Perfect Health Diet: Weight Loss Version

We started 2011 with a discussion of Experiences, Good and Bad, On the Diet; which led us into the issue of weight loss, especially for peri-menopausal and older women.

This is an especially poignant issue for erp, who is 76 years old and would like to lose weight for her upcoming knee replacement surgery, but cannot walk.

This is the toughest possible scenario for weight loss:

  • Whether for genetic (X vs Y chromosome) or hormonal reasons, women are more prone to putting on weight than men. (Men are more prone to diabetes.)
  • Hormonal changes after menopause seem to make it tougher for women to lose weight.
  • A petite woman doesn’t need as many calories as a larger person … but her micronutrient needs, and thus her appetite, may still be high.
  • Aging brings more efficient energy utilization and reduced energy expenditure. Thus, the elderly have a smaller energy “sink” in which to dispose of excess fat. A teenager can eat like a horse and stay thin; not so an older person.
  • An injury that prevents walking makes it even harder to burn off fat. Walking is a tremendous aid to fat loss.

Designing a weight loss diet for someone like erp really forces a hard look at how to optimize a weight loss diet. Get it even a little bit wrong, and the diet either won’t work for weight loss, or will be malnourishing.

The Three Keys for Weight Loss

The three keys for an effective and healthy weight loss diet, as I see it, are:

  1. Elimination of food toxins. Food toxins are the primary cause of obesity and you can’t expect to cure a condition by causing it!
  2. Perfect nourishment. The diet should be as nourishing as possible. The dieter should be in the “plateau range” of every nutrient – vitamins, minerals, organic molecules, carbs, protein, and fats.
  3. Calorie restriction. You have to be in energy deficit to lose weight.

The main food toxins to avoid are fructose, polyunsaturated fat, and wheat (see Why We Get Fat: Food Toxins). In my advice to erp, I suggested replacing some of her fruit with “safe starches” like potatoes, and replacing her PUFA-containing nuts with low-PUFA macadamia nuts or other foods.

But the harder part is achieving a calorie restricted diet when so few calories are being expended, and yet avoiding malnutrition. How may that be done?

Eat Protein and Carbs; Reduce Fat

This may surprise many readers, since we’re fat-friendly, but there should be no reduction in carb or protein consumption on weight loss diets. Calorie restriction should come out of fat.

The Perfect Health Diet “plateau range” for carbs and protein is 600 to 1200 calories. Eating less than 600 combined carb+protein calories per day raises the specter of either protein deficiency (leading to hunger) or glucose deficiency (leading to zero-carb dangers).

So if a typical daily intake is 400 carb calories and 300 protein calories, there’s really not much room to cut protein or carbs.

Remember that the body doesn’t have a significant store of carbs; the body’s total glycogen supply amounts to about a day’s needs. Nor does it have a store of protein, apart from skeletal muscle; and you don’t want to lose your muscle.

But it does have a large store of fat – those adipose cells that you want to shrink.

So to conserve muscle and reduce fat tissue, you have to eat your normal allotment of protein and carbs while restricting fat intake. As long as there is no serious dysfunction of adipose cells, they will release fat as needed to meet the body’s fat needs. And that’s what you want – fat being moved out of adipose cells to be burned.

So your calorie-restricted weight loss diet will be just as nourishing as your regular diet. Only the source of the nourishing fats – adipose cells instead of food – will be different.

Eat Nourishing Fats

But not all fat can be removed from the diet. The reason is that not all nutrients found in fat-containing foods are stored in adipose cells.

You see, fats are stored in adipose cells as triglycerides. But we need to get other lipid molecules, not just fatty acids, from food. The really crucial molecules are the phospholipids, especially phosphatidylcholine.

Choline, inositol, and a few others are organic molecules are bonded to fats in cellular membranes. We need to obtain these from our foods in order to be well nourished.

Diets low in choline strongly promote obesity. Therefore, anyone seeking to lose weight should be sure to eat a choline-rich diet.

The easiest way to do that is to eat 3 eggs a day and a ¼ pound beef liver once a week.

Another type of lipid that may be missing from adipose cells are omega-3 fats. Balancing the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is helpful against obesity, and most people are omega-3 deficient. So eating up to 1 pound of salmon or sardines per week may assist weight loss.

Beef and lamb – meats that are low in omega-6 fats – would be good choices for any additional meat.

Be Super-Nourished

The body’s appetite regulation mechanisms are highly attuned to your micronutrient needs. Micronutrient deficiencies will tend to induce a strong appetite for food, as your body tries to get you to obtain more nutrition. This could be a major reason why “empty calories” such as cotton candy are fattening.

Our book has some examples of “micronutritious foods”: variety meats, bone soups, seaweed, shellfish, eggs, and vegetables.

Nutritious, low-calorie foods like bone soups can be very helpful for weight loss. Soups can also be a good way for someone who doesn’t like vegetables to obtain them.

In addition, I would recommend that every person on a weight-loss diet take our full supplement regimen: a daily multivitamin, D, K2, C, magnesium, copper, chromium, iodine, and selenium. Also, I would suggest taking our optional B vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and choline (note the exclusion of niacin and folic acid).

Keeping Calories Down

What is the minimum calorie intake that meets all these nutrient considerations?  Eggs, salmon, and beef have more fat than protein, so if you’re aiming for 400 carb calories and 300 protein calories, you’ll probably eat at least 500 fat calories per day. So it would seem to be impossible to go below about 1200 calories per day while still being well nourished.

The place to cut calories, then, is the extra fats. Perfect Health Diet favorites like butter, coconut oil, and cream are, sadly, top candidates for reduction.

Of course, the more active you are, the more you can include those fats.

For less active people, the Weight Loss Version of the Perfect Health Diet becomes similar to a lot of popular diets. Many diets recommend a roughly even calorie distribution, with 30-40% of carbs, protein, and fats. This is what a calorie-restricted version of the Perfect Health Diet should look like too.

So, the perfect day in a weight loss diet: soup, potatoes or other safe starch, salmon, eggs, vegetables. Not too much fat in the sauces!

A good meal might look like this:

Mash the sweet potato with eggs instead of butter, and this would fit our weight loss recipe.


It’s a little humbling that I’ve started 2011 with 5 posts on the subject of healthy weight loss, but have only scratched the surface of this complex topic.

For instance: In the book we used the rubric “metabolic damage” to describe the biological dysfunction associated with obesity. But we never really chased the complex biology of exactly that damage consists of – and how it can best be healed.

Today, I’ve presented what I believe is the best strategy for healthy weight loss. But other techniques – such as ketogenic dieting, intermittent fasting, exercise, and more – can contribute to healing the metabolic damage of obesity. As 2011 goes on, I’ll return to this topic.

I am intensely interested in the experiences of anyone trying to lose weight using our diet, and I hope that together, we can understand the disease of obesity better, and figure out good ways to achieve both healthy weight loss and a permanent recovery from metabolic damage of all kinds. So please, if you are trying to lose weight, keep me posted on your experiences, whatever they may be!

Related Posts

From 2011:

From 2010:

Leave a comment ?


  1. Hi Paul,

    I am really enjoying your book and website. Thanks for all the great work!

    I am a physician myself and very interested in nutrition. I generally try to eat healthy but I have not been exercising much and I have been baking cookies too often. Not to mention plenty of bread and pasta.

    I am starting a diet based on your PHD and thought I would add mine to your list of feedback.

    I have about 10 pounds to lose. I’m 39. I started yesterday with a fast (36h, til this morning). I broke the fast with a cup of kefir from our local Amish farmer. Then I had a potato/spinach/egg stir fry (in coconut oil and butter). I then had a piece of macadamia nut milk chocolate (21g sugar).

    All day I had uncomfortable and unusual stomach gas pains and a headache. I’m not sure why. I skipped lunch and had stir fry rice for dinner with veggies and liver. I did take all your recommended supplements with dinner. No dessert. I did go for a quick jog before dinner (about 15 minutes).

    My plan is to try to eliminate/minimize gluten and PUFA and keep the daily sugar to 25g or less. I’ll follow the recommendations for salmon and liver, as well as supplements. And, I have been fasting for 18-20 hours a day and I plan to keep that up as well.

    If you don’t mind another set of posts, I’d like to periodically update you on my progress. And of course, any input would be most welcome.

    Thanks again for your work,


    • Hi Kate,

      Yes, please do keep us posted.

      I think it was quite ambitious to start with a 36 hour fast!

      I’m not sure I’d read too much into an initial reaction. Most likely what happened is that some gut microbes died during your fast, then when you ate a lot of fat, the dietary fat and recycled bile carried in fat-soluble lipopolysaccharides from the gut and you had a toxicity/immune reaction causing the headache.

      The gut barrier tightens on a high-fat diet to keep the influx of LPS at a normal level. This extra immune surveillance is good for you, it prevents infections from entering via the gut, but it takes a bit of time to adapt to the new diet.

      You’ll know better what’s going on in a little while.

      Best, Paul

  2. Hi,
    a question: if you are at your desired weight, how can you make the transition from the weight loss version to the normal PHD-diet?

  3. Paul,
    I just finished your book and loved it. Reading this article raised a few questions. In your book you state that coconut oil and saturated fats in general are slimming and promote leanness. In this article you recommend to cut them down. Also, in the book you seem to oppose caloric restriction but here promote it. Thanks for reading and I hope you can respond and clear up these questions for me. Thanks.

    • Hi Vlad,

      Coconut oil and saturated fats are slimming compared to polyunsaturated fats, but they’re not especially nourishing, and on calorie restricted diets you need to focus on being well nourished.

      Calorie restriction is necessary for weight loss, but in the book we note that it doesn’t need to be severe. Obese people who maintain normal activity levels burn more calories due to their extra weight. So it is not necessary to eat an abnormally small amount of food to lose weight.

      However, some people cannot be active. In this post, we considered the case of a 77 year old woman awaiting knee replacement surgery. In her case 1300 calories per day is barely calorie restricted; yet it is difficult to be well nourished on so few calories. Thus we have to focus on high nutrient density foods, which leaves out many fats.

      • Paul,
        Thank you for your reply. So you would not advise people, during weight loss efforts, to consume 2 teaspoons of coconut oil a day as in the study you cite in your book which had a slimming effect? Also, if this weight loss version is used to get to a desired healthy weight, should it be maintained for life or changed to align more with the book by consuming more fat? Finally, in order to cut fat would you recommend consumption of low-fat or fat reduced foods? Thanks again for your reply and your book, it’s by far my favorite nutrition book.

        • Hi,

          I love the PHD and your blog! Like Vlad, I’m also interested in losing weight. I’ve been gaining and losing the same five pounds for the past ten years. My weight simply refuses to drop below 210. (5’6″ female, 43 years old)

          For one year I’ve been eating strict paleo and just started the PHD about one month ago because the paleo was putting me into a depressive state. I must tell you that I feel SO much better including a sweet potato or white rice here and there. I have more energy and fewer mood swings. Unfortunately my weight has not shifted.

          Over the past two weeks I’ve included intermittent fasting (Fast 5) and my weight still remains at 210. I am beyond frustrated. The more I try to restrict the moodier I get.

          I’m curious to know if you recommend the coconut oil during the fasting phase or if it should be eliminated. Please advise, thank you so much!
          p.s. I LOVE fasting, my energy has improved and I can think more clearly. For exercise I take long walks and sometimes I life weights.

          • I think one spoon of coconut oil or MCT oil during the fast would be worth trying. This is the ShangriLa Diet idea.

            Don’t be frustrated, healing happens at different speeds for different disease factors, and obesity is a many-factorial disease. The key thing is to be taking forward steps that improve your health; eventually the weight will come off.

            How is your sleep? I would focus on circadian rhythm tactics for a bit, and nutrition. We have a list of supplemental foods and supplements. Try to become well nourished. We discuss both circadian rhythm tactics and nutrition in detail in the new book.

            The fact that you are doing well with fasting and that your mood has improved are both steps forward. Keep making improvements and the weight loss will come.

            Best, Paul

          • Dear Paul,

            Thank you for your response! You asked a great question with “How is your sleep?” The quality of my sleep is absolutely wretched. I have a lot of stress in my job and I wake up at 3 am stressing out about it. (I just resigned, so life is getting better!)

            When I started my fasting two weeks ago I started to sleep until 5 am, but would be wide awake until 6:30, then fall asleep again. Last night I took melatonin, woke at 4:30 am and felt groggy, then fell asleep again. I’d been wondering if my high weight was due to my stress and lack of sleep because I eat well.

            The supplements I take are Vit C, MSM, chromium, magnesium, (I’m also ordering B-complex, zinc – and your other recommendations from Amazon) I follow the PHD to the letter. My only “cheat” is popcorn at the movies sometimes… or soy sauce with my sushi.

            I can’t thank you enough for everything you do. I’m looking forward to the updated book and cookbook! XO

          • Hi jb,

            I just wrote out some circadian rhythm strategies for shannon:

            I would focus on improving sleep. I bet when your sleep improves your weight will come down.

            Best, Paul

          • Dear Paul,

            Thank you for your recommendations, I’m definitely going to focus on this now and I will keep you posted!

            kindest regards,

  4. How are erp and Jaybird doing? Those of us who are patiently awaiting your promised “revisit” in 2011 re: weight loss would really like to see more results. And not 10 or 15 lb losers, but serious numbers. How about it Paul?

  5. erp’s doing fine. My weight fluctuates a bit sometimes, but I weigh myself once a month and cut down on the cream if it’s gone up. Usually rights itself within a day or two. Secret I think is to not let the weight get beyond three or four pounds.

    Size 6 jeans still fit. Too 😎 for school c’est moi.

  6. Paul,
    I am a 20 year old female and recently broke my foot. I am interested in the weight loss version of the PHD to lose 10 – 15 lbs (especially after having gained the freshman fifteen earlier in the year at college, and even more so now that I have to be sedentary because of my foot). I consider my metabolism to be in pretty good condition. Would you still recommend that same daily fat intake restriction to someone of my age as you did for someone who is older?

  7. Two things, Paul — You said beef and lamb are low in omega 6 fats. Does that refer to the meat portion only, and only to pasture-raised animals? In other words, if they are not pasture raised, is the fat a bad thing to consume?
    Also, can I go on PHD (weight loss or otherwise) using the nutritional instructions but not fasting? Or does that affect one’s success?

    • Hi Kathy,

      All cows and sheep have tissues that are low in omega-6 fats. If farmers make them obese by feeding them soybean oil, then omega-6 fats will build up in their adipose tissue but not much in their lean tissue.

      So you can pretty much consume fatty meats from both conventional and pasture raised animals, but I would try to get tallow from pasture raised, and also organs and bones from pasture raised animals. With organs and bones the issue is not so much the fats as minerals, toxins, and fibrotic/inflammatory compounds.

      Yes, fasting is optional. If you don’t want to fast don’t do it. In general, listen to your body. You may find after doing PHD for a while that skipping a meal starts to happen naturally.

  8. I would try to get tallow from pasture raised

    Paul, does this also apply to dairy fats, like butter and cream? Does cultured make a difference too?


  9. This page is running WordPress. You can find it in the source:

    WordPress is a great blog platform, just make sure that you always run the latest version.

  10. Hi Paul,

    I am trying to make sense of the article on PHD for weight loss. My husband and I are both trying to drop some pounds with this approach, but so far, the scale is not moving for me. I am eating about 35% carbs, 25% protein, and 40% fat, with a total calorie intake of about 1600.

    Does this sound about right to you? Would you suggest further adjustments to this ratio?

    Also, I am finding that on some days, if I have had dairy, some fruit, some chocolate, I am already at my goal amount for carbs, without having had any of the safe starches you suggest. Should I still be eating the starches, which of course would then increase my total carb percentage for the day above my goal?

    Many, many thanks! Can’t wait to check out the new edition!

    • At 1600 calories per day, 35% carbs would equate to about 140g. even if you had 1 cup milk, 20g chocolate, 1 banana, and 1 cup of berries…. you are still only half way to your carb goals for the day. there’s still plenty of room for a couple of servings of sweet potato or white rice in your day’s meals.

      1 cup berries: 18g
      1 banana: 27g
      20g chocolate: 9g
      1 cup milk: 13g
      .5 cup white rice: 40g
      150g sweet potato: 35g

      plenty of milk, chocolate, fruit AND a couple of servings of safe starch and only 140g carbs, which equals 35% of 1600 calories

      • Hi Kevin,

        Reading what you wrote, got me thinking that I have been figuring my carb grams all wrong. I have been limiting my rice intake to 1/4 (uncooked) per day…rest veggies, protein ect…

        So I looked up 1cup cooked rice and got 45g of carbs…I have been having headaches that wont go away, and wonder if I am too low on carbs. 400 carb calories would be 2 cups of rice?

        In a typical day, I only have 1/2 cup cooked rice with no other starchy carbs. I do have veggies, but that’s about it. Avocado, almonds, brazil nuts, protein and coconut oil, maybe a bit of butter with the rice.

        • Hi Warren,

          One pound of cooked rice has about 500 calories, and is about the size of four fists. Maybe three if you have big fists.

          • Thank you for the reply Paul, that seems like a lot of rice to me, but as I said I have been having headaches, so will start upping the amounts and see how it goes.

            I found your site at the end of January and was 460 lbs, now am 410. Feel as if I have the diet part dialed in other than the headaches and other aches and pains at 50 years old.

            Thank you again!

      • Yes, thank you Kevin, for outlining this in this way. I suspect I was either calculating something incorrectly too, or I haven’t fully shaken prior approaches. I came to PHD from a Primal Fitness model, and was shooting for about 50g carbs per day, often getting less than that. I felt absolutely horrible on that low carb approach, but I wonder if eating 140g per day as I currently am is too much if hoping to drop a little weight.

    • Hi Monique,

      Those ratios are good, and so is the total calorie intake, but like Kevin I’m puzzled at how you get to 35% carbs on a small amount of dairy, fruit, and chocolate. As Kevin suggests, there’s a good chance you’re getting fewer carbs than you think.

      Starches are better for weight loss than sugars, so they’re the best source of carbs.

      I think you should strive to eat a pound of safe starches per day, preferably as white potatoes and sweet potatoes rather than rice, but rice is very convenient.

  11. OMG. Talk about a light bulb moment. I have read this page several times before even, but nothing clicked. But today, something definitely clicked. I have been primal since mid-March and weight loss crawled. About 19lbs. Prior to that, I lost about 8-10lbs per month for a total of about 60 and I am only half way there, so there is plenty left to lose. It has been driving me insane. I even cranked up the fat even higher! To about 75-80% sometimes. What an eye opener today has been. I had been fasting but ended my fast applying PHD principles for weight loss. I will give it ago for awhile and see what happens. It is like a huge weight has lifted off my shoulders. (Hopefully now it will lift off my ass & tummy too) Thank you!!

    • Hi Mel,

      Best of luck! Let us know how it goes. I think omega-6 minimization is key so reducing fat and adding some carbs can help with that too.

      • I know it has only been 2 days, but it has been exactly 2lbs in 2 days! I realize it might not all be fat, but I long ago cut things like sweets, breads, pastas, etc, so it is not bloat either and I normally IF anywhere from 16 – 24 hours, so it was not lingering bad stuff in my body. And that is 2 days of eating a baked potato each day! I havent eaten a potato in months and months! I was too afraid to!! I think for weight loss, this is definitely what I need to do. Once I move into maintenance, I can add fat back in and take a few carbs out. (right?) I know, read the book, which I am going to order today! I can’t thank you enough!!

        • Great! Keep us posted.

          I don’t think you want to take carbs out for maintenance. We’re trying to get you well nourished and there is an optimal amount of carbs which is the same on weight loss and maintenance diets. That’s our belief. But you will be able to add a bit of fat because you will no longer be restricting calories.

          • Thank you! I wont come back and bug you every day, but just wanted to say, another .9 today! So almost 3lbs in 3 days. And again, that is not wheat or excess sodium, etc. The bad stuff as long been gone. I did up my calories by 300 to 1600 yesterday. Thought it might good to keep it guessing, although I havent read that from you yet, but I am going to start reading your book today 🙂 Thank you again!

  12. Hey Paul, Just want to thank you for taking the time to research and write a book that makes sense in every aspect. I am a 44 year old male who started this journey at 405lbs with LC/Atkins but after losing the inital water weight I then proceeded to lose and gain the same 3 pounds over and over again during the next 4 months. I was strict, ate no more than 20 net carbs per day and felt ok, but no weight loss. My frustration led me to read and research everything I could on dieting, specifically the lower carb plans. I was tired of reading about starvation mode or that too much of xxx food or yyy food was causing a stall. It made no sense and really just sounded ridiculous. I read just about every book available on Amazon, thousands of blog posts and finally settled on a home here. I purchased your book and knew my search was over.

    Eating by PHD rules, the weight has begun to come off again!! I don’t count anything, but always ensure to eat by the guidelines you suggest and I find I eat less calories and feel full longer naturally and the “IF” that I really did not want to do as part of the plan has come naturally and not eating till noon from the night before is really no problem. I have dropped weight and a few pants sizes since started this plan and more importantly I am really enjoying my food again. Adding 300 to 400 calories in potatoes or rice each day has really opened up the dishes I can make again. I feel better, less hungry and more satisfied eating PHD and real food. French fires made in grass fed tallow are my new health food and we have them 3 or 4 times a week! I wanted a way I could eat for life and I found it. Thanks again and I look forward to the new version of the book!

    FYI: I would guestimate I eat around 2300 calories a day. I am losing 2 pounds per week and am down to 372lbs. Ratios are approximate: 20% protein, 60% fat and 20% carbs.

  13. Will do Paul. I have a quick followup question that has really been bugging me and I have not seen an answer to it anywhere. Would you please mind taking a crack at it?

    I’ve read on many different blogs in response to the safe starches that while they agree they may work for some, those that are IR or obese should avoid them. This is contrary to what I am experiencing however, in that since I added back 4 to 500 calories of safe starches a day I have begun to lose weight, actually eat less and feel fuller longer. These are real feelings and not imagined. Trust me I enjoy eating when hungry. Now I am certainly considered obese in fact at 6’0 and 372 lbs I still fall under the morbidly obese category. Yet adding safe starches back to my diet had the opposite effect of what most of these naysayers predicted. Granted I am not measuring blood sugar but I never had an issue with it before and really don’t want to eat that way. I know Jimmy and other low carbers are big on that. Anyway, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Hi Mike,

      In our new book we argue in more detail why eating a modest amount of starches (20-30% of calories) is usually optimal for weight loss. Lowering carbs from the SAD level of 50% to 30% helps weight loss, but lowering them further has little effect or harms weight loss in most people. There are a few people who have gut infections or some other problem that makes even 30% carbs problematic, but for most, providing our body with the glucose it needs reduces stress and appetite and makes it easier to lose weight.

  14. Thanks Paul. I am looking forward to the new book!

  15. Hi Paul,

    At 235lb I started a low carb diet and went to 198 but my loss stalled.

    My weight goal is to be at or under 170 lb.

    I changed to the Perfect Health Diet: Weight Loss Version, consuming at least 600 daily calories combined protein and carbs, with overall calories of 1,200-1,500 per day.

    My weight loss restarted, although at about 1 lb. per week, and I’m now at 188.

    I have questions:

    1. Is it compatible with the PHDWLV a “cheat” day per week (more calories and/or consuming non-safe carbs)?

    2. Sometimes I’m not hungry. Should I still force feed myself the minimum 600 carb plus protein carbs?


    • Hi Johnny,

      Congratulations, glad to hear your weight loss resumed!

      1. Eating more calories once in a while is perfectly fine, even beneficial. In fact I recommend having some high-intensity exercise days and eating excess calories on those days. You don’t need to lose weight every day; you can devote days once in a while to building muscle and other health goals. This is a marathon not a sprint. … Eating non-safe carbs, on the other hand, I would not recommend. That is going off the diet. Sometimes it’s almost unavoidable for social reasons or expediency (eg when traveling), but try to keep those rare. I wouldn’t build such “cheat days” into my schedule as a routine thing.

      2. No, if you’re not hungry it’s not necessary to eat. Don’t force yourself to eat. But when you do eat, do keep the recommended ratio of carb+protein to healthy nourishing fats. Also, you should become hungry for carbs and protein before long — certainly by the next day. Some people (eg anorexics) lose their hunger entirely even though they need food. Such people should force themselves to eat healthy foods. But as long as hunger is operating normally, a little extra fasting when you’re not hungry is probably good for you.

      Please keep me posted on your progress!

  16. Sorry, I meant the minimum 600 carb plus protein cals (calories)? 😳

  17. I’ve been doing this simple thing for months now, and I’m consistently losing weight, maybe .5 to 1 lb a week. I write down in my phone when I eat, and then wait at least 3 hours. That’s it. Hopefully my insulin goes down and the fat burning goes up. I track my weight in the Hacker’s Diet online tool, and the trend-line is always down.

  18. Hey Paul,

    I am going to be embarking on the weight loss version of the PHD starting tomorrow. I have a question, I find it very hard to calculate percentages based on calories.. like for example an avocado has 17g card, 29g fat and 4g protein.. I have no idea what this translates into in terms of calories for individual macro nutrients, is there a simpler way? I am also curious about starches and if there is an ideal time or way to eat them? All at once or spread throughout the day.. etc.
    thanks for your time Paul, I very much appreciate that you are accessible and though I hope you have much success I also hope you don’t get to big so that questions such as these can still be answered by you!

  19. Frustrated | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page - pingback on December 1, 2012 at 9:01 am
  20. Hey Paul,

    2 or 3 days a week i juice veggies.. curious how this should fit into my daily amounts.. an example of a juice might be… 3 or 4 stalks of celery/couple leafs of kale/bit of ginger/cucumber/couple carrots. should i count this as nothing? and should I be sure to have it during my 8 hour eating period or could I have it outside of this period?

  21. Hi Paul!

    I came to your site after going too VLC paleo for too long. 🙁 Got hypothyroid symptoms and experienced amenorrhea. Also gained weight, and am looking to lose about 10 lbs. 5’6″ female, 157 lbs. moderately active doing short sprints n the morning, and on my feet teaching little ones most of the day.

    I’ve really upped my starches, and today consisted of 700g potatoes, a couple of eggs, some greens veg, and a can of sardines. It only came up to 859 cal, being 55/22/21 carbs/fat/protein. I probably need to rebalance starch with the other two…but do you think these calories are too low? Am I misunderstanding the 600-1200 cal range as a total cal range, or is it just protein/starch?

    Thansk for all your work! I recommend your site to many folks.

  22. Hey Paul,

    This is unrelated to this post but don’t know where else to ask…. I love baby corn and my son loves corn on the cob.. would a baby corn have the same properties as fully grown corn? is there any way to minimize the negative effects of corn on the cob? can’t imagine a summer BBQ without corn on the cob! thanks Paul.. sorry if that sounds whiny … adjustments i guess.

  23. thanks Paul! sure it won’t be more than once a month or so.. my son will devour corn on the cob with reckless abandon and it’s good to know I can treat him once and a while.

  24. Hi Paul,

    First, thank you so much for this very informative website. I stumbled across it (and your book) during my searches into a healthy eating habit that could have lasting effects (and benefits like weight loss). I’m waiting to get my copy of your book delivered within the next few days and am very much looking forward to reading it.

    I do however, have a question about this article and the proper proportions of carbs, protein and fat on the PHD to lose weight.

    I’m 5’2″, 28 years old, and 155 lbs. I walk to work (15-20 mins each way) but spend most of my day at a desk in front of a computer (however I am really making a concerted effort to get in more exercise each day now). I’ve been trying to lose the same 25-30 lbs since graduating high school.

    Given my profile, and the information contained in your article, what would you recommend as the optimal daily caloric intake? And would the breakdown of carbs, protein and fat be 30%, 30% and 40% respectively?

    Thanks again for all this wonderful information.

    • Hi Aleksandra,

      I’d say that you want to get about 500 calories from carbs, 300 calories from protein, and enough fat calories to be well nourished. Typically that might be 500. This would translate then to 38%/24%/38%, but those aren’t hard ratios, and it’s not urgent to lose weight at any particular pace. Slow weight loss is as healthy as fast weight loss.

      Being well nourished, enhancing circadian rhythms, and choosing fats (low omega-6) and carbs (low sugar) wisely are as important as macronutrient ratios.

      • Thanks very much for the quick reply, Paul! I received your book last night and am almost halfway through. It’s very enlightening and at times quite scary to think about how misguided I’ve been most of my adult life.
        I’d already cut out the grain oils prior to beginning your book, but now I’ve cut out the bad sugars, as well as the unsafe starches, and implemented your recommended calories by sitting down to calculate how much they actually translate into food on my plate. I’m amazed at just how much food this is! I feel like I’m feasting by just meeting the minimum 500 & 300 carb and protein calorie amounts!
        I was worried about weaning myself off wheat, sugars and processed foods (I couldn’t go a day without eating some kind of cookie, muffin, donut, and I would actually get cranky and shaky if I didn’t eat any). But I’m so satiated that I haven’t so much as had a twinge of a craving for the past two days. Today, I stood in line at the grocery store near lunchtime, saw people with chips, cookies and granola bars in their hands, and felt nothing – they might as well have been holding potted plants for all the interest they had for me.
        I’m deeply grateful to you and Shou-Ching for sharing PHD. I truly feel that this is a ‘diet’ I can adopt lifelong, and not have to worry about being underfed, malnourished, and suffering the consequences!

  25. Hey paul

    For the circadian rhythm therapy of doing 10-20 minutes of light activity in the morning, how soon after waking should this be? lets say you wake up at 7 am daily, would light activity around 8 am (the time I make it into the gym) be okay or should it be as soon as you wake?

    I sleep by 12 but seem to wake up naturally around 6 or 6:30, sometimes not fresh. Could it be I’m not getting enough sleep, maybe I should sleep earlier.

    Thanks a great deal for your work!

    • Hi Kacy,

      Yes, I think an hour after waking is excellent.

      Ideally, one would distribute activity through the day, with the most intense activity in the afternoon. Light activity and sun exposure in the morning is intended to get the daytime clock started. Afternoon is where the most intense activity is best situated.

  26. I’m sure my questions about your weight loss plan have been asked and answered many times, but I’m having a difficult time navigating this site so I hope you don’t mind answering them again or providing links to your previous answers. I have found one or two posts from women my age (almost 60) losing weight and being healthy on this plan, and that gives me hope that I can do it, too.

    1. If I am allowed around 1300 calories a day (500 carbs, 300 protein, 500 fat), and I am practicing IF, then all those calories need to be ingested in that 8 hour window?

    2. If the answer to #1 is yes, then I don’t see how the minimal menu plan in your book shows that you are eating 2 pounds of starchy/sugary foods for your two meals. Nor do I see how you are eating three egg yolks a day. Nor do I see this in the menus at 10minutemeals. Confused.

    3. If we eat the same thing every single day – like 3 egg yolks a day—then isn’t there a danger we will become allergic to that food?

    4. I had read previously, maybe in your first book or on this website somewhere, that you don’t have to go without the cream in your coffee. Can cream in coffee in the a.m. be used during IF? Can a dribble of cream in my nightly tea be used during IF? Of course, these would be counted against the fat calories I am allowed per day – I’m just wondering if they would ruin autophagy.

    5. Can you comment on Intermittent Fasting in the context of the National Weight Loss Registry, which states that 80% of successful dieters eat breakfast?

    6. How important is IF to the success of your weight loss plan?

    7. Can you comment on the recent news release that vegetarians have 60% less heart disease than omnivores?

    8. You recommend not supplementing omega3 – instead we are to get it by eating real food. However I have read that it sometimes takes years to regularize the fatty acid profile in the body, so wouldn’t supplementing with fish oil be a way to speed that along?

    Thanks for any help.


    • Hi Linda,

      1. Yes.
      2. Both lunch and dinner contain starches, it’s fairly easy to make these add up to 1 pound starch, and fairly easy to add in 1 pound sugary plants. Eggs are present in all the lunches (bibimbap, fried rice, soups).
      3. Yes, there is an allergy risk. It is minimal if digestion is good and the eggs are cooked. The eggs don’t have to be consumed every day to reach a 3 per day average, though a routine is easy.
      4. Cream can be used in coffee. It will inhibit weight loss.
      5. I think the problem is that most people who eat breakfast at home eat a protein-rich, healthy breakfast such as eggs, while those who don’t end up snacking on low-protein junk food (doughnuts, cookies). It is important that the first meal contain protein and be healthy, it is not important when it occurs.
      6. It’s not essential and not everyone does well on IF, but in people who tolerate it, it does aid & accelerate weight loss. It is also therapeutic for many infections.
      7. I haven’t read the paper yet. Since vegetarians have the same overall mortality as non-vegetarians, it is a rather surprising result; if true it would mean some other causes of death are significantly higher in vegetarians.
      8. It does take years to regularize the fatty acid profile, but high doses of supplements don’t change that – they only create an excess in some places and a deficiency elsewhere.

      • Thanks for much for your prompt and detailed reply! I just need one clarification for #4 – cream does not hurt the Intermittent Fast, though it will inhibit weight loss? Thanks again — Linda

        • Hi Linda,

          I don’t think that’s a well formed question. Cream alters the fast. You are still fasting in carb and protein, so it doesn’t change many of the dynamics, but it does change some. It doesn’t alter the ketogenic nature of the fast. It does alter the weight loss promoting aspect of the fast.

  27. I have a question that has been on my mind for quite some time, but I was not sure how to ask it. Also I did not want to bother you incase it was obvious. It is in regards to the coconut oil for weight loss, and how it relates to the Shangri-la Diet you mentioned and what that means to the overall percentage of fat per day. When you are eating your meat, and salmon and eggs, and then 2 TBL of coconut oil on top of that, it just makes the fat % kind of high. And when in weight loss mode, the extra fats are a good place to cut back. So I am just confused, if I should take extra CO, say 1TBL in the morning, and one later in the day, per Shangri-La Protocol, or is this considered an excess fat while in weight loss mode? And if it is good for weight loss, is it good enough just to cook with 1-2 TBL per day, which is not Shangri-La but still beneficial? CO is satiating, however I could get my fat even lower without it, and just suck it up and eat more veggies, and let my body munch on even more belly fat. But if you do include it, does it count for over all percentage/grams/calories? I have read somewhere, that CO can count as half, but I do not remember where or why, something due to the way it is processed or it’s metabolic properties, I don’t remember the science, but I took it to mean half the calories and fat. I am sorry if this is elementary. Thanks for any enlightenment!

    • Hi Mel,

      It’s not necessary to eat 2 tbsp coconut oil. That’s a guideline for the regular diet, not the weight loss diet.

      For the Shangri-La Diet approach, just take 1 spoon (tbsp or less) of MCT oil or coconut oil once a day during your morning fast.

      It does count for calories but the Shangri-La idea is that you’ll make up for those calories by reduced appetite later. I think this probably doesn’t work for everyone but the more you have a tendency to overeat, the more likely it is to help you.

      • hi there.. love your book..have implemented many of your suggestions (bone broth/daily eggs/lamb) and am thrilled to report that after adding the “safe starches” i am actualy “less!” hungry 🙂 I was afraid i would put on some weight but that didint happen. I feel much more level and balanced and calm than i did when i was eating bunches of kale alongside my meats and avoiding starches and carbs.
        There’s one pressing question i do have though .. in regards to the eggs/yolks.. are we supposed to count these calories towards our protein calories ? I am looking to lose weight and currently consuming just under 1400 calories with a ratio of 30/P30/C40F which i track on Cronometer
        Please advise ..and thanks again for such a great book and all your hard work and dedication.

        • Hi Mary,

          Glad to hear you’re doing well! I think that’s the experience of most people who add our recommended level of starches.

          Yolks don’t have much protein, but if you eat the whole egg, then it can be a significant source of protein. You should count everything you eat, except most vegetables aren’t worth worrying about.

  28. Thank you for your quick reply. There is a big discussion on MDA, so I was just wondering. I don’t have any trouble staying on the low calorie side, in fact sometimes I think I do better more around the 1500-1600 range, at least once in while, so adding 2TBL extra would take care of that. But as a rule I can keep calories in check so this would actually have pushed my numbers up. Thanks!

    • Funny right after I wrote this, I increased my exercise to about an hour a day, and 1300 just wasn’t cutting it. I was surprised at how quickly my appetite picked up once exercise did. I do try to keep it at an extra 500 calories per hour of activity. So I went from 1300 to 1800, bam! But my scale has been moving downward again, after only a slight gain after the activity.

  29. I have been following the PHD approach for sometime. Not always perfectly, but 90% of the time. I am a nearly 50 year old woman, who is 80 pounds overweight. I cannot seem to lose on more than 800-1000 calories per day. A few other issues: I am allergic to fish (not shellfish), liver is a no-go and rice makes me CRAZY hungry.

    Are there any suggestions, especially from other older women who are struggling, on some menu plans? (My husband HATES soup and I am a bit tired of it myself) Also, what happens if I stay in the 800-1000 calorie range. Malnutrition? Is it better to be fat and nourished? Why can’t I have both 😥

    I am taking all the supplements. Counting ALL my calories carefully (weighing and measuring). I have hens, so I eat 3 egg yolks a day from our garden-fed chickens. (that is 150 calories) 3 ounces of other meat in a day (another 150 calories) 1 cup of rice = 240 calories. Misc other veggies, very little fat (only some grassfed butter for seasoning) and BAM I am over the weight-loss level.

    Any help at all would be welcome especially in relation to menu ideas, what to do about the low calorie situation, and how on freaking-earth to lose this weight! (I try to get in my 10,000 steps 4-5 days a week but that is about all the exercise I have time for at the moment)

    My frustration is peaking out… sorry! Thanks for the help.

    • Hi Kelly,

      Frustration is very understandable.

      There are many causes of obesity and some are harder to address than others, eg viral infections (see

      The fact that rice makes you “CRAZY hungry” is a pretty reliable indicator that you have a gut infection of some kind. Have you been evaluated for SIBO or other infectious gut disorders? A stool test might also be in order.

      With gut infections, sometimes it’s best to cut down on supplements and go food only or minimal supplementation (eg vitamin D, vitamin K2, low dose iodine). Supplements can nourish the gut microbes.

      My main advice would be to focus on immune-enhancing lifestyle changes:
      – Intermittent fasting
      – Circadian rhythm strategies

      These are extremely important.

      The most important circadian rhythm strategies are sunlight and bright blue light exposure during the day, dim and amber light at night (try wearing amber blue-blocking googles/glasses), a full night’s sleep, 30 minutes moderate physical activity every day (try to make a habit of 10-15 minutes before every meal, outdoors if possible), and social engagement during the day. Food should be eaten within an 8 hour window during the daylight/active hours.

      Some immune- and circadian-rhythm-enhancing therapies may be helpful, such as low-dose naltrexone. Naltrexone and the drug bupropion are considered a hot new treatment for obesity, eg

      Since you are eating few calories, nourishment is very important. If beef or lamb liver doesn’t work for you, try duck, goose, or pastured chicken liver. Find recipes that help make it tolerable. Liver is very important.

      There are hard cases but rarely are there incurable cases. I think you should look seriously into infectious components, get help from your doctor to diagnose what is going on in your gut that is causing the reaction to rice, do gut flora remodeling steps like eating fermented vegetables, and reduce supplements and add liver. Liver is the major source of vitamin A which is crucial for gut immunity, so please do find a source of liver you can tolerate. It doesn’t have to be beef or lamb liver.

      Best, Paul

      • Hi Paul, thank you for your detailed response. I live in Northern Europe and would be laughed out of my doctor’s office if I mentioned ‘infectious gut disorder’. (to give you an example, I asked the doctor for a vitamin D test and was told that NO white skinned Northern Europeans have a vitamin D deficiency)

        We do not have, that I have found, the kind of online tests you can order like you have in the US. So given that, I will just have to go with the strategy to treat the infection as best I can.

        I will do the intermittent fasting also – and I am already trying to keep the sleep schedule.

        Regarding the liver, should it still only be once a week – 3 ounces?

        I am also going to make your Kimchi recipe – but WOW is it difficult to find the spices without Gluten or MSG. I will keep looking.

        Thank you again for your advice – and I will keep trying!

        Best regards, Kelly

        • Oh, one thing I forgot to add. I have severe problems with my thyroid. I take 3 grains of Armour Thyroid per day and I have been following the Iodine protocol from Chris Kresser for 6 months. I am up to 20 mg of Iodorol per day at this point. (Doubling dosage every 4 weeks) No bad side effects so far – and I feel a little less ‘foggy’ on a daily basis.

          That is not the low level that you recommend, so I am not sure whether to back down on that or keep going up slowly to try to get to a point where I can go down on the Armour Thyroid?

          I also supplement Magnesium and Potasium otherwise I have terrible leg cramps at night. So I need to keep those in my diet.

          Anyway – just something I forgot to mention in my last post and maybe(or maybe not) relevant.

          I don’t mind getting older – but I would like to do so in better shape than I am in now! Thank you for all your help.

        • Hi Kelly,

          Beef or lamb liver should be limited to about 4 ounces per week so you don’t get an excess of copper, but you can have more liver than that as long as it is duck, goose, or chicken liver. In fact it’s probably good for you to eat extra duck, goose, or chicken liver weekly.

          You don’t need to include spices in kimchi. See here for a recipe with minimal spices:

          Re your thyroid, I’m glad you mentioned that. I am definitely wary of high thyroid doses these days, because they are safe only if selenium levels are within a narrow range, and food levels of selenium are so variable it is difficult to assure that that will be the case. It is much safer in my mind to keep the iodine dose low but steady. So I would definitely recommend cutting your iodine intake.

          For potassium, try eating tomatoes and potatoes daily.

          Best, Paul

  30. Hi Paul,

    I posted this in another thread but didn’t get a comment, so will try again.

    I am loving your website, I bought your book last week and have really enjoyed it. A couple of questions, I have candida, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue,with having candida is all the starch ok, because I have been told not to eat sugar and I thought that starch turned straight to sugar in the body once eaten. Also I need to lose 20kg of weight but I am really enjoying the fat as it is helping tremendously with the sugar cravings. I have been low carb for a while but the sugar cravings got so bad and also always hungry, or eating. I know you say if you need to lose weight, cut the fat back and let my own body burns it’s fat, which I want to do but feel I need it at the moment to curb cravings, I don’t know what to do I need to lose this weight but I want to be healthy also. I would love to hear back from you.

    Kind Regards.

    • Hi Paula,

      Starch is beneficial for immunity and will curb your sugar cravings. The only downside of eating some starch is in certain gut infections, like ulcerative colitis or IBS, the starch may feed the bad microbes. In that case you need to go slowly and reshape the gut flora. But most people will benefit from eating starch immediately.

      In particular, with Candida it’s important to eat some starch. This is essential for anti-fungal immunity.

      Paula, I recommend joining the PHD Facebook group. Your situation is very similar to that of many others who have come to our diet, and being able to trade stories with others in a closed group will help you. Here is the link: Click “Join Group” in the upper right.

      Best, Paul

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