What I recommend *YOU* eat to lose weight

Dr. Jen Kerns

Dr. Jen Kerns

Last week @NicoleisNik asked me what exactly I am doing with diet and exercise that has allowed me to lose my weight. This is somewhat of a loaded question, because different people have individual differences in how they respond to foods, and what I do personally may not work for everyone. I promise I will eventually get to what *I* eat, but first I think it’s important for me to outline what I think we should ALL eat.

The crux of my dietary advice to my real life patients and to my coaching clients is this: Avoid added or concentrated sugars. Avoid refined grains and highly processed carbohydrates. Don’t eat for at least 2 hours before bedtime and not after 8:00pm.

That’s it.

What this means in a bit more detail is to avoid added sugar, including not only granulated table sugar, but also “natural” sugars like honey, agave, or maple syrup (which may be allowed on a paleo diet but are still sugar). Avoid the obvious sugary treats like cookies, cake, candy, ice cream, and drinks like soda, sweet tea, lemonade, or sweetened Starbucks treats. Avoid sweetened products like flavored coffee creamers, ketchup, barbecue sauce, salad dressings with added sugar, peanut butter, spaghetti sauces made with sugar, etc. – this requires nutrition label inspection: look not only for grams of sugar, but also at the ingredients list.  Watch out for the many different ways that food manufacturers will try to hide their sugar in the ingredients by calling it other things (like cane syrup, maltose, or matodextrin, for example). Case in point: Kashi Go Lean cereal, now renamed as Kashi Go Original (aka Kashi Go Rise), is branded as one of the healthiest breakfast cereals you can buy. Yet sugar is listed as ingredients number 3 and 4 on the list (but disguised as “honey,” which sounds natural so it must be healthy, and “cane syrup” which is actually SUGAR CANE syrup rebranded to sound innocuous):


Avoid dried fruit (like raisins, apricots, and especially cranberries which are soaked in sugar to make the sour fruit tolerable)-although dried fruit is fruit, it concentrates the sugars and you usually eat a lot more than you would if it were fresh fruit. Avoid fruit juice, too, which is just the sugar taken out of the fruit (discarding all the healthy fiber you would’ve gotten if you had eaten the whole fruit). Minute Maid 100% apple juice has more sugar than Coca-Cola.

As far as refined grains go, this mostly refers to foods made with flour, like bread (yes including sprouted or whole grain bread), crackers, cereal, pasta, breaded fish/chicken/veggies (tempura, fried chicken or fish, etc), pancakes/waffles, biscuits, pretzels, tortillas or tortilla chips, Doritos, etc. White rice is also a refined grain, so I’d suggest limiting that, too, and favoring brown or wild rice instead. Highly processed carbohydrates also includes things like snack bars that claim to be healthy (hello, Lara or Kind bars) but which often concentrate dried fruits into a deliciously sweet treat even when they aren’t adding something like chocolate or sugar, and potato chips and French fries, because even if they were not technically made from flour, you’ve removed the fiber- and vitamin-containing skin and deep fried the starch in fat and salt to make a wholesome potato into something much more crave-worthy.

The reasons why I recommend avoiding these foods (a way of eating that I simplify down to  “No Sugar No Flour,” or NSNF) are myriad, but the two main ones are that they highly rewarding to the brain and light up our brain’s addiction center in the same way that cocaine does, forming habit eating and leading to overeating, and that as high glycemic load foods, they increase insulin secretion (which is a fat storage hormone and a stimulant of the hunger signals in the brain). If you haven’t been following my blog for long, please do go back and read this post where I sum up many of the reasons why eating sugar and refined grains/highly  processed foods leads to overeating and rapid weight gain, and links to a few of my favorite books,  articles and videos (I promise you’ll find them entertaining and worthwhile!).

As far as the no-eating-after-8pm thing goes, there have been lots of scientific studies showing that the human body is much more insulin resistant at night and that eating your food earlier in the morning or midday causes weight loss compared to eating the exact same foods in the evening or at night. Also, eating within a few hours of bedtime impacts sleep architecture, and sleep quality is an important component of body weight regulation. So if you go to bed at 9pm, stop eating by 7:00.

Next week I’ll divulge exactly what I eat, which incorporates the above general advice but has a few more very specific nuances to it. And I’ll be honest – you all know that I sometimes Eat The Sugar even when I say it’s forbidden. I’ll get into that next week, too, and how I can continue to lose weight or maintain my weight loss even when I mess up and veer off track relatively frequently.

Project 135 stats:

Starting weight: 159.6
Week 1: 157.2
Week 2: 155.6
Week 3: 155.4
Week 4: 153.8
Week 5: 151.0
Week 6: 152.8
Week 7: ? (Dad’s death)
Week 8: 150.8
Week 9: 152.6
Week 10: 154.2
Week 11: 152.6
Week 12: 150.8
Week 13: 150.6
Week 14: 151.6
Week 15: 152.4
Week 16: 152.4
Week 17: 155.2 (sugar binges)
Week 18: 154.4
Week 19: 153.8
Week 20: 151.2
Week 21: 150.2
Week 22: 150.6
Week 23: 151.0
Week 24: 150.6
Week 25: 146.6
Week 26: 148.2 (Halloween candy)
Week 27: 146.8
Week 28: 146.6

Total weight loss: 13 pounds (8.1%)

Until next week, hope you have a safe and healthy COVID-19-free Thanksgiving!
Love, Jen




4 Responses

  1. Thanks for the valuable info Dr. Jen! I respect and value your advice so much because you are right there IN the fight with us all. Your strategies reflect that experience. For example, highlighting the addictive nature of sugar and flour as a key reason to avoid completely and not “dabble”, as I have done unsuccessfully for years. To me, cutting it out completely has been the best way to avoid feelings of deprivation because my brain simply isn’t begging for it. Anyway, thanks for dedicating your time and knowledge to this. I for one am grateful.

    1. Amy, thank you! ❤️ I am still falling prey to sugar’s seduction periodically and trying to navigate whether I can ever have a healthy relationship with it or not. My 2+ pound weight gain this week over Thanksgiving shows exactly what happens when i eat it in an uncontrolled way! I love the peace that settles into my brain after I abstain for a while, that’s for sure!

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