Weight-Loss. Effortless and Permanent?

Some readers disagree. I would like to hear your story.

Unless we have an accident, these two 4Leaf-ers don't visit physicians very often.

My son Jason and I both experienced effortless, permanent and somewhat unexpected weight-loss.

Here’s mine. My personal experience since starting a near optimal, whole foods, plant-based diet in 2003 has been that the weight-loss was effortless and permanent. My peak weight was around 180, although at 6 feet tall, I looked okay in my clothes and never really considered myself overweight.

But, as I began to learn about the optimal diet for humans and started making some big changes in my eating habits—the weight started dropping pretty quickly. Within six months, I was down to my current weight of around 155 pounds. That weight-loss was effortless and permanent.

Since 2003, I have seen lots of people experience the same results that I did—effortless and permanent weight-loss when thy started eating the right food for our species. Many were surprised at results—losing weight quickly that they didn’t even know they had to lose. Their goal was vibrant health; weight-loss was a bonus.

You can say goodbye to your bathroom scale; after effortlessly reaching your ideal weight on the 4-Leaf Program, why would you ever need it again?

I no longer have a scale. In my case, vibrant health is the goal, weight-loss is just a by-product or fringe benefit.

But in the past few weeks, I have heard from Nicole and Stephen—who shared experiences that were much different than mine.  Nicole writes:

The real problem I’m having is that I commit for a few weeks, get freaked out that I’m not losing any weight, get very hungry and feel guilty for eating whole wheat bread or so many carbs and end up binge eating for a few days, get back on track etc. Obviously this is contributing to weight gain and I need to be patient to let the plan work when I am on track.

Then a few weeks later. I am very frustrated, sad and depressed about this because I wanted this lifestyle so badly but I am uncomfortable at this weight and feel I have to go back to my high protein, low fat, no carb Dukan Diet  because I maintained my weight between 112 and 114lbs on this plan over a 7 month period until I gave up on it for this new Vegan/plant based way of life.

I urged Nicole not to go back to the gimmick diets like Dukan and reached out to several of my family members who might be able to help her. Then, I heard from Stephen:

May I add my kudos to the many you have received for your past tireless blogging efforts.  I have read every one and have searched hard and long to find something to disagree with without success—until NOW.

Having dealt with the many issues of optimizing weight on two separate occasions I must point out that weight loss for me was neither “automatic” or “permanent.”

The record shows that weight loss in general and optimizing weight in particular is neither “effortless” or “permanent” for almost everyone.  That is why there is a multi-billion dollar and expanding weight loss industry today.

Leveraging the simple, yet powerful concept of maximizing the percent of your calories from whole plant foods -- still in nature's package

With vibrant health as a goal, our bodies tend to seek their ideal weight.

We need your help. As you know, our book talked about effortless and permanent weight-loss and I have been blogging about the same phenomenon for the past two years. But, apparently the road to their body’s ideal weight has not been as quick and easy as it was for me.

Maybe some of you can share your experiences in comments below—but first I would like for you to take this short survey:

Please only take the poll if you have switched from some form of the SAD to a mostly whole foods, plant-based diet. In other words, you’ve gone from eating meat, dairy and processed foods at most meals to a near-optimal 3 or 4Leaf level of eating.

We want to hear about your weight-loss experience since improving your diet. Check all that apply.

Please comment. Maybe you could also share your story in the comments below. This is how we help each other in our journey. With weight-loss and vibrant health as an incentive, our better food choices will go a long way toward helping the human species move back into living in harmony with the rest of nature. “No less than our future as a species hangs in the balance.” —T. Colin Campbell.

13 blogs in the weight-loss “category” (out of a total of 23)

  1. Why do we like foods that aren’t good for us? (Dr. Doug Lisle on “The Pleasure Trap”)
  2. Eric, inspired by President Clinton, shares his story
  3. A tale of two diet-styles; choose the one that’s right for you.
  4. Weight-loss pills. Miracle solution or just more confusion?
  5. Atkins, South Beach, Dukan—now “The Paleo Diet”
  6. 2 words for health beats 1,083 words for “miracle diet.”
  7. In the quest for “vibrant health,” weight-loss is just a bonus.
  8. Effortless weight-loss — on the “4-Leaf” road to vibrant health
  9. Eating 4-Leaf for “vibrant health” — with weight-loss as a bonus
  10. Weight-loss targets; not recommended — Here’s why
  11. Weight-loss or vibrant health? What is your goal?
  12. Dr. Oz and his mixed signals…a reader speaks out
  13. Why do some vegetarians get fat?

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to jmorrishicks@me.com

International. We’re now reaching people in over 100 countries. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or get daily blog notices by “following” us in the top of the right-hand column. For occasional updates, join our periodic mailing list.

To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at jmorrishicks@me.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

SHARE and rate this post below.

Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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19 Responses to Weight-Loss. Effortless and Permanent?

  1. Sal Liggieri says:

    The New York Post in the February 26 edition had a report on improving heart attack risk by 30% on the Mediterranean diet which included 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Imagine that. That’s all people have to hear to reinforce the SAD.

  2. Kia Ora from New Zealand. I was an overweight vegetarian for around 30 yrs, and vegan for around 8 yrs. My extended family has obesity challenges, so there might be something in that. I discovered Plant Based Whole Foods nutrition 2 & a half years ago, and I love it. The only changes I needed to make were cutting out oil, salt & the last remnants of sugar, plus ensuring that all foods were whole foods (I had mainly eaten whole foods, but not always). I made the changes easily (tho cutting out oil & salt was hard at first). After 3 months of eating ‘plant perfect’ I lost around 8 kg. Then the weight loss stopped. My blood pressure was and still is constantly low, but I was not been able to get my cholesterol level into that recommended low level – even with logging my food over several months. It is not radically high but still needs to come down.

    I suspect the exercise aspect of the PBWF lifestyle is the key for me, as I have to be gently, but constantly, vigilant even to maintain the weight loss. It will be a real effort to lose the last few kgs – esp the belly fat, despite eating somewhere between plant perfect & plant strong. So there you have it – it is not easy for some of us, as every ‘body’ is unique, and the formula has to be sublty adjusted for those of us challenged. I lead an active lifestlye, but am not running, swimming, etc, to get my heart & breath pumping: I probably need to. I scored 40 on your survey, Jim, so I could try eating more beans & still more veg, tho I eat tons of them! I still eat some salt, (if I don’t I get muscle cramps). I dont eat sugar, oil or coconut, and I’m very careful around nuts, avacados & olives. This maintains my weight, with lots of vigilance. To lose weight I have to cut them out altogether, and cut down on grains & fruit – not a huge change, but I am enjoying being able to be a bit ‘normal’ at the moment: eating plant strong is ‘extreme’ enough in my circles! I don’t have emotional-eating problems or a sweet tooth, etc, and I hope to start an excercise regime one of these months … I’ll let you know how it goes. (particularly if exercise brings my cholesterol down).

    Thank you heaps for your diligent and dedicated work encouraging people in this lifestlye, Jim. I see your ongoing respect for Prof Campbell’s work as your foundation, and Dr Esselstyn and the others. I think you serve the cause with integrity for the benefit of us all. Much appreciated. We feel ‘part of the plant-strong family’ even away over here in an isolated country. To keep inspired, we read blog posts, vegsource.com etc. Plus, being a writer, I am working hard on a cookbook with my husband – lots more recipie trials to go, but getting there! Our dream is to come to America and meet some of you – we’ve got enought airpoints to get to New York …

  3. Johannah says:

    I believe many of us who cannot lose the weight are compulsive eaters or food addicts and use food to bury our feelings. My experience in 12 step food programs has emphasized that I can binge on healthy foods too and that it is the behaviors and obsession, not the foods per say that are troublesome and thwart the weight loss. I adopted a PBD two years ago and initially lost only a bit of weight remaining 10-15 pounds too high. I could only abstain from harmful eating behaviors for a little while, and I was back compulsively overeating. First starting with overeating healthy PBF and gradually escalating into vegan junk food. I am currently abstaining from compulsive overeating, but it is dependent on working a strong spiritual 12 step program. I love all the Plant Based gurus: Esselstyn, McDougall, Barnard, Campbell, Hicks etc. But I’ve always thought they could help more people if they worked with a food addict to present a message for those of us with this problem.

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Hi Johannah, Was just wondering if you looked at the first link that includes a video of Dr. Doug Lisle talking about “The Pleasure Trap.” I, and many others, found that helpful in terms of understanding why we like foods that aren’t good for us. As you say, many people are “food addicts” and need a little psychological support to help them find their way. Best, Jim Hicks

      Here’s that link: https://hpjmh.com/2013/02/01/why-do-we-like-foods-that-arent-good-for-us/

  4. Vicki Tolka says:

    I have half a thyroid and take a thyroid replacement hormone…even at that I have always had difficulty maintaining my healthy weight(I think many folks have the misunderstanding that if you take Synthroid, your weight problems are a thing of the past). At 5’2″ and age 61, I can stay at about 113 lbs(105 would be closer to ideal). I have followed a plant-based(4 leaf)for about 4 years now…what I will testify is that if I begin to add too many nuts, avocado, etc., my weight begins to edge up a little. I have been a distance runner since 1976, and a plant-based diet has allowed me to be more moderate in my approach to exercise unless I am training for an event. On a plant-based diet, my appetite is satiated, whereas before that was not the case. Beans and Kale are my “close friends”, HA!…but Jim, I still have my one daily cup of coffee…my little indulgence 😉

  5. Brian Hurley says:

    Effortless Weight Loss….is that for real. I am living proof that not only is this statement real but for the first time in my life, I am off the weight loss-gain-loss-gain roller coaster. I have battled my weight since I was 10 years old. I feel like I have tried all the common and some not so common diets.

    I first was introduced to Jason, Jim’s son, at our local gym. He helped me with my work out schedule and introduced me to the 4 leaf concept. As in the past, I jumped on board whole heartedly and lost weight. That was my main goal. I achieved my fighting weight of 182 lbs and maintained it for a year and a half. During the first 6 months, I continued working with Jason and eating well, but 6 months after achieving my “goal” weight, my bad eating habits returned, I stopped working with Jason and I found myself back at 210 lbs within the next year.

    Angry with myself and looking to get HEALTHY as my main goal this time around, I reconnected with Jason. The biggest change as I embarked on this lifestyle change was the time taken to educate me as to the why I was committing to this change. This was done through reading material, discussing diet including charting and implementing an exercise routine. IT FINALLY MADE SENSE!! I no longer worried about my weight, I wanted VIBRANT HEALTH!! Within 8 months, I reached a weight I never thought obtainable–161 lbs.

    I will not kid you, in the early phases, it took work. However, over time, it became habit. It has been 2 years and 3 months and have have effortlessly maintained the 4 Leaf Lifestyle. I no longer worry about my weight. WOW, I never thought I would ever say that in my lifetime. I am happy, healthy and full of energy. Today, I am proud to say my 15 year old daughter has joined me in eating 4 Leaf (over 6 months now). My wife is a solid 3 Leafer.

    I owe my health to Jim and Jason’s education. I know Jim joked about me firing my personal trainer (Jason) in an earlier blog, but it is only because after years and years of failing, I FINALLY GOT IT!!

    PS We are still friends today!!!!

  6. Sal Liggieri says:

    Asians eat rice, Italians eat pasta. I’m Italian so I eat pasta (WW) . . . but I measure it, one ounce dry which is just 97 calories. I mix in vegetables (unlimited) beans (3 oz) mushrooms (unlimited) This meal totals about 250 calories and even if you ate this three times a day it would be less than 800 calories. How can you not lose weight on this regimen. You can substitute 3 oz of brown rice for the pasta and the calorie count would remain the same.

    But beware of restaurants, especially Italian. A pasta dish is probably 5-6 ounces (600 calories) plus it’s loaded with olive oil (250-300 calories) and if you eat some bread (another 100-150 calories). Now this pasta dish is over 1000 calories. Vegan and Vegetarian restaurants can also be a problem because of the fake foods and oils in many of their entree dishes.

    Track what you eat in a day and you will be surprised at how many calories you consume.

    If you are eating a plant foods diet with no cheating frills, it’s impossible not to lose weight.

  7. I am part of a wellness program that gently moves people from the SAD to a plant-based diet. The program has been published in numerous peer-reviewed medical journals. Kaiser Permanente and Vanderbilt University has implemented our program along with 50,000 other graduates world-wide.

    What I have found from our program is when people are learning to eat more whole foods, more bread and carbohydrates (simple or complex) are eaten until they learn to incorporate more beans, legumes, and vegetables in their diet. They are familiar with pasta and breads, so that is what they sometimes levitate towards. In large quantities, this can raise triglycerides. Also people’s weight can either remains the same, or they could even gain a few pounds. This is very frustrating to the person who has hopes that this new lifestyle would do just the opposite.

    I would suggest people starting out on a plant-based diet buy a couple of good vegan cookbooks or find a good website specializing in vegan recipes to help get them on the right track. Figuring out what to have for dinner without the meat can be daunting at first. Look for cookbooks that have simple recipes that are predominately using whole foods and not a lot of sugars or manufactured vegan products. Possibly going vegan 2-3 days a week to start out might take some of the pressure and frustration away. Most of all – don’t give up!!! You can do it!

  8. Sachie says:

    My weight loss effort has been difficult. I switched to mostly plant-based diet about 2 years ago for health reasons. Eliminating meat, dairy & eggs has not been difficult at all because my previous diet included a lot of veggies & fruits anyway. My problem is that I still have a craving for junk & tend to cave in at the end of the day. I don’t know why, but I’m usually ok during the day, but I get so hungry at night & crave for junk food. As a result, weight doesn’t come off. I am not over weight (5’5 & 145lb), but I would love to lose 15 lb or so. I think I’m gonna try Lisa’s advise, but I still say it is not gonna be “effortless”.

  9. MikeR says:

    I started following a plant-based diet after reading Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live. His advice, a pound of raw veggies and a pound of cooked veggies every day, with an emphasis on leafy greens. I ate that way for about 6 weeks and lost weight without any effort. After a few days of feeling lethargic (which Fuhrman said would probably happen), I felt great. After a few months, I completely gave up coffee and have no desire to ever drink it again. Another good book to read is Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Diet. He gives week-by-week steps to an optimal diet complete with eating plans and recipes. Lyndsey Nixon has written three Happy Herbivore cookbooks that are plantstrong without added oils. I think that’s the key — no added oils.

  10. Linda says:

    I became a whole-foods no-oil vegan almost four years ago for my health, the animals, and the environment. Losing weight was not one of my reasons, but I lost 15 lbs. in three months. I’m about 5’6″ and my weight stays at 114-116. My diet consists of greens, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, legumes, and a few nuts and seeds. I don’t eat bread, with the exception of maybe a piece of Manna bread (sprouted whole grain bread) once a month or so with a bowl of soup. I do eat whole grains each morning. I don’t eat sugar, refined flour, oils, desserts, or processed foods. I’ve noticed over the years that most vegan websites and blogs provide SO many dessert, doughnut, and muffin recipes. And the reader’s are always saying stuff like, “These are so good and so good for you!” Not true. Treats can be vegan, but they’ll still make you gain weight or not lose weight if you eat them more often than rarely.

  11. Joanne Irwin says:

    I have to agree with Karen’s comments, and Jim’s, as well. Eating a whole foods, plant based diet will shed the pounds effortlessly. Dr. Esselstyn is right on when he warns against the high fat content of nuts, seeds and oil. However, if you’re at optimal weight and healthy, enjoying a handful of nuts and an occasional avocado is, in my opinion, fine. I teach the Food for Life curriculums of Dr. Neal Barnard. His 21 Day Kickstart to Weight Loss and Health is the way to approach healthy weight loss. Dr. Michael Greger, another valid respected voice in the plant based family, recently posted in his daily blogs the latest research on nutrition and weight loss. According to the research the old paradigm of calories in – calories out has been replaced. Now, the most important factor to losing weight is WHAT FOODS we put on our forks. That’s right – what we eat is more important than exercise to weight loss! Check his site: http://www.NutritionFacts.org. Exercise is still important, but too many people hold the belief that they can eat a bag of chips, down that decadent chocolate torte, then run 10 miles and be healthy. Wrong!!!
    To assist with weight loss, folks might consider keeping a journal for 21 days of what they’re eating. Write down everything! It takes that long to change food cravings, and detox from the sugars and fats that are embedded in the SAD way of eating. Most important, too, is to make sure you are consuming sufficient fiber – at least 40 grams daily. Fiber plays an important role in health. Not only are fiber foods satisfying and filling, but fiber molecules attach to excess hormone and cholesterol molecules that are circulating through our system. Fiber flushes those toxins from our bodies. If those toxins are not flushed from our system, then they keep recirculating which puts folks at higher risk of hormone related cancers and other chronic conditions.
    Two gentlemen who are part of our Cape Cod monthly Green Nosh group have kept me informed of their weight loss journeys. Each has been eating plant based since late Fall. One has lost 25 pounds, and the other 11. Each reports that the weight loss has been effortless; they’re not wasting away to air, and they feel fully satisfied, not to mention their increased energy levels.
    Personally, I’ve been embracing a plant based (vegan) lifestyle since July 2006. Though never overweight, I find that eating this way not only keeps me lean and strong, but provides the energy I need to keep going strong at 66! There is one downside to all this……..when you eat this way and have the energy ‘to do’ – often, a lot – those in your circle who are younger and still eating the SAD way, sit back and rely on you!!! The constant refrain I hear is, “Where do you get all that energy?” Well, those of us who eat this way, know the answer.
    Blessings and joyous discoveries to all those seeking the answers to vibrant health!

  12. Patrick Hurn says:

    I’ve been on a plant based diet for 8 months now, and even though I have no idea what I weighed before or weigh now, I can see and feel results.

    My double chin has disappeared, my clothes hang looser on my frame, and most tellingly, because of the industry I work in, we have guests who I see on a 6 month rotational basis, and on their return, they ask how much weight I’ve lost.

    Regarding the diet, it took me a while to figure out that the more I craved a food, the less of it should be in my house. I no longer have bread, desserts, pasta, jams, etc, on my shelves. I do need to up my intake of greens and add variety to my menus, but change takes time and I celebrate the positive results thus far.

  13. Susan Sasek says:

    I have helped many people adopt this lifestyle. I find the ones that are successful all have one thing in common, they are honest with themselves about what they are truly eating. I remember one friend at party, shaking a rib bone at me while saying, “I have been vegan for 3 months and not lost a pound!” I asked her if she was still following a plant based plan and she said, “Of course!”. HUH!?!?!?! Oh, her explanation-this is a party so it doesn’t count! Neither did our bocce night (Tuesday) or times when she had house guests as she could not bring herself to impose this lifestyle on them. It left Mondays and Wednesday-those were the days she was plant based. *sigh*


  15. Lisa says:

    The first month I started eating ‘plant-based’, I didn’t lose any weight. I was still not eating the right foods, although I wasn’t eating junk food or animal products. I was eating a lot of tofu, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, avocados, nuts, whole wheat bread, etc… Writing down everything I ate for a week helped me tremendously to visually see where the changes needed to be made. I saw that I needed more fruits, vegetables, and legumes and less pasta, tofu, rice, and nuts. I now get most of my calories from fruits, veggies, legumes, and lentils and much less from pasta, rice, nuts and processed foods. I rarely eat any kind of bread and don’t use any oils. Once I tweaked what I was eating, the weight fell off. I lost 30 lbs. in 6 months (without exercising) and have kept it off for over a year now. I’m finally at a healthy weight (after 30 years of struggling)! I feel fabulous, I’m eating healthy, I have tons of energy, and loving life! My advice to anyone out there struggling with the weight not coming off is to write down everything you’re eating (and drinking) and take a good hard, honest look at it. If you’re struggling with what to eat you might try checking out the meal plans Happy Herbivore offers. Her meals are creative, easy, affordable, delicious, oil-free, and portion controlled.

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Thank you very much Lisa. Your story will be helpful to many people; your clear explanation of the process is wonderful. I agree with you about the pasta and the pasta and the bread, even if they are whole grain. When taking our 4Leaf Survey, one shouldn’t count pasta and bread as one of their “servings” of whole grains. It has been my observation over the years that people who load up on pasta, bread, tofu, oil, avocados, nuts, etc.—never achieve the weight-loss results they are seeking.

      Thanks again for sharing. Best, Jim

  16. T. Colin Campbell says:


    You asked for personal experiences with weight loss. I am like you, from 190 lb (5″10.5″”) to 145-150, and there I stay, not very difficult at all.

    But I also know people who have a difficult time and not be able to sustain weight loss. On this point, I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine of more than ten years who has worked with a group of women who have this difficulty and who have learned something of value to this question.

    I would like to introduce you to Roberta Russell, who was professionally trained in psychology and who has dealt with her women friends on this question. I am copying her here should she wish to join the discussion.


  17. Karen Forster says:

    I am one of the happy whole food plant-based eaters who lost weight steadily and permanently. In attending lectures by the Esselstyns, father and son, Dr. John McDougall, and Jeff Novick and personally speaking to these experts, it seems that everyone “thinks” that they are eating a healthy diet. These men said to write down “everything” that one eats in a daily log, because the odds are that they are eating some things that they don’t think are of any significance. If people follow the whole food plant-based diet and also eliminate oil, the weight definitely will drop to the healthy, natural weight one should have.

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