If you want to lose weight without feeling hungry, you might consider the setpoint diet as a possible option. This unique plan can help anyone who wants to lower their “setpoint weight” — the range of about 15 pounds that weight fluctuates within — through a 21-day program. Jonathan Bailor, author of the book The Setpoint Diet, spoke with First for Women about what the setpoint diet involves and how to do it right for the best weight-loss results.
According to Bailor, menopausal and postmenopausal women may reap especially impressive benefits, with many dieters in that age range reporting on average a 10- to 15-pound weight loss in 21 days — without hunger. The best part? This short kick-start is meant to introduce nutritious-yet-delicious eating strategies that eventually lead to permanent maintenance of a healthy weight for life.
What is the setpoint diet?
“The biggest difference between the setpoint diet and traditional diets is that traditional diets assume that your body wants to be overweight and you diet to fight against that,” Bailor says. “But new science has shown that the body doesn’t want to be overweight any more than it wants to be too hot or too cold.”
As Bailor points out, your body takes steps to bring your body temperature down when you step into a hot room and helps bring your temperature up when you’re in a cold room. However, sometimes there is a breakdown in your body temperature where that setpoint rises — also known as a fever.
“Now the setpoint is higher, and you need to do something to heal your body to bring that body temperature setpoint back down,” Bailor says. “The setpoint diet does that for your body fat setpoint. The cause of long-term fat gain is a breakdown in your body, your brain, your gut, and your hormones, and we eat specific foods outlined by the setpoint diet to bring that down.”
Foods to Eat on the Setpoint Diet
According to Bailor, these specific foods fall into four major categories.
1. Non-starchy vegetables. Bailor says this is the most important food group in the setpoint diet, and it should make up about half of your plate for every meal. A non-starchy vegetable is one that you could potentially eat raw (you don’t have to, but you could), so corn and potatoes are not included.
2. Nutrient-dense protein. According to Bailor, this is the second most important setpoint diet food group and it should make up about a third of your plate for every meal. Ideally, you want protein from sources such as humanely raised animals. However, don’t think that you have to spend a ton of money just to get good protein; canned tuna is just one example of a high-quality and low-cost protein source.
3. Whole-food fats. Most people know by now that good fat doesn’t make us fat, but many folks are still getting a lot of their fats from oils. Instead, Bailor suggests dieters get their good fats from whole foods, such as nuts and seeds.
4. Low-fructose fruits. Some fruits pack more sugar than others. On the setpoint diet, it’s recommended to focus on fruits with the lowest amounts of fructose and the highest amount of nutrients. In other words, say hello to berries and citrus fruits.
You might be wondering where to fit the whole-food fats and low-fructose fruits on your ever-growing plate. Bailor says that setpoint dieters take a couple of different approaches here. Some folks use whole-food fats and low-fructose fruits to make tasty sauces for their protein or vegetables. Others prefer to use these ingredients to make setpoint-friendly desserts — such as cakes made with almond flour — once their meals are complete.
How to Make This Diet Work for You
Bailor says the goal of the setpoint diet is for its followers to eat so many non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense proteins, whole-food fats, and low-fructose fruits (in that order) that they are too full for processed starches, fats, and sweets. That’s why it’s important to focus on what to do on the setpoint diet, as opposed to focusing on what not to do.
“There are three underlying causes of chronic weight gain that have nothing to do with willpower, have nothing to do with not trying hard enough, or anything along those lines,” Bailor says.
Learning more about these causes — which include inflammation in the brain, a dis-regulated system in the gut, and an imbalance in hormones — can be really helpful during this time, according to Bailor. That’s because the way that you think about eating can actually make a huge difference while you’re changing your diet.
Bailor says that when we feel guilty or shameful about what we’re munching on, these feelings can actually have an impact on our hormones and slow down our weight-loss goals and may even fatten us up more. Who wants that?
So, seeing food as an ally to your weight loss rather than the opposition is really key here. Luckily, the setpoint diet offers many tasty options of meals you can put together to reach your goals and a new setpoint weight. For example, you might have a green smoothie with leafy greens, avocado, and protein for breakfast. Or perhaps you might opt for scrambling some eggs with veggies and some meat or fish. Lunch and dinner might include a salad or stir fry with some healthy protein.
Bailor points out that just about everyone can find at least one non-starchy vegetable they enjoy. So, if someone hates broccoli but loves asparagus, perhaps their strategy is simply to add more asparagus to their healthy meals. The same goes for protein. At the end of the day, Bailor wants setpoint dieters to focus on progress rather than perfection while personalizing this diet — and most importantly, to never starve or deprive themselves while doing so.
“What we need to do is eat more of the right kinds of high-quality foods, because you fundamentally are high quality and you deserve high quality,” says Bailor. “When you take a high-quality approach to food, you heal your body.”
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