Episode 32. Smarter Fat Loss Dieting: Question and Answer
Listen to the Episode
The guys tackle a few specific questions related to fat loss dieting. They discussed diet-pinballing, falling off the wagon, as well as specific questions: Why does Scott think “egg whites and oatmeal” is the best meal to start off the day metabolically? How do you maintain muscle when dieting to lose fat? To what degree is tolerable hunger ok, and is it okay to blunt it? (E.g., with caffeine?)
Scott received an email from a client who was losing weight, hunger wasn’t too high, and things were going well… but the client wanted to “switch things up.”
Mike pointed out that in a scenario like that, there isn’t much more you can hope for out of a diet. Training’s good. Diet’s good. Hunger’s good. Fat loss is still going… there isn’t much to improve in a scenario like that!
This is also why Scott likes to focus on process and process-based goals.
Being “on” or “off” the wagon (& metabolism)
Scott also received an email about being “on” or “off” the wagon, but more specifically, he wanted to focus on the fact that optimizing metabolism is a long-term process. You can be “off the diet” and — if the metabolism is optimized — not immediately gain a bunch of weight.
A better strategy is to optimize metabolism first, and focus on “losing weight” second.
Mike mentioned reification, which is taking a concept or idea and concretizing it, imagining it is a thing, when really what’s under discussion is a process, or a set of relationships. So for example, a meal plan is just a list of foods on paper, a set of reminders of what to eat. But people think if they ate “off the plan” that’s worse, even if what they ate is, based on that person’s goals, no better or worse in any way. But because it was “off the plan” they freak out and think their body is going to gain 10 lbs. (Yes, people do eat off the plan in ways that do interrupt progress. Of course they do. That’s not the point here.)
One of the strategies Mike uses is to constantly remind himself these things don’t matter. So he buys 0%, 1%, and 2% cottage cheese, and uses them interchangeably, for the sole purpose of reminding himself that these things don’t matter.
The mind believes whatever you tell it. If you tell yourself you “need” this or that food, your mind will believe it. So for example, yo udon’t “need” chocolate, but it is very easy to believe you do. You have to unlearn that believe. Sometimes that takes a coach. Sometimes it takes making this an actual focus.
Why did Scott say several times in episode 22 that egg whites and oatmeal are the best meal to start off the day “metabolically”?
Short answer: it ticks a lot of boxes for Scott. It’s healthy whole and unprocessed; the foods have high volume per calorie; the foods rate highly on the satiety index (by themselves, though they are also more satiating together); does it have a good protein element and protein-sparing element? It also has slow intestinal motility to slow digestion, which will keep hunger where it is supposed to be.
Kevin brought up that it depends how you define best, or even how you think about “best.” There are other high-quality foods out there. Key point here is that Scott was saying “metabolically.”
There are cultural reasons for this: is chicken a “worse” protein source than the egg whites? No, but egg whites tend to go better with oatmeal, and go down easier first thing in the morning.
For Scott you still want a protein and a starch, and in a reasonable ratio. Or, at the very least, a protein and a fat. Don’t mix and match or do a fat and a carb.
Could you guys discuss “hunger” in detail (e.g. biofeedback, is it OK to use things like coffee, liquids, etc. to help blunt some of the feelings of hunger, etc.)
Scott emphasized that hunger is totally normal, and you should be trying to trick your body. He calls this tolerable hunger.
Mike actually calls it the sweet spot, because it draws attention to the fact that you can have too much or too little. Just the right amount leaves you with optimal energy and focus. Psychologically, if he does notice he’s hungry, he can say, “Oh perfect, I’m in the sweet spot. I’m physiologically more focused than I otherwise would be. I better take advantage of this and do something important.”
Mike and Kevin also talked a bit about the number of meals they have per day. Both prefer a three meal a day approach, because it feels more flexible.
How do you minimize muscle loss when trying to lose fat?
For Kevin it’s about proper training.
This goes further: the quality of your training is a good indicator of whether or not you’re losing fat. You do need to feel hungry, yes, and to some degree you won’t be training “optimally,” yes… But there is a difference between that and feeling miserable and totally empty all the time.
Scott also pointed out that there is no arbitrary calendar for this. Don’t just drop calories because “oh I’m X weeks out.” No. Do it by your biofeedback: hunger, energy, concentration, feelings of coldness in fingers, etc.
A big mental warning factor is mental fogginess; another is lack of sex drive.