Don’t Weight Issue 5, Get Around Metabolic Adaptation?

In the last “Don’t Weight” issue I discussed weight cycling (yo-yo anyone??) that is a result of something we call “metabolic adaptation” or  your brainbody’s response to weight loss and deprivation.

So, since then, I got into the scientific journal articles about “metabolic adaptation” and “set point theory” and I have to tell you-it happened again.  What happened?  Every time I research obesity, weight loss, weight regain (I do a lot of research on these topics!) I realize-we DON’T know soooo much more that what we DO know!  Weight, weight loss, weight regain are really quite complex.   I used to tell people “Calories in < calories out = weight loss.  Well, lemme tell ya’-it just is not that simple!  (I never was super great at math!)

Genetics, epigenetics, environment, socioeconomic status, education, and of course diet and lifestyle in addition to our brainbody’s innate drive to be always working FOR US and for our survival…ALL have a role in determining someone’s (your) weight.

But for this issue, I wanted to look at what dietary pattern was best to “fight” metabolic adaptation.  As I write that sentence-it seems preposterous to want to fight our innate survival mechanism.

Full disclosure here-metabolic adaptation when referenced as a decrease in metabolic rate is a bit controversial in the scientific literature.  Some studies show it persists long term after weight loss, some don’t.  But the hunger/fullness hormone signaling, the hedonic appeal effect of food and increased appetite after weight loss are not contested.  Nor is the incidence of weight regain.  To maintain weight loss, for the few who do it, it takes a long term commitment to “cognitive restraint”, a fancy term for thinking about it and constantly choosing to restrain oneself.

So, how can we “get around” this sneaky metabolic adaptation or “set point weight.  Is a certain dietary pattern best?  Hi protein, low fat, hi carb???

Well, if all you are concerned with is WEIGHT, then-well, no particular dietary pattern seemed better than another at preventing weight regain or increasing metabolic rate.  (caveat here: dietary studies that look at macronutrients, not FOOD have some limitations.  One of my major complaints with studies that look at high carbohydrate diets is that they don’t differentiate processed/refined carbs or whole food carbohydrates.  And they are TOTALLY DIFFERENT!)

BUT (good news alert!!) if you are looking to really be as strong and vital as you can, to keep your independence, to restore and/or maintain your health-there is some really good science about a particular dietary pattern for that.

Just a reminder here-I am addressing dietary pattern in this issue as ONE of a whole list of “ingredients” for Optimal Health. Remember, its about your well-being, not your weight.  I do recognize that for some, if not many of us (full disclosure, myself included right now) weight loss is desirable, or at least welcomed as a potential side effect of dietary change.

Michael Pollan said it really well “Eat Real Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants” .

A low fat, whole foods plant based (not necessarily vegan) diet has been shown to REVERSE heart disease and to REVERSE type 2 diabetes.  See the studies referenced below.

Populations that eat low fat high carbohydrate diet (like sweet potatoes or beans, not cookies and pop!) have been shown to have greater longevity and lower chronic disease rates (including autoimmune disease and cancer).  This was noted in the popular Blue Zones books and shows.  The Blue Zones work was observational, but some excellent scientific evidence is available to support this way of eating.

Colin Campbell documented many correlations between diet and health in the landmark observational study, The China Study

Caldwell Esselstyn, Neil Barnard, Dean Ornish, have documented reversal of heart disease or type 2 diabetes with this dietary pattern.

  • Esselstyn CB Jr, Gendy G, Doyle J, Golubic M, Roizen MF. A way to reverse CAD? J Fam Pract. 2014 Jul;63(7):356-364b. PMID: 25198208.
  • Esselstyn CB Jr, Ellis SG, Medendorp SV, Crowe TD. A strategy to arrest and reverse coronary artery disease: a 5-year longitudinal study of a single physician’s practice. J Fam Pract. 1995 Dec;41(6):560-8. PMID: 7500065.
  • Kahleova H, Petersen KF, Shulman GI, Alwarith J, Rembert E, Tura A, Hill M, Holubkov R, Barnard ND. Effect of a Low-Fat Vegan Diet on Body Weight, Insulin Sensitivity, Postprandial Metabolism, and Intramyocellular and Hepatocellular Lipid Levels in Overweight Adults: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Nov 2;3(11):e2025454. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.25454. Erratum in: JAMA Netw Open. 2021 Jan 4;4(1):e2035088. Erratum in: JAMA Netw Open. 2021 Feb 1;4(2):e210550. Erratum in: JAMA Netw Open. 2021 May 3;4(5):e2115510. PMID: 33252690; PMCID: PMC7705596.
  • Pischke CR, Elliott-Eller M, Li M, Mendell N, Ornish D, Weidner G. Clinical events in coronary heart disease patients with an ejection fraction of 40% or less: 3-year follow-up results. J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2010 Sep-Oct;25(5):E8-E15. doi: 10.1097/JCN.0b013e3181d51f9e. PMID: 20714228.


We all know plants are good for us, but why?  What is so great about whole plant based foods:  short list here…

  • FIBER: keeps things from hanging out in the gut too long.  Feeds the microbiome, which we know is super important to overall health and our immune response.  Provides a sense of fullness, helps with blood sugar regulation.

All the good things in these foods are packaged up just the way the body can use them-along with all the “co-factors” and magical things that are in them to help the body use just enough of just what it needs from that food!  It is so beautiful, our bodies are so remarkable!  We still have not replicated that in processed man-made foods, supplements or medications.

Are you thinking…I don’t want to live on Rabbit Food?  No way!  I love to eat, and I don’t like to be hungry (just ask my husband!)  A low-fat whole food plant strong diet is very filling (fiber and WHOLE FOOD starches) and can be very delicious.  You do need to learn how to properly structure the diet, which really isn’t hard.  Here is a free tool I developed to help. click here

I learned by joining a company called Wellness Forum Health.   I learned there the huge impact this could have on my health, my life.  I learned HOW to do it.  And I continue to learn there.

A couple of my “GO-TO” sites for recipes, information and tips:

Reach out if you want more direction here!  These sites are good at keeping it “low fat whole foods plant based”.  A lot of vegan recipes contain quite a lot of fat in the form of nuts, avocados or oils.  (not that those things are forbidden, but should be used rather sparingly.)

I remember when I first learned about this dietary pattern, I thought-I believe the science, that this would be remarkably good for me.  But I can’t do it.

I didn’t believe I could so I didn’t try.

But I eventually came to believe that I could do it.  That was key.

But when I really learned more about WHY it matters, how impactful it is, I made a decision.  I learned that I could make a plan, follow through, change and tweak as I needed.

And that’s what I did.  It’s what a lot of people have done (check out those websites for testimonials!)

And that isn’t and never has been perfect, and I lost weight and regained some.  But I am strong, active, people say I don’t look my age, I don’t take any prescriptions or pills for reflux or “arthritis”.  Now that of course is just my story, it’s not science.  But I share it to say “YOU can do this!”

Do your own  risk benefit analysis: what is the downside?  Less pain, more energy, more regular bowel movements, often less weight (if that is something you would enjoy as a side effect), eating really pretty colorful, and delicious food?

Yeah, you have to allow some time to adjust, for your palate to down-regulate from non-natural processed foods, but it does adapt!

I encourage you to learn a little more and give strong consideration to making this change, and then DO IT!!

Now, those with any condition that you are under a physician’s care for, I strongly recommend you seek the advice of a health professional, one who supports your desire to try this approach and understands its potential benefits.  Of course this newsletter is for informational purposes only.