Turn Off the Valve

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I write a lot about IF, and sometimes I make my personal IF habit seem pretty easy — not eating until 4 PM.

Well, it really isn’t all that hard, because when you make a decision to just “turn off the valve,” it’s pretty simple. You just stop eating.

If you’re like me, if the act of eating is “open” for the entire day, then the act of eating becomes an obsession for the entire day.

For some reason, “turning off the valve” makes it pretty easy to just stop eating.

Whether you believe in wholesome (paleo, primal, low carb) food or not, the most effective way to becoming lean is still by eating fewer calories.

So whether your choice of food leaves you with appetite suppression or appetite stimulation, eating less is almost always easier when you turn off the valve.

For me, merely stop eating for a period is much, much easier than eating multiple smaller meals all day or going on a strict diet of limited food choices — both of which have been shown repeatedly to eventually destabilize to bigger meals or to the re-introduction of off-limit items.

Diets have been shown to eventually fail in the majority of the dieters.

A lower calorie intake, on the other hand, has been shown to be the single greatest factor in health, leanness, and longevity, as demonstrated through the generations in many cultures. (Yes, even in cultures whose diets include an appreciable amount of carbohydrates.)

The point is: whether you chose wholesome food or processed, turning off the valve makes calorie control easier and sustainable. In other words, intermittent fasting makes getting lean and staying lean easier.

Have you found an easier way to sustainably lower calorie intake?

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15 Responses to Turn Off the Valve

  1. Al says:

    I am going to have to stop questioning your methods and just accept the fact that you know what you are talking about because you have exactly what I want (a LEAN body).

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Al,

      I don’t mind that you question the method I use. I’ll always try to offer a reasonable answer.

      Also, you can accept what I say, but you also don’t have to accept it. Intermittent fasting is not for everyone, and not everyone likes the idea that becoming lean can be so simple.

      Many people look for the complexity — the mysticism — in simple things. (Maybe simple things offend their intellect? Maybe they feel that simple things are reserved for 8 year-olds?)

      This has been the longest stretch that I’ve stayed under 10% body fat. But it’s not just me — I know personally a few people who use the same intermittent fasting schedule who enjoy a lean body.

      Al, if IF works for your lifestyle and personality, I highly recommend it. I really hope you reach your goal!


      • Al says:

        I am more or less talking about eating wholesome food over processed food. Most peopl who just use IF enjoy being around 10% bodyfat year-round. But are they truly satisfied? I would not

        Deep down everybody wants to be leaner and 10% is not lean enough (at least for my liking anyways). That is where the the “food” thing comes in. I know eating mostly wholesome food will get me around 5%, but I am not sure if eating whatever will get me there. My guess is that it probably will not.

        Some people would be happy at 10%. I would be happier at around 5%.

      • Johnny says:

        Al, I agree that people would do better in many ways by choosing mostly wholesome food, especially food less likely to stimulate appetite.

        But I think we’re also discussing degrees. Whether it’s 50%, 70%, or 80% wholesome food, the effect may be different for different people.

        People will have to find out for themselves what they see result with — in terms of leanness, as well as physical and emotional satisfaction and satiety.

        There’s no argue that eating less causes weight/fat loss. It comes down to making it sustainable — at least long enough that there might be a long-term adjustment in the body’s settling point.

        For many people, intermittent fasting by itself makes a lower calorie intake sustainable, while for others the composition of those calories makes it easier.


  2. Jordan Davis says:

    5% body fat? That’s really… umm… ambitious.

    • Al says:

      Your right. It is ambitious, but most people who have around 10% bodyfat still believe that they need to lose that last little bit of weight.

      Most people are never satisfied. Those who have 10% bodyfat might tell that they are happy with their look but deep down they are not. I hope I am wrong though.

      • Johnny says:

        Al, I’ll be straight-up, I’m happier with my physique at 5% than 10%. :). It’s where I’ve been for a year since I started IF.


  3. Johnny says:

    I wanted to bring up the observation that a lot of people consistently eat “whole, real, or paleo” food, but don’t display anywhere near 5% body fat. You see this in the Paleo community a lot.

    In my experience, when a person achieves 10% body fat or less, the control of calories takes precedence over food composition, if one wants to go any lower in body fat.

    I don’t think whole or paleo food is what achieves the lower body fat level that Al aspires to. It’s most likely the cutting of calories or the incorporation of intermittent fasting that brings body fat down to appreciable levels (~5%).


  4. Al says:

    If someone is happy at 5% BF then great! If someone is happy at 10% BF, then that’s great too. Everybody is different I guess.

  5. Jordan Davis says:

    What about the accuracy of body fat estimates? How does someone really know that they’re at 5%? What do you do, Johnny?

    I just did a quick Google search and came across a Tom Venuto article. Here are his estimates for men:

    Contest bodybuilder: 3-5%
    Extremely lean: 6-9%
    Lean: 10-15%
    Average Male: 16-20%
    Poor: 20-25%
    Very Poor: 25%+

    Then again, he also said that he doesn’t like being at 10%! lol. He prefers 7%. He also said that men can be healthy at 6-9%, and that the guys he knows that stay at 3-5% are very skinny/ectomorphs. So for those of us who aren’t ectomorphs, that may not be realistic. I’m definitely not an ectomorph! 🙂


    On a personal note, I don’t know what I’ll look like at 10% or 5%, so I should probably reserve judgment until I get closer to where I need to be. My focus has been on a weight range (175-185 lbs. at 5’11”.) That keeps it pretty simple. I’ll see what I look like when I get there.

    • Johnny says:

      In the end, the most accurate method of body fat assessment is to throw the person into a giant human blender and then do an extraction for a chemical analysis.

      Any other means will have variations and inaccuracy, whether theyre given the golden standard sticker or not.

      As such, I avoid putting too much stock into the actual body-fat percentages other than for conceptual discussion. No one can really say they have 3%, 5%, or 10%, unless they’re dead and blended.

      I studied Somatype as part of my undergrad and learned that body types are a lot more complicated than mere classifications.

      As most probably already know, not very many people are purely just one somatype (ectomorphic, mesomorphic, or endomorphic). Most people share some parts of these morphologic classifications.

      Somatype has a strong relationship to psychology — nervousness, twitchiness, fidgeting, etc. — and other behavioral tendencies.

      And a discussion of the set-point theory should consider also the setting-point theory — the relationship between genes, environment and behavior. The wealth of contribution from the field of epigenetics reveals the amazing interaction between genes and environment.

      For example, although I naturally have a small skeletal frame, I was an overweight person in childhood, and carried a body of an meso-endomorph through high school and college, and then on-and-off thereafter.

      For the past year a 7-site skin caliper assessment (for what it’s worth) shows that I am consistently around 5% body fat. I have a 6-pack even in a relaxed state, 24/7. I eat mostly wholesome food but still enjoy pizzas, good pastries, and wine. I do intermittent fasting, but I NEVER EVER feel like I’m dieting.

      For these reasons the article on Chetday.com would assume that I’m a very skinny, hyperactive ectomorph with a fast metabolism. (That statement itself should be a red flag for validity, as metabolism is relatively constant between humans of the same body weight, regardless of body composition.)

      But from my photo updates, you definitely can see that, although I have very low body fat, I’m by nomeans “skinny.” And the fact that I was overweight for many years indicates that I’m not classically an ectomorph. And even though I’m conscientious about how much I eat overall, I am never obsessed about eating or dieting.

      I believe that the my relatively stress-free eating habit has allowed me to change (probably permanently?) the shape of my body from being overweight to being constantly very lean.

      So forget body fat percentages. Forget somatype. Forget set-points. Those things are for pedantic discussions among the stuffy and the snoots.

      Just know that the body reflects long-term behavior. All the knowledge about somatypes and set-points won’t get you lean.

      Eat well, and find the easiest way to eat less, and you’ll have less body fat. It’s as simple as that.

      Intermittent fasting is the easiest and sustainable way for me to eat less.

  6. Jordan Davis says:

    All good points, Johnny. I’m definitely not obsessed with somatypes, set points, blah blah blah. In fact, I loathe the set point theory! And I haven’t been focused on body fat % *at all*, but rather, like I said, a weight range that I think is a reasonable, realistic goal to shoot for. I don’t really care what my exact % is, I just want to look good!

    I thought the article was interesting mainly for the body fat % estimates. Yeah, I missed the “fast metabolism” part, I was focused on the very skinny/ ectomorph part.

    And I would agree that body fat percentages are just estimates, and many people who think they’re at 3, 5, 7, 10 or 15% body fat could be way off.

  7. Jordan Davis says:

    Martin Berkhan just put up an interesting blog post. He estimates this guy’s BF % to be close to 6%:

    And estimates this guy at 7-8%:

    His “before” pic is estimated at 10%:

    Umm, if that’s 10%, I’ll take it! 🙂

    Again, the exact percentage doesn’t matter, just food for thought.


    • Johnny says:

      Hey Jordan,

      I’d say these are pretty good estimates. And yep, “percentages” are good food for thought! 🙂

      I agree that percentages give us conceptual info rather than concrete info — it’s mostly useful to discuss the trend of body fat loss or gain.

      By the way, how is your fat loss coming Jordan? Are you still incorporating IF? I hope you’re seeing a steady trend toward a loss! Give us an update…


  8. Jordan Davis says:

    Hey, Johnny, thanks for asking! My last weigh in (Thursday) was 219 lbs., for a loss of 36 pounds so far. Not bad. 🙂 Still have another ~40 pounds to lose.

    Lately I’ve been eating two relatively small meals per day. I IF sporadically. For a while I would IF after a “heavy” day to compensate (typically on Monday to compensate for Sunday, or Saturday *and* Sunday, lol,) but I haven’t had a truly heavy day in a while, so I haven’t done it regularly. It’s always an option that I’m ready to pull out of my pocket whenever I need it. I’ve basically been eating whenever I feel like it, but only twice per day. That gives me, and my body, plenty of time away from eating, digestion, etc., so I’m pretty happy with that.

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