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The best thing about this book is just how mainstream and prestigious are the scientists, physicians and institutions who now endorse (and prescribe) a Low-Carb diet.  Just a few years ago, Dr. Robert Atkins was vilified for his insistence that dietary fat is not the cause of the obesity epidemic in America. He made the outrageous claim carbohydrates make us fat and in fact are the main cause of diabetes and heart disease.

People “in the know” called him crazy and dangerous and were totally dismissive of his ideas.   But now thanks to ever-mounting scientific evidence (especially in the last 10 years), the pendulum has swung the other way and more and more reputable scientists, physicians and institutions are boldly proclaiming what Atkins insisted all along:  Carbs, not dietary fat, cause obesity.

The fact that such respected people/institutions (as those listed below) would put their reputations on the line to support what was just a few years ago considered a “crackpot” notion, gives one greater confidence in the veracity of this premise.  No longer should one be made to feel conflicted in following a Low-Carb diet against the advice of ordinary physicians (perhaps your own doctor) who are sometimes light years behind in their understanding of the latest scientific breakthroughs and tend to play it safe (following conventional wisdom) when prescribing a medical course of action.

This book and its authors (by virtue of who they are and the science they have pioneered) bring Low-Carb dieting out of the shadows and for the very first time make it acceptable – even mainstream.

Here’s a partial list of Who’s Who in the new Low-Carb World:  (Take the time to read it and see the caliber of scientists and physicians who now stand shoulder to shoulder with the late Dr. Robert Atkins and others to proclaim to the world “Cut carbs from your diet.  They are killing you.”

  • Dr. Stephen D. Phinney (co-author of this book) has spent 30 years studying diet, exercise, essential fatty acids and inflammation.  He has held positions at the University of Vermont, the University of Minnesota and the University of California at Davis.  Following his tenure at U.C. Davis as professor of medicine, he worked at the university’s leadership level and as a consultant in nutrition biotechnology.  Dr. Phinney has published more than 70 papers in peer-reviewed literature and holds several patents.  His medical degree was earned at Stanford University and he holds a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from MIT.  He also received postgraduate training at the University of Vermont and Harvard University.  Dr. Phinney is the chairperson of the Atkins Science Advisory Board.
  • Dr. Jeff S. Volek (co-author of this book) is an associate professor and exercise and nutrition researcher in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Connecticut.  In the last decade, he has published more than 200 peer-reviewed studies, including seminal work on low-carbohydrate diets that points to the Atkins Diet as a powerful tool for losing weight and improving metabolic health.  He has provided some of the most convincing evidence to support the idea that dietary fat, even saturated fat, can be healthy when consumed in the context of a lower-carbohydrate diet.  Dr. Volek is a member of the Atkins Science Advisory Board.
  • Dr. Eric C. Westman (co-author of book) is an associate professor of medicine at Duke University Health System and Director of the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic.  He combines clinical research and clinical care to deliver lifestyle treatments for obesity, diabetes and tobacco dependence.  He is an internationally-known researcher specializing in low-carbohydrate nutrition.  Dr. Westman is currently the vice president of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians and a fellow of the Obesity Society and the Society of General Internal Medicine.
  • Eric H. Kossoff, MD (author of preface) is an assistant Professor, Neurology and Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.  He is one of the world’s leading authorities on the ketogenic diet — a low carbohydrate, high fat diet proven to control seizures in children.  His research focuses on non-pharmacological treatment of childhood and adult epilepsy using many different treatments other than medications, including the Atkins Diet.  He is a co-author of The Ketogenic Diet: A Treatment for Children and Others with Epilepsy.  He is an active child neurologist and lectures widely on this topic.
  • Elizabeth J. Parks, PhD is an associate Professor, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.  As a professor of clinical nutrition, Dr. Parks studies the effects of diet and lifestyle on liver function.  Lecture topics include the effects of dietary macro-nutrients on body fat synthesis and blood lipid levels.  Dr. Parks’ research program is currently investigating how body weight and ethnicity impact the development of fatty liver disease and how weight-loss diets may improve liver function in insulin resistance.  Other studies focus on how the taste of fat in meals may change metabolism.
  • Jaimie Davis, PhD, RD is an assistant Professor of Research, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine.  She is a registered dietitian and an assistant professor of preventive medicine.  Her research is primarily with the overweight pediatric population and centers on the role of nutrition and physical activity in the development of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cancer risk.  She is a nationally recognized expert on diet and weight loss.
  • Dallas G. Hoover, PhD is Professor of Food Microbiology, University of Delaware.  He  holds a doctorate in food science and has conducted research in the fields of food process microbiology and food safety.  He is an associate editor of the Journal of Food Science and has worked in the prevention and control of food borne microorganisms using high pressure processing.
  • E. Allen Foegeding, PhD is W.N. Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Food Science, North Carolina State University.  He studies the influence of food macro-molecules on food texture and sensory quality.  He is on the cutting edge of the science of food’s functional properties.  His current research includes determining texture mechanisms in natural cheese and stability of proteins in beverages.  He is an associate editor of the Journal of Food Science and Food Hydrocolloids.

There are lots of juicy little nuggets of helpful information in this book:

  • The reason some people get weak and/or light headed on the Induction Phase of the Diet when carbs are extremely restricted is the loss of potassium and sodium – the diet has a naturally diuretic effect .  The Solution:  drink more fluids and take in a little more salt by eating bouillon broth.
  • Low-Carb diets (known as Ketogenic Diets) have been used for close to one hundred years to cure epileptic seizures and remained the standard of care for seizure disorder until effective anti-seizure drugs were developed in the 1950’s.  The only reason it went out of favor is that physicians found it vastly easier to write a prescription for a drug than to educate and motivate an individual or family to make a major dietary change.  Drugs are, however, no more effective in their treatment of the seizures and there has been a recent resurgence in the Ketogenic Diet throughout the world.  (Click here to see a wonderful video first aired on Dateline explaining this remarkable diet.)

The New Atkins for a New You is also very flexible:

  • You don’t like meat:  no problem, it shows you how to be a vegetarian or vegan.
  • Want to remain true to your culinary or spiritual heritage:  no problem, it shows you how to eat kosher or Hispanic or any number of other international cuisines.
  • Not a big fan of exercise or cutting carbs below 50 grams per day:  no problem, it shows you how to achieve fat loss without making major changes or sacrifices to your lifestyle

Here’s the Bottom Line:

I liked the book.  It is definitely worth reading.  It is especially helpful to a new generation of dieters who missed the first wave of Low-Carb diet books.  It is easy to read.  It has very simple guidelines.  And it tells you everything you need to know to have confidence that this is no fad diet.

Having said that, I must admit I found the reading of the original Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution published in 1992 (almost 20 years after his first book on the subject) to have been more exhilarating.

Perhaps, it was because it was all new to me at the time.

Perhaps it was because Dr. Atkins took a no-compromise approach (he was certainly not as flexible as these authors are today).

Perhaps it was because in adopting a Low-Carb lifestyle I felt I was part of a “Diet Revolution.”  I well remember hiding my Atkins book behind magazines while reading it on airplanes and whispering to the waiter, “Can I substitute a vegetable for that potato?”

It was all so much more exciting and adventuresome when it was “in the shadows.”

To be sure, those days can never be recaptured again.  Low-Carb is much more mainstream now.  And hurray for that.  Dr. Atkins – wherever he’s at – must be proud.

I’ve read 5 new books over the last three weeks.  Obviously, I like to read and have way too much time on my hands.  That being said, I thought I might “review” the books I read so that others may benefit.  But I don’t want to do a traditional Book Review.  Can you say “BORING?’

Instead, I want to highlight what I find to be:

  • True or, at the very least, makes sense to me
  • Useful in the pursuit of fat loss and better health/fitness

I think it’s fair to say that most of what is written is contradictory.  There are very few indisputable facts in the various sciences that contribute to our knowledge of nutrition and body composition.  Even among the writers I admire and who seem (in my opinion) to have it mostly right, I find glaring contradictions and inconsistencies.  It is sometimes hard to reconcile the various “versions of the truth.”  All I can do is make a “best guess” estimate of the truth as it is presently known and weigh it against my own personal experience.

In other words:

  • Does it make sense? Does it have the ring of truth?  Is there some solid scientific evidence to support it?
  • Does it work? In my own personal experience, have I found it to be true/useful?

These then are the practical things I want to highlight from the books I read.   As such, you will forgive me if I do not touch upon what many might consider the most important aspects of the book and highlight only so-called inconsequential or peripheral things in the book.  My primary goal is to emphasize those nuggets of “truth” that spoke to me in the hope that if I found them useful in my quest for health/fitness, you might find them useful as well.

I’m a big believer in both Calorie Restriction and Low-Carb eating.  After reading scores of scientific books, articles and blogs, I am totally convinced of two fundamental truths:

(1)  Calorie Restriction is a proven method to better health and increased longevity

(2)  There is a direct link between the reduction of carbs and the reduction of body fat.

The beauty of Intermittent Fasting is that it integrates both truths simultaneously.

When fasting I, by the very nature of the fast, restrict the number of calories I would otherwise eat.  I’ve taught myself to “eat less, less often” resulting in a precipitous decline in the number of calories I take in on a daily/weekly basis.

This has had the general effect of improving all my health markers while at the same time making me feel better. I feel lighter, more energized,  more mentally agile and less bloated.  (I can’t speak to the longevity benefits of fasting just yet, but if I’m still writing this blog 40 years from now, you can assume calorie restriction was a contributing factor.)

Intermittent Fasting has also aided me in my quest to lose fat but not for the reason you might think.  Most diets presume that the CAUSE of fat loss is a CALORIE DEFICIT when in fact the true CAUSE is a CARB DEFICIT.

When I fast, I obviously eat fewer TOTAL CALORIES than I would otherwise eat were I to eat “normally” or rather “abnormally” as I did in the past.  As a direct result of my fasting, I tend to eat fewer TOTAL CARBS as well.  (I’ll show you the math in a minute.)

Fewer Calories ►Fewer Carbs ►Burning Fat Stores ►A Leaner Me

In addition to the extra carbs I eliminate from my diet by virtue of fasting alone, I also make a conscious effort to restrict the number of carbs I allow myself when I break my fast.  This then creates a very powerful, very low-carb effect:  the body simultaneously (1) stops storing fat and (2) starts burning fat.  The result:  body fat just “melts” away.  (I’ve averaged a consistent fat/weight loss of 2.2 lbs a week for the past 6 months – I believe I can accurately use the word “melts” to describe my experience.)

Truth be told, if all I wanted was to lose fat, I could skip fasting and just eat a low-carb diet.  It would have the same effect.  But I find that in addition to all the wonderful health benefits derived from Intermittent Fasting, it helps me in the following ways:

  • I’ve learned I don’t need (or even want) as much food as I think I do
  • I’ve learned to eat only when truly hungry
  • I’ve learned how little food it takes to satisfy my hunger
  • I’ve learned how good food tastes when truly hungry
  • I’ve learned to break the addiction I’ve had to food most of my life
  • I’ve learned how to safely add carbs back to my diet without stalling my fat loss
  • I’ve learned I can eat anything I want, anytime I want, with predictable results.  I just can’t eat anything I want all the time.

More than anything else, Intermittent Fasting allows me to save up my calories (carbs) by skipping a meal or snack I really don’t need (want) and spend it later in the day or week on something I really, really want.  That alone is worth the price of admission.

Now for the Math:

Gary Traubes is undoubtedly my favorite author when it comes to understanding the science behind fat loss.  He is educated, lucid, and brilliant at connecting the dots, something most nutritional scientists have failed to do in the past 50 years.

In a recent article entitled Calories, Fat or Carbohydrates?  Why Diets Work (When They Do), he has written at great length about the math of dieting.

Most people, scientists included, believe people lose weight (fat) in any number of ways:  Calorie Restriction, Low-Fat Diets, Low-Carb Diets, or some combination of them.  Here’s how he puts it:

This belief (that all diets are useful for weight loss) stems from the last decade of diet trials comparing carbohydrate-restricted diets (usually Atkins) to low-calorie, low-fat diets. Instead of thinking of low-carbohydrate diets like Atkins as deadly, which was formerly the case, nutritionists and dietitians (or at least most of them) now think of these diets as useful, just as other diets, low in calories or fats, are also useful. The idea now is that some people do well on carbohydrate-restricted diets and some people do well on low-fat diets, and maybe this is a result of whether they happen to be insulin sensitive or insulin resistant or maybe its just a product of their particular food tastes and preferences.

And this belief, of course, is based on the notion that we get fat for reasons other than the nutrient composition of the diet – probably because of some combination of our genes, our tendency to eat too much and our sedentary behavior – and so the diet that works best is the one that allows us to most comfortably restrict our intake of total calories.

He continues:

This concept of low-carb diets being good for some people and low-fat for others is invariably reinforced by the fact that most of us know someone who has lost weight and kept it off on Weight Watchers or after reading Skinny Bitch or some other popular low-calorie diet book. As a result, we assume that dieting isn’t a one-sized fits all endeavor and that everyone is different – perhaps metabolically and hormonally, as well – and that what works for me won’t necessarily work for you, and vice verse.

Unfortunately, or fortunately for those of us willing to look at the hard science and interpret it correctly, the truth is that fat gain/loss is primarily driven by the production of insulin which in turn is stimulated by the amount of carbohydrates we eat on a daily/weekly/annual basis.  To lose fat, you must reduce your production of insulin by reducing your intake of carbs.

That being said, ALL the diets (including Low-Cal and Low-Fat or some combination thereof) that result in fat loss are, by virtue of the fact that they restrict either calories or macro-nutrients or both, Low-Carb diets.

Let me repeat that because it is absolutely essential to understand:  ALL DIETS if they produce weight loss, do so because they reduce insulin production through the reduction of carbohydrates in one’s diet.

Here is Traubes again:

Virtually any diet that significantly restricts the number of calories consumed, even a diet that is described as low-fat (because the subjects are instructed to reduce the proportion of fat calories they consume), will cut the total amount of carbohydrate calories consumed as well. This is just simple arithmetic. If we cut all the calories we consume by half, for instance, then we’re cutting the carbohydrates by half, too. And because these typically constitute the largest proportion of calories in our diet to begin with, these will see the greatest absolute reduction. If we preferentially try to cut fat calories, we’ll find it exceedingly difficult to cut more than 400 or 500 calories a day by reducing fat — depending on how much fat we were eating to begin with — and so we’ll have to eat fewer carbohydrates as well.

Put simply, low-fat diets that also cut significant calories will cut carbohydrates significantly as well, and often by more than they cut fat.

Check out his math:

Imagine we want to cut our daily calories from 2,500 to 1,500, hoping to lose two pounds of fat a week. And imagine that the nutrient content of our pre-diet meals is what the authorities consider ideal — 20 percent protein, 30 percent fat and 50 percent carbohydrates. That’s 500 calories of protein, 750 calories of fat and 1,250 of carbohydrates.

If we keep the same balance of nutrients but eat only 1,500 calories a day, we’ll be eating 300 calories of protein, 450 calories of fat and 750 calories of carbohydrates. We’ll be cutting protein calories by 200, fat calories by 300 and carbohydrate calories by 500.

Now let’s make this a “low-fat” diet and try to reduce our fat consumption from 30 percent of calories to, say, 25 percent of calories, which is significantly less than most of us will tolerate. We’ll now be eating 300 calories of protein, 375 calories of fat and 825 of carbohydrates. We’ll be cutting our fat calories by 375 a day, but we’re still cutting carbohydrates by 425. So even though the percentage of carbohydrates consumed on this “low-fat” diet goes up — from 50 to 55 percent — the absolute amount of carbohydrates consumed goes down, and goes down more so than does the calories from fat. And if we increase the amount of protein we eat, we’ll have to eat still fewer carbohydrates to compensate.

Here is the bottom line for Traubes:

Simply put, anyone who tries to diet by any of the more accepted methods (i.e., Weight Watchers), and anyone who decides to “eat healthy” as its currently defined, will remove the carbohydrates from the diet that may be — if the carbohydrate/insulin hypothesis is correct — the most fattening. And if they’re trying to cut calories, they’ll be removing some number of total carbohydrates as well. And if these people lose fat on these diets, this is a very likely reason why.

The same is likely to be true for those who swear they lost their excess pounds and kept them off by taking up regular exercise. Rare is the individual who begins running or swimming or doing aerobics regularly with the goal of losing weight and then doesn’t make any concomitant changes in what he or she eats. Rather beer and soda consumption will be reduced; sweet consumption will be reduced, and easily digested starches and high-glycemic index carbs are likely to be replaced by green vegetables and carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index.

Final Comments:

I owe a great deal to the practice of Intermittent Fasting.  Unlike anything I have ever tried it helps me reduce my carb intake easily, effectively, almost effortlessly.

Like many others, I have tried Low-Carb diets before (Atkins and Protein Power) and enjoyed initial success (a few months).  But what I failed to learn was how to curb my appetite.  How to take charge of it.  How to overcome my addiction to food. Intermittent Fasting has taught me all that and more.

Even on traditional Low-Carb diets, I tended to eat way too much and way too often (because there was no limits placed on certain foods) and ended up allowing my carbs to creep back up to fat storing range before I knew it.

Because I never really learned how to successfully” feed my hunger,” I inevitably failed, making poor food selections so as not to feel hunger.  (Truth be told:  I find it easier to choose once a day – “I will not eat for the next 16 hours,” than to have to constantly choose what I will eat, when I will eat, and how much I will eat over the same period of time.  Faced with so many choices day in and day out, I inevitably fail.)

Fasting has taught me that slight hunger is energizing and rather than something to be avoided it is to be embraced.  I love the way fasting leaves me feeling.  And I love the fat reducing, body slimming, results of Low-Carb eating.

Each is the perfect complement to the other.  If you can understand (and practice) these two simple truths, a lifetime of health and fitness awaits you.

Postscript:

If you’re still on the fence as to whether you accept the premise that it’s Carbs, not Calories, that make you fat and you just can’t bring yourself to read Gary Traubes’ seminal work, Good Carbs, Bad Carbs, do yourself a favor and watch this very recent series of video lectures by Traubes. (Click here to listen)

Also note:  he has a new (much easier to read) book by the same name Why We Get Fat due to be released at the end of December 2010.  Listen to the video lectures and/or get the book.  It will change your thinking (and your life) – guaranteed.


I’m down another 4 lbs (58 lbs in all).  I’ve averaged a solid 2.2 lbs of fat loss per week over the last 6 months.  I’ve seen steady, consistent loss.  Equally as important, it’s been easy.  Extremely easy.  I never ONCE thought about quitting.  There are enough opportunities to eat what I want when I want that I want for nothing.  (Sounds like a marketing slogan, doesn’t it?  “Eat What You Want, When You Want, and Want for Nothing.” That will sell.)  But it’s true.  I want for nothing.

Let me give you an example:

I am a chocoholic.  I can’t help myself.  I love chocolate.  I used to eat one large Hershey candy bar every single day.  I’m not talking about one of the regular bars, or even the puny King Size bars.  I’m talking about one of the Big Boys you buy for the whole family.  I’ve done this for years.  Even then, I had to limit myself to just one.

Now, I tell you this because for some unknown reason, Barb has recently (for the Holidays I guess) put out a candy dish full of miniature Hershey chocolates.  We’ve been married for over 15 years and she has never done that before.  She knows I am addicted to chocolate and agrees it’s probably not a good thing to eat all that chocolate every day.  But there it is.  And it’s not like we have a lot of visitors who come to the house.  Why did she do that?  Is she secretly or even unconsciously trying to sabotage my diet?  (She did request recently I up my life insurance.  Hmmm.  Makes a fella wonder.)

At any rate, here’s the point:  I have walked past that candy dish a hundred times in the past few days and have yet to sample a single piece.  I can’t even explain it myself.  Normally, I would have taken the dish over to my TV chair and within 15 minutes, polished it off and been looking for her stash.

Not so now.  I don’t claim to be cured.   I’m still a chocoholic.  But I can have chocolate any time I want it, if I so choose.  And right now, having learned to listen to my body and understand my hunger needs (through Intermittent Fasting), I am satisfied.  I don’t need or even want the sugar high that chocolate gives me.

Besides, I got my chocolate fix satisfied twice last week when on two separate occasions (Free Meal Days) I had a very large, and very rich, piece of cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory.  And I still lost weight.  Go figure.  Intermittent Fasting is they only way to go.

And because Intermittent Fasting is so flexible, it’s been perfect for the Holidays.  Whenever I know I have a party to attend or am going to eat out, I just save up my calories and then eat till I’m satisfied.  If the party or meal is late in the day, I may blunt my hunger earlier in the day with a few bites of protein/fat.   (I love egg or chicken salad for this.  Barb keeps some made up for my lunches all the time.)  Then at the party, I eat whatever I want.  Seriously, I eat whatever I want till I am comfortable.  I just enjoy myself.  Can’t beat that.

If for any reason, I put on a pound or two (food or water weight – rarely fat), when I return to my regular eating schedule the next day, I generally lose it (and sometimes even more) within a day or two.  And I am psychologically and hormonally recharged for the next few days or week until I have another scheduled Free Meal.  It’s that simple.

The Take Away:

I’m quite sure you’re not wanting to start any major diet or lifestyle change this close to Christmas and New Years.  I sure wouldn’t.  You’re probably waiting for January 1st.  I understand.  That’s OK.  But get it in your mind that you can do this Intermittent Fasting thing.  Start now reading everything you can on it.  Read this entire blog for the right way to approach it.  Tell yourself you can do it.  Because you can.  It really is the easiest and most sustainable method of fat loss I have ever tried – and like you, I’ve done most all of them.

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  If you start studying this thing now, you will get so charged up that you won’t want to wait till the New Year.  You’ll want to try at least one day of Intermittent Fasting before the Holidays just to see if you can do it.  And You Can.  You Can Do This.  Give it a try.

Here’s a Helpful Hint from Dr. Eric C. Westman, Director of Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Duke University (my alma mater).  If you are prone to headaches or light headedness or fatigue when fasting or on a low-carb diet, just sip some bouillon broth (for the salt) to restore your electrolytes.  That will cease all problems.

I’m down another 3 lbs this week (54 lbs in all).  That’s an amazing 8 lbs loss in the last two weeks – and over Thanksgiving to boot.  I love Intermittent Fasting.  It has to be the easiest, most enjoyable way to lose fat I’ve ever tried.  I know I must sound like a TV commercial (and for that I apologize), but believe me I’m not selling anything.  In fact, there is really nothing to sell:  no books, no memberships, no special foods, no meal plans, no exercise equipment.  All you need to do is educate yourself by reading a few articles to give you the basics (you can start reading here) and then try it for a couple of days.  You will soon discover you can lose fat (slowly, consistently, healthily) and still eat what you want, when you want.  You simply learn to eat less of it, less often.  In fact, if there is any secret to Intermittent Fasting, that’s it:  LEARNING TO EAT LESS FOOD, LESS OFTEN (and without feeling hungry or deprived).  Ok, enough of the commercial.  Here is what I learned this week:

  • Sometimes your body needs a break from dieting (and fasting) for you to continue to lose fat. And the leaner you get, the more breaks you need.  Let me explain.

Our body is really smart.  It has regulating mechanisms that quickly and efficiently switch from fat burning to fat storing mode depending on whether you are in a calorie surplus or calorie deficit.  If you stay at a calorie deficit for too long, your body stops burning fat and starts storing it.  Therefore, you need to “trick” your body into continually burning fat.  And you can do this in a number of ways.

One is to have a “FREE MEAL” every so often.  (Some call it a “Cheat Meal” but that has too negative a connotation for me.)  FREE MEALS are just that.  You eat anything and everything you want.

(NOTE:  Of course food choices matter from a health perspective but not from a calorie standpoint.  The purpose of the FREE MEAL is to ramp up your caloric intake every so often and your body doesn’t know if those calories are coming from an apple, a carrot, a chicken breast or from a Big Mac and French Fries.  So you might as well eat some of the foods you’ve been craving during your diet/fast.)

Now remember, a FREE MEAL is not a binge.  You don’t stuff yourself with so many calories that you undo all your dieting/fasting efforts the past week or so, but you eat your fill of your favorite foods to ease the psychological stress of dieting and reset your body’s fat burning mode.

If you’re seriously overweight (as I was when I started IF), you should aim for one FREE MEAL every two weeks.  The leaner you get, the harder it becomes to lose fat and the more often you need to add a FREE MEAL.

Some people who are very lean and trying to lose those last few pounds of stubborn fat need to add a FREE MEAL every few days.  (Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?  I can’t wait to get to that point.)

Some people advocate an “Eating Window” which might last up to 4 hours rather than a single meal, and if you can discipline yourself not to gorge, this is certainly a nice alternative as it gives you greater flexibility especially in social settings.

  • Here’s how it works for me.

Given my age, sex, height, weight, lean body mass, and activity level I need approximately 3100 calories a day to maintain my present weight.  But I strive to eat around 2000 calories a day.  That gives me a very nice calorie deficit for the day/week and I consistently lose around 2 to 2.5 lbs a week.  Nice, wouldn’t you agree?  (To calculate your calorie needs, click here.)

So on a FREE MEAL day, I might eat as much as 3100 calories or more.  That’s a whopping 1100+ calories extra in one meal or spread out over 4 hours.  If you stop and think about it, that’s huge, and very fulfilling.  I eat pretty much whatever I want (just short of binging) and am totally satisfied.

Now remember, I’m not “Cheating” on anything.  I need to do this.  I need to up my calories every so often just to stoke my metabolism and keep my body in fat burning mode.  In fact, I’m doing my body, my diet, and my sanity a favor by eating BIG once or twice a week.

Of course, you’ve got to maintain a calorie deficit over the long run to lose any weight, so if you pig out and totally blow it on your FREE MEAL day, you can forget losing weight that week.  But if you consistently run a calorie deficit of say 500 – 1000 calories below maintenance, you will loose between 1 and 2 lbs per week.  That is perfect and what you should be shooting for on a consistent basis.

The Take Away:

Use this Calorie Calculator to determine the number of calories you need each day just to maintain your weight.  That’s your baseline.  Give Intermittent Fasting a try.  (If you want to learn more about it, start by reading this three part series on IF and see how easy it is to adjust it to fit your lifestyle.)  Eat at least 500 calories below maintenance one to two weeks, then give yourself a break.  Enjoy a FREE MEAL.  As you get leaner, add more FREE MEALS.  You need them to continue losing weight.   Sounds odd, I know, but I’m not complaining.  I’m down 54 lbs and headed to the All You Can Eat Buffet for another FREE MEAL.  Ahhhhhh.   Did I tell you how much I love Intermittent Fasting?  I do.  I really do.

I’m down 5 lbs this week (51 lbs in all).  That’s a huge single week weight loss for me but I am not at all surprised.  If you read my blog last week, you will remember I had gained 4 lbs over a two week period when I was sick and basically ate anything and everything.  When I resumed Intermittent Fasting at the beginning of this week, I lost all 4 lbs and then some in about 4 days.  Obviously, most of my weight gain was food/water weight and not fat.

Thanksgiving morning (Thursday), I weighed the lowest I have weighed in over 2 years.  In fact, I got to move the big 50 lbs weight on my balance beam down a notch since I cracked the 250 lbs barrier.  I weighed a “slim” 249 lbs.  That was an incredible feeling of accomplishment.  To celebrate, I ate BIG at our traditional Thanksgiving meal (eating whatever I wanted without counting calories or gorging – including mashed potatoes and gravy, corn pudding, dressing, shortbread cookies and apple pie).  And I loved every mouthful of it.  It was fantastic.  We ate continuously from about 12 Noon till around 4 PM, so when I got home I really wasn’t hungry and skipped both my supper and evening protein shake.   The next morning, I was only up 1 pound.

I immediately got back to IF and by Saturday I had lost that pound and one more for good measure.  I ask you, “What’s not to like about Intermittent Fasting.”  You don’t count calories.  You eat all your favorite foods.  You eat till you’re full.  You eat when you’re TRULY hungry.  You love every mouthful of food because it tastes so much better when you’re TRULY hungry.  And you lose fat – in a slow, healthy, consistent manner.

Here’s what I learned this week:

  • Feeling Good in Your New Slim Body is a Fabulous Motivator. I have a wonderful family.  I love them all dearly.  We don’t see one another often enough but when we do, we always have a great time.  At Thanksgiving Dinner, several members of the family commented on how much weight I had lost and how good I looked.  I was a bit embarrassed and blushed (but secretly I loved every moment of it).  One of my cousins, who I hadn’t seen in over a year piped up, “Jim doesn’t just look good, he looks HOT!”  And to emphasize the point, she repeated it several more times so everyone could hear it.

Well, by now, I was totally embarrassed (and loved every moment of it – in fact, I thought about banging out 50 push-ups just to prove her right – but I restrained myself).  We all laughed at such nonsense.  I laughed the loudest so as to demonstrate how embarrassed I was by all this “unwanted” attention and when finally the conversation moved on and attention was diverted elsewhere, I bathed in the glow of her flattering remarks.

Now, I’ve got to put this into perspective.  We are all of us, middle age approaching “old fart territory.”  In fact, we celebrated Barb’s (my wife) 60th birthday on Thanksgiving.  So, HOT we are not.  But just hearing the words “Jim…looks HOT!” was the greatest single reward and motivator I have experienced since I started Intermittent Fasting.  People who have not seen me in a while often comment on how much weight I’ve lost or how much better I look, but no one has ever told me I look HOT.

I like thinking “I’m HOT.”  I’ve never in my whole life been HOT before.  But my cousin is a HOTTIE herself, so she knows HOT, baby.  And if she thinks I’m HOT, I must be.  Believe me when I say those words will serve to motivate me for a long time to come.  If, as someone once said, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels,” just imagine what being HOT will do for the taste buds.  Of course, unlike the rest of you I don’t have to imagine, I AM HOT – at least according to my HOT cousin.

  • Hanging Around Young People Is a Great Motivator. We put together a gym in our warehouse this week.  Hearing me talk about my workouts, several of the young guns at work wanted to join me so we purchased a used Smith Machine, 600 lbs of Olympic Weights and bars, a couple of benches, a Roman Chair and set them up in the corner of our shipping warehouse.  We have plans to add some Cross-Fit equipment like big tires to flip, a pushing sled, a heavy punching bag, chin-up bar, climbing ropes and a shower.   It’s all carpeted and we’ve got our own refrigerator, so it’s nice, really nice.

Official start day is this coming Monday, but in order to determine what weight we should use in our lifts, we needed to know our 1 rep max.  In other words, what is the maximum amount of weight each person can lift in the following 6 exercises:  bench press, overhead military press, lat pull-downs, rows, curls and tricep push-downs.   We would then use 60-75% (depending on the exercise) of this 1 rep max to determine our training weight on Monday.

Now, I’m not one to brag….but since I’ve been identified as one of the HOT people in this world, I guess I can allow myself to at least give you the facts.  I took top honors in 3 of the 6 categories and tied for top honors in two others.  The only exercise I lost was the bench press where one of the guys pressed an whopping 289 lbs dwarfing my puny 218 lbs second place finish.

Now again, I’ve got to put this in perspective.  The guy who benched 289 is built like a brick wall.  He has a massive chest and arms and is in great shape.  He was a star football player in high school and has done weight lifting for many years.  True, he’s just now getting back into it having laid off for several years, but he is only 34 years old for crying out loud.

The other guy (29 years old) completed the P90X workout program last year and got in phenomenal shape.  His before and after pictures were so impressive that P90X marketing used his photos and testimony in some of their ads.  He is a gifted cyclist and on occasions does handstand push-ups just to show me up while I practice for my “60 at 60″ (I am training to do 60 consecutive push-ups on my 60th birthday next year.)

The point is (in case you missed it), even us Old Farts, when properly motivated, can still compete.  Hanging around young guns motivates me.  I love their enthusiasm, energy and optimism.  I also love humiliating them.  For the first time in my life, I’ve learned to “Trash Talk” like the rest of the jocks.  And it feels great.  “You ain’t got nothing!  That’s right!  I said it!  You ain’t got nothing!  You’re a Mama’s boy!  You couldn’t lift a noodle off a dinner plate unless you slurped it through your nose”

OK.  Maybe I’ve got some work to do on the Trash Talk.  But at least I’m HOT and the Top Dog among these Young Guns and you can tell ’em I said so.

The Take Away: I know you must think I’m going through some mid-life crisis to be so caught up in all this juvenile stuff like “Who’s HOT and Who’s NOT?” and “Who can Lift the Most Weight and Who Can’t.”   (That’s just because you’re probably not HOT and out of shape and therefore jealous.)  But the truth is, I went through my mid-life crisis when I turned 50.  This is another crisis altogether different.  It’s about getting fit and healthy and being able to enjoy my grandchildren.  (Did I tell you I have another one coming in January?)  I want to be around when they have their kids and I can get down on the floor and play with them.  Believe me when I say, you can do this Intermittent Fasting thing.  It will change your life FOR THE GOOD, FOREVER.  Blessings.

 

I’m up 4 lbs.  That sounds horrible, doesn’t it?  But I could care less.  I am not worried at all.  In fact, I’m delighted that it’s only 4 lbs.  It should have been at least 10 lbs.  Let me explain.

The last two weeks have been extremely difficult to maintain both diet and exercise.  I have been sick with bronchitis almost continuously the whole time.  I missed 4 days of work and at least a week of exercise.  Sitting at home, as I did, I didn’t feel like fasting (bored), so I ate pretty much whatever I liked whenever I wanted.

When I finally went back to work, we were tasked with the job of moving the warehouse (which took 6 full days) and once again I was unable (or unwilling) to fast and exercise properly.  I ate so much junk (candy, cake, chips, soda, pizza) that I actually got sick of it and longed for my proper meals.

Last but not least, when I finally got over my illness and the warehouse move was complete and I was ready to restart my fast/exercise, we had old friends visit us for 3 days.  Let’s just say, we ate good….real good during the time they were here (and a few days afterward as Barb and I cleaned out the refrigerator).

So, as you can see, a small gain of 4 lbs over the last two weeks is a gift from God.  I am not complaining at all.  In fact, I am re-motivated (having gotten sick of eating so much junk food) once again to start my Intermittent Fasting and Resistance Training.  I love both and more importantly, I love the way I feel when I am doing both.  Here’s what I learned these past two weeks:

  • I am stronger now that I have ever been in my life. It’s one thing to lift weights in the gym and set personal records (which I have done consistently over the last few months).  It’s quite another to do manual labor in the real world and experience the positive results of your daily workouts.  Helping to move the warehouse this past week was eye-opening to me.  I never felt so good or so strong.  I loved what my body was able to do.  I worked 8 hours straight most days and then came home and did 150 decline push-ups (more about that later) and hundreds of curls and pull-downs.  It was amazing.  Most of the guys I worked with were 30 years my junior and I worked them into the ground.  They either fell out (took days off) with sore backs and injuries or complained the whole time about how crappy they felt.  I was just energized.  I loved every minute of it.  My back never once got sore.  To be honest, I got tired by the end of the day but two hours later after eating supper I was in my gym doing push-ups.  Take that you young whippersnappers.  I love it.  I felt amazing.  I felt stronger and more energized than at any other time of my life.
  • You can only eat so much crap before you long to eat healthy. Believe me when I say, I ate everything and anything these past two weeks.  I justified it by the fact that I was working hard to move the warehouse and needed the extra calories.  And there is some truth to that, but I should have eaten more nutritious food none the less.  Like most sugar-addicts, I used my illness and manual labor to justify eating loads of sugary foods.  And once you start down that slippery slope, it’s hard to stop.  Peanut M&M begets Little Debby snack cakes which leads to Twix candy bars which has to be washed down with Coke, Gatorade, and Dr. Pepper.  Once your chocolate cravings are satisfied, you need something salty like chips, pizza and hand-fulls of peanuts.  And if you have a Poker Night (which we did when our friends were visiting), you’ve got to be a good host and serve Pizza, wings, chips, dip, pasta, beer and soda.  Don’t forget the other meals for your guest (you never want to appear cheap or inhospitable) like breakfast (oatmeal with nuts, raisins and brown sugar as well as banana nut bread and pumpkin bread with cream cheese), lunch (egg and chicken salad burritos – which isn’t too bad if you’re trying to watch calorie intake – but you don’t need breakfast and lunch) and dinner (thick steaks, baked potatoes, corn pudding, chocolate cake and ice cream).  The amount of food I put away was obscene.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every mouthful of it.  It’s just I got sick of eating so much.  After two weeks of living this way, I longed for my days of fasting and eating smaller meals.  That’s how I know that Intermittent Fasting is not just a diet but a lifestyle.  I feel best when I am eating less, less often.  That’s a good thing.
  • One side-effect to eating so much crap is that it takes a bit of an effort to restart your Intermittent Fasting. In trying to re-implement IF the past few days, I’ve had several false starts.  I start the day with every intention of fasting a full 16 hours or of eating clean only to discover I am really, really hungry halfway through the fast and break the fast.  Or eat a good, well proportioned evening meal, only to pig out on some empty calories afterward.  These false starts have made me realize that eating too much sugar/carbs really throws your system out of whack.  You have insatiable cravings that you don’t experience when you regularly fast and the majority of your calories come from very satisfying proteins and fats.  I know from experience, however, that all I need do is push past the cravings for a day or two and my system will once again be put right.  Today is that day for me.  I long for the lean feeling I get when I fast and eat right instead of the bloated, sluggish feeling I experience when I fill up on sugars and carbs.

The Take Away: It doesn’t take long of Intermittent Fasting and exercise to change your life.  I’ve been doing both for a little over 5 months and I have never (in my whole life) felt as strong and alive.  I think I have gotten my second-wind now (having pigged out and felt crappy the past two weeks) and am confident that even though Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday, I will have lost my extra 4 lbs by next Saturday.  I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, give IF a try this week.  If nothing else, stop eating on Wednesday night around 8 PM and don’t eat again till noon or later on Thanksgiving.  That’s a 16 hour fast right there.  Your body will thank you.

PS – I almost forgot.  The decline push-ups. I’ve been experimenting with elevating my feet while doing push-ups.  As you can imagine, the higher you elevate your feet, the harder the push-ups are.  I start out by elevating my feel about three feet above the ground and then raise them an additional 6 inches every 15-20 push-ups.  My maximum elevation to date is 5’6″ high.  I’m not quite vertical in doing these push-ups, but pretty close.  Not bad for a guy who could barely knock out 10 push-ups when he was in the army some 35 years ago.  Try it.  You can get pretty strong, pretty fast.

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