I was up to thirteen kilograms overweight for over a decade of my life.

I used to be the nudist in my family. As my health and appearance declined, however, I started wearing long shirts and pants to the beach to cover up my body.

For a long time I thought I was “just big boned.”

I wasn’t.

From age eighteen, when doctors diagnosed me with rheumatoid arthritis in my whole body and told me I’d be crippled by the time I reached twenty-two, things only got worse. I suffered from a seemingly endless list of ailments: candida, bloating, chronic pain, sadness, and aimlessness. Dance partners rejected me, and I lost out on opportunities for lovers and the even greater joy of loving the person I saw in the mirror.

I tried every possible diet. Standard American, Standard Australian, vegan high fat, vegan low fat, vegetarian, plant-based high fat—if you can name it, I probably tried it.

But when I finally figured it out, the answer was ridiculously basic. A simple abundance of plants—fresh, whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains—changed my body and life. I have lived most of the last ten years on a low-protein, healthy calorie, plant-based diet, and I have never looked or felt better.

I just wish someone would have given me better advice, sooner.

These are the three most common pieces of advice I heard about weight loss—and they could not be more wrong. In fact, I believe that following these tips will actually make you fat!

1. Restrict Calories

You ate for the body you have, now eat for the body you want. That doesn’t mean eating less; it means eating different. Calorie restriction is one reason that you’re in this mess. The body goes into ketosis on a high animal protein, high animal fat, low carbohydrate diet, and once you “cave into your cravings” and eat unhealthy calories, you put the weight right back on…and then some. We’re animals. We’re always looking to survive. So if we’re starving, next up is binging (survival mode).

2. Count Calories

I don’t count calories—haven’t for more than 10 years—and I wish you would stop too. Your calorie counter doesn’t know when you are no longer hungry. It doesn’t know when you are full. It only teaches you to ignore your own body’s cues. Think about it. The places on this beautiful planet were people are slim and healthy are not the places where everyone counts their calories. Pay attention to your body and its needs. Nourish it with whole, plant foods, and it will tell you when it has had enough—and when it hasn’t.

3. Exercise to Death

As a dance student and then a professional dancer, I always exercised to the point of exhaustion. I spent hours and hours a day dancing, running, or otherwise being active. I never lost weight because of it, however. Today, I’m on my first extended period of minimal exercise in my life—less than three hours a week on average for the last two years. I’d love to do more; I love the feeling of being active, sweaty, dancing, jumping, running, swimming, but I’m busy. The surprising thing? I’m still beautifully slim, healthy, and happy. I’ve realized that it truly is what you eat, not what you do, that shapes your body.

The conventional wisdom on weight loss is missing the whole point. Eat for the body you want. It is that simple.