A Diet Plan That Actually Works: What You Need to Know
I recently learned that eating habits are set in early infancy. I couldn’t help feeling a bit depressed.
These habits seem to persist for a long time. So, you can blame your parents or feel guilty about how you messed up your own children’s habits.
However, there is good news! New research shows that it is absolutely possible to rewire our brains, and truly learn how to eat healthy, AND lose weight in the process.
We Eat Because It Makes Us Feel Good
Understand this: food is intimately tied to our brain’s reward centers. Unless we can make these rewards fire for healthier foods, we will struggle to make lasting change.
The good news is that (in this study) MRI scans were taken before and after (6 months). They showed a very real and marked change in the brain’s reward systems that govern habits and addictions.
The Diet Plan That Worked
Researchers used a diet plan created by Dr Susan Roberts of Tuft University.
|Reduce daily calorie intake by 500-1000|
|Carbohydrate||50% of daily intake (incl. 40g fiber)|
|Protein||25% of daily intake|
|Fat||25% of daily intake|
This is a higher protein and fat combination than what health authorities normally espouse. Participants were encouraged to eat low-glycemic carbohydrates.
You can calculate this specifically for yourself by going to our calculator.
After entering your details and calculating, adjust the protein indicator to “High”, and the goal indicator to “Weight Loss”. This will give you the optimal amounts of food (carbs, proteins, and fat) to eat each day (or each meal).
So what does this sort of eating look like?
For a 1200 Calorie per day target:
- 2 slices low-carb toast with 2 teaspoons low-fat cream cheese, peanut butter or fruit spread
- 1/2 grapefruit
- Coffee/tea or water
- I Diet Hot or Cold Chocolate
- 1 apple and 4 pecan halves
- Water, diet soda or coffee/tea
- 2–3 cups salad greens and non-starchy veggies,
- 1⁄3 cup legumes,
- 2 slices (2 ounces) turkey breast,
- 1 teaspoon bacon bits or sunflower seeds,
- 2 tablespoons low-cal dressing
- 2 part-skim mozzarella cheese sticks
- 4 ounces plain grilled fish or shellfish with 2 tablespoons low-cal sauce
- 1 1⁄2 cups cooked green beans (no sauce)
- 1 sliced tomato with drizzle of olive oil and vinegar or 1 teaspoon low-cal dressing
- Optional: small baked sweet potato with 1 teaspoon low-fat sour cream instead of dessert
For a higher calorie intake, you would add an extra slice at breakfast, an extra protein slice at lunch, and increase the protein at dinner.
In addition to the meal plan there is also room for a 100-calorie snack: like a few tbsp of trail mix or nuts or 1/3 cup of frozen yogurt.
In the trial, participants had weekly teaching and support group sessions over a 24-week duration. They also received weekly emails from a nutritionist.
If you are able to get support then your chances of success are going to be higher.
If you can stick at this, then over time your brain actually begins to feel pleasure at the sight of healthier food.
Deckersbach, T., Das, S. K., Urban, L. E., Salinardi, T., Batra, P., Rodman, A. M., … & Roberts, S. B. (2014). Pilot randomized trial demonstrating reversal of obesity-related abnormalities in reward system responsivity to food cues with a behavioral intervention. Nutrition & diabetes, 4(9), e129. Study link.