Saturday, June 11, 2011

Research and Common Sense

The below post is an old post of mine in response to lots of things that I regularly hear in the diet industry. Most of them don't make any sense to me when I use my common sense radar so I did a little research and found that my common sense radar is right on the money.

One that is particularly rampant is the "starvation mode" myth. This is almost always the first thing people say to me when I tell them about my lifestyle. They say, "But don't you go into starvation mode if you skip a meal?"

Starvation mode is used as fear mongering. Keep us eating and consuming and buying those diet books. Starvation mode is not what we think it is, not even close, and eating once a day certainly will not put you into starvation mode as you are still eating the right amount of calories in a day, you are just having them in one meal instead of that crazy recommendation of 6 (who has the time or will power for six meals a day?!).

Starvation mode does not mean the absence of food. It means cutting the total caloric intake to less than 50% of what the body requires for an extended period of time. 

This would mean that you would have to reduce your calories by 50% on an ongoing basis for months or years to truly go into what everyone calls "Starvation Mode." 

That means that a diet that requires you to cut back your recommended daily calories by 500 per day or a lifestyle like intermittent fasting where you combine long fasts with eating plenty of food and never count calories at all (although if I did, I am sure I eat more than my daily recommended amount) is in no way going to put you into starvation mode. And you certainly wouldn't go into starvation mode for just skipping a meal.

Check out this article for more science behind the myth.

Enjoy a revival of my old post "The School of Common Sense" below.

I come from the school of common sense. It is how I live my life. For me, if it doesn't sound plausible it probably isn't. I haven't listened to my common sense a lot in my weight loss journey, until now. I think that is because of repetition. Martin Berkhan said it best on his blog LeanGains:
Repetition. Repeat something often enough and it becomes the truth. If everyone is saying the same thing, it must be true. No need to look into it and think for yourself.
Here are some of my common sense observations:

If you fast you will lose muscle because your body will burn muscle first before fat (a statement that one of my readers got from a personal trainer).

COMMON SENSE: If our bodies store fat for the purpose of burning that fat when it is in need of energy, why would it then go and burn muscle instead? It doesn't make sense.

THINKING FOR MYSELF: Wikipedia has something to say about this here. LeanGains blog on myths debunked, myth number six also has something to say. And here.

If you fast you will go into starvation mode and gain weight rather than lose weight.

COMMON SENSE: If I skip a meal, I am not STARVING. I have been skipping meals for almost a year now and I have lost almost 50 LBS so common sense tells me that I never switch into "starvation mode".

THINKING FOR MYSELF: Again read what wikipedia has to say about this here.

Exercise is the key to weight loss.

COMMON SENSE: You need to have a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories to release 1 pound of fat. If I work out HARD for one hour I can burn about 400-500 calories. Common sense tells me that this might work, oh wait, that means I would have to work out HARD one hour per day EVERY, SINGLE, DAY and keep my calories in line perfectly, EVERY, SINGLE, DAY.

THINKING FOR MYSELF: Now lets be realistic here. We are all busy, we all have responsibilities. Working out that hard every day just won't work, not for me at least. And being perfect with my food intake in this society is also really hard. Check out this article on the subject and one of my previous posts on Diet vs. Exercise here.

You need to eat six meals a day if you want to keep your metabolism going.

COMMON SENSE: As we all know, in history, there wasn't always a grocery store on every corner stocked with any food we could ever want in one place. As early humans we had to wait to get food until we could catch it, grow it, find it or whatever. Why would our bodies be designed to need a constant stream of food if for most of history we have been without the grocery store?

THINKING FOR MYSELF: Check out this article from the New York Times. And the US National Library of Medicine here.

Fasting is not good for you health. You need to eat regularly to be healthy.

COMMON SENSE: Since I began intermittent fasting as a lifestyle I have seen positive effects in my health. My skin which usually had acne on my face and shoulders constantly is now perfectly clear ALL THE TIME. I rarely get sick, and when I do it passes easily. Compared to before when I got colds all the time that would put me in bed for a week or more. I feel better and have more energy than ever before. I could go on and on...

THINKING FOR MYSELF: The US National Library of Medicine has countless studies that suggest that fasting is not only safe, but good for you, better for you than eating regularly. Check them out hereherehere, and here. And search for more yourself, as there are more...

Bottom line is don't believe everything you hear just because it comes from a "professional trainer". They don't have all the answers, go and find the answers yourself and learn from experience. What works for one person may not work for you, so customize your weight loss journey to fit YOUR needs.


  1. Ahem! I can't even begin to start with how much I agree with you.
    I feel like the blinders have been finally pulled up and I see how it really is. I love what you said about "repeat something enough and it becomes true". This is so true! I hear so many people talking flippantly about these 'diet truths' and they make no sense, yet they aren't willing to believe otherwise. It's too bad.

  2. I absolutely love this post!!! It's all true and I agree with you.

  3. New Diet Taps into Revolutionary Concept to Help Dieters Lose 20 Pounds in Just 21 Days!


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