After crushing January by hitting the gym and meal prepping, those brownies and beers are looking increasingly tempting. We chatted with Dave Asprey, the mastermind behind Bulletproof Coffee and the Bulletproof Diet, on how to keep weight off by making food and exercise work with our natural biology.
Hard to believe Asprey was once a 300-pound executive with a slew of health problems and terrible brain fog, while today he has lost and kept off the weight for 21 years, founded a slew of successful health companies, and written three books, including the newly released Game Changers: What Leaders, Innovators, and Mavericks Do To Win At Life.
Like a ton of guys who make resolutions to cut the pounds and build muscle, Asprey has been through the tempting office donuts and the agonizing ‘I just want to quit’ moments. Don’t give up on keeping weight off.
Here’s how Asprey lost the weight and kept it off in order to live a long, happy, and handsome life and how you can, too.
The Manual: How did you start losing weight?
Dave Asprey: I started working out 90 minutes a day, six days a week for 18 months in order to lose a lot of the fat. I cut my calories, I went on a low-fat diet, but it only made me tired and hungry and the weight didn’t budge. I began measuring different variables, from heart rate to hormone levels, and experimenting with different solutions to tweak my own biology. While I was in Tibet, I encountered a tea mixed with yak butter. I felt amazing after I drank it, so I took the idea back home and started experimenting with different combinations of butter and coffee. I realized grass-fed butter was the solution. From there, I started to build Bulletproof 360 and created a resource of knowledge for anyone else who is trying to biohack themselves and take control of their body and mind.
TM: What does the process of real, long-lasting weight loss look like? Do we have to stop drinking beer?
DA: The toughest part of a new diet is making the decision to start. If you’ve landed here, you’ve done that much. Any new eating plan is hard to adjust to, and your brain resists change. The most successful diet is one you can stick with long-term.
TM: So weight loss is a lot about diet. What should we be eating?
DA: Chances are, if you’ve tried to lose weight before, you’ve fallen for the decades-old, low-fat, high-carb dieting advice. When you eat carby, sugary foods and snacks, you end up with sugar spikes and energy crashes. That’s all due to insulin, which skyrockets when you eat carbs. Insulin also tells the body to store calories as fat. Dietary fat, however, has less impact on insulin levels than carbohydrates or even protein does, and you don’t have to worry about sugar crashes, cravings, or storing rolls of body fat. Fat slows the release of the carbs and sugars that you eat along with it, keeping blood glucose level so your pancreas doesn’t produce as much insulin. You don’t need to eat as much or as often. Fat keeps you full and your insulin stable — meaning, you won’t obsess over food all the time.
TM: Is cutting calories effective?
DA: Don’t even think about cutting calories to lose weight. When your body senses you’re eating less, your metabolism slows down to preserve the calories you’re getting. This makes losing weight even harder.
TM: So about that beer… is it allowed?
DA: Taking on a new lifestyle isn’t about denying yourself.
TM: Are cheat days good?
DA: I flat-out reject cheat days because they’re bad for you on so many levels, but the biggest one is psychological. If you’re depriving yourself every day until you get to your cheat day, you will run out of willpower. Instead, ask yourself, ‘Where do I want to be?’ not, ‘Was I good or bad.’ I wouldn’t suggest eating things that make you feel weak, but you shouldn’t deprive yourself entirely of your favorite comfort foods. Just don’t have them every day.
TM: How can men combat falling into old eating/health habits?
DA: Know why you’re trying to lose weight. If you’re not clear on why you’re changing your habits in the first place, how can you dig deep when temptation hits? You can also join a community that supports your weight loss goals, like a weekend biking group or a keto cooking class. Facebook and Meetup both have plenty of groups too.
TM: What is the hardest part about keeping weight off?
DA: If you want to learn how to lose weight, know this: Your brain is the busiest lazy bum there is. Your brain is so incredibly active that it has a super-high energy requirement. It’s going to take the path of least resistance whenever possible. When you take on too many changes at once, your brain will panic and start clamoring to go back to the way things were. It needs to learn that each individual change is benefitting the body system it’s regulating.
TM: How can we convince the brain to love healthy foods and exercise?
DA: Do one small thing every day, or a few baby steps at a time. Taking on a little at a time is part of working with your biology. You’re less likely to get overwhelmed. When your brain can take time to get used to change, it will determine that you’re not going to die because of it.
TM: Easiest part about weight loss?
DA: Having tons of energy and mental clarity which is a direct result of lowering inflammation in the body. In my new book Game Changers, I talk about how chronic inflammation is at the root of many life-threatening diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.
TM: Since men can suffer from unhealthy body dysmorphia and eating disorders, what are the right reasons to lose weight?
DA: Society puts a lot of pressure on people to look good, but the benefits of losing weight go well beyond the mirror. When you get rid of excess weight and start eating in a way that feeds every cell, your whole body simply works better. You move more fluidly, think more clearly, perform better at work, and have energy to play with your kids when you get home. Your relationships improve because you feel happier. Life is better when you treat your body well.
TM: Hidden everyday factor that impacts our weight loss or gain?
DA: Stress is a larger factor in your weight than you might think. Being chronically stressed interferes with your hormone regulation, which plays a role in your body fat metabolism. Simple practices like a five-minute meditation, or writing down three things you’re grateful each day, helps tremendously with stress.
TM: Best tip for keeping weight off for longer than six months?
DA: Keep a food journal. It’s incredibly motivating to look back at where you started, even after a few weeks. Journaling is also a way to pinpoint what’s working and what’s not. After you’ve tracked your eating habits and mood for a while, you’ll start to see patterns. You can use a plain old notebook and pen, or you can use fancy fitness tracking apps. Track what you ate, how you worked out, how you felt after eating or working out, and changes in mood, skin, hair, sleep, digestive issues.
For more from Bulletproof, check out the official website.