Relax Then Recover
A Simple Approach To Weight Management
Warning: This information is being shared, not prescribed. I’m not a doctor or dietician.
I’ve been studying nutrition and experimenting with different diets for about 20 years with varying degrees of success.
The method I’m using now for choosing my weight is the most effective one I’ve found so far.
I was able to deliberately lose weight, stop the drop in weight and maintain my average weight within a pound over the last three months (which included Thanksgiving and the holidays).
I didn’t exercise. I ate when I was hungry.
I didn’t eat everything I wanted to every time I wanted to, but the approach allowed more flexibility than I’ve ever had for matching nutrition efforts with the realities of life.
“Relax Then Recover” is a good way to describe what I’ve been up to. I relax my food restrictions when I need to and then recover after.
Relax Then Recover
I make rough estimates of how food will effect my weight based on two sugars (glucose and fructose) and two fats (saturated fat and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid).
I adjust carbs (glucose) to control weight.
I limit sugar (fructose), alcohol and specific nuts / grains / seed oils (omega-6) to reduce the load on my liver. Reducing the load on my liver improves my tolerance for carbs.
I use 1–2 Tablespoons of coconut oil or sour cream (saturated fat) at each meal to keep metabolism, appetite, digestion and my liver running smoothly.
I weigh myself right before going to bed and right after I wake up so I can recognize the connections between what I eat and what I see on the scale and in the mirror.
To lose weight:
- Reduce blood sugar by limiting carbs.
- Reduce the load on your liver by reducing sugar, omega-6 fatty acid and alcohol.
- Increase saturated fat.
Weight loss looks like this:
The thick red line is a running average of my weight.
The dots are individual measurements of my weight.
I weigh myself right before I go to bed and right after I wake up.
The two weight measurements a day provide feedback on my fuel intake vs energy output during the day and whether or not the previous day generated an energy surplus or deficit.
Instead of obsessing about individual measurements, I’m tracking trends and how much effort I need to apply to recovery over the next few days.
I use a Withings scale and their free app. I’m not affiliated with the company. Their product is convenient and useful. The scale automatically sends the data to my phone so I don’t have to do any data entry or manipulation. I ignor their dietary advice.
The screen shot covers the last four months (September 2015 — January 2016).
To Choose the Weight You Want To Stop At:
- Add carbs.
Choosing a weight looks like this:
As I approached my target weight, I added carbs back into my diet to stop the drop.
To recover after heavy meals, take the same steps you took to lose weight:
- Reduce glucose.
- Reduce liver load.
- Add saturated fat.
Recovery from a heavy meal looks like this:
The spolighted point is my weight after Thanksgiving Dinner.
The spotlighted average shows my average weight creeping up, then I recover and start trending down again.
An important point is recovery time. It took two days of reduced carbs to recover from Thanksgiving dinner (my favorite meal of the year).
The numbers up close can be frustrating and confusing.
If you look at my individual weights over a two week period in January, they are all over the place.
I had a low day at 155.1 and a few days up at 160. Just looking at individual measurements, it would be easy to get frustrated and give up.
Stepping back and looking at the big picture provides a completely different perspective:
While individual measurements vary widely, my average weight has stayed within about a pound over three months (late October — late January).
I’m in the process of tweaking fats and sugars to move my average weight from just over 158 down to 157. I’m ignoring the BMI, it’s a calculated value based on my height (5'9").
- I did not weigh or measure my food. I eyeballed it.
- I did not count calories.
- I did not exercise.
- A typical day’s meals would be coffee w/ butter and coconut oil for breakfast, tuna salad (made with sour cream instead of mayo) and crackers for lunch, chili and rice w/ sour cream for dinner, dark chocolate for snacks 2–3 times during the day. (This is a recovery day which would allow me to bring weight back down.)
- I’ve been experimenting with different diets for twenty years. I was married to a vegetarian in a previous life. I lived in Italy for two years. I’ve travelled all over the world. None of these specifics makes me a nutrition expert, they just provide a wide experience base for evaluating what I read about nutrition.
- While my weight loss was modest (6 pounds over 6 weeks), it was significant because it was 6 “stubborn” pounds.
- My best success prior to “Relax Then Recover” was low carb paleo with Crossfit and then a 11 day detox at the end. I lost 30 pounds over a 10 month period (178 to 148 from August 2007 to May 2008). 148 is not a good look for me.
- My diet is looser (not necessarily healthier) now and I didn’t have kids then. My wife and I have a 3 1/2 year old son and 6 month old daughter (which is the reason I’ve only exercised once a month for the last 6 months). My kids frequently play chaos monkey with my best laid meal planning and deserve the credit for the flexibility I’ve discovered with this approach.
How It Works
- Insulin is dependent on blood sugar levels. Burning fat vs storing fat is driven by insulin. The target when reducing “carbs” is lower glucose consumption and lower insulin levels.
- The liver is the body’s fat factory, it packages sugar & fat for storage. The type and volume of fat and sugar hitting the liver is a significant driver of how and where fat is stored.
- I’ve found adding the saturated fat to be essential for weight loss. It helps keep appetite in check and helps digestion and liver function.
- The focus on adding fat and a better understanding of how long it takes to recover from a ‘typical’ meal like beer and pizza is the key difference between this approach and the Paleo / Crossfit approach I took in 2007. This approach isn’t necessarily healthier but it provides more flexibility.
Simple Is Not Easy
The approach is simple but not easy.
“Relax Then Recover” is almost exactly the opposite of the dietary guidelines (avoid saturated fat, replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat(omega-6) and base your diet on grains (glucose), vegetables (glucose) and fruit (fructose)).
There is nothing wrong with vegetables and fruit.
The hardest part of this approach is limiting fructose and omega-6 and finding quality saturated fat.
Weight Management vs Health Management
The “Relax” part of this approach isn’t healthy. There is nothing healthy about increasing sugar and omega-6 consumption.
What this approach does provide is a few more pieces to the weight loss puzzle and a way to at least keep weight in check while working on the larger picture of health.
I hope it’s helpful for you.