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The Key to Automatic Weight Loss!

The Key to Automatic Weight Loss!

Why Are We Fat? Is It Gluttony, or Is Your Fat Actually Hungry?

What if everything you ever learned about weight loss was wrong? What if losing weight has nothing to do with calories—counting them or cutting them out by sheer willpower? What if, in fact, most health professionals (including doctors and dietitians), our own government and especially the food industry are giving us weight loss advice guaranteed to make us fat?

Here’s their mantra: “Eat less and exercise more. The secret to weight loss is energy balance. There are no good or bad calories. It’s all about moderation.”

If you doubt that this advice could be wrong, just look around. We have tripled our obesity rates since 1960, and in the last decade, cases of type 2 diabetes in children have increased by over 30 percent. In 1980, there were no children with type 2 diabetes (formerly known as adult onset diabetes), and now, there are over 50,000. Seven out of ten Americans are overweight. The advice is not working. Could it be the wrong advice?

Nobody wakes up in the morning saying, “Hey, I want to gain weight today. I am going to overeat. I want to be fat.”

Rather, we have a $60 billion weight loss industry. It specializes in helping people count calories, eat less and exercise more. When are we going to realize that that our approach—as a scientific community and as policy makers—is failing miserably at stemming the tsunami of obesity and related health, social and economic costs?

Could it be we have it all wrong? Could it be the world is round, not flat, even though it looks flat, just as it seems that if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight?

The answer is yes. Our focus on calories has missed the mark entirely. Even if you held the Guinness world record for calorie counting, you could easily be off by 100 calories a day. Do that for 30 years, and you will be 20 to 30 pounds overweight.

The End of Counting Calories

David Ludwig and Mark Epstein published the most important scientific paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association since the Watson and Cricks paper on DNA in 1953, which changed our whole way of thinking about genes. They also explained their findings in the New York Times piece, “Always Hungry? Here’s Why.

It’s not that Isaac Newton and his first law of thermodynamics was wrong. It’s right—energy is conserved in a system. This is the whole foundation of our calories in/calories out, energy balance concept of weight loss. Just eat less and exercise more, and all the pounds will melt off.

But there is one fatal flaw in that thinking. The law states that energy is conserved in a “system.” It is true that, in a vacuum, all calories are the same. A thousand calories of Coke and a thousand calories of broccoli burned in a laboratory will release the same amount of energy.

But all bets are off when you eat the Coke or the broccoli. These foods have to be processed by your metabolism (not a closed system). Coke and broccoli trigger very different biochemical responses in the body—different hormones, neurotransmitters and immune messengers.

The Coke will spike blood sugar and insulin and disrupt neurotransmitters, leading to increased hunger and fat storage, while the thousand calories of broccoli will balance blood sugar and make you feel full, cut your appetite and increase fat burning.

Same calories—profoundly different effects on your body.

Is Your Fat Hungry?

Dr. Ludwig, for the first time, explains why. It’s not overeating that makes you fat. It’s being fat that makes you overeat. Once you start to consume refined carbs, such as bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and any form of sugar, you start making a certain kind of fat cells called VAT or visceral adipose tissue.

This is no ordinary fat. It is super fat. Hungry fat. Dangerous fat. This fat starts an inexorable cascade that leads to obesity. It’s like falling down an icy slope where it’s almost impossible to stop yourself. You need a big ice axe and crampons. We ordinary mortals are no match for this hungry fat.

Here’s what happens.

Those hungry fat cells suck up all the available fuel in your blood stream (glucose, fats, ketones). Your body then thinks, “Oh, my god, I am starving. I better eat more and slow my metabolism, so I don’t die.” The problem is, anything you eat gets sucked up into those fat cells around your belly, leading to a vicious cycle of hunger, overeating, fat storage and a slowing down of your metabolism. No wonder we gain weight and can’t lose it.

The key trigger for all this is a simple common hormone that we all need (but not too much of).


If we make too much insulin, it drives the fuel in our blood into our fat cells. Too much insulin also does a lot of other bad things like cause heart attacks, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia.

When it comes to causing spikes of insulin that start this miserable chain reaction, not all calories are created equally. Sugar and refined carb calories are the culprits. Americans eat, on average, about 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour a year (almost a pound of sugar and flour per person per day!). These are actually pharmacologic doses of sugar and flour!

Eat More Calories, Weigh Less?

There are many studies showing just how different sugar and fat calories are. Most scientists still hold on to the dogma that fat makes you fat, that fat causes high cholesterol and that low fat is the way to go to live a long healthy life. Plenty of evidence proves otherwise. What if the fact that this conventional wisdom is completely wrong is what has actually caused our obesity epidemic?

Dr. Ludwig points to studies in which all calories are held to be equal, but those participants kept on a low sugar and refined carb diet burned 325 more calories a day than those eating a low fat diet. Bottom line: Eating a high carb, low fat diet slows down your metabolism.

Most striking was an animal study (and yes, we are not animals but the results are still very impressive). The study found that animals eating a low fat diet put on 70 percent more body fat even while eating fewer calories than animals eating a low carb diet.

Let me say this again. Animals eating a low fat diet and fewer calories got fatter than those eating more calories and a low sugar and carb diet—70 percent fatter.

If you restrict your calories, you will end up triggering very ancient biological adaptions that protect us from starvation. You will slow your metabolism and get a lot hungrier.

You can’t voluntarily control your weight over the long term. Willpower is no match for these ancient programmed hormones that make sure you don’t starve to death.

The Key to Automatic Weight Loss

Dr. Ludwig proposes a novel, radical but scientifically true way to solve the obesity epidemic once and for all.

Don’t worry about how much you eat, because you will never be able to control that. Rather, focus on what you eat, the quality of the food you eat, the composition of the food you eat (high in fiber, good quality protein and fat, low in starch and sugar). Then, you won’t be hungry and will shift from fat storage to fat burning. And you will prevent most chronic disease including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia.

10 Take Home Lessons: Forget the Calories, Focus on the Quality of Your Diet

Here are the take home lessons from Dr. Ludwig’s paper:

  1. Overeating doesn’t make you fat. Your fat cells make you overeat.
  2. You make hungry fats cells by eating sugar and refined carbs.
  3. Restricting your calories will slow your metabolism, make you hungry and guarantee that your weight loss attempts will fail.
  4. Eating a higher fat, higher protein, lower sugar and refined carb diet will speed up your metabolism and cut your hunger.
  5. Controlling what you eat is much easier than controlling how much you eat.
  6. Forget calorie counting. It’s not about the calories but about diet quality and dietary composition. Just try eating 1,000 calories of broccoli.
  7. End our scientifically outdated position that all calories are equal and weight loss is simply a matter of eating fewer calories than you burn.
  8. Lower insulin by a sugar detox, and watch your body lose weight effortlessly without hunger or cravings.
  9. To learn more, watch the movie Fed Up or read The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet (a medically designed program to cut insulin and detox from sugar and refined carbs).
  10. Stop blaming yourself for lack of willpower, and start empowering yourself by eating real, whole, fresh food that’s low in sugar and starch.

Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman MD is the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

Comments (32)

  • Wow! What freedom the concepts in this article will bring people! I have been 30 – 60 lbs overweight my whole life and I have tried everything,,,until recently. Once I got into natural health, I knew instinctively that releasing weight for good meant NOT counting calories and using willpower. I started to focus on what I ate. That helped a little, but it wasn’t until I cut out sugar a couple weeks ago that I realize what that drug was doing to my body.

    Thanks for all you do, Dr. Hyman!

    • without a doubt..cutting all refined carbs and sugar was and still is the only way i lose weight..ive tried everything and in 2012 i cut sugar bread pasta pizza cake everything out of my diet and ate oats chickpeas bananas low sugar fruits like berries and apples..lots of green veg and no hidden sugars in yoghurts alcohol..i eat good fats and oils..i went absolutely super strict but upped ,my lean protein and fish..and im now 4 stone lighter look younger have more energy…ive slipped off the wagon a few times in 3 years…its inevitable and i let sugar creep back in and yep the weight crept back on…as soon as i knock it on the head it falls off again..its the only way for me..for life

  • Great article! Its just what i needed to read. My question is when cutting out sugar, what sugar substitutes (natural or otherwise) is appropriate? (Honey, maple syrup, stevia, NutraSweet, etc.)

    • Hi Derek, the idea is to avoid sugar not to replace it with something else. Use sugar as a drug – in very small doses. And all sugar is the same. If you have to ask “is ______ OK?” It isn’t.

      Artificial sweeteners should be avoided is an article with more information on the topic.

  • Interesting I have Dr Hyman’s book Blood Sugar Solution from my nutritionist to read and am learning a lot I’ve already lost over 10 pounds and am eating better and feel so much better. Thank you for all your suggestions so far. I have been a type II diabetic for several years and haven’t felt this good in a long time.

  • My husband and I just finished “The Blood Sugar Solution 10 Day Detox Diet” last week and are using the maintenance recipes now. WOW! I truly am not hungry! Before, I would sometimes feel like my stomach was gnawing on my ribs. My hunger pains would be bad. I have been150 lbs overweight for 20 + years. Never could lose weight even when working out 3 to 5 times a week and eating very little. I have lost 15 lbs and feel very satisfied. The recipes are great. The kids are even starting to say “I want to be on your diet today, mom.” 🙂

    Thanks Dr. Hyman

  • 100 years ago, sugar was blamed for diabetes. We have come full circle as we denied sugar caused it and now admit it plays some role in CAUSING diabetes. Sugar is not poison, it is worse.

  • I can testify to this being true. I have battled my weight my whole life. I wish I had known this years ago, when I was yo-yoing up and down the scale. I have lost over 80 pounds in the past year and have maintained that weight loss with no effort at all by cutting out all sugar and processed carbs from my diet. No flour, no sugar, no potatoes, no rice, no pasta, no bread, etc. I do not limit how much I eat, except to eat only when I am hungry and to stop eating when I feel satisfied. This has become a way of life for me and I no longer struggle with having to have will power to fight cravings. I also don’t obsess with the scale any more. I weigh every few weeks and am always happy to see that I am maintaining my weight (something I have not been able to do all of my life….I was always either going up or down the scale, depending on whether I was “dieting” or not). Yesterday I weighed and was down a couple of pounds…my lowest weight this year. I do still want to lose more weight, but again, I am not obsessed or worried about it. I feel so much better, more energy, no hunger or cravings. Like I said before, I only wish I had known to do this years ago. Buy hey….better late than never, right?

  • Yes, I remember years ago when I was a child many called diabetes “sugar”. That is how they referred to the disease; so, I have always been under the impression that sugar causes diabetes. Interesting to hear that new “news” is old.

  • What are your thoughts on fruit sugars? I eat largely wet and dried fruits through out the day after I’ve had my morning freshly made juice or hemp smoothie (hemp seeds, bananas, dates and water). I also add green powder supplements to my juice and B12 and Vitamin D. I add D because I was a bit low in that last blood test, and B12 because I’m raw vegan. Towards the later half of the day I usually have some nuts or seeds with a fresh salad that has lots of greens, veggies, and sprouts in it. Once in a blue I will have a baked yam or some brown rice, or quinoa with my salads. I’ve been eating this way for the last 9 years. I’m 47 years old, athletic, have no health challenges, don’t use any medications, and have painless, short and light menstrual cycles.

    • Hi Aida,
      Thank you for your interest In Dr. Hyman’s work. Unfortunately he cannot provide you personalized medical advice in this forum. In order to provide you the proper care you need we hope you will seek the attention of a local qualified Functional Med practitioner soon. To locate a doctor near you who practices functional medicine like Dr. Hyman, go to and scroll down to where it says “locate a practitioner” and enter your location. Progress accordingly from there.

      You can also make an appointment to be a patient at Dr.Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, MA. Please go to:
      Wishing you the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff

  • Nice article but I’m confused on one point: how are potatoes and rice refined carbs? Especially potatoes, they are the opposite of refined…

    • Hi Anna, great question and I understand your confusion! Rice is supposed to be good for us, right? White rice (rice that has had its husk, germ and bran removed), potato products and other refined carbs are stripped down from their whole form through processing down to the easily digestible (fast) carbohydrates raising the glycemic level and spiking blood sugar. Unrefined carbs such as fruits, vegetables, legumes etc. take longer to digest and provide a slower energy source.

  • I’ve been sugar, dairy and wheat free for one year, my health is better, but my cholesterol is raising, now is 258. I am 68 years old, what do you think about this? Thank you

  • Glad to see this again. Gary Taubes said all this in his “Good Calories Bad Calories” book, as well as his “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It.”

  • I agree that eating quality food and cutting out sugar and refined carbs will help weight loss. However, it is still possible to over eat and be unhealthy if you don’t eat a BALANCED DIET and get EXERCISE. Being skinny doesn’t nessesarily mean you are healthy. Eating the right amounts of quality foods is still important. And excercising the body is too.

  • I read the Blood Sugar Solution 2 months ago, followed the advice and have lost 15 pounds, feel great. I do feel hungry but is a different kind of hunger. It is without the cravings so I can control what I eat. Since I started the Blood Sugar Solution I have not cheated, I have being able to stare “French fries” in the face and not put one in my mouth, I have given everyone ice cream and I did not feel I had to eat it also. I feel it is a miracle since my former diet was directed by my cravings, specially bread, I was so addicted to it.
    Thank you Dr. Hyman

  • I fell right into the bad advice from the 80’s and 90’s. The combination of lowfat craze mixed with thyroid problems equaled a 75 lb. gain. I like this article because it addresses the issue of how the excess fat causes the sugar craving. When I do well, eating fruits, veggies, lean protein, I feel so much better but it’s no time before the cravings for sugar, chocolate, and refined products overtake me. It’s an uncontrollable reality. I’m diabetic now and know I need to get this under control but even after reading Hyman’s books and other like minded experts, I really have a battle with this.

  • What is the three letter supplement mentioned on the 10-day detox tv program that helps with weight loss?Something like gmx.

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  • Hi Dr. Hyman,

    I have read your full article it’s amazing. Awesome tips for losing weight. I’ll definitely follow your advice.

    Thanks for your great article……

  • Hey, Mark well said that “Eat less and exercise more. The secret to weight loss is energy balance”. However, whenever we are going to follow this process of losing weight at that time our body gets too weak just because of low nutrition supplements. So, I am in confusion that how can we manage the nutritions in our body during a diet. Thank you!

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  • I have been up and down in my weight, always being 20-30 lbs over my ideal weight, and now I’m the heaviest I’ve been. However, I’m in college, and on a meal plan that is prepared by other individuals and only the opportunity to eat twice a day. By the time I want to settle down and watch TV, I’m starving and my boredom cravings creep in and they’re almost impossible to resist given my stomach feels like it’s imploding. The last time I focused on eating healthy instead of counting calories, I ended up still being unable to lose weight and I was told that is because even though I eat healthy, I still eat too much and am not at a calorie deficit. BUT IF I DONT EAT ENOUGH I’M HUNGRY. Where is that happy medium?

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