Is There a Metabolic Unicorn?

I want to use this post to start a discussion on metabolism. I’m going to cover what I believe to be true and what I’m skeptical about. I hope to get some good comments because this is a topic I find extremely interesting and yet I don’t fully understand.

I’m going to break this discussion into 2 parts:

  1. Bringing a low metabolism back up to normal.
  2. Getting lean by jacking a metabolism with high caloric intake.

When I first started reading the blogs on metabolism, I was only thinking about the first part. The second part was not even on my radar. It is something I didn’t even think about until last week. More on that later.

Increasing a Low Metabolism

Years ago I was constantly experimenting with new nutritional ideas. One of the ideas that crossed my path was the idea that body temperature could be a metric of health. In 2013, I posted an overview of the book Diet Recovery 2 by Matt Stone. In that post, I summarized the things that can reduce metabolism.

They are calorie restriction, especially yo-yo diet, excessive exercise – especially chronic cardio, poor sleep, long term low carb dieting, drinking too many liquids, and consuming too many PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats).

The book made a strong case that too often when we plateau in meeting our health goals, we are encouraged to double down and go more strict, but in doing this we can make our metabolism fall even further. My summary of the corrective advice in the book was:

Eat more calories. Get off the treadmill. Sleep more. Stop fearing carbs. Quit drinking so many beverages, especially water. And embrace saturated fats over PUFA.

I also used this analogy in that post:

Following this advice you are very likely to gain weight at first, but that is OK. Think of the leaky boat analogy. Yes you can paddle it real hard and hope you’ll get across the lake or you can be patient, make the repairs and then make the journey safer and with less effort.

The book and the advice rang true to me. I saw numerous examples of people that were exercising hard and restricting their diet, but falling short of their goals. Exercising and dietary restriction were likely no longer undervalued options. Their metabolism was responding by slowing as a defensive technique.

Using the techniques in the book, I was able to increase my body temperate from 97.0°F to 98.5°F. My sleep went from 6.5 hours with several wakings to 8 hours solid. I did gain some weight (~10 pounds) as expected, but at my height (6’2.5 or 189 cm), I’m still lean (not ripped).

At this point in the story, I am a believer. My exercise is lower, my sleep is great, my skin is no longer dry and I almost never get the headaches that used to wake me up in the middle of the night. I’m willing to accept that my analysis of what happened to me is flawed. Maybe I feel better for unrelated reasons? I don’t know, but for now, I will credit an increased metabolism as measured by a higher body temperature.

Jacking a Normal Metabolism

Last week Matt Stone posted The Metabolic Zone, which is about eating A LOT of calories consistently to force the body metabolism higher, which will have the effect of lowering one’s fat setpoint, which will trigger a loss of body fat. The post further explains that one must keep eating in excess or the fat loss will cease. He even links to a blog post of a man that is claiming he got lean by eating 6,000 calories a day.

After reading the article three times and the comments, this is how I felt.

As I explained in the first part, I understand how a stressed body that is deficient in sleep, calories, nutrients and is perhaps exercising too much would need to change direction and do the unconventional approach to get back to normal. And that doing so would likely result in some weight gain. I get that part. When you’ve painted yourself into a metabolic corner, it makes sense to me why one would need to eat in excess … for a while.

My skepticism is that a Metabolic Unicorn exists where one can eat in excess to get lean. Not to get back to a healthy spot so one can pursue a more sustainable weight loss program, but to gorge one’s self to achieve leanness. Although the body might generate a little more heat, it also has the ability to store those calories as excess fat. The metabolic effect here would have to be massive, right?

The article acknowledges my skepticism:

No one has officially found the Metabolic Zone scientifically. Right now we’re operating on signs, evidence, rumors, logic, hearsay, and anecdotes. But I’m back in it, and back on it.

I believe Matt believes it exists. Right now I don’t, but I’m open to the possibility there is more to learn here. I’d love to hear your comments.


Add yours

  1. MAS:
    Interesting post. I often like Matt’s thinking, but I also do think he goes out of his way just to be contrarian sometimes.
    After reading Diet Recovery 2 (and his humorous anti-paleo book), I took a break from a mild paleo diet and I tried upping carbs and calories. I did seem to feel better and sleep better, but I also continued to gain weight quickly. I continued to gain weight for about 6 months, and then gave up. Maybe I would have eventually leveled out or started losing wieght, but it sure didn’t seem like it would happen.
    So, at present, my choices seem to be 1) feel pretty good and stay somewhat lean, or 2) eat more calories and carbs, feel and sleep better, and just keep gaining weight.
    So, your part 1 sort of works for me (feel good, but keep gaining weight), and I doubt part 2 would work and I’d be scared to try it.

  2. MAS
    One more thing. It seems that a lot of Matt’s advice would work great for, for example, very obese women who have been metabolically damaged by many years of yo-yo dieting. Such advice may not be as applicable to men with about ten pounds to lose.

  3. More calories, adding OJ & milk, definitely gave me the weight gain, and absolutely zero weight loss afterward. Intermittent 2-day fasting is the one and only thing that is helping me to lose fat. Two days of water only, one day of eating plenty of food including carbs with weight lifting, and repeat. I’ve lost no muscle this way, but the very obvious thing was that visceral fat was the first to go. I find this idea of overloading calories to be fascinating….but i think metabolic unicorn is exactly the right word to describe people who did that successfully.

  4. I’ve also read Matts work and read Danny Roddy.
    The ideas seem right, in practice it hasn’t worked for me either.
    When I want to get lean, morning fasts, basically not eating till lunch, combined with regular activity work best.
    If Eating a lot to make lose weight worked, many overweight people would no longer be overweight.

    Kiefers carb night works for many, basically carb fasts during the week, than a one night eat anything and everything to reset the body and do it again.

  5. @All- One of the things I think that might explain why those following Matt Stone or Ray Peat see a spike in weight after embracing higher carbs is they reduce their protein intake. It happened with me. I’m sure it happens with others. I think one of the secrets to low-carb diets is they tend to be higher in protein and protein keeps appetite in check.

    I could be wrong, but I suspect if one solves for protein first, then upping the carbs should not cause a spike in weight.

    I was hoping to get a comment from a smart person that could defend the Metabolic Unicorn. I have an idea how it might work, but I’m still highly skeptical.

    In the end, I think the old-school bodybuilder idea of cycling is likely the best way to get lean at a higher caloric level. Bounce between reduced calories and refeeds in a way the results in a calorie deficit but also restores hormones before metabolism is down regulated. What are the optimal or most sustainable cycles? Probably depends on where you are starting, what your goals are, age, sex, body type and a few other things we don’t know.

    And the quest continues…

  6. There are many ways of getting lean. There are only very few that address your heath in the process. If your health is of concern to you, “resetting” the way most people practice it, is a sure fire way to cancel out your health process. Besides if you need to “reset”, “carb feed” or whatever you want to call it, you are on a diet. Diets do – as we know- always fail, because eventually you run out of will-power.
    Eating more and leaning out might work for a very short period of time for a very few people under very special circumstances. (e.g. Athletes or other people under extraordinary stress). Writing a book about it and portraying it as a way meant for the public at large, is – IMHO – not very smart.
    There are unicorns in all walks of life – think of the old man who smoked 3 packs a day and lived to 100. Nobody would take up smoking because of that. And I certainly would not up my caloric intake – of whatever nutrient – for the purpose of leaning down.

  7. I am 5th year medschool and my mother is a doctor. I have read Matt’s work as well as others, like Stephen Guyenet or Ari Whitten. I also know what are the official positions in medical world and what some obesitologists think.
    Most of them hold the official position, which is mild caloric restriction and a healthy diet – lean meat, vegetables, fruits, low salt etc, and warn only against big restriction and yo-yo effect. The underlying belief is still that it’s about willpower, knowledge, support including psychotherapy. The two big factors are this healthy CR and movement, usually walking 5x a week for 30-45 minutes.
    But when I listen to these guys, they seem to me like they haven’t given this topic much thought as they also solve diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia and global cardiometabolic risk…so their advice is for someone who lovers his risk from very high to high by losing 5kg and lowering blood pressure by 5 mmHg. At least resistance training is now getting somewhat positive reputation but you can see they are cautious.
    Doctors who really focus on this area have very interesting insights. They don’t go as far as Matt Stone, but…I’ve heard about a man who does exercise for 4 hours a day and only lowered his obesity by 1 grade. (there are 1,2,3 by BMI – over 30, 35, 40) Which people here would probably expect, but it tells you a lot about the approaches taken today. it’s still calories in vs out mentality, kinda. Anyway, these doctors basically say we can’t do much, with tight control using current mechanisms of healthy diet, movement etc. the weight goes down only mildly. Also, they are aware of the universal yo-yo effect, basically you’ll probably gain it back anyway no matter the rate of loss. (Not all say this but some do.) Some of these doctors warn about running, for example, and prescribe only short walks. Opinions differ but sadly, even these guys who know something’s wrong with generic advice don’t really have the solution. Nobody talks about sleep much, but then again they didn’t talk about resistance training few years ago. It needs more studies to be “evidence based”, ehm. Now the american heart assotiation has cardiorespiratory fitness as health marker and again, doctors will slowly catch up.
    Basically, all doctors know only about 5% succed in their diet effort, and even that is questionable. One group calls for more willpover, psychotherapy, control, to at least get that 5kg loss and improve markers, other kinda gives up.
    My personal doctor is an atuthor of awarded internal medicine textbook, professor, a president of some international federations etc…and he told me basically to not be on a diet to solve my hyperlipidemia, he said people know what they should eat but nobody does and that he had maybe one patient who really did it and lowered the markers and this one went to some shaolin monastery or something and ate roots. And if I do it I’ll be miserable and only will help myself by 5%. Funnily enough, his official texts are pretty in line with official recommendations. Then again I’m specific because my hyperlipidemia is familial, for someone just obese his advice may be different.
    So yeah, all doctors know only 5% people succed, some blame the lazy fuckers and some dig deeper and still don’t have answers. I guess many look with hope to the future to find better drugs, which I agree with.

    Anyway I’d say good sleep, low stress, circadian alignment by getting daylight (short walk) and some resistance training are staples. Then my choice would be not be concerned about diet at all which should lead to some variability but neither restriction or this forced feeding. I’m not entirely sure about the diet part though, because I never had the staples in place to evaluate whether I need a diet or not. If I tried one it would be the one you or Guyenet do, with low food exposure, barriers to mindless eating, high satiety etc. Of course there is this danger of this being another caloric restriction that backfires longterm ot rather leads to no difference compared to “fuck it” approach..

  8. That said, I take statins which helped my family a lot and he often points out they are 9:1 positive and a miracle according to large studies, save lives, but people always focus on sensations…that some person got diabetes slightly earlier because of statins etc. So yeah, it’s good to be contrarian but often it’s just empty sensationalism. People these days say doctors are evil, cure only markers etc. They actually treat global cardiometabolic risk but LDL level has still the strongest correlation to mortality. And many drugs were taken from the market when they lowered markers and didn’t lower mortality. Lowered mortality and holistic treatment is always the end goal.

  9. And if Matt get’s up at night to eat a cookie, he goes against his own advice of not thinking about food etc. He has great ideas but sometimes the lack of formal education leads him to some crazy conclusions, he isn’t able to weigh the relative importance of variables properly, get’s too enthusiastic about one aspect…but fair enough to him for testing this. But if I’m not mistaken he is ft and only lost a slight amount recently. Again, maybe if he did nothing at all…

  10. Believe it or not I gained 80 lbs from that garbage science. Eat every 2 to 3 hours and you can eat more because your metabolism will be high. There is so truth to the claim, yes your metabolism will be a little higher if you eat more because it takes energy to digest the food but you’re also eating way more calories.
    I was living proof it’s based on bad science. I did end up losing 40 lbs by exercising moderately and eating less and then I did a 3 day juice fast with 4 day water fast.

  11. I don’t know many people who are willing to gain 20lbs (or 80?? Miketo?? Wow!) before losing weight… but I do know there are people who try to follow Matt’s advice and do gain significant pounds (following the Diet Recovery plan).

    What I learned from reading Matt’s books, was to experiment and find my OWN answers. I stopped forcing myself to drink 5 gallons of water a day (no way did I EVER drink that much… but I stopped even trying), and I added SALT and CHEESE back into my life (“real salt”, not iodized dead salt) . Those three changes moved my core temperature from =98.6F, consistently.

    We’ve dropped the thermostat in the house from 70F to 67F (I work at home) and I no longer wear slippers, and often go without socks on in the house… even in winter. I ENJOY those changes. I did eat more during my ‘recovery experiments’, but I watched the scale and did not allow myself to eat so much that I gained weight…. and that was good enough for me.

    I went the route of choosing a more nutritious diet plan to lose weight, one that included weekly carb & fat cycling is what worked for me (Haylie Pomroy’s Fast Metabolism Diet). I still don’t “move” enough… unfortunately my mastiff is too willing to nap the day away, and doesn’t pester me enough to get out for walks. But, we’re working on that, too. HA!

    I would not enjoy being too big to fit in any of my work clothes for a year or two until my body decided 30 years of dieting was suddenly “over”, and it could drop the fat stores it had worked so hard to accumulate. For all I know, after 30 years of dieting to lose weight, it will take 30 years of over-eating to ‘turn the page’ and start the “natural/automatic” losing process… and I may be dead by then. LOL!

  12. I’ll also add – I’m with Roland – my health is more important than the number on the scale or the size of my clothes.

    I tried the “medifast” diet… uber-processed soy-protein powered food… and lost a bunch of pounds, while also losing my health and ending up with pneumonia, TWICE.

    I aim to be Healthy first. Losing weight is a side-benefit.

  13. Upping the calories with fresh squeezed juice for the fructose while replacing some starch calories should lower insulin resulting in less fat gain or even a loss if calories are right.

    Stay on feet all day

  14. Mas- I share your skepticism as well as your optimism. I have to wonder how much of our gravitation to these theories is that we *want* them to be true. Who doesn’t like the idea of eating more, exercising less, AND getting leaner as a result. Is this the investment equivalent to putting less money in, reducing risk, and getting higher returns?

    Even if such a theory could work, I struggle with the fact that it isnt really productive outside of weight loss/ metabolism benefits. Ie no increase in willpower, self mastery/discipline and feeling of mindful living. Further, I think about how easy it could be to fall out of this zone and find yourself ballooning up in weight before all of lifes events like weddings, beach trips, vacation, etc.. that then leave us scrambling to drop even more weight faster.
    Though I am even more cautious of chronic under eating, I have to intuitively believe that eating to appetite/ just slightly under is much healthier for the body as a whole and decreases wear and tear. Same with exercise avoiding anything even remotely close to chronic but instead finding enjoyable ways to to stay active and fit so that you don’t lose the ability/ freedom to perform at much higher levels whenever you want to.

    I suppose my biggest takeaway or area of interest is how to microdose ( most overused buzzword?) on ideas such as Matt’s, Danny’s, Rays etc.. without getting too far down a rabbit hole and minimizing exposure to risk- as we have talked about in the past.

  15. I would consider myself relatively healthy and at a relatively normal weight, but I tried some of the things Matt Stone suggests a few years ago just for the sake of it to see if it would improve my athletic performance. I had very poor results, to say the least. It took me many months to reverse the damage I did following his advice!

    In my opinion he is one of the biggest frauds going around. There is no possible way he can believe some of the stuff he writes.

    So to answer your question – I do not believe there is a metabolic unicorn. I think Stephan Guyenet’s general approach is one of the best out there but it wouldn’t be considered controversial or rocket science, really.

    Probably the best thing I have introduced is skipping breakfast. I pretty much eat the same amount of food as I normally would but spread over 2 and a half meals rather than 3 or 4. I’m not sure why it works for me, but I seem to do better on this regimen.

    I think you have some great material on your blog, hope you don’t quit again anytime soon!

  16. TINAT Correction it was 70 lbs not 80 lbs. That was back in 2001 when I was reading body building magazine and crazy health magazines. I thought the articles were true since they all pretty much said the same thing. The problem was I got so hungry and it was hard to stop. When I did the water and juice fasts is when I learned how to easily lose weight.

    I’m going to start eating more fruits and vegetables more. We all know we should be eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, it’s healthier and you’ll lose weight in the process. The crappy part is people don’t want to eat fruits and vegetables but instead want short term fixes to eat junk food.

  17. My comments don’t seem to be showing up?

  18. @All – I think Zander nailed it. Stone, Peat and Roddy do have some wisdom that many can benefit from, but figuring out what that dose is will vary from person to person. “Microdose” and adjust.

    Stone’s ideas helped me raise my temps and sleep better. For that I’m grateful. I think he has a strong position on half the equation, which is going from below normal to baseline. Beyond that I remain skeptical.

    I’ll continue with POWS, as I think it is the best path for me now and I have the freedom to adjust the tiers as my activity increases or decreases.

    I was hoping to get a full defense comment that at least gave me pause, but other than the guy that wrote the 6,000 calorie post (with no photos or food logs), I haven’t read a single thing that would make me believe that this metabolic unicorn has any merit.

    My best guess is there is a 10% truth out there related to this topic. Billy Craig (the 6,000 calorie guy) is working on a book according to his website. The original 6,000 calorie post is now 5 years old. Whenever a wild claim from years ago surfaces, I ask myself “If this is true, why don’t more people know about it?” Read the next to last paragraph on this post. Same concept.

    What I have read here and on many other comments on 180D are from people that gained a lot of weight and are now stuck.

  19. Actually, forced feeding as a kid or a family lifestyle of overeating is one of the causes of obesity according to my textbook.
    You’re probably right. The only alternative would be to not care at all about food part of the equation and let the hypothalamus handle the business. Putting all foods and drinks as equal. Sleep well, low stress, infrequent HIT.

  20. If you want to defend Matt Stone’s current approach, it’s not difficult. For example, we know beige fat exists that has much more mitochondria and can basically shed the fat as heat. And there are many more machanisms, hormonal (adiponektin, leptin bla bla), spontaneous activity, hunger etc. that can override your conscious efforts to get lean and inversely probably can override your action towards getting fat.
    Your argument that fat people would be lean already…not really. Fat people get fat because they eat a lot and are stress, lack sleep etc. If Matt creates a stress free, sleep aundant environment and aligns circadian rhythms, I’d say it’s quite possible he loses weight given the final signal that is sent to the body is wastly different from a stressed obese person, even though they both eat a lot. In any anecdote, you also have to account of genetics, as just the simple fact your one parent had type 2 diabetes means a 60% chance for you, if both had it, 90%. People who end up trying unorthodox methods are pre-selected for fat accumulation anyway.

  21. @Ondrej – Interesting. I guess the test would be to run an experiment with 2 groups and then control for calories. Put one group in beach houses and make sure they get plenty of sleep. Then mess with the 2nd group. Same calories. What happens? If there is a difference, what is it?

    But such a test is likely not going to happen.

  22. In that Unicorn article Matt says he believes that even the approach like POWS – based on satiety – still has the negative effects of caloric restriction and leads to rebound weight gain when you slip.
    Check out Stephen Guyenet latest article on how patients who took antidiabetic drug that causes you to pee 90g of glucose a day still had the starvation response and regained weight even though they didn’t consciously know and ate as usual.
    I wonder if this applies to your current approach as well. Stephen thinks it doesn’t. But why not? Can you really trick the body on all levels like this long term?
    That said I obviously see you, Mcguff, Tanner and others as a proof it can be done. Although Skyler not only restricts food, he also fasts. To me it kinda looks like he chased himself into the corner and has to keep a very low intake to maintain weight.

  23. “I also want to clarify that we aren’t just talking about eating and exercising “to appetite” or “intuitively” and losing weight. Many enter this state just from removing psychological prohibitions about certain “naughty” foods, stop binge eating, and lose weight solely from reducing their calorie intake. Many more can enter into a state where they are eating as much as they desire and losing body fat simply by restricting their diet to boring, repetitive chow of some kind.
    This type of body fat loss is most likely triggered solely by a decreased consumption of food, and in my personal experience leads to the same repercussions as intentional calorie deprivation, including increased hypersensitivity to weight gain when consuming normal portions of normal food.
    Note, there is definitely some evidence that eating a nutritious, whole foods, low-calorie density diet for weight loss is better than just eating smaller portions, and there is evidence that exercising to achieve a calorie deficit is better than just eating less of whatever it was you’ve been eating.”

  24. Guyenet:
    “There are several interesting implications of this study. The first is that the data support our current understanding of how body weight is regulated. Even when energy balance was perturbed without the participants’ knowledge, a powerful starvation response occurred that favored the regain of lost weight. The data support the concept that a sort of body weight “set point” is defended against changes, particularly changes in the downward direction.

    A second implication is that between the two arms of the starvation response– the increased drive to eat and the decreased calorie expenditure– the former is by far the most influential. In other words, the primary way in which the brain opposes weight loss is by increasing the biological drive to eat. The data also give us a quantitative estimate of this drive: for each 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of weight lost, the drive to eat increases by about 100 Calories per day*. This is even stronger than I would have predicted.

    A third implication– which I think is the most novel of the study– relates to the dynamics of the heightened drive to eat that people experience when they diet, and how this undermines weight loss efforts. After a person loses weight, the biological drive to eat can be so high that they have to exert considerable effort just to prevent themselves from overeating substantially. Even though it seems like they’re no longer adhering to their reduced calorie regimen, they may still be trying hard to eat fewer calories– and succeeding, relative to the amount their brain “wants” them to eat.

    The amount of effort that people put into a diet does slowly decline over time however, and as this effort recedes, the biological drive to eat takes over and weight comes back. It’s hard to fight the starvation response forever.”

    What I find interesting is that Stephean G. basically admits his approach causes starvation response too – because that’s apparently primarily regulated by weight changed and resulting leptin levels – but believes if your diet is filling enough, you’ll still “win”, kind of. But to me it seems one has to lose in the end, because the starvation response probably won’t stop. And the people in the study regained their weight and maybe had to work harder to maintain their starting weight than if they just chilled out.

  25. In your personal case, is it possible that you are about 6 months in, experiencing the honeymoon phase when you see the peak of your results with this approach? Maybe you’ll return to baseline in 1,5 years too, attributing it to “lowered effort” or “increased work stress” while you’ll be fighting hard just to stay in the “before” condition. Let’s hope not.

  26. @Ondrej – If POWS caused one to lose body temp and have disruptive sleep, then I would agree with Matt, but it hasn’t for me. And if it did, one could just increase World Cuisine or Modern Indulgences and decrease the Peasant and Old School Bodybuilder.

    I side with taking a cyclical approach that doesn’t trigger hunger. This is not the same as yo-yo dieting that Matt talks about. My deficits are small and don’t last long. Could be a few meals, but never more than a few days. My willpower is never tested because I eat for volume (or higher protein) which suppresses the hunger hormones, which ultimately lead to reduced metabolism and rebound weight gain.

    My approach is still like that of an investor. My “portfolio” takes the best ideas and balances them based on my needs. Matt’s great ideas (so far) are for increasing a sluggish metabolism. As for getting lean, I’m unconvinced.

  27. The question is: if the starvation response kicks in based on bodyweight changes, is increased satiety enough to counter it long term, or can the body defend the setpoint through multiple other mechanisms – especially lowering the spontaneous activity even more, or changing other hormone levels that cause the change in body composition?

  28. @Ondrej – I started an early version of POWS in late 2015, so it has been longer than 6 months.

    I was thinking about your question from another angle. If I stopped POWS, what would I go to? I’m not going to go low-carb or vegetarian. Fasting would work best for only if I were to give up coffee, which I don’t see happening.

  29. @Ondrej – I don’t know if the body triggers a starvation response based off body weight changes. I doubt it. As much as we talk about how many people fail on diets, not everyone fails.

    I suspect a few to success is creating a lifestyle diet that is easy to comply with a doesn’t require willpower. POWS for the win!

  30. Well I don’t think you should stop if it works. But another form of restriction is not an alternative as it manages satiety worse than POWS and can’t have any advantages. You could only try eating whatever putting all food at the same starting level(or try this forced feeding thing although I don’t believe in it). These approaches would be different. But they go against our need to control things.

    Also I think there is slight misunderstanding. You can’t expect getting lean with eating spontaneously or overfeeding in my opinion. Being very lean isn’t really a state body maintains in circumstances it percieves as ideal. I guess looking decent with no sixpack but not being fat is more realistic. The goal of Matt is in my opinion the cost benefit of no effort leading to ideal healthy bodyweight.

  31. I pointed out starvation response being based on bodyweight change alone because both Guyenet and Stone say it and the study with antidiabetics kind of documents it. That’s where I find the possible flaw in Guyenet’s approach in The Hungry Brain.

  32. @MikeTO – I’m not sure why your email is getting flagged. All your comments are visible now. I think I have it fixed, but if you ever have your comments held, please send me an email. My email is on this page –>

  33. What I find interesting, after following Matt’s blog for several years, is a very common (though, not universal) theme of:

    “Well, I started eating way more food — ice cream, McDonalds, pizza and Coke, etc. — and all I did was get fat. So, I ate even MORE junk food…only to gain more weight.”

    I’m certainly the last person on the planet to understand weight regulation, but, as a layperson, any statement similar to the one above seems absurd.

    People even post desperate questions like: “Am I drinking enough soda?”

    (That loud *SMACK* you heard was me giving myself a giant headpalm.)

    Now, I realize that any suggestion to eat such foods is meant to be temporary. So, perhaps I should be more understanding. However, what, exactly, was it that led people to be overweight in the first place? Were they eating too LITTLE?


    Again, I don’t have the answer. But, if I were a betting person, I wouldn’t place my money on pizza, doughnuts, ice cream, and soda.

    Ultimately, what really concerns me, though, is that most of Matt’s commenters are focused on “weight.” I don’t recall seeing many inquiries about “health.” Perhaps the goal is a slimmer casket.

  34. @Aaron – I think you and I share some of the same feelings. In the past when I’ve dedicated posts to articles on 180 DH, Matt has showed up in the comments. Not this time. I find that odd. I get that he is traveling through Latin America, but is still active online. This blog has been a massive supporter of his work and ideas.

    It has been a month since I published this post. Since then my confidence level that there is a Metabolic Zone has dropped from skeptical to almost total disbelief. I have spent more hours researching metabolism in the last 30 days than I have in the past few years. I’m not the best researcher, but I been OK in the past and I think I’m getting better sniffing out the hucksters from the truth.

    With that disclaimer behind me, if I were to guess what Matt would say to you, it would go something like this: —When people yo-yo diet their body temps and pulse drop. Their sleep is awful. The body is placed into a stressful state. Using food – especially high calorie industrialized food – can reduce this state of stress and restore metabolism. Weight gain happens, but those other markers improve. The improvement in those other markers is much more important in the short term than weight. —-

    2 years ago I posted a response to one of his commenters. This would be my response to many of his readers that are buried in frustration.

  35. I followed the “eat more to raise metabolism” , with the hopes of having a good normalized weight without diet or starvation.
    As others have commented, all that happened was heaps of weight gain that did not leave.
    It was a disastrous path from my point of view.

    I affirm that a slow kind of intermittent calorie reduction/cycling is the best way to lose –
    in my 30+ yrs of dieting experimentations I have found this to be the best way of losing some weight that is sustainable.
    For me a smallish drop of calories every second day works well –
    more than that, and the body seems to kick back with downregulating metabolism.

  36. @Stella – I think you are right. Cycling in reductions. Just like the old school bodybuilders figured out.

  37. MAS, Yes, I think as you say too:
    that for increasing metabolism –
    cycling calories upwards intermittently is a better approach than the constant eating all approach to try and raise metabolism.
    Before diving into the eat all and freely approach,
    I was cycling calories upwards here and there , with some smaller gain, but with a decent increase in metabolism.
    If I had continued on that path, I would have avoided the disastrous gain that occurred with the eat all approach –
    and been without the accompanying irreversible body damage that also occurred – stretch marks, loose skin aftermath etc etc..
    However we are all wiser in hindsight..

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