This year I’ve lost almost 40 pounds. It’s been an awesome journey and one of the most interesting parts has been talking to people who are curious about my experience.
The most common thing people ask when they see my new, thinner body is “How did you do it? What’s your secret?” I respond by telling them that there are no shortcuts to losing weight, I did what everyone does: I made a commitment, I studied weight loss, I started tracking my food intake, I changed my diet, I altered my workout routine, I rarely went out to eat and I stopped drinking alcohol.
In other words, I cut out all the food and habits that were making me fat and implemented new habits that helped me drop the extra weight.
After I tell people all this, invariably they are dissatisfied. “C’mon,” they say. “I’ve done all that stuff before. How’d you really do it?”
To tell you the truth, I used to believe in shortcuts. I spent many years looking for quick-fix solutions to problems that took years to create. Unfortunately, I have never once found a shortcut to genuine success. So that’s what I tell people: If you want to change something it takes time, hard work, persistence and patience.
“Sure, sure,” they say. “Of course. Hard work. Diet. Exercise. Yadda yadda. But what’s your secret man?”
“Okay,” I tell them at last. “Okay. You win. I might have one tiny secret.”
Now I want to say right now this secret is not a cure-all that will instantly transform you from Fatty McChunkypants into Slim Sexyman. It’s not a guaranteed solution to your nacho addiction. It won’t magically levitate you from the couch and into the gym.
You’re still going to have to do a shit-ton of work. You’re still gonna suffer and sweat and wish you were dead. Like it or not, you will still have to change a major part of your life.
But I can guarantee you one thing about my secret:
It’s the safest, best rapid-weight-loss program in existence.
Yup. I’m not exaggerating about that, either. There are literally thousands of diets out there on the market and none of them work as effectively or as efficiently as this one to help you drop pounds super-fast while addressing your body’s nutrient and hormone needs.
So enough with all the hyperbole. What is this super-duper magical diet secret?
It’s called a Protein Sparing Modified Fast or PSMF.
The PSMF was recently popularized by Lyle McDonald in “The Rapid Fat-Loss Handbook.” McDonald is a brilliant body science nerd and if you want to lose weight quickly and safely you need to go buy his book right now. His material and website are absolutely superior.
Okay, so what the heck is a Protein Sparing Modified Fast? It’s basically a customized, fat-free version of the keto diet with added MultiVit supplementation, periodic carb refeeds and a basic resistance program.
Just in case you don’t speak diet-geek, here’s a simpler description of a PSMF:
– You eat almost zero carbs (only low-cal vegetables)
– You eat almost zero fat (just fish oil supplements)
– You eat the minimum amount of protein your body requires to be healthy
– You occasionally eat a big meal or two with lots of carbs
– You do basic weight lifting 3x week (optional)
– You lose a lot of weight really fast. Like, crazy fast.
I used PSMF to lose 20 pounds in a little under two months. Not only did I lose 20 pounds, these were the hard-to-lose pounds that nutritionists and trainers talk about – the pounds on the belly. As some of you may have found, the lower your bodyfat percent, the harder your body fights back. When I started PSMF I was at about 13% bodyfat so losing 20 pounds was even more challenging than a standard weight-loss program.
At this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t introduce my cousin Matt. After experimenting with PSMF for a week or so I shared it with Matt, who, of course, immediately used it to lose even more weight than I had. Matt used PSMF to kick through a plateau with his current low carb weight loss routine and so far has lost 35 lbs on PSMF.
Matt and I helped each other to experiment with PSMF and see what worked, what didn’t and why. I’m going to turn the next section over to Matt and let him run the show. Don’t fuck it up Matt.
As Jay stated earlier I jumped into PSMF to accelerate my weight loss. I set a pretty aggressive goal of being under 200 lbs by the end of the year (total of 75 lbs). As of recent I have less than 10 pounds to go.
I took a different tack than Jay did while on PSMF – On my “cheat” meal I would just increase my fat consumption so that my energy would increase however I did not have the insulin spike caused by a huge increase in carbs. Please, please don’t just do this because you read a few articles on the internet. Do your own research, talk to people, read articles, and understand what will be happening to your body while on this diet. There are several considerations when eating high protein including too much nitrogen in the blood, not enough water, not spacing out your meals properly etc. I’m also not a big fan of Artificial sweeteners, so I didn’t include those either.
Jay and I decided to take a different approach with this post and try a Question and Answer format to make it easier to read and hopefully a bit less dry.
Questions for Jay on PSMF
Matt: What was the most difficult part of PSMF for you?
Jay: I missed carbs. Hell, I missed food. The ‘F’ in PSMF stands for Fasting because, at its core, this program is a fast. You eat the absolute minimum amount of calories your body needs to survive. There’s no pleasure eating here. [laughs] During this diet I had erotic dreams about french fries.
M: What were a few of your go-to meals?
J: Coffee and a splash of cream for breakfast. For lunch I liked egg-white scrambles with spinach, veggies on the side and a protein shake. Dinner was vegetable/meat soups, jerky and another protein shake. Last meal I usually did tuna-salad lettuce wrap with low-cal mayo. Oh, and hot sauce. Man, I put that on everything. And salt. When you’re doing PSMF you need more salt because your electrolytes are temporarily out of balance.
M: Who would you recommend PSMF to? Why?
J: I would say PSMF is for anyone who is ready to supercharge their weight-loss. It’s great for people who are starting (or restarting) a diet program because you can lose weight so quickly and that can be a big mental/emotional boost. PSMF is also useful if you’re trying to lose weight for an event, like say a wedding or having photos done, and definitely if you’re an athlete or model with weight-class requirements for your sport. Because it’s very intense, it’s important to make sure your body is healthy and ready to do something a little more extreme. I want to add that before starting any diet program, including PSMF, make sure you talk to your doctor and get the all-clear.
M: If you did it all over again what would you change? What would you keep the same?
J: Everything! [laughs] Well, since pretty much all of my weight-loss, including PSMF, was one giant experiment, I think I made most of the mistakes you can make. I tried close to a dozen different diets along the way. Before I started PSMF I was having trouble with dizzy spells. I fainted in the shower one time. Standing up was starting to get difficult. It turns out you can’t just stop eating and expect to stay strong. A big part of PSMF is about eating the minimum amount of food possible while still being healthy. Ironically enough, even though PSMF was more intense than any other diet I used, because it was so balanced and organized I actually felt better while I was eating less.
M: What was the easiest part of PSMF for you?
J: Probably the paint-by-numbers approach. Even though I hate math, I find that anytime I follow a good program to the letter it removes a lot of stress. This diet is very simple. Boring? Yes. Difficult? Absolutely. But simple. Anyone can follow it.
M: Why did you attempt PSMF?
J: I’m always looking for an edge. A way to improve. I love the idea that our bodies aren’t set – that we can upgrade them an infinite number of ways if we just keep learning. When I heard about a program that promised to help me lose weight faster than anything else without compromising my safety, I knew I had to try it. Not only that, I had a six-month goal and I was rapidly approaching the end without the results I was wanting. PSMF turned out to be the answer.
M: Did you have any negative side effects while on PSMF?
J: When you’re under 15% bodyfat, McDonald’s PSMF program has you go 10 days with almost zero carbs and then you do 2-3 days of crazy carb refeeds – on one day I would eat over 750 grams of carbs. Those swings can be pretty challenging, especially after you do a couple rounds of PSMF. The emotional roller-coaster is almost as intense as the physical one. It takes some getting used to.
M: How much weight did you lose in what time period while on PSMF?
J: I lost a little over 20 pounds in eight weeks. I went from about 13% bodyfat to about 8%.
M: Did eating almost all protein change any of your attitudes toward food?
J: I hate straight protein shakes! [laughs] I used to mix protein powder and water with a little stevia daily for almost six months. When I switched to PSMF, I doubled that and drank at least two simple protein shakes every single day, sometimes three. I haven’t touched my whey shaker since my final round of PSMF. Oh, and carbs are fantastic. I have no interest in refined carbs but give me a great organic whole wheat sandwich and I am in heaven.
M: Did you have any weird cravings?
J: The french fries at Smashburger – you know the ones with the olive oil, rosemary and parmesan cheese on top? Oh man. Honestly, though, it was any kind of french fries. In fact, true story, one night I was so desperate for the memory of deep-fry oil that I drove into the parking lot of McDonald’s, rolled down the windows and just breathed deeply for about an hour. I didn’t eat anything, just sat there smelling that hot, salty, orgasmic fry-grease. I’m kinda surprised they didn’t call the cops on me.
M: Did you have any negative reactions from people when they learned about PSMF?
J: Occasionally, yes. Several people thought it would probably hurt my organs, especially my kidneys. Some of that is due to the misunderstanding about the terms ‘ketosis’ and ‘ketoacidosis.’ Ketosis is a natural process that happens when your body uses its fat stores for energy. Ketoacidosis is a dangerous condition in diabetics where their blood sugar and ketone levels are out of control. So I got a chance to educate people about the difference.
On a more personal level, some people were upset about me losing too much weight. Since I was starting with a pretty low bodyfat percent to begin with (~13%) I did have a few comments worrying that I was sick or on drugs or whatnot. Interestingly enough, most of those people were overweight.
M: What are your thoughts about social pressures and eating?
J: Oh man, I think half the reason people are fat in our society is because of social pressure. I swear there were more cookies, donuts, pies and pastries at work during my diet than anytime in the last ten years. We clean our plate because it’s rude not to. We eat full meals but then join our friends who haven’t eaten yet and we’ll somehow find room for a dessert or at least a margarita. Parties always have food – and it’s never just raw veggies and water. A night out on the town requires a couple drinks, of course. Then after you have a nice buzz going, is there anything better than carne asada fries? It’s one thing after another and unless someone is vigilant with their diet, they can add ten pounds a month without even realizing it. If we’re going to get healthier as a country, we’re going to need a lot more low-carb options and a lot less french fries.
I want to add for the record that I am absolutely in favor of french fries. French fries and cheesecake. If you want to be healthy you need to make smart choices every day. That’s just common sense. But being healthy is also about staying balanced. Life is too short to eat kale all the time. Or ever, really. It’s terrible.
Questions for Matt on PSMF:
Jay: How long have you been dieting?
Matt:You mean how long have I been fat? – far too long. I’ve been battling with my weight (and losing) since I left college. I would go through periods of losing a little weight – maybe 15 lbs then get so sick of it that I would go back to my old habits and gain it all back. At my heaviest I was over 320 lbs. I say over 320 because at that weight do you really need to get on the scale? I avoided scales at all cost, as we weren’t on good speaking terms.
J: How many different diets did you try before starting PSMF?
M: As I assume most people who are trying to lose weight do, I tried many things. The main factor was that before I was a vegetarian, therefore a VERY high carb diet. You are very limited as a vegetarian and whenever I went back to eating pasta, rice, potatoes as my main energy source I would gain weight again. (seems obvious now why I would).
J: How effective is this system for you compared to other diets?
M: I used PSMF as an amplification to eating a ketogenic diet (low carb, healthy fat, moderate protein). I am currently on a second round of PSMF and I’m trying to do a quick loss of weight before my birthday. What I’ve found is that PSMF is an amazing accelerant, but for my body only really works about 4 weeks at a time before I need to take a break.
J: How much weight have you lost in what time period while on PSMF?
M: My first PSMF cycle was 6 weeks – the last 2 weeks I lost 4 lbs, the first 4 weeks I lost 20 lbs.
J: Do you enjoy doing the program?
M: I actually do enjoy it, I should say I enjoy the results. After I initially played around with it and got comfortable I found ways to make it very easy and work for me. I enjoy cooking fresh meals and eating all of the fresh veggies I made.
J: How difficult is it?
M: My wife says I became obsessed and had a very singular focus while on it. I say the difficulty is based on your results. If you are eating PSMF and only lose a pound for the week, it would be much more difficult than if you lost a pound a day. Overall get focused, get obsessed and plan ahead of time – then it’s easy.
J: What challenges have you found?
M: I found two major challenges, not planning ahead of time and social eating/traveling. If you wait until you are starving before you prep your food you’re gunna have a bad time. Also just try and go to a restaurant where everyone else is eating and just order some water or iced tea and no food. Worse yet, try to find something that (in my case) has about 50 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat and 7 grams of carbs (about 300 calories) at a restaurant.
J: What foods do you eat while on the program?
M: I mostly stick to a few meals. In general I get most of my protein from boneless skinless chicken breast, tilapia fillets, bone broth, and whey protein powder. I’m not picky at all when it comes to veggies, but it seems like I eat a lot of broccoli and spinach with just about every meal.
J: What are your most- and least-favorite PSMF foods?
M: I don’t think have necessarily have a most and least favorite. Recently I’ve enjoyed a shredded chicken buffalo wing type dish with a bunch of frank’s red hot mixed in that’s delicious. I’ll serve it with celery, or mix in spinach with it.
J: Any intense cravings for foods that aren’t on the diet?
M: I have a sweet tooth for sure, so sugar is a major craving for me.
J: Did you ever cheat on the diet?
M: Speaking of sweets, yes I do cheat on the diet. I try to be very good but occasionally I’ll slip and eat things I shouldn’t. The difference is that I’ll have a slice of apple pie, forgive myself, then move on. My mindset previously was that I messed up so might as well finish off a whole pie, and a quart of ice cream, then why not have a few IPA’s. And you know what goes great with an IPA? Nachos…. But changing your mindset allows for an occasional cheat meal or having something you shouldn’t be having. Then you move on and keep up with the direction you want to move, which for me is lower on the scale.
J: Have you had any strange experiences following this eating program?
M: Hmmm, nothing strange, other than people telling me I’m going to shut my kidneys down and die.
J: Is PSMF a sustainable maintenance diet or just temporary? Why?
M: It’s very, very temporary. For me I’ll only do about 4 weeks at a time before I move off of it, transition to a maintenance then move back on it after a few weeks if needed. On this diet you are only providing about 20 grams of carbs(80 calories) and 20 grams of fat (180 calories) for useable energy, the rest comes from your fat storage in your body. Using your own body storage is very taxing, and ideally should be done as a sprint not a marathon.
J: Do you think about food any differently now after such a restrictive diet?
M: Eating this way has definitely made me look at food in a different light. It makes me appreciate the fat I eat and really study the carbs I choose to ingest. I enjoy having freshly cooked and prepared meals on PSMF. I also have to actually sit down and plan my meals out to make sure I have the requisite protein for the day.
J: How did the various people in your life react to your new hardcore program?
M: My wife was very against it at first, she thought if was faddish at best, or dangerous at worst. After a couple weeks, as pounds started to fall off, she started asking more questions and asked if I’d help her do it. For most acquaintances I don’t go into details unless they ask specifically.
J: What are the most important things you’ve learned while doing PSMF?
M: That your body is absolutely amazing. You have control over your weight. It doesn’t matter what people say or think, most people are overweight, and most people are threatened if you lose weight.
J: Would you recommend PSMF to other people who want to lose weight?
M: Yes. But you must have a plan before you enter into anything. I would also recommend an intro for a week prior to PSMF. This intro would include a quick fast for 24 hours followed by a ketogenic diet. You also should check with a doctor and have some blood work done prior to starting. It can help determine if you have something pre existing that would prevent you from being successful on PSMF.