Read time: 2.5 minutes
A true story:
Mary Jane has weighed a cool 130 pounds most of her adult life.
But in 2002 Mary Jane goes through an ugly divorce, so Haagen Dazs medicates her depression for 6 months, which blows her up to over 160 pounds.
As time heals most things, eventually Mary Jane moves on with her life and soon she returns to her normal caloric intake. And that was that.
But what she can’t understand: even though she’s back to eating the same way she used to, she still weighs over 160 pounds. In fact, she eats no more than her lean friends. And so, like most people, Mary Jane blames her over-weight on a slow metabolism.
She starts an exercise routine but lost a mere 5 pounds. Life is unjust. An aging metabolism sucks.
She sees a sports nutritionist (with a PhD, never the less) who tells her she needs to eat more to lose weight. She follows his dietary plan and eats more, but she gains weight. The expensive nutritionist, with politely chosen words, blames this weight gain on her failure to follow his plan.
Frustrated and feeling bad, she stops exercising and dieting altogether, and remains overweight.
Keeping it Simple
Then finally she sees a personal trainer who, keeping things simple, tells her to stop eating so much. The recommendation was simple and straight forward:
1) The “S” diet.
No snacks, no seconds, and no sweets, except on days that begin with the letter “s.”
2) And skip a meal or two several times a week to teach the body to switch to metabolizing stored calories. In other words, intermittent fasting.
In 3 and a half months she lost 33 pounds. Back to where she was before her divorce in 2002, feeling great and looking fabulous.
Mary Jane happens to be a past client of mine. Last week she called me to say she’s engaged to a wonderful guy, and to thanked me profusely for the simple dietary coaching.
The Moral of The Story
The point is that life, with all its complications, can induce overeating and weight gain.
Once the weight is gained, we can’t just return to our previously “normal” intake and expect the excess weight to just go away. We have to temporarily (or intermittently) create a caloric deficit until the excess disappears.
The Stones in The Boat
If each day you place 3 stones into your boat and can throw only 3 stones over the side, then it’s a good idea to take in only 3 stones a day if you want to stay afloat.
If you begin to place 6 stones into your boat but still manage to throw only 3 stones out the side, your boat will get heavier. Keep putting in 6 stones daily while throwing out just 3, and your boat starts to sink.
One day you may return to taking in 3 stones instead of 6. Unfortunately, your boat still carries excess stones. For a while you’ll have to take in fewer stones than the normal 3, until the extra stones are thrown overboard and the boat lightens to normal.
Body Fat is The Stone
Calorie intake and expenditure work the same way as the stone analogy. If a person overeats for a period (due to divorce, job stress, holidays, etc.) and gains excess weight, returning to normal calorie intake is a good start, but it doesn’t eliminate the excess fat that was gained.
The thermal dynamics seen here is insidious and therefore gives rise to the hypothesis that fat people have a metabolic disorder that causes them to be fat despite eating the same as lean people. This isn’t true; they just never lost the weight they gained when they were overeating in the past.
You’ve heard the hypothesis (often mistaken as fact): carbohydrates drive insulin, which drives insulin resistance, which drives energy dysregulation, which drives obesity, which drives laziness.
While the hypothesis should be explored further (as all hypothesis should be), we have to remember that overweight and obesity might be the result of multiple contributors — the leading and most accepted being overeating.
And while overeating itself may also have many contributors, from genetics to environment, we know that under-eating and eating whole, real food can be an effective combination for weight loss.
Dietary Perspectives Around the World
But, as many cultures show: no matter the dietary composition, a calorie intake less than the average US consumption is strongly associated with leanness and absence of disease.
And, no matter what kind of food selected, eating less is an effective way to lose weight.
Intermittent fasting can help us eat less, no matter the popular “diet” we chose.