Updated: Mar 9, 2021
Counting calories is tedious and exhausting. I have done it many times in an effort to lose weight after having my 3 babies! I know now that calorie restriction will only work as a short-term strategy for weight loss, and this is why.
We need to treat weight gain as the hormonal imbalance that it is. It is not only a calories in vs. calories out problem, as we have been taught for the past 40-50 years. Calorie expenditure is adjusted based on calorie intake, kind of like a thermostat. When you decrease your calorie intake, you will lose weight for a while, but then your calorie expenditure will adjust down to match your calorie intake, and weight loss will plateau. Your body will do everything it can to protect you and maintain homeostasis, so will reduce output.
Say you typically eat around 2000 calories most days, and decide to decrease your calorie intake to around 1500 to lose weight, as your trusty dietitian recommended. You write down everything you eat and increase your activity. You start to lose about 1-2 pounds per week. Hurray! Life is good!
About 3 months later your weight loss starts to stall. You decrease your calorie intake even further, to around 1200 calories. You spread your food out into small, frequent meals to keep your metabolism high. You lose a few pounds, but that is all. You know you are not taking in more than 1200 calories because you feverishly journal everything you eat! You increase your activity, but this just makes you hungrier, weaker than you already are. You start getting preoccupied with food, and for a moment consider eating dog food, anything that will satisfy your hunger and cravings!
You get hungrier, you feel cold and crabby. You can’t live like this and give up. You feel like a complete failure and start eating everything you can shove in your mouth. The weight comes back quickly with a vengeance. You think, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I control myself? It’s not fair! I have bad genes!
It's not your fault. You have been taught all wrong, and so have the vast majority of health professionals trying to help you. The calorie method is backward and will eventually backfire. Our bodies are designed to conserve body fat at all costs when under periods of calorie reduction. We have been taught to work against our hormones instead of with them.
Think of it like this… Your body will turn its thermostat down if there is not enough energy coming in. If you lost your job and had a hard time paying your energy bill, you would turn your thermostat down from 72 to 65 to save money, correct? Your body does the same thing to conserve energy. Your internal thermostat decreases over time when calorie intake is reduced.
If you keep decreasing your calorie intake, your calorie expenditure will decrease along with it. Your internal thermostat is turned down even further. Calorie reduction will work for about 3-4 months. After that, your calorie expenditure will adjust down to match calorie intake. By this time, most calorie restricting weight loss plans fail, because you can only reduce your calorie intake so far before you become completely miserable, and eat more!
This is why 99% of those who reduce their calorie intake to lose weight will eventually fail.
Obesity and insulin resistance is not a result of lacking resources or willpower, it is a result of a lack of knowledge for understanding the framework of obesity.
By keeping our calories at 0 during a fast, insulin is kept quiet and we can use our fat reserves for energy while fasting. Then, by eating until satiated during our eating window, our bodies will keep our metabolic rate normal, as it is provided the nourishment it needs. Because it is using fat stores for energy during the fasting period, metabolic rate does not slow. How awesome is that?
Obviously, if you fast regularly you will lose weight, but more importantly, you will lower your insulin level. Remember, insulin tells the body to store energy. Insulin will be released anytime you eat anything. Not all foods will create the same insulin response, which will be covered later, but any food eaten will stimulate insulin. For example, an avocado (fat) will not stimulate insulin to the same degree as a donut or soda (sugar), but both will stimulate insulin to a certain degree.
By not eating for longer periods of time, your insulin levels are kept quiet, and stored body fat can be accessed. If you’re trying to burn body fat there is really nothing better than fasting!