We all have that one relative that went through a weight loss phase.
A lot of motivation and a few months later the pounds of fat disappeared revealing a fit and lean body.
Victory: everybody is amazed at the results and congratulates the willpower needed to sustain the effort.
But a few months later, you notice that the pounds are slowly starting to come back. Finally one day you realize that all the weight came back!
How did that happen?
Weight loss and weight management are two different things. Great motivation and momentum can help in the first phase of burning substantial amounts of fat, but only a well-thought system for the “after” will enable the result to stick.
Why keeping the weight off is so hard?
Let’s say that a person wants to lose fat. In most cases, the first thing one does is search for potentially suitable and doable weight loss protocols. Nutrition plans to lower the calorie intake, different healthy recipes, workout plans to burn fat… You name it.
After a little audit and a lot of motivation, the person will start the fat loss journey with a diet and a physical program to follow. The first pounds will start to disappear quickly giving a burst in motivation. When everything is done correctly, the fat will be gone in a matter of weeks or months. After this hard period, the final result is there: a lot of fat is gone, everyone is impressed by the result, and life can come back to normal.
That’s when the problem starts.
You see, if you have a weight problem in the first place, you have to understand the reasons behind it. Is it binge eating on the weekends? Too much partying? The piece of dessert every day after dinner? The delicious breakfast they serve at work?
Weight gain can come from a lot of different places. The problem is that most people aren’t really mindful of their eating habits which makes it hard for them to understand where their weight problem comes from.
What to do about it?
The first thing to do is to understand your eating habits. You have to know roughly how you consume your calories. This knowledge will show you your bad habits, for example eating processed calorie-dense foods. It will also make you aware of your lifestyle and what food moments you particularly enjoy.
Let’s say you really enjoy going to restaurants and you tend to overeat there or you really like to feel satiated after a big and filling meal.
Asking yourself to stop eating out, or to get accustomed to small portions simply wouldn’t be realistic. The less sustainable your nutrition plan is in the long term, the smaller chances are that you’ll be able to keep away the weight you lost.
So what can you do?
The recipe for successful weight management is understanding what you can give up, and what you can’t.
If your social life revolves around dining out multiple times per week and you enjoy it, you don’t have to give it up completely. You can consider it as a must in your life, as long as you don’t go to all-you-can-eat sushi buffets every day!
Now that you figured out the enjoyable food moments you don’t want to abandon, you have to find the ones where you can make concessions. Something has to change because remember: old habits = old you.
There are a lot of ways to “compensate” for those nice food moments: you can increase your physical activity, eat less on certain days, or mix the two… A good approach is always one you can sustain.
Here’s a high impact & low hassle approach that worked for me.
The 36 hours weekly water fast
If some people can’t keep their weight off, in most cases it means that they didn’t manage to keep their caloric intake in check and they tend to eat too much. Old habits die hard, and especially the pleasure coming from a satisfying meal. In my experience, the hardest thing about this is forgetting that feeling of being full and getting used to less satiety.
When the motivation and the excitement of losing weight are gone, you’re left with having to continue with good habits and this can quickly become depressing.
As paradoxical as it may appear for a lot of people eating no food for a day is easier than eating a little bit of food.
Let’s say that before losing fat you could maintain your weight with 2800 calories per day, and after losing fat you maintain it with 2300 calories. Eating 2300 calories every day sucks when you got used to getting 2800 for years.
If you start the 36 hours weekly water fast (also called Monk Fast), in other words, you pick one day of the week when you don’t consume any food, it creates a weekly deficit of 2300 calories. When you add this to six other days of the week, it leaves you with almost 2700 calories per day.
This way, you get back the essential feeling of having enough food, and that’s a game-changer!
36 hours weekly fasts will help you maintain your weight in the long term by regulating the caloric excess each week. I like to put the fasting day on Mondays, a day with minimal social commitment and that comes just after the weekend treats. To be sure you don’t overeat the day after, you can break your fast with a high volume low-calorie meal such as a salad loaded with veggies.
Apart from being a great tool to maintain your weight, fasting is also great at promoting longevity through autophagy, the natural and regulated mechanism of the cell that removes unnecessary or dysfunctional components.
On top of the longevity benefits, fasting has been proven to decrease inflammation, reset gut microbiome, and improve blood sugar regulation.
Fasting is not only good for your physical health but it also helps with mental clarity and can increase your productivity. Fasting also helps you to be more mindful of your relationship with food. By removing food for a day, you realize how many times per day you eat mindlessly. Developing awareness regarding what you eat is the single most important skill you could learn to ensure long term success.
Getting into fasting for weight management can also pave your way towards more fasting for health and longevity. The hardest part is usually to get into fasting and learn to manage hunger. Once you master it, things get easier, much easier, and even enjoyable. What you started as a way to maintain the weight off can become a lifelong health-promoting habit.
Not for everyone — Limitations
Fasting 36 hours is not hard per se, but it could be better to start with less than that and then build-up to 20 hours per day before trying more. To get further information on the how-tos of fasting I highly recommend checking the content Zero Fasting is sharing.
If you have a history of disordered eating or eating disorders, fasting is really not recommended as it can increase unhealthy relationships with food and lead to binge eating after the fast.
Knowing that you will fast one day per week should not be the reason to overindulge and think that everything will be taken care of by the fasting day. Remember that a day’s worth of calories can easily be attained with cakes/pastries/pizzas and drinks. The goal here is to offset the small excesses throughout the week, not to legitimize mindless eating.
This approach is just one tool in the toolbox of weight management practices. It helped me a lot and I hope it can help others as well. Remember, the whole point is to be aware of what you eat, how much you exercise, keep food habits you really enjoy, ditch the rest, and find ways to make it work together, in the long term.