Consistent with the scientific literature and a number of previous reader anecdotes (2), Sarah experienced a reduction in appetite on the simple food diet, losing 15 pounds in 6 weeks without hunger. In contrast to her prior experiences with typical calorie restriction, her energy level and mood remained high over this period. Here's a quote from her blog:
Well, it looks like the theory that in the absence of nice palatable food, the body will turn quite readily to fat stores and start munching them up, is holding up. At the moment, the majority of the energy I use is coming from my insides, and my body is using it without such quibbles as the increased hunger, low energy, crappy thermo-regulation or bitchiness normally associated with severe calorie restriction.I can't promise that everyone will experience results like this, but this is basically what the food reward hypothesis suggests should be possible, and it seems to work this way for many people. That's one of the reasons why this idea interests me so much.
By the end of the six-week period, Sarah was frustrated to find that her performance on strength training exercises began to decline in the gym. This was probably in part due to a small loss of muscle mass that is a normal part of fat loss. Although it can be minimized by eating enough protein, muscle loss is a normal part of fat loss, just as overfeeding causes some muscle gain in addition to fat gain (3). This process can be reversed by taking up strength training, but in Sarah's case, she was already strength training to begin with. The other reason her performance decreased may have to do with the fact that her appetite and calorie intake declined substantially, but her athletic lifestyle continued, so she was no longer filling up her glycogen stores. This problem should eventually fix itself once enough weight is lost and appetite returns to a more typical level.
Sarah found the simple food regimen easy to stick to overall (although I think some people will go through a difficult adjustment period of 1-2 weeks), but faced some challenges due to the arrival of the holiday season and its glut of tasty food. The thing I like about simple food diets is that they offer the ability to cause fat loss in a way that works with the body, rather than against it. I feel that if properly applied, this technique should be more sustainable and require less willpower than typical calorie restriction, although to be clear, both strategies are capable of causing fat loss. However, there is no getting around the fact that eating this way requires some willpower. The easiest and most effective way to apply it is to limit exposure to highly palatable/rewarding foods, because having them around, smelling them or tasting them triggers cravings and a high likelihood of overconsumption. Constant exposure to these cues is one of the obstacles to applying a simple food diet in the modern US, and it is something I'm still thinking about how to address.
For those who would like a bit of guidance on how to implement a simple food diet, I published my ideas here:
Implementing a Simple Food Diet