10

votes

Hack Stephan's diet plan

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created June 29, 2011 at 2:39 AM

Ive been following Stephan's food reward series pretty closely. Tonight he finally poster his diet recommendations based on his theory of food reward being a dominant factor in obesity. It's fairly paleo, at least in the way I think of paleo, the higher you go in the levels. What do you guys think of it? http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/06/food-reward-dominant-factor-in-obesity_28.html#more

Edit: I've chewed over it, and though his recommendations may seem a bit wacked out to a person without a grounding in the fundamentals of an ancestral diet, for the average paleo the recommendations seem rather tame and conservative which keeps in line with how i think about Stephan's approach. The areas of interest that i'd like to get more thought on are 1) the part when he is against adding fat to food- he specifies that eating it alone is fine but that you shouldn't add it. 2)not adding herbs and spices to your meals to lower the pallatability.3)monontonous meals/minimal food choice.

I'm not doubting that this will work to drastically reduce people's calories but is taking away the enjoyment out of the food really necessary. If studies are beginning to deduce that the satiety meter is out of wack in the hypothalamus and leptin signalling is off because of constant elevated fructose consumption combined with industrial seed oils inflaming the hypothalamus, then won't removing these elements from your diet bring the calories down as a result of fixing leptin signalling and stopping the inflammation of the hypothalamus? what do you think?

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on November 25, 2011
at 09:30 PM

as bad as SG's level 4-5 sound, alot of noobie dieters are going through FAR WORSE: exercising 2hrs/day on 1000 cal of "cookie diets", drinking Ensure which actually works against them, going to bed raving hungry and suffering zero libido. if you think eating paleo foods w/o seasoning is bad, try any of the mainstream diets like cookie diet, cabbage soup diet, CW low-fat and they're all considerably worse. sometimes i think us Paleo-ers are spoiled a bit, we get to feast like kings then complain the last 10lbs wont go. gotta buckle down sometimes

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on November 25, 2011
at 09:27 PM

took me 30sec to figure out what golden arches meant. fail LOL

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on November 25, 2011
at 09:27 PM

great comment sir

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on June 30, 2011
at 04:40 AM

+1 "I have an inherently hedonistic tendency to ignore any advice that sounds Puritanical. As soon as people tell me that I should seek to limit the flavor in my food, I stop listening." Yep. Me too.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on June 29, 2011
at 10:56 PM

I'm glad he gave a shout-out to Seth Roberts, this series was surely inspired by him more than a little.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on June 29, 2011
at 04:58 PM

it's always a good feeling when the fam gets on board, jack. there are a good number of ways to skin this cat. see what works and when that stop working break another tool out of the toolbox. the body is a complex, amazing machine.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 29, 2011
at 03:34 PM

I was never obese at all. Just slightly pudgy under my clothes. Some of my family members are boarderline obese though. My brother is 6'2 260 lbs and has a big beer belly. He wants to lose about 50 pounds. My sister is 5'3 190 lbs. I recently got em both on whole foods and they are transitioning right now which is quite exciting for me to watch. I didn't even try to convince anybody, but all of my brothers and sisters are on board now. So I have lots of questions coming my way at the moment but I am happy to say that.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 29, 2011
at 03:31 PM

see that's the thing about all of your personal experiences... they speak for themselves. it is the people who conquered obesity who have the loudest voice. everyone's got a different story in some way, but you can't argue with multiple people that went from obese to fit (like LB and Melissa and others) that say they ate themselves fit on yummy foods. The proof is in the results.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on June 29, 2011
at 03:07 PM

as a formerly nearly lifelong obese guy, i'm right with melissa on this. paleo was perfect for me because it was yummy food that helped fix my metabolism. however, for the small number of people who are really "hard losers" they may need to go the bland food route...

B9cc28905ec54389c47cde031d709703

on June 29, 2011
at 03:00 PM

Stephan did an interview talking about what he ate on Chris Kresser's podcast and covered some of this, I think it was episode 10.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:59 PM

+1 Melissa. I agree with you.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:55 PM

i actually totally agree with you on this. it's for the "hard-losers". it's funny how he downplays that it's not guaranteed to work for everyone, when in reality it only won't work for .0001% of the population.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:48 PM

I absolutely got what you are saying Jack. Knowing how this worked for myself though, as a truly obese person, that used food as a reward. I would never, ever have stuck to a protocol like this for short term. The mental reasons that people end up obese are extremely important to finding the solution, not just the food.

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94

(4359)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:30 PM

Thank you! Amazing how the authors of other comments here didn't even seem to read the post.

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on June 29, 2011
at 04:21 AM

i agree. he's a pretty damn smart guy

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10 Answers

8
Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:23 PM

Let's keep in mind what Stephan said under Recommendations:

"I've organized this weight loss strategy into five different "levels" based on the desired outcome. Some people may want to use this strategy in a preventive manner, or to address metabolic disorders other than overweight that are related to excess energy intake (insulin resistance, fatty liver, etc.)

For a weight loss strategy, I think a lot of this makes great sense. Some people need to BUCKLE down. Others not so much. No salt on food? No yummy seasonings? Don't add butter? Sounds like punishment, but I would bet that these little nuances are only for a time, until you reach your desired goal(s).

I went super low carb, and had a terribly narrow diet for about 3-4 months (mostly out of ignorance). It was quite difficult to know what to eat for a while. I cut out almost everything except meat/butter/veggies/coconut oil. Then started adding things back in but that was after correcting my metabolism and dropping down to 148 from 163. It wasn't until I was already fit and lean until I started adding back in starch and heavy cream and fruit and nuts etc etc. Now I enjoy food more than ever before. I feel very rewarded, every single day, and I remain fit and muscular.

I don't think Stephan is saying don't ever slop butter onto your sweet potato. I think he's laying out a "military strict" 3 to 5 step process to really correct your health via nutrition. Good on him for that.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:48 PM

I absolutely got what you are saying Jack. Knowing how this worked for myself though, as a truly obese person, that used food as a reward. I would never, ever have stuck to a protocol like this for short term. The mental reasons that people end up obese are extremely important to finding the solution, not just the food.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 29, 2011
at 03:34 PM

I was never obese at all. Just slightly pudgy under my clothes. Some of my family members are boarderline obese though. My brother is 6'2 260 lbs and has a big beer belly. He wants to lose about 50 pounds. My sister is 5'3 190 lbs. I recently got em both on whole foods and they are transitioning right now which is quite exciting for me to watch. I didn't even try to convince anybody, but all of my brothers and sisters are on board now. So I have lots of questions coming my way at the moment but I am happy to say that.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on June 29, 2011
at 03:07 PM

as a formerly nearly lifelong obese guy, i'm right with melissa on this. paleo was perfect for me because it was yummy food that helped fix my metabolism. however, for the small number of people who are really "hard losers" they may need to go the bland food route...

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:59 PM

+1 Melissa. I agree with you.

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94

(4359)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:30 PM

Thank you! Amazing how the authors of other comments here didn't even seem to read the post.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on June 29, 2011
at 03:31 PM

see that's the thing about all of your personal experiences... they speak for themselves. it is the people who conquered obesity who have the loudest voice. everyone's got a different story in some way, but you can't argue with multiple people that went from obese to fit (like LB and Melissa and others) that say they ate themselves fit on yummy foods. The proof is in the results.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on June 29, 2011
at 04:58 PM

it's always a good feeling when the fam gets on board, jack. there are a good number of ways to skin this cat. see what works and when that stop working break another tool out of the toolbox. the body is a complex, amazing machine.

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on November 25, 2011
at 09:30 PM

as bad as SG's level 4-5 sound, alot of noobie dieters are going through FAR WORSE: exercising 2hrs/day on 1000 cal of "cookie diets", drinking Ensure which actually works against them, going to bed raving hungry and suffering zero libido. if you think eating paleo foods w/o seasoning is bad, try any of the mainstream diets like cookie diet, cabbage soup diet, CW low-fat and they're all considerably worse. sometimes i think us Paleo-ers are spoiled a bit, we get to feast like kings then complain the last 10lbs wont go. gotta buckle down sometimes

7
531db50c958cf4d5605ee0c5ae8a57be

on June 29, 2011
at 02:51 PM

Stephan is a nuanced writer and thinker. Sometimes people misunderstand where he's coming from. I know I do sometimes. In this case, he really doesn't appear to be advocating any of this as a typical diet for the non-obese.

This would be a great post for that person who can't lose weight on a paleo diet or is stalled. I think the audience is that 5-10% of the population that has severe metabolic problems.

As for me, I will continue what has worked for me so far (Cayenne pepper at every meal! Added salt! Poach everything in coconut milk curry! That's my thing...).

Interesting theory, though. For the severely metabolic-challenged it could be a revelation.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:55 PM

i actually totally agree with you on this. it's for the "hard-losers". it's funny how he downplays that it's not guaranteed to work for everyone, when in reality it only won't work for .0001% of the population.

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on November 25, 2011
at 09:27 PM

great comment sir

4
9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

on June 29, 2011
at 03:23 PM

Like the others, he starts to lose me around level 3. There seems to be an underlying theme that you should "develop" or "progress" to the point that you no longer enjoy your food.

I have an inherently hedonistic tendency to ignore any advice that sounds Puritanical. As soon as people tell me that I should seek to limit the flavor in my food, I stop listening.

This is one message from Mark Sisson which I think is great -- the food that is the best for you is food that tastes great. Fat is ok, and so is flavor. Food that is flavorful and satisfying makes you feel better and it is easier to limit your diet to these foods and eat reasonable portions of them because they are satisfying and delicious.

This is also the underlying theme of traditional French cooking, which is my favorite cooking style. Use the best ingredients, prepared simply but to maximize flavor and variety, with ample fat, and take your time both preparing and eating the food. Sounds like a great way to eat and live to me.

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on June 30, 2011
at 04:40 AM

+1 "I have an inherently hedonistic tendency to ignore any advice that sounds Puritanical. As soon as people tell me that I should seek to limit the flavor in my food, I stop listening." Yep. Me too.

4
667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 29, 2011
at 11:48 AM

From the top:

Level 1 and Level 2 make total sense to me. I don???t think any person on the planet would be worse off from following these steps. Good stuff.

Level 3 gets squirrely. Step 1 is wise but not necessary. Step 2 is good obviously. Step 3, while something I myself do regularly, is prolly not going to sit well with people.

Level 4 we hit a roadblock: salt. I believe we can thrive adding salt to our food. And to be frank, while I like the overall theme he???s going for (ie that food is more fuel than desirous treat), salt is the one kind of redeeming factor that really brings out plain old tasty flavor in everything I eat. And I like curry.

Level 5 is again wise but not necessary. Anecdotal but interesting is that many physique competitors do just this: get a small bank of food choices and repeatedly use them. Simplicity and accountability are the two real pluses here.

4
A31b063c5866c08aa9968a8f2f1e9949

(1721)

on June 29, 2011
at 11:28 AM

Foods can be highly rewarding. I know that I have "trigger foods" that I need to avoid at all costs (e.g. pizza, homemade mac-n-cheese). When they are around, I eat them until they are gone. Even if I am uncomfortably full, I'll have just one more slice/bite. So I think his premise is close to dead-on.

The place where I disagree is in the thinking that we need to remove enjoyment of food entirely. Behavior theory tells us that mostly we should not be looking to eliminate behaviors, but to replace them with appropriate substitute behaviors. Rather than enjoy food that's horrible for me, paleo has taught me to enjoy food that is healthful and sustaining. I don't need my "trigger" foods any more because I have moved on.

I also don't think his diet is sustainable. He says himself in the post that the only diet that will work is one that is sustainable. Especially by the time you get to the upper levels, no one would enjoy living that way. Paleo works because I love my food and don't miss what I've left behind.

2
7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

on June 29, 2011
at 01:24 PM

I will just cut/paste my email to you! God forbid I don't share my thoughts with everyone. :)

I was with him for the intro, he lost me with the food plan. It just doesn't fit with what has worked for me. I recognize that I was not always obese. I was slim as a child, then overweight as I got sedentary in the older years, then obese (more due to depression and using food as a reward), then less overweight, then obese, now within healthy BMI. My body probably doesn't have the set point issues of those that have been obese for a very long time.

Level 1:

I still like to eat the high reward foods once in awhile They make me happy. I realize that's the issue, but I think you have to learn to control it and not just avoid it. Everyone knows I believe in snacking. I wouldn't have ever stopped binging without it.

Level 2:

This one is okay.

Level 3:

Not adding fat to your food seems a little overboard. I like to eat butter plain too, so that I can do, but I also like it on my sweet potato. I can do without, but I don't think it's causing me any issues to mix the two.

Level 4:

The single ingredient thing just seems to hard core. I'm not even an herbs and spices person. I eat a lot of my food plain, but I do want my food to taste good. I don't think making food not delicious will solve everything.

Level 5:

Yeah. I'm never going to do that one. :p

2
4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on June 29, 2011
at 06:14 AM

Having read it, I like step the first few steps - but I HATE the idea of food being prepared and eaten with the intention of not enjoying it! No salt, no herbs, no flavourings - no butter on broccoli or on potatoes, for goodness sake!

I can see it transforming life for those who very much want to lose weight - but I can't see anyone sticking to it.

My two pence worth....

2
1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on June 29, 2011
at 03:46 AM

I like it. I would skip level 5 other than that it looks great. It is not too original. It is well organized.

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on June 29, 2011
at 04:21 AM

i agree. he's a pretty damn smart guy

1
0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on June 29, 2011
at 02:33 PM

Here are my ramblings as I sit in the afterglow of reading the latest on Whole Health:

I didn't learn anything really new (which is not to say that I don't agree with Steve, I stalk him and read him too much maybe) except that carbs and fat can be highly rewarding foods. I guess I always knew that. But, in the context of food reward, one trying to lose weight or maintain control over portions should be careful not to make high carb high fat foods highly palatable by adding herbs, spices, salt etc. and saving the tasty additions for the protein.

Also, I think you are right in that this concept isn't going to blow the socks off of "paleo" dieters or those who avoid junk foods. But, I live in a town where people bow down to the Golden Arches every day. Removing highly palatable foods/additions from that kind of a diet would be huge. I think that it would be a great tool for a person trying to rewire their taste buds to apply these ideas strategically.

By the way - I eat butter like it is cheese - thin slices from the freezer - still good on its own.

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on November 25, 2011
at 09:27 PM

took me 30sec to figure out what golden arches meant. fail LOL

0
Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on November 25, 2011
at 09:31 PM

omg Levels...its PALEO INCEPTION

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