Everyday Systems: Podcast : Episode 2

No S Diet Overview

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Hi, this is Reinhard from everydaysystems.com. Today I'm going to talk a little bit about the no s diet, the worlds shortest effective diet plan.

The no s diet consists of 3 rules and 1 exception, just 14 words:

No Snacks
No Sweets
No Seconds

Except (sometimes) on days that start with 'S'

Cute right? But the thing is, it actually works. I lost over 40 pounds on it, and have kept it off going on five years now. Other people have posted even bigger losses to the web site.

How is this possible? How can something this simple actually work?

Let's take a step back and look at the competition. I think the no s diets advantages become clear when we do this.

There are basically two kinds of diet plans today. I'm simplifying a bit just for the sake of clarity, but I think it's still basically accurate.

I call them "substance accounting diets" and "forbidden foods diets."

Substance accounting diets are diets where you count calories, carbs, fat, points, whatever.

The appeal of these diets is you can eat whatever you want -- as long as you balance the books at some point. You can eat a lot now, as long as you make up for it later. It's like an accountants ledger.

These diets tend to fail because balancing the books is too much work. It requires you to pay an exorbitant and unsustainable amount of attention. It's not something you can automate into unconscious habit. Eventually some stress or distraction is going to come along and you're just not going to be able to spare the attention that it takes.

It's also not fun. I use the word "accounting" instead of just counting because not just because it's job like in the amount of time it takes, but because I want to emphasise that this is profoundly boring. Much like being a financial accountant. No offense to any accountants listening out there, but I assume you wouldn't be in this line of work unless you were getting paid.

The forbidden foods diets have this Manichean dualist view of the world. There are good foods and evil foods. You can eat as much as you want of the good foods, as long as you don't go anywhere near the evil foods. The appeal is you can go on being a glutton as long as you confine your gluttony to the good foods. The downside is you really, really start to miss the evil foods. And because you're basically still a gluttony, you haven't learned to moderate your appetites, just to redirect them, you're not especially good at resisting what you want and eventually you break down.

The advantage of the nos diet over both these are pretty obvious, I think. It keeps the flexibility of the accounting diets -- you can eat anything you want, at the appropriate time -- without all the hard work. It's basically, on one level, a short cut to caloric restriction. You can get a good enough approximation of how much you're eating without getting bogged down in all that detail. When you limit your caloric input opportunities to 3 single plate meals a day, it's obvious when you are eating to much. You don't have to count, you can see it. Excess becomes visible.

Another advantage of nos is that it focuses on behavior, not stuff. You've heard the wise saying, "give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime." I'm going to use this to make an analogy: the nosdiet focuses on how to fish, on the behavior of overeating, the other diets focus on the fish themselves. The forbidden foods diets tell you these fish are evil, these fish are good. That's essentially all they do. They classify fish. The accounting diets are a little more complicated, give a score to all the kinds of fish. But they're basically both just describing different kinds of fish. That's not fishing, that's taxonomy. Taxonomy isn't going to make you behave any differently. The no s diet focuses on your behavior. It doesn't tell you what is, it tells you what to do.

The no s diet is also a lot more like the way naturally thin people, across societies and times and cultures have eaten. The details vary a little from place to place, and it's not formulated exactly like No-s, but a limited number of limited size meals, with sweets and big feasts reserved for special occasions is a pretty universal way of eating. And remember, being thin is not some anomalous condition found only amongst Okinawans and french women and paleolithic cave men. Most people in most places at most times in history were thin, even here in the united states, until very recently, like 1980. You don't need to look for some crazy far out solution. Just eat like they did. It's safe, it's a known quantity, we know how they ate, it clearly works, and doing something this normal is going to be easier that doing something strange and historically unprecedented. The behavior of thousands of generations of your ancestors has carved deep grooves for these habits to fall into.

I've got a lot more to say about the nosdiet, but I'm afraid I'm out of time for today. This week I took sort of a high level macro approach to the nosdiet, next week I'll take a more micro approach. I'll give a detailed exegesis of those magic 14 words and show how they specifically embody the bigger principles I touched on today. I'll also clear up a few practical ambiguities that people tend to have questions about. Thanks for listening. Bye for now.

By Reinhard Engels

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