular if they have habitually consuming 35% or more of their calories from fat. High fat diets interfere with leptin signaling and favor the development of obesity (Toniazzo).

Specifics for sports nutrition:

There are no specific adjustments needed to fat intake for athletic performance. Just make sure to take in enough carbohydrates and protein, and enough calories overall to maintain your weight. 

Specifics for disease prevention:

Reducing intake of saturated fat has been linked to lower cardiovascular disease risk (Zong) Replacing 5% of total energy as dairy fat with polyunsaturated fats or plant based fats has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (Chen). Consistent with this observation, consuming nuts is associated with reduced risk of heart disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality, and mortality from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections (Aune). This positive effect holds true for both tree nuts and peanuts, so don’t discriminate. Consuming higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids has shown benefit in preventing many chronic diseases including depression, age related cognitive decline, and several types of cancer (reviewed in

Things to Eat: Grains and Starches

Guidelines for everyone:

Foods which fall into this category include bread, pasta, hot and cold cereals, rice, barley quinoa, rye, farro, polenta, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. The starch category also includes the dozens of things made with flour, like baked goods, tortillas, croissants, and gnocchi. Grains and starches are rich sources of complex carbohydrates, B vitamins, fiber and minerals. Choosing whole grains over refined grains, and unprocessed foods like potatoes rather than instant potato flakes helps ensure that a person's diet provides enough fiber and nutrients. Plus, these foods release glucose at a slower rate into the bloodstream, helping with blood sugar management and providing steady energy instead of peaks and lows.

Specifics for weight loss:

Individuals seeking to lose weight can absolutely include grains and starches in their diets, despite the claims of low carbohydrate diets that these food are highly fattening. The best choices for a weight loss diet are high in fiber, such as barley, whole wheat pasta and bread, quinoa, farro, and potatoes with the skin. Cooked whole grain cereals like oatmeal are also highly satiating since they absorb water while cooking.

Specifics for sports nutrition:

Complex carbohydrates are essential for athletic performance, as well as recovery and adaptation to training. The amount of carbohydrates needed depends on the amount and intensity of activity, as well as the athlete’s body size.

For a general starting point to build a sports nutrition diet, we recommend athletes aim for a cup of cooked starchy food at each main meal, even on rest days. That might be oatmeal, rice, potatoes, pasta, or a couple slices of whole grain bread or toast. Additional carbohydrates can be included as a pre or post workout snack, or as supplemental nutrition during workouts longer than 90 minutes. For meals immediately before, during or after exercise, easily absorbed carbohydrates work best and minimize the risk of stomach or gut discomfort. In this instance, sports foods or drinks containing sugar may be the only digestible option if whole food carbohydrates just aren’t tolerable. Alternately, lower fiber choices may be suitable, such as rice cakes, white bread, pretzels or bagels. The rest of the time, high fiber, whole grain choices are best and sugar should be minimized, just as in other healthy diets.

Specifics for disease prevention:

A higher intake of whole grains reduces all cause mortality and risks of heart attack and cancer (Steffen, Helnæs, Aune). Getting as close as you can to choosing all your grain foods as whole grains is a wise move for health, so think of oatmeal, whole wheat bread and pasta, farro, quinoa, and brown rice as staples. Almost all homemade baked goods can be made with whole grain flour, so consider using it in pancakes, muffins, bars, waffles and pancakes.

Things to Eat: Beans and Legumes

Guidelines for everyone:

Beans or legumes have some really fantastic qualities which make them awesome additions to your diet. They are rich in plant protein, and also provide ample carbohydrates, so they give you a two-for-one macronutrient punch. They are some of the highest sources of dietary fiber you can find; in fact a serving of beans has more fiber than oatmeal, broccoli, or a fiber-fortified granola bar. A 2017 report offers evidence that Americans who consume legumes tend to take in greater amounts of important nutrients such as fiber, protein, folate, iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium and have lower BMI scores (Garcia-Bailo). Plus, they are incredibly economical and shelf-stable, which makes them a superb ally if you’re watching your food budget or often need to pull together a meal last minute from what’s in your pantry. You can choose from dried beans and peas, most of which need to be soaked and boiled, or canned varieties which are already cooked. There isn’t any nutritional difference, but dried ones are usually cheaper and canned ones are significantly more convenient. Other legume foods include peanut butter, green peas, edamame (green soybeans) and tofu, as well as bean based soups like lentil and black bean soup.

Specifics for weight loss:

Legumes are a great way to help get the protein you need to manage appetite, plus the carbohydrates you need to keep your daily activity up. Bean or lentil soups, and stir fry with tofu are low-calorie density meals that will fill you up and help your weight loss journey. We also recommend keeping a bag of frozen peas in your freezer, not only will it come in handy as an ice pack if someone has their wisdom teeth out, but they make a great add-on to convenience foods like canned soups or leftovers if you need to bulk them up a bit more. Frozen green peas can go into chili, soup, casseroles, rice, stir fry, pasta dishes, or hold their own as a quick side dish with some seasoning. Be careful with peanuts and peanut butter, these delicious foods are higher in calories and fat than other legumes, so use portion control to keep them from adding too many calories to your day. One or two tablespoons of peanut butter, or ¼ cup of nuts is a serving. Likewise, read the label and choose your portion deliberately if you purchase hummus or bean dips to keep an eye on the fat and calories. (We know how easy it is to keep scooping out of the container!) If you enjoy refried beans, the ones you buy in a can are often much healthier than what is served at Mexican restaurants. Traditional refried beans are made with lard or shortening and often have a lot of added fat.

Specifics for sports nutrition:

Beans are excellent sources of slow digesting carbohydrates, protein, iron and other key nutrients athletes need. Peanut butter sandwiches are an excellent on the go food for long hours of hiking, skiing, and cycling. Care should be taken with high fiber meals including beans before intense training or racing to avoid inconvenient bathroom trips.

Specifics for disease prevention:

Substituting beans for red meats is associated with a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome (Becerra-Tomás). Soy foods such as tofu and edamame are associated with decreases in breast and gastrointestinal cancer risk (Messina, Tse, Yu, Lu), and lower incidence of stroke and coronary heart disease (Yan).

Things to Eat: Desserts and Treats

Guidelines for everyone:

Some of the most wonderful experiences we can have in life are savoring delicious foods, many of which are sweet, creamy, crispy, and not very nutritious. But that doesn’t mean they are off limits. To maintain a generally healthy diet, the important thing is that we choose desserts and treats like alcohol, fried foods, and candy relatively infrequently and in smaller portions than the wholesome foods like the categories already discussed. Think of them as dietary accessories, rather than staples. We often use the guideline of 10% of total calories from treats as being a healthy goal. (If you aren’t sure how prevalent treats are in your diet, try this observation exercise to figure it out).

When it comes to sugars or sweet foods like muffins and cookies, the type of sugar used does not make a nutritional difference. Don’t be fooled into thinking that brown sugar, honey, “organic cane sugar crystals” or maple syrup is a healthier choice than regular old sugar - they are all the same to your body. On the other hand, it is a helpful distinction to differentiate between added sugars and naturally occurring sugars, such as those in a pear or a glass of milk. Health research indicates that limiting added sugars is the most important for having a high quality diet and good health, but it’s not necessary to worry about limiting your fruit or milk intake.

Specifics for weight loss:

When you are committed to creating a calorie deficit to lose weight, it’s important that every calorie counts. Especially if you are eating treats, an important strategy for success is to learn to choose the ones which are your absolute favorites. That way, you keep the best experiences taste enjoyment in your life without squandering calories on things you don’t really enjoy. Another skill that helps with treats is modifying the portion size and frequency, which means shifting how and when you eat your treats instead of trying to cut them out completely (which never works). You might also find that substitution helps you. If you can find a lower-calorie version of a dessert or drink that you enjoy, go for that one if it helps you in creating an overall calorie deficit. Beware of the “health halo” effect, however, and remember that you might not be saving any calories if you eat twice as much. If two or three bites of full fat ice cream hits the spot for you, it’s a better weight loss choice than a whole pint of diet ice cream that leaves you feeling gypped. (Here’s more on that if you need some more ideas on dialing back without going crazy.)

Specifics for sports nutrition:

Athletes have higher calorie needs than less-active people, and with that comes a bit more wiggle room to fit in sweets and treats without causing weight gain. However, athletes may pay a higher price for consuming alcohol, as its glycogen depleting and dehydrating effects can seriously hamper performance, blood glucose control, and general ability to perform for 1-2 days after consumption. So if you’re the sporty type, alcohol management is especially important.

Specifics for disease prevention:

If maintaining health is your primary concern, other than limiting your treats to maintain a healthy body weight (which is very important), try to reduce your intake of added sugars, sugar-containing drinks, and deep fried food as much as possible. It’s also very impactful on health to avoid sources of trans fat such as commercially baked pastries, whipped toppings, or pie crust. Scan ingredient listings to avoid products which contain partially hydrogenated oils. A few select treats provide a health benefit in terms of polyphenols. Red wine and cocoa solids (a component of chocolate) contain polyphenol compounds which have demonstrated cardiovascular benefits and may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes (Chiva-Blanch). These benefits are lost though if you have more than 1 glass of wine daily or more than 3-6 ounces of chocolate a week, so moderation is wise (Yang, Tresserra-Rimbau, Greenberg, Gong).

Above all, eat happily and enjoy your food. 


Aune, D., Keum, N., Giovannucci, E., Fadnes, L. T., Boffetta, P., Greenwood, D. C., ... & Norat, T. (2016). Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMC medicine, 14(1), 207.

Becerra-Tomás, N., Babio, N., Martínez-González, M. Á., Corella, D., Estruch, R., Ros, E., ... & Lapetra, J. (2016). Replacing red meat and processed red meat for white meat, fish, legumes or eggs is associated with lower risk of incidence of metabolic syndrome. Clinical Nutrition, 35(6), 1442-1449.

Chen, M., Li, Y., Sun, Q., Pan, A., Manson, J. E., Rexrode, K. M., ... & Hu, F. B. (2016). Dairy fat and risk of cardiovascular disease in 3 cohorts of US adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 104(5), 1209-1217.

Chiva-Blanch, G., Urpi-Sarda, M., Ros, E., Valderas-Martinez, P., Casas, R., Arranz, S., ... & Estruch, R. (2013). Effects of red wine polyphenols and alcohol on glucose metabolism and the lipid profile: a randomized clinical trial. Clinical nutrition, 32(2), 200-206. (pdf)

Farvid, M. S., Malekshah, A. F., Pourshams, A., Poustchi, H., Sepanlou, S. G., Sharafkhah, M., ... & Dawsey, S. M. (2017). Dietary Protein Sources and All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: The Golestan Cohort Study in Iran. American journal of preventive medicine, 52(2), 237-248

Garcia-Bailo, B., Jain, N., Keeler, C., & Smith, J. (2017). Legume Consumption, Diet Quality and Body Weight: Results from NHANES 2009–2012 and the Food Patterns Equivalent Database 2009–2012. The FASEB Journal, 31(1 Supplement), 648-15.

Greenberg, J. A., Manson, J. E., Tinker, L., Neuhouser, M. L., Garcia, L., Vitolins, M. Z., & Phillips, L. S. (2017). Chocolate intake and diabetes risk in postmenopausal American women. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Gong, F., Yao, S., Wan, J., & Gan, X. (2017). Chocolate Consumption and Risk of Heart Failure: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. Nutrients, 9(4), 402.

Helnæs, A., Kyrø, C., Andersen, I., Lacoppidan, S., Overvad, K., Christensen, J., ... & Olsen, A. (2016). Intake of whole grains is associated with lower risk of myocardial infarction: the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Cohort. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 103(4), 999-1007.

Joshipura, K. J., Hu, F. B., Manson, J. E., Stampfer, M. J., Rimm, E. B., Speizer, F. E., ... & Willett, W. C. (2001). The effect of fruit and vegetable intake on risk for coronary heart disease. Annals of internal medicine, 134(12), 1106-1114.

Lu, D., Pan, C., Ye, C., Duan, H., Xu, F., Yin, L., ... & Zhang, S. (2017). Meta-analysis of Soy Consumption and Gastrointestinal Cancer Risk. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 4048.

Messina, M. (2016). Impact of soy foods on the development of breast cancer and the prognosis of breast cancer patients. Complementary Medicine Research, 23(2), 75-80.

Oyebode, O., Gordon-Dseagu, V., Walker, A., & Mindell, J. S. (2014). Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data. J Epidemiol Community Health, jech-2013.

Pounis, G., Costanzo, S., Bonaccio, M., Di Castelnuovo, A., de Curtis, A., Ruggiero, E., ... & Iacoviello, L. (2017). Reduced mortality risk by a polyphenol-rich diet: a novel analysis from the moli-sani study. Nutrition.

Rolls, B. J., Ello-Martin, J. A., & Tohill, B. C. (2004). What can intervention studies tell us about the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and weight management?. Nutrition reviews, 62(1), 1-17.

Satija, A., Bhupathiraju, S. N., Spiegelman, D., Chiuve, S. E., Manson, J. E., Willett, W., ... & Hu, F. B. (2017). Healthful and unhealthful plant-based diets and the risk of coronary heart disease in US adults. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 70(4), 411-422.

Song, M., Fung, T. T., Hu, F. B., Willett, W. C., Longo, V. D., Chan, A. T., & Giovannucci, E. L. (2016). Association of animal and plant protein intake with all-cause and cause-specific mortality. JAMA internal medicine, 176(10), 1453-1463.

Steffen, L. M., Jacobs, D. R., Stevens, J., Shahar, E., Carithers, T., & Folsom, A. R. (2003). Associations of whole-grain, refined-grain, and fruit and vegetable consumption with risks of all-cause mortality and incident coronary artery disease and ischemic stroke: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 78(3), 383-390.

Steinhaus, D. A., Mostofsky, E., Levitan, E. B., Dorans, K. S., Håkansson, N., Wolk, A., & Mittleman, M. A. (2017). Chocolate intake and incidence of heart failure: Findings from the Cohort of Swedish Men. American heart journal, 183, 18-23.

Toniazzo, A. P., Arcego, D. M., Lazzaretti, C., Lampert, C., Weis, S. N., Proto-Siqueira, R., ... & Dalmaz, C. (2017). Sex-specific effects of prepubertal stress and high-fat diet on leptin signaling in rats. Nutrition.

Tresserra-Rimbau, A., Medina-Remón, A., Lamuela-Raventós, R. M., Bulló, M., Salas-Salvadó, J., Corella, D., ... & Arós, F. (2015). Moderate red wine consumption is associated with a lower prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in the PREDIMED population. British Journal of Nutrition, 113(S2), S121-S130.

Tse, G., & Eslick, G. D. (2016). Soy and isoflavone consumption and risk of gastrointestinal cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European journal of nutrition, 55(1), 63-73.

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Yan, Z., Zhang, X., Li, C., Jiao, S., & Dong, W. (2017). Association between consumption of soy and risk of cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis of observational studies. European journal of preventive cardiology, 24(7), 735-747.

Yang, Q., Zhang, Z., Gregg, E. W., Flanders, W. D., Merritt, R., & Hu, F. B. (2014). Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA internal medicine, 174(4), 516-524.

Yu, Y., Jing, X., Li, H., Zhao, X., & Wang, D. (2016). Soy isoflavone consumption and colorectal cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Scientific reports, 6.

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Nov 20

Weight Loss and Thanksgiving – Are You Making This Mistake?

By Josh Hillis | Uncategorised

When someone talks about how much they were able to restrict their eating on Thanksgiving:

  • It’s the most heartbreaking thing I can imagine in a person's relationship to food and their body.
  • It’s a profound misunderstanding about how long term (more than 5 year) weight loss and weight maintenance works.

Don't be that person.

You can have it so much better. You can have both a more effective weight loss journey and a more enjoyable Thanksgiving.

Someone who is able to both lose weight and maintain it for a lifetime has mastered one foundational skill: Picking their battles.

Because they pick their battles, they are able to get weight loss results at opportune times, and maintain in inopportune times.

People Who Fail At Weight Loss Do This:

People who fail at weight loss always get it in reverse — they miss the opportunities to mindfully and intentionally enjoy more food with friends and family.  Instead, they eat more mindlessly at times when it doesn’t really add much enjoyment to their lives:

  • When it’s date night, they restrict.
  • When it’s candy in the bowl at work, they eat it mindlessly.
  • When it’s Thanksgiving with their family, they restrict.
  • When they are watching TV, they snack mindlessly.

People Who Succeed At Weight Loss Do This:

In the flipside, someone who is successful at maintaining weight loss forever, knows that it’s the mindful eating with people they love that makes a difference:

  • When it’s date night, they enjoy it and have a glass of wine, maybe even desert if they feel like it.
  • When it’s candy in the bowl at work, they skip it, because really.
  • When it’s Thanksgiving with their family, eat and be with their family, and eat their favorite pumpkin pie that grandma makes once per year.
  • When they are watching TV, they skip the snacks and just watch TV, because you can’t watch TV and enjoy food at the same time.

It's About Picking Your Battles

Thanksgiving Day is not the day to restrict.  It’s not even a day to work on food skills in a really big way.  If you want to work on a food skill, pick ONE of these:

  • Eat slowly.  Eating slowly is cool because you get to enjoy your food more, and people typically eat less total food when they eat it slowly.  The combination of eating less calories AND enjoying it more works for special occasions.
  • Eat mindfully.  Take each bite and enjoy the five senses experience of it: Look at the food.  Take a second to taste each bite.  Notice how the food feels in your mouth.  Listen to biting into something crunchy.  Eat like you are on a cooking show, and you want to get every bit of enjoyment from the food as you can.  The more you experience the food, the better you remember the food, the less you end up being hungry or snacking later (a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h).  Again, less total calories AND more enjoyment.

It's Not About Thanksgiving Day

It’s about November and December. 

People fail because they eat all of the Christmas cookies that show up in the office.  People fail because they give up after Thanksgiving and say “I’ll start again in the new year.”  People fail because they have three holiday parties per week through all of December, and they drink at all of them.

People are successful when they choose.  They eat more than normal on Thanksgiving and really enjoy it with their family.  The next day, they go back to skills like eating just enough, portion sizing meals, eating 3-4 meals per day and no snacks. 

One day doesn’t matter.  A week or two, or a month, totally matters. 

What If You Do Want to Loosen Up for All of The Holidays?

That’s an option also.  GASP!  What!?!?!?  That’s crazy talk! 

It’s true.  You can actually dial it back. 

Lets say you are working on seven food skills right now:

  • Eating 3-4 meals per day (no snacks)
  • Eating slowly
  • Eating without screens
  • Eating just enough
  • Eating mostly whole foods
  • Real life treats
  • Boosting veggie intake

You could dial that back to two food skills for December:

  • Eating 3-4 meals per day (no snacks)
  • Boosting veggie intake

You wouldn’t be putting nearly as much energy into food skills as you were maybe the last few months (where you were losing weight consistently). 

Instead, you dial it back to just two.  There’s a huge difference between staying in the game with two food skills, and saying “Eff it!  I’m starting again in January!”

Maybe with two skills you maintain the weight you’ve lost.  Maybe you even continue to lose weight.  But you don’t have to put as much energy towards it. 

This ability to stay in the game at a lower level is another lifetime weight loss mastery skill. 

The Biggest Predictor of Weight Loss Failure is Black and White Thinking

We know that the biggest predictor of weight loss failure is black and white thinking (i, j, k, l, m, n).  That’s thinking things like:

  • I’m off my diet.
  • I ate something that wasn’t clean.
  • I blew it, so I’ll start again (next week, next month, next year).
  • I ate something bad.
  • I ruined everything.

It’s normal to have those thoughts.  We’ve been conditioned by diet culture to think those thoughts.  I repeat it’s ok to have those thoughts.

But you don’t have to act on them.

The AND Method

Weight loss mastery is often about having those thoughts, and practicing your food skills anyway.

A really simple skill for working through black and white food thoughts is the AND Method:

“I’m having the thought that __________ [insert black and white food thought] AND what I’m going to do is ___________ [insert food skill you are going to practice].”

For example:

  • “I’m having the thought that ‘I’m off my diet’ AND I’m going to boost my veggie intake at the next meal.
  • “I’m having the theoguht that ‘I ate something that wasn’t clean,’ AND I’m going to eat slowly for the rest of the day.”
  • “I’m having the thought that ‘I blew it, so I’ll start again after new years,’ AND I’m going to eat 3-4 meals, no snacks, for the rest of the day.”
  • “I’m having the thought that ‘I ate something bad,’ AND I’m going to add in a real life treat.”
  • “I’m having the thought that ‘I ruined everything,’ AND I’m going to boost my protein intake at the next meal.”

This is based on a concept of fusion and defusion, from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (m, n, o, p, q, r).  Fusion is essentially the state of being bullied by our thoughts.  Instead, we take the perspective that it's normal to have these thoughts, and we can still take actions in line with our values in goals.

People Talk About Moderation Like It’s Impossible

Moderation is simple.  It just means practicing some of the skills and not all of them. 

It’s ok to practice some sometimes.  It’s ok to practice most of them other times.

If you can practice some of the skills, all of the time, you will win at weight loss.  The person who gets the most practice wins.  And the people who practice a little sometimes and a lot sometimes get more practice than people who practice all of them and then quit.

Remember, it's ok to have the "black and white diet thoughts," but you don't have to act on them.

Whoever gets the most practice (cumulative, not all at once) is the most successful with weight loss.

Thanksgiving is The Best Time To Practice Life Long Weight Loss Mastery:

Here is your four step plan for lifetime weight loss mastery:

  • On Thanksgiving Day, practice 1 or 0 of the skills.
  • After Thanksgiving Day, and in December, practice 1-3 food skills
  • In January, practice the Core 5 Food Skills
  • Notice when you have black and white food thoughts.  Practice your food skills anyway.


Impact of five senses experience and memory on food intake:

(a) Oldham-Cooper, R. E., Hardman, C. A., Nicoll, C. E., Rogers, P. J., & Brunstrom, J. M. (2011). Playing a computer game during lunch affects fullness, memory for lunch, and later snack intake. The American journal of clinical nutrition93(2), 308-313.

(b) Brunstrom, J. M., Burn, J. F., Sell, N. R., Collingwood, J. M., Rogers, P. J., Wilkinson, L. L., ... & Ferriday, D. (2012). Episodic memory and appetite regulation in humans. PloS one7(12), e50707.

(c) Ogden, J., Coop, N., Cousins, C., Crump, R., Field, L., Hughes, S., & Woodger, N. (2013). Distraction, the desire to eat and food intake. Towards an expanded model of mindless eating. Appetite, 62, 119–26. 

(d) Mittal, D., Stevenson, R. J., Oaten, M. J., & Miller, L. A. (2011). Snacking while watching TV impairs food recall and promotes food intake on a later TV free test meal. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25(6), 871–877.

(e) Parent, M. B. (2016). Cognitive control of meal onset and meal size: Role of dorsal hippocampal-dependent episodic memory. Physiology & Behavior.

(f) Higgs, S., Williamson, A. C., Rotshtein, P., & Humphreys, G. W. (2008). Sensory-specific satiety is intact in amnesics who eat multiple meals. Psychological Science, 19(7), 623-628.

(g) Scheibehenne, B., Todd, P. M., & Wansink, B. (2010). Dining in the dark. The importance of visual cues for food consumption and satiety. Appetite, 55(3), 710-713.

(h) Robinson, E., Aveyard, P., Daley, A., Jolly, K., Lewis, A., Lycett, D., & Higgs, S. (2013). Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating. The American journal of clinical nutrition, ajcn-045245.

Black and white food relationship and weight loss failure:

(i) Palascha, A., van Kleef, E., & van Trijp, H. C. (2015). How does thinking in Black and White terms relate to eating behavior and weight regain?. Journal of health psychology, 20(5), 638-648.

(j) Blomquist, K. K., & Grilo, C. M. (2011). Predictive significance of changes in dietary restraint in obese patients with binge eating disorder during treatment. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 44(6), 515-523.

(k) Sairanen, E., Lappalainen, R., Lapveteläinen, A., Tolvanen, A., & Karhunen, L. (2014). Flexibility in weight management. Eating behaviors, 15(2), 218-224.

(l) Byrne, S. M., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C. G. (2004). Psychological predictors of weight regain in obesity. Behaviour research and therapy, 42(11), 1341-1356.

(m) Meule, A., Westenhöfer, J., & Kübler, A. (2011). Food cravings mediate the relationship between rigid, but not flexible control of eating behavior and dieting success. Appetite, 57(3), 582-584.

(n) Smith, C. F., Williamson, D. A., Bray, G. A., & Ryan, D. H. (1999). Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes. Appetite, 32(3), 295-305.

Defusion and valued action:

(m) Hayes, S. C., Levin, M. E., Plumb-Vilardaga, J., Villatte, J. L., & Pistorello, J. (2013). Acceptance and commitment therapy and contextual behavioral science: Examining the progress of a distinctive model of behavioral and cognitive therapy. Behavior therapy44(2), 180-198.

(n) Kishita, N., Muto, T., Ohtsuki, T., & Barnes-Holmes, D. (2014). Measuring the effect of cognitive defusion using the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure: An experimental analysis with a highly socially anxious sample. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science3(1), 8-15.

(o) Forman, E. M., Butryn, M. L., Juarascio, A. S., Bradley, L. E., Lowe, M. R., Herbert, J. D., & Shaw, J. A. (2013). The mind your health project: a randomized controlled trial of an innovative behavioral treatment for obesity. Obesity21(6), 1119-1126.

(p) Forman, E. M., Butryn, M. L., Manasse, S. M., Crosby, R. D., Goldstein, S. P., Wyckoff, E. P., & Thomas, J. G. (2016). Acceptance‐based versus standard behavioral treatment for obesity: Results from the mind your health randomized controlled trial. Obesity24(10), 2050-2056.

(q) Harris, R. The happiness trap: how to stop struggling and start living. 2008. Trumpeter, Boston.

(r) Harris, R. (2009). ACT made simple. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

Nov 15

Why Your Weight Problems Feel So Different Than Your Other Problems

By Georgie Fear | Uncategorised

Your life has some problems in it.

As does mine. The world is full of problems.

Some of them we just accept because they don’t seem solvable to us personally (world peace), or we know we could do something but it’s not exactly a priority (example: my oven door hinge which has been broken for 19 months and counting).

But then there are all of the problems we do want to do something about solving. As unpleasant as it may be, you probably will do your taxes, whether on your own or with a professional. If you get a flat tire on the car you need to get to work, you’re going to get it fixed. The dog needs to be neutered for his health, so you call the vet to make an appointment.

Some of these problems we have the choice to solve by doing the work ourselves (the taxes being a better example than the dog neutering) or hiring someone to do it for us. You can get out your receipts, pay a nominal fee for Turbotax, and work your way through filing a tax return. Alternately, you can provide your information to someone who will do it all for you.

So there’s an option, you can save some money by doing more work yourself, or spend more and have someone else do the tough part. You can make pizza yourself, or call and get a hot pizza delivered. You can mow your own lawn or hire a landscaper to show up and make sure the hedge and grass are looking manicured on a regular basis.

Fitness and weight loss are not one of those problems. You can’t call the Ghostbusters. You can’t call in a plumber.

At first blush, you’re probably thinking how obvious that is. You’re a self-responsible person. Only a fool would think they could buy a slimmer body!

Except, that is the marketing message you are going to be fed left, right and center from a multi-billion-dollar industry. We all are told in subtle ways that we can buy a supplement, hire a trainer, join a class, get an injection, drink a shake and our weight will disappear.

If your excess weight was a puddle on the kitchen floor, diet and exercise products and programs often sound like all you have to do is call a pro in and consider it solved. You can imagine yourself stepping back while the plumber figures out what’s wrong with your pipes, gets the necessary tools or parts, does the handy work, and gets rid of the puddle.

I’ll be honest with you: When it comes to your eating habits, you are going to have to fix the pipes yourself if you want the problem really solved.

Not that there aren’t other options.

You might stop using the sink, but that’s really just skirting the problem and pretending it isn’t there. A restrictive no-dairy, no-sugar, no-gluten plan sounds to me like advice to just stop using the sink. You’re not fixing the overeating pattern you have with these foods, you’re just avoiding them. Which is okay, if you don’t miss using your sink.

You can move out of your house and into a hotel, the “weight loss resort” method. Here you also don’t have to deal with your own leaky pipes because you aren’t using your sink, you’ve borrowed someone else’s. You’re eating pre-portioned meals, there’s no refrigerator to tempt you at 11 pm, you’re probably off work and doing vacation things like massages and hiking all day. You can feel like your leaky plumbing is worlds away, and maybe it’s even gone for good.

But when you get home, and there’s your job, and your fridge, and your real life, there is that dang puddle on the floor again.

You can even find experts who suggest the solution is to refrain from using your sink 2 days out of the week, or only use it for a small window of time each day. These are just bandaids to mask the problem, they don’t solve anything.

Be wary if someone tell you they can fix your problem in a really fast period of time. Especially if they haven’t gotten to know you and your current problem. “Lose the weight in 6 weeks” is like getting a 45 minute guarantee on fixing your plumbing problem, when no has even looked at it to see what it is. You’re probably getting lied to, or you’re going to get a shoddy temporary band-aid fix.

So you realize you are going to have to learn stuff. You’re going to have to look in dark places, like what’s behind the bucket of dish soap pods under the counter, and why you feel the way you do when you’re alone. 

But you don’t have to do it by yourself. You can get help, step by step, to determine what the exact problem is, what tools you need, and where to get them. You can learn by reading, by watching videos, and from talking from other people who are working on patching up their sinks too. Not everyone’s leak is coming from the same issue, maybe it’s your garbage disposal, or a rotten seal, but that’s okay because no matter what exact gap is causing your leak, there are tools and directions and you have time to fix it. The queen isn’t coming over for tea tomorrow, and there’s no shame in imperfect plumbing.

So have heart, even if all the products and pills and programs and meal plans didn’t work. If you need free information on how to figure out where your leak is, what steps to take to solve the real problem, we’ve got that for you. It makes us feel good to know that people aren’t running away from their problems, thinking they are too scary or difficult to remedy. That's why we put in the work to create and provide a free library of complete courses to help you learn exactly what you need, and we're here every step of the way if you need an extra hand. 

You got this. 

Nov 01

A Solution for “I Eat Well… Until I Don’t”

By Georgie Fear | Uncategorised

Several times a day, I listen to someone describe what and how they eat. One of the benefits of having a coach is that someone outside of your head can in many ways have a clearer view of what’s actually going on.

Almost nobody says “I need to eat a bigger breakfast”. Or even “I need to eat a bigger lunch”.

What they do say is, “I eat well, but lose it on the weekends.” Or, “I do great all day, and damn it at night I snack, and can’t stop!” The words vary, but it’s a very common theme: “I eat well, until I don’t.”

What they see is a problem that starts at 7 pm, or starts on Saturday, or just before the kids get home from school...whatever time their particular hot button is. And that may well be the case. If we talk about that place and time and find there is an emotion, fatigue or stressor that happens at that time of day, we’re onto something and can work on changing behavior directly. We modify thoughts, routines, emotions and behaviors and soon those extra calories are a thing of the past.

But the problem isn’t always originating when it appears to be. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem like it’s an emotional issue as much as a physical one. A lot of midnight snack attacks, afternoon munchies and dinners that end with second portions actually had nothing to do with cognitive distortions or emotions, and aren’t maladaptive coping strategies. These “derailments” often began as a cascade of events that started closer to 8:00 am, at the beginning of the day. And that chain of events can continue to gain momentum midday with a too-light lunch. I see it all the time. Not eating much in the first 2 meals leads to eating lots later.

Research backs this up. Being in a calorie deficit increases brain activity related to food, and food captivates your attention more, especially sweets and fatty foods (1). That’s not a good state to be in when you enter a 5:00 pm meeting with cookies are on the table. You don’t want a brain with a heightened sense of food reward when you’re going out to dinner and spy the breadbasket.

Starting the day well-fed, with a hearty breakfast, and satisfying lunch isn’t the type of thing that makes people fatter, because it doesn’t necessarily lead to higher calorie intake overall. Having a high protein meal soon after waking up has been shown to be a helpful weight loss strategy (2,3). People with excess weight tend to skip or eat very little for breakfast and consume most of their calories at night, often in an attempt to “save calories for later”. Skipping breakfast has been linked to higher BMI and waist circumference (4).

Eating more than 33% of a person’s total calories in the evening has been linked to a twofold risk of overweight/obesity (5).

Instead of trying to reduce the damage caused during the “witching hour” by creating a larger calorie deficit at other times of day, try the opposite. You could eat more abundantly in the first half of the day and discover how differently you feel. Maybe the witching hour gets less witchy. Maybe you have an easier time not grabbing snacks before bed. Maybe you feel more relaxed, cared-for, and happy as you go about your workday. Maybe you feel more energetic and less stress. I can’t guarantee it, but my clients tell me these things all the time.

Yes, it will take some getting used to if you currently don’t make time for eat in the morning. It will mean putting in a few minutes, but you’ll also save those minutes if you don’t need to snack in the afternoon or evening, so you might be making the time already either way. You can eat what you like, there’s no magical combination that is the ONLY way to have a good breakfast. But if you haven’t tried it before, I’d recommend trying the Big Beautiful Breakfast strategy.

Like my partner Josh Hillis points out in his book Fat Loss Happens on Monday, food prep at the beginning of the week can prevent derailing near the tail end of the week. And on a smaller time scale, feeding yourself well in the morning and midday can set you up to stop struggling in the late afternoon and evening. Perhaps we’ll have to write that book next, Fat Loss Happens Before Noon? 

I’d love to see your Big Beautiful Breakfasts, so if tag me on Facebook or Instagram so I can see what you’re eating! If you want to focus more on getting well-fed midday, lustworthy lunches might help you hit your goals for the evening. The big picture is that if you have a trouble time that doesn’t seem to be emotionally rooted: you might be struggling needlessly because you simply didn’t eat enough earlier.  

If you want to learn more about how to structure your meals for maximal appetite satisfaction, check out our free courses or pick up a copy of my book Lean Habits For Lifelong Weight Loss.


1. Stice, E., Burger, K., & Yokum, S. (2013). Caloric deprivation increases responsivity of attention and reward brain regions to intake, anticipated intake, and images of palatable foods. NeuroImage, 67, 322–30.

2. Fallaize, R., Wilson, L., Gray, J., Morgan, L. M., & Griffin, B. A. (2013). Variation in the effects of three different breakfast meals on subjective satiety and subsequent intake of energy at lunch and evening meal. European Journal of Nutrition, 52(4), 1353e1359.

3. Ratliff, J., Leite, J. O., de Ogburn, R., Puglisi, M. J., VanHeest, J., & Fernandez, M. L. (2010). Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Nutrition Research, 30(2), 96e103.

4. Watanabe, Y., Saito, I., Henmi, I., Yoshimura, K., Maruyama, K., Yamauchi, K., … Asada, Y. (2014). Skipping Breakfast is Correlated with Obesity. Journal of Rural Medicine : JRM / Japanese Association of Rural Medicine, 9(2), 51–8.

5. Wang, J. B., Patterson, R. E., Ang, A., Emond, J. A., Shetty, N., & Arab, L. (2014). Timing of energy intake during the day is associated with the risk of obesity in adults. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics : The Official Journal of the British Dietetic Association, 27 Suppl 2, 255–62.