The question I’m asked more than any other (excluding what my favorite 80’s movie is), is “Okay, my temps are up and I feel great again. Now what?” This topic is often the greatest source of confusion as well. Most of the negative reviews on my book Eat for Heat are by those that think I’m recommending to drink Coke instead of water and eat cheeseburgers instead of fresh fruit for the rest of your entire life. Not so much. It’s a temporary way to return to normal metabolic function for those who have very low metabolic rates or a history of eating disorders and dieting. It’s not a general prescription for the masses, nor is it permanent advice. Most shouldn’t need to rely on uber calorie-dense food and a mountain of salt to maintain proper body heat generation and circulation for life. But it’s helpful for many, and absolutely essential for some–eating “junk” food for a while, that is. For others that aren’t in such bad shape, a primarily whole foods-based diet is preferable, which is something I state repeatedly in several of my books.
Most health food zealots won’t even be able to read that part though. The words won’t even register as their eyes scan the page. They’ll read something positive said about pizza or soft drinks and be too irate to continue concentrating on the rest of the books!
So let’s get down to it. What happens after the re-feed?
First of all, refeeding is defined, in the 180D sense, as eating to appetite of palatable, calorie-dense foods until body temperature has normalized at 98.6 degrees F or thereabouts, and body fat levels have completely stabilized eating as much food as is desired. No more, no less. And this state should also be reached with low to moderate exercise levels as well.
So what next then?
The first thing to remember is that change is the only constant. Your body is not a rock. It is a living, breathing, adaptive organism that is always responding to the forms of stimulation it is greeted with. Give it less food than it needs to function, and it makes changes. Give it more food than it needs to function, and it will make opposite adaptations. Ultimately, the end destination is to simply reach a point of equilibrium. The internal appetite regulation system demands X number of calories on any given day, you eat exactly how much food that is required to satisfy your appetite each day (which varies from day to day somewhat), and body weight stays constant in a small range of just a few pounds. And metabolic rate remains normal to high compared to what might be considered a baseline.
That means at least a “normal” body temperature and a need to consume at least 1.5 times your basal metabolic rate (as you might calculate HERE, although I recommend using your estimated body weight without any excess fat you may have) to keep from losing weight and being hungry. That’s if you are completely sedentary. If you spend a lot of time on your feet, walk daily, or perform any kind of training you’ll need to consume a lot more calories than that to maintain a constant bodyweight. Many of my “daughter’s” meals are well beyond her BMR calculation of 1046 calories. On hiking trips she’ll often shed fat eating more than 3.0 times her BMR per day.
As I have pointed out in many past posts and materials, it’s also possible to eventually experience substantial weight loss eating precisely the number of calories you desire, with or without strenuous exercise. Many will experience this in just a few months after reaching the equilibrium point described above. For others, it can take a couple years. Others still may never experience any automatic, spontaneous weight loss. It depends on many factors. I still don’t believe, for most, that not losing it spontaneously is an excuse to force it off. That usually doesn’t go well, although there have been occasional reports of some “getting away with” intentional weight loss following refeeding.
So anyway, the answer to “what next” is therefore pretty simple. Eat, drink, and live (in terms of sleep and physical activity) naturally–naturally meaning in synch with your instincts–for the most part. Get some daily exercise. Do a little resistance exercise from time to time to keep your strength up. Eat a wide variety of foods built primarily around unprocessed, fresh stuff–weighted heavily towards carbohydrates. Or, to improve upon the famous Michal Pollan quote, “Eat food. Not too much. Or too little. Mostly carbs.”
Sorry, one line dietary advice is stupid.
You’ll also want to pay attention to your biofeedback and make adjustments as necessary. For example, eating heavy food with a lot of salt eventually made my pulse feel uncomfortably heavy with restless legs that interfered with my sleep. So I’ve been eating a lot more fruit, taking in more fluids, and eating just a fraction of the salt I was consuming in the last (and hopefully final) re-feed I did back in 2012. When I overdo that my appetite and toes let me know, and I have a heavier meal. Simple as that.
It’s all been very easy and intuitive as well. I got extremely sick of heavy foods and started craving cold, watery smoothies and salads. I have no cravings for salty foods anymore other than the occasional pizza, which will work its way into pretty much any non-extreme diet from time to time. It’s not like these were forced changes. I would have had to force myself to keep drinking soft drinks (which started tasting like carbonated cans of Mrs. Butterworths syrup eventually) and eating pizza.
It came naturally, and I hope none of your find yourself in a spot where you are choking down heavy food even though you have no desire to eat it just because it worked to make you feel better in the first few months. That may not be true now, and your body should give you signs that it’s ready to change course.
In summary, imposing dietary restrictions upon yourself can lead to a drop in metabolic rate. Refeeding is the solution to getting back to normal (for most). Once you’re back to normal, all you have to do is keep from imposing dietary restrictions upon yourself that are too harsh–including imposing forced dietary surplus onto yourself as well, which can probably be just as dangerous as eating too little food if you continue doing it against your instincts and biofeedback.
Sound fair enough? Any questions? I’m happy to answer them in the comments section below…
About the Author
Matt Stone is an independent health researcher, author of more than 15 books, and founder of 180DegreeHealth. He is best known for his research on metabolic rate and its central role in many health conditions as well as his criticisms of extreme dieting. Learn more by signing up for his free Raising Metabolism eCourse HERE, which also includes THIS FREE BOOK, and subscribing to the 180DegreeHealth podcast HERE.