I got an email from a new reader the other day.
…30 years old, MD in anesthesia and critical care in Italy, fed up with being 40 pounds overweight. I’ve always been the big girl, since I was little, and now that I’m a grown up i would really LOVE to shed the pounds at last. Tried it all: low-cal-low-fat; doesn’t seem to work. Went vegetarian and literally BALLOONED UP…
So now I’ve been on evolutionary for 6 days and it looks good. I’ve just subscribed to your freetheanimal site. A few questions; maybe you can help me out a bit:
Do calories count when on pure EF?
How often should I fast, if at all?
Should I work out according to the power law workout max twice a week?
Very nice of this reader to donate a subscription, even having been reading the blog for only a few days. I really appreciate that. Here was my email response.
I actually don’t know if calories count or not if one keeps the carbs low. I tend to think there’s some "metabolic" advantage, but who really knows how it works (more heartbeats, higher respiration, more poop…?) and what the limits are. I have heard anecdotes of people eating upwards of 10,000 kcals per day of 80-90% fat, a little protein, and not gaining weight over weeks of the experiment.
But what’s the point?
The real power of EF is that you don’t need to count anything. Don’t be afraid of natural fats (animal, coconut, olive oil), eat plenty of then (60-70% of energy), moderate protein, low carb and everything seems to take care of itself. Just eat real food. When you do, you should find appetite begin to change. So, you never need to count anything because you’re shedding weight, your hunger is far different than before, and you should feel really good and energetic most of the time.
I’m a big proponent of intermittent fasting and have blogged a lot about it. See the category on the blog. I think that at first it should be regimented and formal, twice a week for losing and once per week for maintenance. Now that I’m about where I want to be, I just fast randomly, sometimes skipping a meal, and sometimes two or three: 18 hour fasts, 24, and sometimes 30 or 36. I usually try to do them in advance of my workouts. However, fasting isn’t essential — though I think skipping a meal or two here and there is important (look up autophagy) — but you can easily progress without it.
I have never worked out more than 1 hr per week, 2 x 30 minutes. The power law aspect is that in such brief time you can get far more intense. Nobody believes I only do 1 hr a week, when many overweight people I know trudge along at low-intensity for hours per week and never make any progress.
There was a follow-up email today with an important question and I thought I’d provide an answer here, along with the opportunity for anyone else to share experiences of insight.
So far I’ve been on EF for 7 days and lost 3 pounds. I do hope it will keep up… the last four days have seen a scale that will not move either way. plus, this might sound like psychological blabber but trust me I’m so scared that this, too, might fail like countless other methods, that I’m afraid of the scale… any suggestion about how to SANELY relate to a scale is greatly appreciated.
Well, first, you should understand that a lot of that initial 3 pounds is water that your body no longer needs to bind glycogen (since you’re depleting it). The goal is to convert your metabolism to that of a fat burner. You’ve got a few hours of glycogen stores if you’re eating a lot of carbs, and your body screams bloody murder when you’re not keeping those levels up with regular sugar intake. Conversely, you’ve got 3-4 months or more of fat stores (and you can make the needed glucose for brain and red blood cells with protein). When you become a fat burner your appetite should change radically.
But it’s a process. For some, it’s rapid, and for others, it just takes a while. But — and it’s a BIG BUT — you don’t need to be hungry all the time and you get to eat luxuriously. Check out the Food Porn category. I eat better than virtually every person on earth eating grains and sugar — and not just in terms of nutrition — but in terms of taste and satisfaction. Last night after eating the curry I blogged, I recall sitting there in such an amazing state of contentment for the longest time, and with none of the bloated or tired feeling one gets in the hours to come — and I ate a lot.
So, you know what? Even if I didn’t lose much weight, express my genes, and reset my body to the way evolution intended, I’d still eat this way for the way I simply feel. Give this at least a few months and don’t ever discount the way you feel. It’s critical.
It’s a feature of the modern, agriculture-backed church and state bedfellows that you are always called upon to sacrifice and to feel guilt when you feel pleasure and contentment by means of your own individual efforts. Conventional, fake "contentment" — the "contentment" of a slave — in a world where parasites run things demands that everyone produce to keep them in blood to suck, and their only viable long-term strategy for that is to instill unearned guilt. They do that by promoting fantasies as real, crating problems where no problems exist, and then provide a "solution" that of course requires allegiance, worship, obedience, sacrifice.
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. –H. L. Mencken
And it’s that guilt, alarm, and clamoring for safety and salvation that causes you to torture yourself with low-fat diets of industrially processed garbage — and then try a burn it off in hours of toil on a treadmill or some other penance for your sins.
There’s the theory. For the practical, I would recommend that you don’t look at the scale very often. In an evolutionary context, we are simply not very good at gaining valid knowledge from observations of very complex systems (like metabolism). There was a book written a few years back that I highly recommend: Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. If you’ve read any of Art de Vany’s blog, you may have seen reference.
You don’t want to get yourself stressed, worried — or overly exuberant — by obsessing on the scale. Personally, I look at it twice per week, after each workout on the way to the sauna. In over two years at this, I can tell you that there have been a multitude of inexplicable swings up to 5 pounds in either direction. So, what you want to do is pay attention only to the highs & lows.
You are trying to shed fat and to keep and strengthen lean tissue. So, what you want over time is to observe lower highs and lower lows on the scale, and between those two established trends, never mind what happens, so long as you’re keeping your eating practices at 80-90% good.
Anyone else have anything to add?