How I Lost 40 Pounds Without Trying

Three years ago, I lost 40 pounds.  Weight loss wasn’t even my goal!   I had changed the foods I ate because my son had many chronic health and behavioral issues, and I was sick too.  I had read that a special medical diet could help us.  I had no idea that our family’s new way of eating would allow me to lose 40 pounds effortlessly without going hungry.  Not only did I lose weight, my son’s health improved dramatically, and mine did too.

Curious about my unexpected success, I researched and found the work of Gary Taubes, science journalist.  His books, Good Calories/Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat are the culmination of his 10 years of research about the ever-increasing weight problems in America.  I teach Gary Taubes’ message to weight-loss clients, and with support from coaching they also lose weight with relative ease.

Common Theory of Weight Gain

Taubes points out that the predominant theory of weight gain in America today is “calories in must not exceed calories out.”  According to this theory, Americans are overweight because we eat too many calories, especially calories from fat, and we don’t exercise enough.

 “Calories In/Calories Out” Doesn’t Help People Lose Weight

My experience, the experience of my clients, and scholarly articles confirm Taubes’ finding that calories in/calories out is unsustainable at best.  He describes another theory of weight loss that I explain later in the article.  But, first, let’s look at some of the evidence that calories in/calories out isn’t really as logical as we’ve come to believe.

My Personal Experience: I had tried balancing my calories and avoiding fat ever since I packed on some pounds when I turned 30.  When we started the medical diet and my weight started falling off, I wasn’t thinking about cutting or counting calories.  As for exercise, I was suffering with severe fatigue, so the last thing I was thinking about was exercise, yet I was dropping pounds every week.

Can We Really “Balance Calories”?  Many people find that they put on an extra 10 pounds every decade.  Researchers have asked the question, “According to the calories in/calories out theory, how many additional calories per day does a person need to consume to gain 10 pounds in a decade?”  Any idea how many calories it takes according to the calories in/calories out theory?  Are you prepared for the answer?  It’s 21 calories a day!  Yes, this theory says that if you eat only 21 extra calories per day, you will gain 10 pounds in ten years.

That’s pretty depressing.  This theory is telling me that I have to regulate my food intake vs. exercise by 21 calories a day.  One or two bites of lean chicken breast has 21 calories.  I don’t think it is feasible for anyone to regulate their intake to this level.

Of course there are all kinds of helpful apps available to help us count calories, but why should we have to?  Most people in most societies since the beginning of time have maintained a healthy weight without ever counting a calorie – or even knowing what a calorie is.  Their level of activity varied greatly too.

Exercise – Great for Your Heart, But Does It Help Your Waistline?

Taubes makes the observation that many, many of us are exercising more than our parents did yet we are still overweight.  When I was a child, the vast majority of my mom’s friends maintained a healthy weight.  I never heard of any of them jogging or going to the gym.  Most of them had housekeepers too, so being a housewife was not necessarily a vigorous job.

On the other hand, many of the moms I know today exercise vigorously and religiously yet many of them still carry the extra weight they’ve been told exercise will take off.  If calorie counting and exercise help us lose weight, then why was weight maintenance easier for my mom’s generation even though they paid little, if any, attention to calories and got less “cardio” exercise than many moms today?

Another example is animals in nature.  Whether sedentary or active, animals maintain a constant weight without regard to calories.

Even the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine made this point in their 2007 Physical Activity Guidelines.  I put the last sentence in bold to highlight the point:

“It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditures would be less likely to gain weight over time, compared to people with lower energy expenditures.  So far data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling.

Exercise is incredibly important for our health It will make you feel better, and it might even help you firm up and drop a pant size.  However, there is little evidence that it will help you lose weight.  Every weight loss client I’ve worked with did so successfully without having to increase their current level of exercise.

The Secret to Weight Loss

OK, so now you’re wondering, “If excess calories don’t cause weight gain, what does?”  The answer to your question is …  insulin.  Yes, it’s the hormone, insulin.  You may be thinking that your insulin levels are healthy, so it can’t be insulin.  It’s not necessarily the insulin levels you see on blood tests.  Fat accumulates whenever insulin is triggered.

So what triggers insulin?  The foods that trigger insulin are sweet and starchy carbohydrates such as candies, cookies, bread, pasta and potatoes.  Milk, especially skim milk, also causes insulin to rise.  The good news is that sweet and starchy foods are not as nutrient dense as non-starchy foods and they also cause inflammation.  Thus, reducing or eliminating sweets and starches will not only help you lose weight, it will reduce or eliminate many health conditions because most health problems (including psychological conditions) are associated with inflammation.

The women in my mom’s generation knew this secret.  Whenever one of them wanted to drop a few pounds, they simply cut back on what they called bread – bread meaning bread, sweets, pasta, potatoes and other starchy foods.

Another piece of good news:  Don’t worry about fat.  Yes, you heard me right!  My clients and I have lost weight while enjoying an abundance of healthy fats!    I will follow up with an article about the health benefits of fat.  In the meantime, check out the video below and the recent cover article on Time Magazine, Eat Butter: Scientists Labeled Fat the Enemy.  Why They Were Wrong.

So slather your non-starchy vegetables with butter or cook them with lard and enjoy a nice, juicy piece of your favorite meat. Eat these foods until you are fully satisfied, and you will see the pounds melt away before your eyes and health issues will improve too.

One caveat, keep fruit and nuts to a minimum until you reach your weight goals.  Make the rest of the suggestions here a new lifestyle for the long term and you will easily maintain a healthy weight and good health.

I realize that these recommendations, while simple, are not necessarily easy.  Yes, I lost weight effortlessly in the sense that I did not count calories, go hungry, or feel deprived.  And still, changing my family’s diet was hard work.  This is where a coach can be a great resource to help you adapt to change, plan new menus, battle cravings for sweet and starchy foods, and provide support and accountability when you need it.

Achieving your weight loss goals and the health benefits that follow will improve the quality of your life in countless ways.  Follow the advice here, and losing weight will be infinitely easier and more sustainable.

Here’s to You!


PS  A new study that supports the ideas presented in this article was released while I was writing it.  The study was financed by the NIH and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.  Check out this article about the study in The New York Times which is listed below.

Video:  New Science Destroys the Saturated Fat Myth



Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes

Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz.


Time Magazine — Eat Butter: Scientists Labeled Fat the Enemy.  Why They Were Wrong.

New York Times — A Call for a Low-Carb Diet that Embraces Fat

Healthy Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

I think we all agree that outstanding academic performance and behavior start with a nutritious diet.  But, what foods are most effective at helping children think, focus, manage their behavior and mood, and learn efficiently? Following are lunch ideas for foods that have improved focus and concentration for my clients ranging from children with autism to a recent valedictorian at North Carolina State University.

Lunch and The Gut Brain Connection

To understand how food choices can enhance focus and concentration, one must first understand the connection between microbes in the gut and the brain of both children and adults.  Our gut (digestive tract) is populated with an abundance of bacteria.  Some of that bacteria is beneficial and some is pathogenic.  This bacterial soup is called the gut flora.  Too many pathogenic bacteria in our gut impacts our brain.  For some of us the impact is mild.  We feel brain fog or forgetfulness.  For others, the pathogens have a significant impact on quality of life as in ADD, anxiety, speech delays, learning disabilities, autism, etc.

You can improve your children’s mental clarity and help them reach higher potential (even if they are already performing at high levels) by starving the pathogenic bacteria.  One of my clients, I’ll call him Jack, is a great example of what’s possible for even the most focused and high achieving students.  Jack, a recent valedictorian from NC State, came to me to learn about disease prevention and to lose a few pounds.  He had no complaints about his ability to focus.  However, when he adopted a way of eating that starves pathogenic bacteria, not only did he lose weight with ease, he was thrilled to gain greater focus, energy, and productivity.

What feeds the pathogenic bacteria?

The foods that feed pathogenic bacteria are all types of sweet and starchy carbohydrates except fruit.  The Standard American Diet is full of sweet and starchy foods.  It’s almost impossible to avoid sweet and starchy foods on the kids’ menu at most restaurants … mac and cheese, pizza, or breaded chicken with a soda and desert.  These foods are guaranteed to please a child’s palate – and they’re cheap.  Excess amounts of sweet and starchy foods is one reason so many American children (and adults) have ADD, anxiety, speech delays, learning disabilities, autism, etc.  These same foods cause weight gain – another epidemic in American children.

Another challenge with sweet and starchy foods is that they are inflammatory, and general inflammation can cause neurological inflammation – another cause of the “brain fog” issues that can prevent our children from reaching their full potential.


What foods should my child eat to enhance academic achievement?

The good news is that the foods that don’t feed the pathogens are also the foods that are most nutrient dense:  meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, and nuts.  Foods such as bread, pasta, and processed foods have minimal nutritional value.  The truth is that these foods have so few naturally occurring vitamins and minerals that they are “enriched” with man-made vitamins.

Here are some ideas for great school lunches that keep the pathogenic bacteria at bay:

Meats and Fish

o   Turkey* roll-ups either plain or with your child’s favorite vegetables

o   Chicken salad

o   Salmon salad

o   Chicken legs

o   Grilled chicken breast cut in cubes or fingers

o   Shrimp

o   Deviled eggs

o   Chicken or turkey sausage*

o   Hamburger patty

o   Thermos foods such as soups and chili

o   Left over meats from dinner, e.g. pork chops


* Be sure to choose nitrite and nitrate-free lunch meats.  Applegate Farms is a well-known brand.



Portable Vegetables

o   Carrot sticks

o   Cucumber slices

o   Broccoli

o   Red, yellow and green pepper sticks

o   Salad greens

o   Cherry tomatoes

o   Roasted vegetables

o   Sugar snap peas

o   Green beans

o   Cauliflower


*Include dips or dressing if desired.  Be sure to buy high-quality dressing with no sugar from the refrigerated section as it usually has no preservatives.



o   Berries of all types

o   Melon

o   Cherries

o   Banana

o   Peaches

o   Apples

o   Grapes

o   Pineapple

Nuts and Seeds

o   Peanuts

o   Almonds

o   Pecans

o   Walnuts

o   Hazelnuts

o   Cashews

o   Pistachios

o   Other nuts

o   Sunflower and other seeds


Nut butters*

o   Peanuts

o   Almonds

o   Sunflower


*Serve nut butter on celery, apples or even straight on the spoon.


Sweet Treats

o   Trail mix made with nuts, seeds and dried fruit

o   Lara bars

o   Yawp bars

o   That’s It Bars

If you’re not ready to eliminate all starchy foods, replace foods with wheat (gluten) with gluten-free varieties.  Modern wheat is inflammatory for all of us – not just those of us who have a gluten sensitivity.  See Dr. William Davis’ book, Wheat Belly, for more information on the health consequences of consuming modern wheat.

Watch out for dairy too.  The lactose feeds pathogenic bacteria.  Many people are lactose intolerant or have a sensitivity to dairy and may not know it.  Lactose intolerance and dairy sensitivities cause inflammation which then can lead to neurological inflammation which causes all the conditions discussed in this article.

Whether your child has attention, learning, speech, mood issues or not, he/she can benefit from a diet centered on meat, vegetables, fruits and nuts.  Give these foods a try, and you’ll be pleased to see your child reach higher levels of achievement.




Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis


Gut Bacteria Might Guide the Workings of Our Minds — NPR

Can the Bacteria in your Gut Send Messages to Your Brain? – NPR

Inflammation in Neurological and Psychological Diseases — National Institutes of Health

Why Modern Wheat is Considered Frankenwheat — Prevention Magazine