I want (need?) to lose weight. I’d prefer not to beemind my weight (as the goal itself), because it depends on many factors and I don’t fully control them. I also don’t want to track calories – it seems too much work for me, and I don’t want to weigh everything I eat. So, I came up with this idea, and I’d like to get your input on it.
Before I start: I fully understand that whatever you tell me, it’s not a medical/dietetic/whatever advice, and I am solely responsible for not harming myself. So you don’t need to add any disclaimers like this.
I want to make a plan of losing, say, 2 kg every month. I plan to weigh myself every day (or almost) at roughly the same time (this is were Beeminder is probably going to help me), and take a moving average (à la “The Hacker’s diet”), so that I’m not bothered by random fluctuations. And the gist is this: whenever my average is above the line resulting from the general plan, I’m going to fast. However, instead of “not eating anything until my weight drops below the line” (which could be dangerous), I’m going just to eat very little – one sandwich instead of two, one small piece of meat and two potatoes instead of twice as much etc. (And of course no candy etc.)
Does this plan sounds reasonable? Are there any pitfalls I should be aware of?
It sounds pretty reasonable to me! But I’d advocate a shallower red line than that. Like 0.1 kg per week. Or start with a flat red line, make sure that’s easy, and take it from there. See Primum Non Amplifico | Beeminder Blog
Also it would be interesting for us and maybe motivating for you to link to your graph here…
Expect some early gains (losses, really ) that likely won’t be sustainable. I don’t mean to demotivate you, but if month 2 goes harder than month 1, it’s not necessarily because you’re doing poorly.
I found a lot of success with two weigh-ins a day, one in the morning for repeatability and science, and one when I got home from work for motivation/reminding myself I was working on weight.
Some folks do a lot better with weekly check-ins. A lot of this comes down to individual differences, so don’t be super afraid to experiment.
I fast often for weight loss. I’m a huge fan! However, long term, it is more dangerous to eat a very little than to eat nothing at all. So I’d recommend more absolute methods. For example, skip a meal (or two) each fasting day.
Hm, that sounds interesting (and counter-intuitive). Can you elaborate (or provide some links)?
This is the culmination of several years of research, so I’d be hard-pressed to provide my sources. It does, however, also make intuitive sense.
Your body’s primary function is to keep itself alive. Period. Your body is also not stupid. As I’m sure you know, your body requires a certain amount of energy each day to function, your TDEE. When you eat very little for long periods of time, your body extrapolates this data, decides this means food is scarce, and begins burning less energy in an effort to survive the famine (i.e., your TDEE lowers). This makes sense if you think about it: your body knows how much it energy it uses each day, so when it is consistently using more than it receives (via eating), it knows that eventually it will burn through all the stored energy (fat) and will die. But instead, if it begins using less energy each day, the stores (fat) will last longer – maybe even outlasting the famine! – and it won’t die as soon. Your body doesn’t know you’re doing it on purpose to lose weight. Using less energy often means things like hair and nails stop/slow growth, less body heat is generated, and other things I don’t know offhand. Studies show that this decrease persists long past eating normally, which means now eating normally is making you gain weight.
On the other hand, when you eat nothing at all, your body defaults to pulling energy from your stores. This happens overnight anyway, when you don’t eat for 8+ hours. If you don’t eat until lunch, your body just keeps running off stored energy until you do eat, at which point, it switches to running off the food energy. If you skip a day of eating, same thing. Studies found that people who skip a day eating naturally eat about 125% of their TDEE the following day, which your body registers as plenty (i.e., the opposite of a famine) and it doesn’t panic and turn down the energy. If you alternate eating and fasting like this for a while (known as Alternate Day Fasting, or ADF, which is what specifically those studies were studying), the calories might average out to the same as your typical calorie restricted diet, but your body never thinks there’s a famine because when you eat, you EAT, so it never turns down the energy use.
Due to how your body processes food energy, there’s a gap before it can start burning stored energy. If you only eat a little, you risk running out of food energy before you start using the stored energy, which leads to unpleasant things like feeling dizzy and/or weak. If you were to spread out your “very little” food so you had a small bite every time you’re hungry, you’d rarely/never switch to stored energy, which exacerbates the “famine” problem and also sabotages weight loss.
So in my other comment, I was partly referring to the danger of your body turning down the energy and partly referring to the “gap” of the previous paragraph. Your plan to lose weight, as laid out in your original post, sounds a lot like the bang bang servo diet, which I’ve never followed but find intriguing. If I were to follow your plan, I would alter it like so: when my average is above the line, I would fast for 1 day (either completely with no meals or partially with 1 meal), then eat normally for 1 day, and repeat until the average is below the line. Since I personally want to lose weight more aggressively, my weight loss plan right now is ADF, so one day I eat nothing and the next day I eat normally. On fast days, my stomach feels empty, but otherwise I feel totally normal. I do all my normal activities, including running, and I never feel weak or dizzy or cold.
This is a pretty zoomed-out view of how it all goes, and is probably partially wrong since doctors and scientists (my sources) don’t understand the metabolism very well. I also didn’t go into all the chemical-y things going on the behind the scenes in your body that control all this. If you’re interested in researching further, I can give you some of the sciency terms to look up and some doctors’ names I know of doing research in this area.
Thanks, that makes a lot of sense (and is very interesting). I would definitely appreciate some pointers (but please do not spend too much time on this, I don’t want to rob you of your time!).
By pointers, I assume you mean the terms and names I mentioned?
Dr. Jason Fung, nephrologist (kidney doctor). He started studying the interplay between insulin and obesity when he watched his type 2 diabetic patients keep getting sicker and dying, despite the best medicine had to offer. He has now reversed the diabetes in hundreds of patients, and has written several books, including “The Obesity Code,” which is well worth the read if you want the in-depth science (in layman’s terms). If you’re not a book-buyer, he also has lots of Youtube videos on the same topic.
Dr. Krista Varady, PhD in Nutrition. I’m not as familiar with her work, but I did read her book “The Every Other Day Diet,” which presents the same sort of information as “The Obesity Code,” so you may find it redundant to read both books (and if you just pick one, I recommend Obesity Code).
Studies on the topic I could round up in 2 minutes:
There are, of course, more authors and more studies, but this is enough to get you started. If you’re a reddit user, r/fasting, r/AlternateDayFasting, and r/OmadDiet have a lot of good knowledge too. But be warned, they can all be a bit echo chamber-y and it’s also all anecdotal, although I think ten thousand anecdotal supports of an argument sometimes carries more weight than thirty test subjects in a study. I’m also happy to answer any questions.