Sustainable Fat Loss Part 2: Six Principles for Lasting Fat Loss

Sometimes, all it takes is one light-bulb moment. Photo by Emmet on

Alright, here’s the challenge: create sustainable, effective, enjoyable fat loss for virtually any reader in no more than 3 articles. Contact me here with any complaints or questions. (Article 1 can be found here.) This is article 2 of 3.

Last post, we focused on the importance of neurotransmitters and mood support so as to mitigate emotional eating. We went over interventions like sunlight exposure, caffeine, and certain amino acids, to boost mood and reduce appetite.

Today’s article is about the general philosophy behind sustainable fat loss (in contrast with rapid fat loss or crash diets.)

People (my previous self included) seem to have the idea that for some reason, they can’t lose weight. That the laws of thermodynamics don’t apply to them.

They have this irrational, sneaking suspicion that somehow weight loss just “won’t work for them” because somehow their body is the “exception to the rule.” (I know it doesn’t make logical sense, but this is exactly how I felt.)

I had to challenge this belief and prove myself wrong. So, I decided to undertake a 30-day experiment to lose as much fat as possible, as quickly as possible. (Read about it here.)

Using a strict diet and fairly aggressive fasting, I lost about 10 lbs in a month and continued to lose weight over the next couple of weeks.

(I guarantee you, if you fast long and hard enough – if you just stop eating – you’ll eventually lose fat too.)

Yes, I proved that I could in fact lose weight.

And I admit – the benefit to rapid fat loss was that I felt empowered.

(Sometimes, an aggressive and rapid start is actually a great way for people to motivate themselves. They get a dopamine boost out of seeing the scale number go down, which causes them to “buy in” and keep going.)

That’s sort of how I felt one week in. My rapid results motivated me hard to keep up the process for 30 days and make some real progress. And I loved the difference in how I looked.

Here’s the catch: I eventually stopped the experiment and went back to real life.

And eventually – slowly – I gained the weight back.


After a while, I realized that I’d ultimately need to change my approach; change my way of thinking, to allow for sustainable fat loss.

And the mindset behind sustainable fat loss is vastly different than that of a 30-day rapid fat-loss challenge.

So, for lasting, enjoyable fat loss, I’d like to present six extremely useful principles to keep in mind.

To cue up principle number one, I’m going to pose a question:

What’s the single most important factor in long-term weight loss success?

Take a guess.


The single most important factor is that you find something you can stick to.

(It will not matter if you’re in a calorie deficit, or you’re following the perfect diet, or doing the perfect exercises – if it’s so grueling that you can only manage to stick with it for a little bit.)

Which brings us to our first point:

1. If this is just something you’re “doing right now,” the weight will come back.

You need an approach that you can personally do forever. Yeah. Which implies: you have to enjoy the process you’re following. Find a way of doing this that you like, that isn’t too difficult, that you can do indefinitely.

The number one priority: find something you can personally stick to.

2. Focus on ADDING IN nutritious food and healthy habits, rather than limiting yourself.

Instead of removing certain foods, allow yourself to eat anything. But focus on adding in healthy foods (and prioritize getting in lots of them, before you eat other options).

Similarly, focus on adding in healthy habits, one at a time. For example – you could try to add in one delicious salad (or serving of your favorite vegetables) a day, and make it a personally important ritual. A habit like that seems small, but is extremely powerful.

3. “Imperfect Consistency” is key.

Sustainable fat loss is not about having the perfect plan. It’s not about eating perfect foods. It’s not about having perfect meals with zero treats, or forgoing salad dressing on your vegetables (I’ve done that!). It’s not even about being consistent all the time.

It’s about being able stick with something (imperfectly), over the long run. If you can follow the advice I will give in the next article just pretty consistently – even just 50% of the time – you will lose weight.

Please, do not do everything “perfectly.” Just try to be somewhat consistent and roughly stick with it. Dial it up or down as needed. Find what works for you, that you can do, in an ongoing fashion. Fudge it if you need to. If necessary, find even just one piece of advice you can take away and implement in an ongoing fashion.

Do your best, dial it way back when needed, be imperfect. But stick with it over the long run.

4. You win when you follow the process, not when you lose the weight.

One more time:

You win when you follow the process, not when you lose the weight.

People often like to lose weight to look better, to feel sexier. You know what’s sexy? Great self-care. Taking good care of your body. Each and every time you eat a healthy meal, that’s a victory. That’s when you get your dopamine hit. Also, since permanent fat loss takes longer than rapid fat loss techniques, trying to get that dopamine hit from looking at the scale is a fool’s errand.

Sustainable fat loss comes at a price: it’s slow. But on the other hand: it works. It’s enjoyable. It’s permanent. So forget about linking your feelings of encouragement to a scale. Get encouraged each time you eat healthy food. Get encouraged each time you buy healthy food.

In other words: be “process oriented,” not “outcome oriented,” as I describe here. I’ve already improved and dialed-in the process for you; all you’ve gotta do is associate pleasure with following it. And once your body associates pleasure with eating the right types of foods – once you have a “Pavlovian response” to healthy choices – you have effectively automated your fat loss.The second you actually associate pleasure with the strategies we’ll describe, the second they become enjoyable habitsthat’s when weight loss inevitable.

Soon, you’ll get to that point where you get a massive dopamine rush just from making healthier choices, from eating certain foods, from grocery shopping, from following the process well.

And THAT is when you’re unstoppable.

5. Try what I say, but ultimately, do what works for you.

Okay, look – I’ll makes some excellent suggestions on what I believe to be the best strategies for lasting fat loss for most people. I think you should give them a try.

But at the end of the day, you’ve gotta do what works for you. If you find that you have to tweak what I say – or if you find something else entirely that works for you – then do that. Do what feels good and works.

But remember: you’ve gotta be able to do it – “imperfectly consistently” – forever.

6. Prioritize self-care above all else.

As I alluded to earlier, lasting fat loss is about taking care of your body. It’s about self care; being kind to yourself. Eating lots of unhealthy, refined foods and consuming too many calories in general is not being kind to yourself. (I’ve this referred to as “energy toxicity” – it’s very hard on your body. It increases your risk of all-cause mortality.) Please don’t do that. But also: eating in a super constricted fashion and feeling miserable all the time isn’t self care either, that’s just self-torture.

Please don’t do that either. Be good to yourself. Lose weight as part of your self care. And you know what? Don’t take it too seriously or stress out about it too much – remember, you’re ultimately just doing this to be kind to your body. Relax and enjoy.

So from now on, be the type of person who takes good care of your body.

(And as a friendly reminder from last article: getting good sleep, keeping up your exposure to daylight, getting some protein and some movement in – all just to improve your mood – are also all great forms of self-care.)

Excellent. You’re now ready for the specifics. Keep everything I mentioned here top of mind as we go forward.

Published by Dolan

Relentless self-optimizer, biohacker, traveler, reader.

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