Weight Loss According to Dr. Chanh Tran Tien

No Diet is Definitive


When patients first come to see me, I tell them right off the bat that no diet is definitive, including the one I suggest they go on.

I also tell them that weight loss and weight stabilization are two different projects or two different contracts; I strongly emphasize the notion of a contract, because if you want to get results, you must have a contract; and a contract requires two parties: you and me. You can’t conclude a contract with yourself.

As a rule, most of my patients fulfill the first contract because they consult me about weight loss, but oftentimes they tend to forget about the second contract. Once the emergency is over, they focus on other concerns that are unrelated to their extra pounds.

Weight Loss: Eat Less or Eat Better?

There are all kinds of diets, so why choose one diet over another?

Everybody knows that eating poorly causes weight gain; however, eating well does not necessarily result in weight loss.

Why am I telling you this?

Because every time you want to lose weight, you’re told to do three things: Eat less, eat better and exercise.

Physical exercise is essential. As a sports doctor, I recommend that you exercise.

Two pounds of fat equal 9,000 calories. In order to lose those two pounds of fat, you’d have to run the equivalent of two marathons in a row!

Eating better is often synonymous with eating a more balanced diet, isn’t it? I disagree with the suggestion that you eat a more balanced diet, because to me balance means no change. Take a balanced company, it neither makes nor loses money.

If I put you on a balanced diet, you’ll be eating better and you won’t gain any weight, but you won’t lose any either.

Balance is the subject of the second contract. If you want to stabilize your weight, you need to have a balanced diet, but if you want to lose weight, you must first eliminate something.

And if I eliminate something from your diet, I’m not putting you on a balanced diet; I’m putting you on an intentionally unbalanced diet.

An unbalanced diet is acceptable only if it is safe and has a beginning and an end.

What Must be Cut?

The glycemic index is a hot topic these days: high-GI sugars, like table sugar, candies, cakes and sweets, as well as low GI-sugars, starchy foods, pasta and rice.

What do you think I should eliminate: fast sugars or slow sugars?

I should eliminate both.

Fast and slow sugars must be eliminated.

If I want to lose weight, I must not only eliminate what causes me to gain weight – fast sugars and fat – but I must also stop eating the foods that cause me to gain weight. What will happen if I do these two things?

Well, I won’t gain any weight; however, if I’m not gaining weight I’m not necessarily losing weight.

Therefore, I must also eliminate the foods that prevent me from losing weight.

For example, everybody knows that a small apple won’t cause weight gain, but it may prevent weight loss in some cases.

Everybody knows that a slice of bread or Melba toast won’t cause weight gain, but it may prevent weight loss in some cases.

Why? Because when your body needs energy, it burns all its fast and slow sugars before it burns its fat.

If the human body could do the opposite and burn fat before it burns sugars, no one would have a weight problem!

Proteins Preserve Muscles

When I lose weight, I lose two things: fat and muscle. But when I regain the pounds, I gain fat but no muscle.

It just so happens that the muscle I lost is the motor that burns the calories I eat.

It stands to reason that if I have less muscle after I’ve gone on a diet, I’ll burn fewer calories. And if I burn fewer calories, I’ll store more fat. And remember, the heart is a muscle.

How can muscle loss be prevented?

Muscle loss can be prevented through exercise combined with adequate protein intake.

This is not a HYPER-Protein Diet

I did say “compensate with adequate protein intake”, because this is not a hyper-protein diet; the term hyper-protein is not in my vocabulary.

Hyper means too much. If you have hypertension, your blood pressure is too high and if you have hypercholesterolemia, there is too much cholesterol in your blood.

The fact that I’m compensating with protein doesn’t mean that I’m on a hyper-protein diet anymore than having a glass of wine makes me an alcoholic.

The Three Sources of Energy

People often say the diet is a protein diet.

Your body has only three sources of energy: carbohydrates, lipids and proteins.

If I want to lose weight, I must eliminate fats from my diet. It only makes sense. That leaves me with two sources of energy: carbohydrates and proteins.

If I eliminate fast and slow sugars, I’m left only with proteins.

Now, if you don’t want to go on a protein diet, you’ll have to eliminate the proteins too. But if you eliminate the proteins, you’re left with nothing but a hunger strike!

The diet I’m proposing is a protein diet by virtue of the fact that it contains no carbohydrates or fats.

But it is not a protein diet for the sake of protein and it’s definitely not a hyper-protein diet.

Each Pound Has its Story

As soon as people talk about the protein diet, they always tell me the same thing: “Yes, but if you go off the diet, you’ll regain all the pounds and then some.”

Remember, a diet is not a vaccine against weight gain: A firefighter’s job is to extinguish fires. You can’t be angry at him and say “Yes, but you didn’t rebuild my house”.

There are two different contracts: weight loss and weight stabilization. And as long as you don’t understand that each pound has its story, you’ll always regain the pounds.

A woman has two stories: the first involves her hormonal history, puberty, the pill, pregnancy and menopause, while the second is about her life. You don’t gain weight by accident. You tend to gain more weight when you’re coping with life’s bumps than when your life is a breeze.

When you’re cheerful, you can often control your weight, but when you’re down in the dumps, your weight increases.

Pleasure or Need?

What is the difference between pleasure and need?

If you give me a box of chocolates, I’ll enjoy one or two and then put the box away. That’s pleasure.

But if you give the same box of chocolates and I eat two, three or four and then polish off the entire box, I’ve satisfied a need, a short-term need, and soon I’ll be kicking myself for eating all those chocolates. What did I need: chocolate or something else? Most probably something else.

The Culprit: Insulin

Why this diet and not another?

It’s now known that insulin is the common denominator for weight gain, whatever its cause.

Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas when you eat, especially if you eat sugar.

Insulin has two roles: lower glycemia or the amount of sugar in the blood and store fat. Insulin is a fat storage hormone and it stimulates lipogenesis, which is the production of fat.

How does insulin work?

If I eat three pieces of chocolate, my pancreas will secrete enough insulin to bring my blood sugar back down to its normal level and that’s the end of it. I don’t gain weight and I don’t feel hungry.

The pancreas of someone who has a tendency to gain weight when she eats the same three pieces of chocolate will produce much more insulin than necessary, resulting in hypoglycemia. As a result, her body stores everything she eats and her pancreas is like a furnace or motor that’s out of control. And what do you when a motor is out of control? You cut off its fuel supply, give it a break, tune it and then restart it so that it’ll run better. I’m suggesting that you do exactly that same thing with this diet.

About yo-yoing

Weight loss goes against nature and is not a natural process.

Who loses weight effortlessly without going on a diet? The very old, the very ill, and the severely depressed.

Therefore, weight loss goes against nature; it’s devitalizing.

It’s quite normal to gain a few pounds after you’ve been on a diet. You haven’t failed, and the diet has definitely not failed.

Yo-yoing is when you lose thirty pounds and regain twenty right away.

However, if you lose thirty pounds, for example, and regain only six pounds over a year, that’s entirely normal.

All cultures and traditions have a notion of periodic fasting.

What is a Normal Weight?

What is a normal weight exactly?

I think a normal weight is a weight at which there is no physical or psychological suffering.

It’s a weight that allows you to wear the clothes you like instead of the clothes that fit.

Weight Loss is Not an End in Itself

Weight loss is not an end in itself. Just because you’re thin, doesn’t mean you’re happy.

Losing weight is simply a way of getting on with your life.

When a weight problem becomes the overriding problem, it leads you to put all of your other projects on hold. The simplest to the most complex projects: I’ll get some exercise after I’ve slimmed down; I’ll go to the pool after I’ve slimmed down; I’ll buy myself a cute dress or suit after I’ve slimmed down and, at the extreme, I’ll like or accept myself after I’ve slimmed down. The problem is that I haven’t lost any weight yet.

I sound like a broken record or a film that’s shown again and again.

When you lose weight, you strive to break this vicious circle so that you can get on with your life.