Eat Stop Eat is a program created by nutritionist Brad Pilon that advocates intermittent fasting as a way to lose weight. As the title of the book suggests, this is a system that recommends that you alternate between eating normally and fasting. This is a controversial system, as Pilon freely admits. However, as the author boasts in the introduction, it is not nearly as radical as it was when the first edition of the book came out.
The new version of Eat Stop Eat is longer and updated, consisting of more than 200 pages. While it’s true that fasting is no longer as controversial as it was 20 years ago, it’s still far from universally accepted by scientists, nutritionists and the medical community. Pilon, however, makes the very bold statement that “Prolonged caloric restriction is the only proven nutritional method of weight loss.”
The point of this review is to thoroughly examine Eat Stop Eat and decide if Pilon proves his case. We’ll also discuss the pros and cons of this system and whether it’s appropriate for everyone who wants to lose weight.
The Basic Principles of Eat Stop Eat
Eat Stop Eat is more than simply another book about fasting. Most fasts are for detoxification and do not claim to be useful for long term weight loss. In fact, many weight loss experts will tell you that fasting can be dangerous, with potential side effects. There is also the danger that you will binge eat when the fast is over, causing you to gain back any weight you lost. Pilon addresses these objections and puts forth what he claims is the perfect formula for fasting to lose weight.
One of the points that Pilon makes is that fasting is part of our history. Due to food shortages, droughts, severe weather and unstable political conditions, humans have traditionally been forced to go through fasting periods whether they wanted to or not. According to Pilon this was more than an inconvenience -it was actually natural and beneficial to the human body. He provides a detailed explanation of how are two natural states are “fasting and fed” and that, for optimal balance, we should be alternating between the two. According to him, the luxury of constantly being in the “fed” state, which is the way most people in modern Western societies live, is actually a major cause of why so many people are now overweight.
Pilon goes on to claim that fasting is even compatible with vigorous exercise such as aerobic activity and weight lifting. He cites his own experience with weightlifting and bodybuilding, explaining how fasting actually helped him increase muscle mass. The book critiques many of what Pilon calls the misconceptions of fasting, such as the notion that it’s bad for your blood sugar. According to this book, diets such as the Zone Diet and South Beach Diet, which advocate eating multiple small meals each day, misunderstand what causes insulin levels to drop. Pilon claims that 24 hour fasts are far more effective for reducing insulin than any popular diet.
While there isn’t room in this review to examine all of the claims in Eat Stop Eat, it should be noted that many nutritionists and researchers have recently discussed the health benefits of fasting.
Is There a Downside to Fasting?
Because Eat Stop Eat is such an enthusiastic pro-fasting book, it’s important to look at both sides of this issue. At the beginning of the book, Pilon cautions that everyone should consult with a physician before fasting. He also specifies that fasting is for “healthy adult individuals.”
First of all, there are certain types of people who should definitely not fast. This includes pregnant women, diabetics, people taking certain medications and anyone suffering from a long term, debilitating disease. Even in healthy individuals, fasting may cause certain side effects, such as fatigue, extreme hunger, halitosis, dizziness and others.
Another potential downside to fasting is that, in some people, it may contribute to binge eating. In Eat Stop Eat, Brad Pilon does not give much specific nutritional advice. He is mainly interested in promoting his philosophy of intermittent fasting. In fact, one of the benefits of the system is that you don’t have to worry too much about what you eat, since you’ll be fasting once or twice per week. He does recommend eating a healthy diet, but he’s not very strict or specific in this area.
This is all very good in theory, but we can’t ignore the fact that many people with weight problems struggle with cravings for certain foods, often unhealthy and fattening ones. Since one of the biggest selling points of Eat Stop Eat is that you don’t have to feel very restricted when you’re in the “fed” rather than “fasting” stage, you are pretty much on your own when it comes to choosing your food and meals.
Pilon talks about the history of humanity, giving examples of how in societies that depended on hunters or the cycle of crops that fasting was natural. That’s true, but today we are surrounded by all kinds of unhealthy and processed foods all year round. This could pose a real challenge when someone is coming off a 24 hour fast. While Pilon is certainly not advocating that you binge at McDonald’s or on a gallon of ice cream after completing a fast, such temptations are certainly present. Whatever the limitations of diets that advocate eating small, sensible meals, they pose less of a danger in this regard.
To be fair, Pilon does address the above issue. In his experience, and according to certain research he cites, fasting does not lead to rebounding or excessive eating after the fast. This, however, may depend on many factors, such as the specific conditions of the study and the health and psychological makeup of the people involved. People often behave differently when observed in studies than they do in “real life.”
Eat Stop Eat: The Verdict
Eat Stop Eat contains lots of interesting and valuable information on a system of eating that is a radical alternative to what you will read in most diet books. There is actually quite a bit of research backing the idea that fasting can be beneficial to your health. While this may not be the ideal weight loss program for everybody, a healthy person who has the self-discipline to follow through on the plan is likely to see good results. Let’s look at some of the major pros and cons of this system.
- The book backs its claims with extensive research.
- Fasting has a long history as a way to improve health.
- During the periods when you are not fasting, you can eat just about anything you want.
- The program comes with a 60 day money back guarantee.
Now let’s look at the drawbacks of this system.
- Fasting is not safe for everybody and has certain side effects.
- The book contains very little nutritional advice. Aside from the fasting/eating system, you are on your own when it comes to what to eat.
- Fasting consistently requires a great deal of self-discipline, probably more than the average diet.
Note that the lack of dietary advice can be seen as either a pro or a con. It’s appealing not to be restricted in any way. On the other hand, this lack of guidance can make it tempting to rely on junk or comfort foods in between fasts.
In conclusion, I tried to present an objective view of the updated version of Eat Stop Eat. I think that Brad Pilon is sincere and is doing his best to share what he believes is the healthiest way to eat. As mentioned, however, a system that is based entirely on fasting has both its advantages as its drawbacks. It’s up to you to decide if you think this may be the right diet solution for you. If it is then you are most definitely in good hands with Brad Pilon his Eat Stop Eat method!