Many people struggling to lose weight don’t have a problem with “stubborn fat” so much as “stubborn appetite.”

And so much of the habitual overeating that thwarts weight loss and even produces obesity is triggered by the composition of highly processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages, many of which are explicitly designed to encourage excess.

In fact, reaching obesity on a high-protein diet of nothing but whole foods would be about as easy as binging on a pile of boiled potatoes. “Carbs” aren’t making people fat and sick. The problem is many foods that just happen to contain carbs. Think green beans vs. black beans vs. jelly beans.

This is one of the reasons why telling many people who want to lose weight to simply “eat less and move more” is too sweeping to be useful.

Eat how much less and move how much more? And eat what? And move how?

More helpful advice: eat far more nutritious (whole) food than highly processed junk, drink mostly water, walk at least 10,000 steps per day, and do at least a few hours of resistance training per week.

Which brings me to the imperatives of healthy and sustainable fat loss:

  1. Maintain a moderate calorie deficit.
  2. Eat enough protein to retain lean mass and reduce hunger.
  3. Eat enough “healthy” food (you pick) to cover basic nutritional needs and improve satiety.
  4. Do at least a couple hours of resistance training per week (again, you pick) to maintain muscle and strength.

Every other “do” or “do not” is about as useful as a third nostril, including when you eat, whether you’re low- or high-carb, and what supplements you take.