With most foods you must eat less to loss weight – except fruits and vegetables

Dr Terry Simpson weight loss surgeon

Its morning and I have to finish my cup of Peet’s before I head off to the airport. I love going to the airport, a fun and exciting place – even if I am just taking a friend. Today I’m taking my wife, so a bit sad for a couple of days, but that means my son and I get to spend a couple of days being guys (ok he is three and that means I am doing a lot of running around).

Appetite and volume are often equated. People who want to lose weight often feel hungry a lot, and when they get hungry they want to fill with volume, but without calories. The old way that people sold diet plans was “eat as much of this as you want…” and that line appeals to just about everyone.

Are there foods you can eat as much as you want – besides celery? There are but before we go there lets talk a bit about how appetite works and the signals you should pay attention to.

If you eat fast, you will eat too much and regret it later. Last night I was with some lovely friends and we were eating at Capital Grill, great steak and other food. I had a small cup of soup and that took the hunger edge that had been bothering me for hours. The steak came medium well and I had to send it back – and when it came I made a deliberate effort to slice off paper thin slices of the steak and taste every bit of it I could. The conversation was quite enjoyable and my brain signaled that I was more than satisfied. When I arrived home I placed the remaining steak on the scale, I had eaten just under four ounces of it – and the rest (eight ounces) will be available for my dog, Lucky (now you know why his name is Lucky).

Didn’t feel deprived, didn’t feel like I wished to eat more, and the total calories from the food was 200 for the steak, 100 for the soup, and a few more (insignificant) for the vegetables. I thought about dessert, but my wife gave me “the look” and I declined (she later told me that was a wise choice).

If I had eaten fast that entire steak would have been history in under five minutes, I would have had four or five slices of their bread with butter, and dessert would have been a must. Not eating in that manner that saved 1200 calories.

Here is the biochemistry of what happened with appetite. Taking the edge off with the first glass of water, and the soup (it was about 1/2 cup) stopped me from being ravenous. The first bit of protein that hit my brain signaled I was eating so it stopped sending the signal to make the hormone Ghrelin (one of the appetite hormones). Since it takes 20 to 30 minutes for that hormone to be broken down in the body, but I was eating, I didn’t stop early and still have hunger. I didn’t pay attention to how my stomach felt – “full” or not, because that didn’t matter. I went home, had no interest in looking in the refrigerator or the pantry for food, because my brain was happy with the small volume of high quality food I ate. This morning, as I write this – other than my desire for coffee, I have no interest in food and won’t until about 10 or 11 am (4-5 hours from now).

Inside my body is processing that food. The steak has been completely dismantled by my guts, and proteins chopped up with the efficiency of a wood chipper (think Fargo). The steak became chopped into a series of amino acids and my liver is using them to convert to glucose – the bodies food currency. It is using some energy to do that, which is why the calorie model doesn’t always work well – because it isn’t the calories in the food that you eat, it is what your body decides to do with them. The fat in the steak has been broken down to triglycerides, and the first bit of fat that hit the stomach sent a signal to the brain “he is eating well, and now not hungry.”

Simple gut stuff (did I tell you I’m writing an entire book about your guts and food? – No, well, trust me I will be letting you know when they give me the release date). But important to understand if you want to lose weight then there are signals to pay attention to and signals not.

Oh and volume – and calories….You can have as many fruits and vegetables as you like, because there is no way on earth you will eat enough of those to gain weight.

Take an unflattering photo of yourself today, or weigh yourself, or take a flattering photo of yourself. Look back at what you ate this week. Did you make your goal? I had the opportunity this week to spend a few minutes with my friend who I have a good natured bet with – Chris Brogan – he is working out twice a day like a mad man, and was worried that he had gained a few pounds (he has, a lot of muscle) – all he has to do is look at a photo from last year when we met. Make that your goal – to have a better picture in a year. Keys: eat slowly, and enjoy the food – don’t let volume overcome a plan – pay attention, and if you get that little subtle signal to stop eating – that is when you stop, not when the plate is finished.

I’m off to the airport. Have a good week, and thank you for reading this.

—Terry