We have all been through this. We get older, and we gain weight. We cut back on the sweets, remove a side dish from a meal, and sweat and suffer several times a week at a gym. The fat refuses to leave, like gum stuck to our shoe.
In the past, I went on the Adkins Diet and reduced the size of my meals. I also jogged and lifted weights at the gym weekly. When I was young, the weight would melt off my body while my body mass index would fall from obese into the overweight category.
When I turned 50, I couldn’t lose weight no mattered what I tried. I spend the whole year, 2017, jogging three times at the gym and lifting weights for two days every week. My weight refused to bulge as I remained stuck at 220 pounds, remaining firmly in the obese category.
In March 2018, I made up my mind to lose this weight. My health was deteriorating while my knee joints became stiff. When the flu arrived, my immune system needed months to clear and remove it. I constantly suffered from allergies. My stomach always hurt as I ate, eating like I have starved myself for months on a drifting raft on the ocean with no food. At last, I swallowed the Imodium and antihistamines like breath mints.
In March 2018, I made up my mind to lose this weight. I reduced my meal sizes and went to the gym daily. I reverted to calorie restriction and exercise as my savior.
Why Doesn’t Calorie Restriction Work?
We either have gone on a diet ourselves, or we know someone who went on the diet. We all know the results. The person loses weight rapidly at first and then hits a plateau. Depending on the dieter’s will power, he or she can follow a diet for a month. Then what happens? They regain the weight plus several extra pounds as punishment.
Diets don’t work.
- For the first problem, a diet restricts food choices. For example, on the Ketogenic diet, we must severely restrict our carbohydrate intake. Of course, we tremor and shake as we pass a Starbucks on the way to work as our mouths salivate for a sweet coffee smoothie with whipped cream.
- For the second problem, the success rate of the diet depends on the severity of the calorie restriction . For example, we will achieve a greater success rate of following a diet if we reduce our caloric intake by 5% than by 20%. A 20% reduction leaves us hungrier and grumpier all the time and leads to a higher failure rate.
- For the third problem, diets cause a perpetual misery as we try to eliminate this weight. As we cut the calories, our body conserves energy by slowing the heart rate and reducing our blood pressure. We shiver and shake as our body reduces the core temperature .
- The fourth problem causes the most trouble of dieting. If we reduce our caloric intake for a period, we slow our metabolism, so our bodies burn less calories [2-5]. What that means is by reducing our caloric intake by 10% will slow our metabolism by 10%.
All dieters will hit a plateau because our body slows the burning of energy as our body balances the energy consumption with the caloric intake.
Here’s the problem. When leaving the diet and resorting to our normal eating, we gain weight fast. Our metabolism stays persistently low as we increase our food intake [2, 6].
We toss in a bout of exercise to speed up that fat loss. We saw the contestants on the Biggest Loser battling it out to lose the most weight. They exercised five hours every day and ate reduced calorie meals. We cheered them on as they stood quietly in line for their weekly weigh in. We marveled at the chaotic scale as the number jumped randomly building the suspense. Then the scale displayed the correct weight.
Unfortunately, the intense and prolong exercise with calorie restriction do not work. The winner of the third season, Kai Hibbard said, “It was the biggest mistake of my life.” Suzanne Mendonca, a second season contestant, said, “There is never a reunion show because we’re all fat again.”
What went wrong with the “eat less and move more?” In a research study, 14 contestants who competed on the Biggest Loser lost an average 128.3 pounds . Unfortunately, their metabolism slowed by 704 calories per day, which is a substantial drop . A man requires about 2,500 calories, which translates to a 28% decline while a woman requires 2,000 calories and would equal a 35%. Their metabolism slowed down and this slow down can persist even when the dieter resumes his or her normal eating.
Only a handful with an iron will can stay on a diet. After six years, these 14 contestants gained an average of 90.2 pounds .
There must be something that works.
How Does Fasting Differ?
We can view fasting as a form of calorie restriction because we reduce our caloric intake by skipping meals.
I usually do 24-hour fast twice per week, when I fast from lunch to lunch. Thus, I miss two meals for one fast or a total of four meals per week. I usually stuff myself for the last meal before the fast and tend to over eat for the first meal when I break a fast. Let’s say I over eat an extra meal per fast for the overeating. Thus, every week, I skip at least two meals after deducting the overeating. Over the year, I would miss 104 meals, which adds up.
By fasting correctly, we avoid the slowdown in metabolism by resuming our normal eating habits during our feasting day. Fasting overcomes the problem of a metabolism slowdown.
- As long as we fast for two days or less and resume normal eating during our feasting cycle, our metabolism stays high and keeps burning energy . That’s the trick to stop our metabolism from dropping.
- If we fast beyond 48 hours, we may experience a slowdown in our metabolism .
Unlike calorie restriction, fasting has a duration effect. We give our digestive system and body a pause from processing food. That break helps the body switch on repair and cleansing mechanisms. Meanwhile, the body scavenges and recycles damaged cell components in the body.
If you want to learn more about fasting, please read my book, which you may download from several channels.
- If you live within the United States, you may download my ebook on fasting for free from either Barnes and Noble or Apple’s Istore.
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- If you think my book provides value and worth a cup of coffee, then please download my ebook from Amazon Kindle for $2.99. Amazon also offers a soft cover book for $9.99.
- Del Corral, P., et al., Effect of Dietary Adherence with or without Exercise on Weight Loss: A Mechanistic Approach to a Global Problem. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2009. 94(5): p. 1602-1607.
- Fung, J., The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss. 2016.
- Redman, L.M. and E. Ravussin, Caloric Restriction in Humans: Impact on Physiological, Psychological, and Behavioral Outcomes. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, 2011. 14(2): p. 275-287.
- Fuhrman, J., Fasting and Eating for Health. 1995: St. Martin's Press.
- Fung, J. and J. Moore, The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting. 2016: Victory Belt Publishing.
- Fothergill, E., et al., Persistent Metabolic Adaptation 6 Years After “The Biggest Loser” Competition. Obesity, 2016. 24(8): p. 1612-1619.
- Heilbronn, L.K., et al., Alternate-day Fasting in Nonobese Subjects: Effects on Body Weight, Body Composition, and Energy Metabolism. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005. 81(1): p. 69-73.
- Zauner, C., et al., Resting Energy Expenditure in Short-term Starvation Is Increased As a Result of an Increase in Serum Norepinephrine. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2000. 71(6): p. 1511-1515.