|Chapter 4. Dietary Approaches
|Dump the junk.
If you have read this far, I will assume that you are one of the almost 70% of Americans who are overweight or
obese, but that you have decided to do something about it. The first major dietary step you should take is to
dump the junk.
When you think of junk food, you likely think of soda, candy and french fries. Foods such as these earn their
status as the junk food kings by providing a large helping of calories, with minimal or no nutrition.
For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda has 250 calories, but little further nutrition. A 32-ounce drink at the
convenience store has 390 calories, but a similar dearth of nutrition. On a Summer day, you might even spring for
a 64-ounce Double Big Gulp. That mighty serving of junk has 720 calories, 38% of the daily calories a man my
size should consume. Although the soda has more than a third of a day’s calories, other than carbohydrates and
a little bit of salt, it is bereft of nutritional value. The only one who benefits from soda is the soda manufacturer.
Soda is the archetypal junk food, but fruit juices follow close behind. A 20-ounce glass of orange juice has 240
calories, only ten less than a soda, and both have a high glycemic index, meaning the sugar hits your body like a
freight train. On the Simply Fit Diet, fruit juices fall into the junk food category and should be eliminated.
Junk calories are not just dangerous because they displace nutritious foods, but also because they physically
encourage you to consume more of the same. For a host of complex reasons, the more junk food you eat, the
more you crave it. If you think of your fat as “Audrey,” she is crying out, “feed me, Seymour,” and the food that
she demands is junk. Junk serves your fat, and in doing so it actually deprives you of nutrition.
It is not hard to see how Americans can be both overfed and undernourished. Imagine that you get a free airline
ticket to get away for a weekend, but your money is tight. You fly to San Diego, stay in a discount motel, and
discover there is a McDonald’s on the corner. You decide to eat every meal there to save money.
Imagine that you start your day with a Big Breakfast washed down with a McCafe Frappe Mocha. For lunch you
have a Premium Crispy Chicken Classic sandwich, along with medium fries and a large cola. For dinner you stick
to the classic Big Mac, again with fries and a cola. McDonald’s provides a handy online calculator that allows you
to total up the calories and nutritional values of its food. For the day, you would have consumed 3,570 calories,
enough to add about two pounds per week to your weight if you continued eating this way. Along with the excess
calories you would have consumed 154 grams of fat and 740 milligrams of cholesterol, both more than double the
recommended intake. However, you would have failed to consume the daily recommended amount of fiber, only
35% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A, and less than the recommended amounts of vitamin C,
calcium and iron. Despite the excess calories in the fast food meals, you would not meet your minimal nutritional
Another example of the same phenomena is found in a simple snack. A four-ounce package of Skittles, a brightly
colored sugary candy, has 480 calories, but little nutritional value. For fewer calories than the Skittles, you could
eat two apples, two oranges, a banana and ten grapes (Figure 12). But in contrast to the candy’s empty
carbohydrates, the fruit provides more than the daily requirement of vitamin C, more than half the daily
recommended amount of fiber, and significant amounts of calcium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, thiamine, and
niacin as well as other trace minerals and nutrients.
The government reports that the average American adult gets 19% of his daily calories from solid fats, including
fat found in desserts, pizza, cheese, sausage and fried potatoes. Another 16% of the average American’s calories
come from added sugars, from foods like soda, energy drinks, pancake syrup and candy. Consuming a third of
my daily calories in a Double Big Gulp drink may have sounded far fetched in my example a few paragraphs
earlier, but in fact the average American gets 35% of his calories from solid fat and sugar, both of which
are seriously lacking in nutrition. On the other hand, the government reports that 95% of adults under 50 years of
age fail to consume recommended amounts of vegetables and 75% of American adults consume less than the
recommended amount of fruit every day. Eating junk displaces healthful foods.
Studies show that eating junk food encourages the consumption of more junk food. It is not difficult to imagine why
the body keeps asking for more food when on a junk food diet, because it lacks nutrients, despite being fed
excess calories. The body asks for more food in an attempt to get the missing nutrients. When you dump the junk,
you will not only stop serving Audrey the fattening food she desires, you will turn to healthy foods that provide
your body with the nutrients it has been missing.
The Simply Fit Diet’s definition of junk includes all sodas, cakes, candies, ice cream and fried foods, but goes
further. First, all sugar-free sodas and sugar substitutes are included as well. Studies show that, for whatever
reason, consuming sugar-free products does not contribute to weight loss, it contributes to weight gain. People
who consume these products put on more weight than those who eat the full-sugar products. Why is not clear.
Perhaps the sugar substitutes fool the body, which then responds by demanding more sugary foods. Perhaps
there is some chemical interaction we do not yet understand. Perhaps the person drinking a sugar-free soda
thinks it cancels the calories in the sugar-rich cake consumed at the same time. But the bottom line is that “diet”
products lead to weight gain instead of weight loss. Instead of sugar-free soda, drink water. If you like the fizzy
treat of soda, you can drink carbonated water like seltzer. Some of the carbonated waters have a twist of lime or
lemon in them without artificial sweeteners or sugar. After a day or two of substituting seltzer for soda, you will
wonder why the soda was ever important to you.
Second, potatoes are the single food that is most highly correlated with weight gain. This may be because most
potatoes are eaten as potato chips or french fries. But it also may be because the highly starchy potato is quickly
converted to sugar, a substance that causes a spike in insulin which orders the body to store energy as fat. To
be on the safe side, consider potatoes junk and avoid eating them.
My final inclusion in the category of junk is all food with refined grains, plus all foods with added sugar, oil, or salt.
Look back at the list of your ten favorite foods in Chapter 2. There are four boxes next to every food listed. The
first box is for refined grains, the second for added sugar, the third for added fat or oil, and the last for added salt.
For each favorite food, put a check mark in the box that describes its contents. If you are like most people, every
single item on your list is a man-made concoction with refined grains or added sugar, oil, or salt. Here’s how my
|Figure 12. Two snacks. The candy has more calories and less nutrition than the plate of fruit.
Humans are naturally attracted to sugar, oil and salt. This attraction, in the pre-industrialized world, led us to eat
fruits, oily vegetables like avocados, and meat. Modern man has taken this inclination and perverted it by creating
foods like donuts (refined grain, sugar and oil, fried in more oil), ice cream (a high-fat dairy product with added
sugar and chemicals), pizza (refined grains, usually with added sugar, topped by high-fat dairy, salt, and cured
meats). In the name of flavor and profit, industry tailors foods to be high in sugar, oil and salt and reaps the
profits. Sixty-two percent of the foods Americans eat are manufactured with added sugar, oil, or salt to
exploit our natural attraction. The foods that we most frequently consume are not natural. The foods that we
like are a man-made exploitation of our natural attraction, but lead us toward disease. These are trickster foods.
They trick us into eating things that harm us. What was once an adaptive mechanism has become maladaptive in
our obesogenic environment. These man-made foods serve to make Audrey happy, but they lead us to obesity
and disease. Unfortunately, the foods we love make us fat. The solution is to limit your consumption of
man-made, trickster foods and stick to natural, single ingredient foods.
|Trickster food temples.
Trickster foods are manufactured foods with added sugar, oil, or salt, that appeal to our natural instincts to eat
healthy foods, but which have harmful effects. For example, they take a natural attraction to sweets, which would
in nature lead us to eat fruit, and instead provide us with milk shakes. Fast food restaurants are trickster food
temples. The businesses do not have a goal of making us sick, but they have a goal of making money. The foods
that sell best are the foods that appeal to our natural attraction to sugar, oil and salt; but in an exploitive way. A
medium apple has 91 calories, 19 grams of sugar and a trace of fat; while a vanilla shake has 530 calories, 63
grams of sugar and 15 grams of fat. However, milk shakes are a staple of fast food restaurants while apples are
not. Trickster foods sell the best and make the most money, so fast food restaurants provide them in abundance.
Some salt consumption is necessary for human health and salt has been part of human culture for probably as
long as human culture has existed. Unlike some people, I am not convinced that salt is evil and must be eliminated
at all costs. However, human attraction to salty foods has been exploited by the food industry and most processed
foods have incredibly high quantities of salt. The government recommends that healthy young people consume
less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, and that people like me who are over 50, or those who are African
American, or have diabetes, hypertension or chronic kidney disease consume less than 1,500 mg per day. Half
the people in the U.S. fall into the category that should consume less than 1,500 mg per day. The average
American consumes 3,400 milligrams per day, and it is not too hard to see how we get there. For example, in the
past, I would frequently eat half a frozen pizza for dinner. That serving size contains 3,030 mg of sodium. In one
meal, I would consume more than twice the sodium I should consume in a day. Manufactured foods are typically
loaded with salt.
Absent a special health reason, I do not think that you need to look at the sodium content of every natural food
you eat or to track your daily total. However, you should avoid foods with added sodium such as pizza and most
manufactured foods. Just like the foods with added sugar or oil, these are intended to exploit our natural
attraction to such foods and effectively trick us into eating foods that hurt our health. Don’t go nuts over avoiding
salt, but avoid foods with added salt.
Another perspective on the dump the junk rule comes from this common sense observation: man is the only
animal that manufactures his food. Only man and the animals he feeds (for example, dogs, cats and laboratory
rats) get sick from obesity. (A further interesting fact is that the more obese a pet owner, the more likely it is that
his pet will be fat.) Animals in the natural world eat whole foods. Animals in the natural world are not threatened by
obesity. By avoiding the man-made foods that exploit our natural attraction to sugar, oil, and salt, we can revert to
a more natural diet and a more natural weight.
Grains like wheat grew wild until man began cultivating them about 10,000 years ago. Wheat, the most popular
grain, in its unrefined state consists of a hard outer coating called the bran, a pulpy body called the endosperm
and a center called the germ. In some ways, it is like an egg with the shell, egg white and yolk. Up until a few
hundred years ago, the entire wheat seed was roughly ground to make flour. Modern roller mills allow the miller to
separate the wheat germ and bran, and to mill only the endosperm, which creates the tiny particles of refined
white flour we most frequently consume today. About 90% of the nutrients in wheat are removed through
the refining process. In fact, refined wheat flour is so lacking in nutrition that it is “enriched” with man-made
chemicals like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and iron, to make up for some of the nutrients that have been
removed. However, even when enriched, white flour is not as nutritious as whole wheat flour and lacks the natural
fiber of whole wheat flour. The highly refined nature of white flour also makes the chains of sugars dissolve
quickly when eaten, resulting in white bread having a higher glycemic index than a Snickers candy bar.
Nonetheless, only 11% of the grains Americans consume are whole grains, and most of these are consumed in
breakfast cereals. Refined grains are manufactured foods that lack nutrition and are linked to obesity. Refined
grains are junk and should be eliminated from your diet. Eat only whole grains.
On the Simply Fit Diet, all foods with refined grains, or added sugar, oil, or salt are junk foods and are
to be avoided. Another way of looking at this, is you should eliminate all foods that did not exist before the
invention of roller mills that began producing highly refined foods such as white flour. This eliminates most
modern convenience foods, but leaves available a whole universe of natural, single ingredient foods like whole
grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, meat and dairy products. For convenience, you may elect to make an
exception and allow salad dressings, milks such as almond milk or soy milk, and soy products such as tofu, even if
they violate the dump the junk rule.
Dumping the junk may seem a shocking step at first, but take a look at yourself. How has unlimited consumption
of man-made junk foods been working for you? Grab a handful of fat. Your answer is there. The foods we have
created to appeal to the Audrey within us are subjecting us to an epidemic of obesity and increased risk of
diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and more. Dumping the junk will provide a sound foundation for
returning to a natural, healthy weight. Whole foods provide better nutrition than junk food. A bonus of eating
single ingredient natural foods will be avoiding the chemicals food manufacturers put in their products for their
own convenience. These chemicals are not food and are added for shelf life or palatability. Most of these
chemicals are new elements in the food supply and their long term effect is not clear. It is safer to stick with
natural foods that have sustained humans for millennia.
Think of your top ten goals, How important are they? Is it more important to have a donut or more important to
dance at your daughter’s wedding? As one of the almost 70% of Americans who are fat, you should admit that
your current strategy is not working. Many people can have an alcoholic drink or two and then walk away. Many
people can have a candy or two and then walk away. Some of us cannot. Like an alcoholic, you must admit that
the drug you love, junk food, is addictive, and that making a clean break is the best strategy. And just as friends
of alcoholics who are on the wagon do not encourage them to drink, once you quit junk food, you should ask your
friends to respect your choice to lead a more healthy life.
Dumping the junk is a key element of the Simply Fit Diet and a rule you should follow for the rest of
your life. All of the dietary restrictions that follow the dump the junk rule can later be modified when you reach
your weight goal. But for those of us who are subject to weight gain, dumping the junk will be a lifelong strategy.
You may say that you are dying for a donut. In fact, that could very well be true. You can choose a life of health or
a life of disease. Is the donut really worth the cost? The Simply Fit Diet strategy is to say “no” and to dump the
The world is your watermelon.
What can you eat besides junk? You can eat every whole
food in the world. Imagine that all of the food in the world
(including the junk) is represented by a big, ripe watermelon.
Then picture taking out a large knife and slicing off one end
of the watermelon (Figure 13). The end you have cut off
represents the junk. Toss it. The remaining food is the food
you should eat in the foundation stage of the Simply Fit Diet.
There are no other limits on what you eat or how much you
eat. You can have oatmeal and fruit for breakfast. You can
have turkey on whole wheat bread for lunch. You can have a
big juicy steak with mounds of vegetables for dinner. You can
and should have frequent snacks of fresh fruit, vegetables or
a hard boiled egg or slice of meat. The world is effectively
your oyster (or watermelon). You are simply eliminating the
most harmful foods, the foods that encourage you to get fat
and the foods that encourage you to eat more of the same.
With your daily weigh-ins, you will soon see that Audrey is not
happy, and she will begin shrinking to a more manageable
size, even with this small step.
|Figure 13. Imagine the universe of food is
represented by a watermelon. Cut off the end
representing junk food and toss it. You can eat
all the other food in the world.
Surprisingly, when you break your junk food habit, both the food you desire and the food you enjoy, will change.
On the Simply Fit Diet, I enjoy food more than I ever have. However, foods I used to enjoy do not taste the same.
For example, I used to eat sweetened yogurt. On the Simply Fit Diet, foods with added sugar are prohibited, so I
switched to plain (not vanilla, which has added sugar) yogurt, to which I add fresh fruit. At first, the taste was
shockingly bitter, but in a few days it started tasting great. Now, fresh fruit and yogurt is my favorite breakfast. The
other day I ordered fruit and yogurt at a restaurant, only to discover that they used sweetened vanilla yogurt. It
was disgustingly sweet. I could not finish it. With time, your tastes will change so that foods you used to love
become unpalatable and your new diet tastes great. As an added bonus, when you dump the junk you will not
only lose weight, but you will be healthier because the natural foods are full of nutrients that are missing from junk
Learn to distinguish cravings from hunger.
If you have been consuming junk food on a regular basis, quitting will lead to cravings. It is important to
distinguish cravings from hunger. Cravings make you say, “I could die for a donut.” But cravings are limited to one
food or class of foods. That is how you can tell a craving is not hunger. If you have a desperate desire for a
donut, or alternatively, a candy bar or dish of ice cream, Audrey is demanding that you feed her. Wait the craving
Hunger, on the other hand, is much less severe than a craving. Hunger is your body telling you that it is low on
fuel and that in the next few hours you should stock up. Hunger is not limited to one food or class of foods. When
you are hungry, your body might suggest a donut, but when you say “no,” it will say, “how about some grapes?
How about a chicken breast? How about an apple?” When you are hungry, you desire food, and any food
will do. So ask yourself, will an apple satisfy my desire? If the answer is yes, you are hungry. If the answer is no,
you are not really hungry, you are feeling a craving, and waiting until the craving passes will make Audrey shrink
and make you healthier. Audrey screams, “feed me.” Your body, when hungry, taps you on the shoulder and
says, “yo dude, when you get a chance, you might want to rustle up some food.” As a matter of survival, hunger is
never paralyzing. In the past, you needed the strength to dig some root vegetables or chase down a rabbit.
Paralyzing hunger would make that impossible. So if you are facing a paralyzing feeling that you must eat this
instance, it is a craving. Go past the cravings and learn to experience the more gentle feeling of hunger. It is
natural, and it indicates that your body is taping into its reserves and working the way it should.
Hunger and the hybrid car (learning to live with hunger).
Americans have become so accustomed to easily accessible calories that we almost never feel hunger. As soon
as a hint of hunger appears, we head to the pantry or refrigerator, or jump in the car and find a drive-through.
However, hunger is a natural part of life. Think of hybrid cars. Hybrid cars are modeled after the way humans use
energy. Hybrid cars come equipped with a battery that charges when there is excess energy available, like when
going down a hill, and then discharges when the extra energy is needed, like when going up a hill. Similarly, the
human body stores excess calories as fat, and draws on those reserves when energy is needed, for example
chasing a rabbit for dinner. Hunger is the body’s sign that you are drawing down the extra calories, just like the
hybrid car indicates it is drawing on its batteries when going up a hill. I wish I could tell you that you can lose
weight and never feel hunger, but that is not true. Hunger is your body’s warning light that says you
are drawing down stored calories, and you must draw down stored calories to lose weight. On the
Simply Fit Diet, you limit hunger to the evening hours when it is least intrusive, and to night, when your body turns
off the hunger warning light to let you sleep. Hunger is a natural feeling. It is not overpowering, it is just your body
saying it is dipping into the power reserves. Learn to live with it.
|Reverse your cravings.
When you dump the junk, cravings are inevitable. They are usually strongest when your brain is at rest, during
break times or during repetitive exercise like walking, swimming, or bicycling. A strategy that makes the craving
more bearable and encourages it to pass, is to picture the food that you crave being burned off by your body as
the craving occurs. For example, imagine you are on a walk and you crave a donut. You can reverse the craving
by saying to yourself that you are now burning off a donut, that you sure ate a lot of donuts in the past and that
burning one off is a good thing. Do not starve yourself, eat as much natural, healthy whole food as you desire,
but do not give in to cravings for junk food. That would be letting Audrey win. Your goal is to have Audrey shrink
and leave. She will not go quietly, but with discipline, she will go in the end and you will have a healthier life.
Bet you can’t eat just one. Cheat meals and cheaters.
A few years back a potato chip manufacturer successfully marketed its product with the slogan, “bet you can’t eat
just one.” The slogan was successful because it is true. When you start eating junk, whether for physical or
psychological reasons, it is difficult to stop. Some popular diets allow cheat meals and even cheat days. The
Simply Fit Diet does not allow cheat meals or cheat days. First, one of the proponents of cheat days has
been implicated in the sale and use of steroids. It makes sense that a cheater would endorse cheat days. But the
physique he sells is not available from healthy living, it is available from drugs. That is not a course I endorse.
Second, there is an addictive component to the foods you crave. Many people scoff at the idea that food can be
addictive, but look around you. Addiction is the persistent repetition of a harmful behavior, even though you
realize it is hurting you. Recently, I was at the gym and a fellow next to me in the locker room was so heavy, he
could barely put on his shoes. He was about my age and obviously sore from carrying at least 100 extra pounds.
He neither could reach to the floor nor see his shoes, so he painfully hoisted his foot onto the locker room bench
and peered around his stomach to grunt and shove his shoe on. This man was obviously hurting from his weight,
yet he slowly grew that big over a number of years. I can only conclude his self-destructive eating habit is
evidence of an addictive behavior.
Once you break your physical addiction to foods like donuts and cheesecake, why would you reinsert them into
your diet, only to have to break the addiction again? You likely know someone who has had trouble regulating
their consumption of alcohol and has resolved this by quitting entirely. Would you suggest that this person start
drinking again on certain days or at certain meals? Most assuredly not. If you are overweight, you have
demonstrated that you cannot eat as much as you want of everything you crave. You must make certain tradeoffs
to maintain a healthy weight. One of these tradeoffs is discontinuing eating foods that make you fat.
Third, it is likely that carb-heavy foods cause a surge in insulin and that surge in insulin directs your body to store
fat. The direction to store fat does not disappear after one meal, it lingers for days. In my experience it takes as
much as a week to recover from a feast day or a fall off the wagon. The result of a cheat meal or cheat day does
not pass in hours, it lingers for days.
Fourth, in this book we have equated eating badly with crashing your car into a concrete barrier. With each crash
you cause incremental damage, some of which may not be repairable. Whatever pleasure a donut may give you
is unlikely to compensate for losing your leg or other bodily function due to diabetes. If you have a blood glucose
meter (available for about $15 at your pharmacy) check your readings after a cheat day. You will likely be
shocked to see how high they have risen, often into the range that puts you in danger of diabetes.
Once you attain your weight goal, there will be opportunity to slowly reintroduce favorite foods and to have
occasional feasts. But while you are on the path to fitness, in my experience it is far easier to maintain a black or
white diet, where some foods are avoided entirely, rather than to blur the lines with cheat meals or cheat days. In
my experience, cheat days are for cheaters.
However, if you do fall off the wagon or choose to have a feast day on your reducing diet, it is important that you
get back on the wagon as soon as possible. You will compound the damage if, after a fat producing meal, you
decide your diet is blown and continue to eat–for example going out for cheesecake. So, if you eat fattening
foods, pay close attention to how they taste. It is likely that after having eaten well for a while, they will not taste as
good as you imagined. Sweet foods may taste unpleasantly sweet, and salty foods may burn your mouth. After
months without pizza, you may be surprised that eating a piece is not a treat at all. Also, it is essential that you
step on the scale at your next scheduled weigh-in. Do not skip weighing yourself for a few days, that will only
make you more likely to fall off the wagon again. Acknowledge that you made the choice to eat badly and step on
the scale and see the damage you have done. Take a deep breath, say, “it is what it is,” and record the number.
This constant evaluation of your weight and the time it takes you to return to your previous number will make it
less likely that you will fall off the wagon again.
The Simply Fit Diet works. One of the reasons it works is because it is a black or white diet. You can eat all of a
certain category of food, but none of another. Allowing cheat meals or cheat days undermines this powerful
aspect of the diet. Stick to the rules and you will lose. Cheat and you will not.
This concludes the foundation of the Simply Fit Diet. In summary, make health a matter of life or death before it
becomes a matter of life or death. Take a good look at yourself and begin weighing yourself at least once a day.
Before meals, lift your shirt and look in the mirror (or grab a handful of fat) and say, “this is why I need to diet.”
Use common sense to evaluate your sleep habits and strive to get a good night’s sleep. Finally, dump the junk.
Strive to eat healthy, natural foods and eliminate foods with refined grains, or added sugar, oil, or salt.
The foundation stage of the Simply Fit Diet may result in cravings. Understand that cravings are not hunger. You
are free to eat as much healthy, natural food as you desire. Your cravings will pass. After about a week, you
should find yourself sleeping better, feeling healthier and free from cravings for your old favorite foods. For some
people, these simple steps will be enough to return to a healthy weight. But for me, and most readers, more
action is required. At this point you are ready to choose a path to follow in the next stage of the Simply Fit Diet.
|All original contents copyright 2018.