If you want to lose weight in a (very healthy!) hurry, here’s an amazing trend to try: Simply eat veggies, high-quality protein, and good-for-you fats before anything else. “You don’t have to stress about calories or being hungry — and no food is ‘bad’ or off-limits. Just eat the good stuff first,” says The Setpoint Diet ($17.70, Amazon) author Jonathan Bailor, who’s helped hundreds of thousands of folks slim down while reversing diabetes, low energy and hormonal issues. “People are always incredibly surprised, but once you eat enough of the right things, your brain and hormones take over to get you lean automatically.” Readers back him up, telling us they’ve used this way of eating to drop up to 16 pounds in a single week. Wow!
Bailor’s guidelines may sound too simple to work, but consider this: A University of Florida review of 87 studies found that dieters who eat mostly high-quality foods lose far more weight than those who eat lower-quality fare. And a Harvard team determined that focusing on quality is more effective than counting calories at reducing belly fat and other risk factors of diabetes. UCLA’s Theodoros Keleidis, MD, PhD, an NIH researcher and fan of Bailor’s plan, says, “I am often asked if there is a proven prescription for weight loss. This is that prescription.”
It certainly worked wonders for Jean Simmons, 80. In under five months, she went from a size 20 to a size 10— and was able to move out of a nursing home. Notes Bailor: “I want people to know that the more high-quality food you eat, the higher your quality of life will be.”
Get Lean Automatically
As a young health coach, Bailor used to recommend cutting calories. “But people tried so hard for little or no results,” he recalls. Looking for a better way, he read more than 1,300 studies and grilled countless scientists.
Ultimately, he learned we each have a “setpoint”—a narrow weight range “that the body fights to maintain no matter how much we eat,” he explains. In a famous eight-week Mayo Clinic study, volunteers were overfed by 56,000 calories each. Some put on about nine pounds, but others gained virtually none. “Those with lower setpoints automatically burned nearly 56,000 extra calories,” notes Bailor, who experimented to find the easiest setpoint-lowering techniques.
“A diet full of nonstarchy vegetables — about 10 or more servings a day — plus plenty of high-quality proteins and whole-food fats is all it takes.” How does this lower your setpoint exactly? Bailor’s guidelines load you up on so many nutrients that steady blood sugar and ease inflammation (like fiber, protein, antioxidants, and good fats) that you begin to want fewer foods that spike blood sugar and inflammation (like sugar, grains, and processed food). This has a huge impact on setpoint.
“Poorly controlled blood sugar causes a cascade of hormonal problems that trigger cravings, pack on belly fat, and drive setpoint up. Meanwhile, steadying blood sugar has the opposite effect,” Bailor notes. There’s also evidence that inflammation affects the brain in a way that raises setpoint. “University of Washington researchers found that eating antioxidant-rich veggies and omega-3–rich seafood relieves this inflammation, leading to a nice drop in setpoint. And bringing down brain inflammation improves overall well-being too.”
Real World Success Story
“Cutting calories made me cranky, but not slim,” recalls Texas mom Lavanya Challa, 37. Using Bailor’s techniques, “I got my servings of veggies, protein, and whole-fat foods. I was never hungry and found I stopped craving sugary stuff. The next thing I knew, my belly was four inches smaller!”
Then there’s Christine Biswabic, 51. At 270 pounds, “every diet I tried left me miserable,” recalls the Wisconsin mom. Then she heard Bailor speaking on a podcast about his revolutionary approach to weight-loss. “I started with just one thing: increasing my intake of vegetables. I added them to omelets and meatloaf, and found frozen cauliflower tots and zucchini noodles that I love.” As it felt easier, she worked in more protein and healthy fat. “There’s plenty I didn’t give up, like cheese and mashed potatoes. I just eat a lot less now because I fill up on the quality foods. I lost 104 pounds. I’m healthy and medication-free — and I did it without dieting!”
The Setpoint Diet Meal Plan — A Sample Day
The idea is to fill up on setpoint-lowering foods before you reach for anything else. Each day, aim for at least 10 fist-sized servings of non-starchy veggies, one to three servings of low-sugar fruit, three servings of protein (about 30 grams of protein each, such as five to six ounces of tuna or grass-fed beef), one to six servings of fats (opt for whole foods like avocados and nuts over oil), and an optional serving of dairy and/or beans. Increase veggie intake gradually to avoid digestive discomfort. As always, get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.
Breakfast: Breakfast Meatloaf: Mix 4 cups chopped veggies, 1⁄2 lb. turkey breakfast sausage, 1 lb. ground turkey, 3 eggs, and 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in loaf pan until cooked through, 55 to 65 minutes. Makes 4 servings.
Lunch: Sheet-Pan Fajitas: Toss 6 oz. chicken tenders, 2 sliced bell peppers, half a sliced onion, 1 tsp. olive oil, and 2 tsp. fajita seasoning together; bake on a sheet at 400° until cooked.
Snack: Super Veggie Smoothie: In blender, blitz 3⁄4 cup blueberries, 6 cups spinach, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. superfood green powder, and 1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon with any natural zero-calorie sweetener and ice to taste.
Dinner: Quick Teriyaki Bake: Enjoy a salmon fillet and 2 cups veggies with sugar-free teriyaki sauce. For dessert, top 1⁄2 cup berries with 1⁄4 cup mascarpone cream and a natural zero-calorie sweetener.
Bonus Recipe: Easy Cauliflower Tot Casserole
This veggie-packed hot dish is as healthy as it is delicious!
- 11⁄2 lbs. lean ground beef
- 1 pkg. taco seasoning, such as Ortega
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1⁄2 cup pitted ripe olives
- 1 cup light Mexican-blend shredded cheese
- 1 (16 oz.) pkg. cauliflower tots, such as Green Giant
- Pre-heat oven to 425°. Brown ground beef in large skillet and drain.
- Stir in seasoning and 3⁄4 cup water; simmer 10 minutes and spoon into 2-qt. baking dish.
- Top with tomatoes, olives, then cheese. Evenly arrange tots on top. Bake 20 minutes or until tots are golden brown.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.
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