How to Gain Fat

by Brad Pilon

Last blog post I discussed the concept of impulsivity being the root cause of obesity for many people.

(The take away was that Impulse control is incredibly important to weight loss success.)

I also shared my views on the difference between being impulsive and being spontaneous.

Living spontaneously means a flexible lifestyle, where you do things of your own accord. It’s not that you are doing things without knowledge of the consequences, but that you’re willing to see where the path takes you, without struggling or trying to force events to occur.

Living Impulsively is a mass-consumption lifestyle, where you do things to meet your immediate urges with little to no regard for the long term consequences – it’s not about the path, but the immediate satisfaction.

So to test my theory, I lived impulsively for ten days. Not only that, but I lived the first four days of this experiment in the Capital City of Impulsivity – Las Vegas.

The basic rules of the experiment were as follows – No purposeful gorging, only eating when I normally eat and when the impulse strikes me I follow that impulse eating what I want, and as much as I want.

The very first thing I learned from this experiment is that impulsivity is highly dictated by outside influences. In other words it was other people asking me to eat that set off the impulse to go and eat.

The second thing I learned is that it is next to impossible to fast for 24 hours when eating impulsively. I never made it through more than 6 hours of day light without eating.

The last thing I learned was in a weird sort of way it is hard to be spontaneous when you are being impulsive because you are regimented by your impulses (weird statement, but it’s true)

The results? I was up about 5 pounds of which I’m guessing about 4 pounds was/is fat.

When you are 174 pounds and about 10% fat, 4 pounds is enough to bump you up to about 12% fat.

Which is noticeable (see pictures below)

In both pictures I have great lighting, I’m sucking in and I’m flexing. It’s the same iPhone Camera, it’s even the same shirt. The only difference is about a pound of food in my system and probably about an extra 4 pounds of fat.

Doing the math, this seems to fit

4 pounds = ~1,800 grams

1,800 grams of fat takes ~21,500 Calories to store

that’s an extra 2,150 Calories per day for ten days.

which puts my average Calorie intake for ten days at about 4,500 – 4,750.

Granted – the Vegas days were probably a little higher, and the non-Vegas days  a little lower…but either way these numbers are not exceptionally high, and are very realistic given the way I was eating.

I was never OVERLY full, but I definitely felt out of control – like the food was in control of me. It’s a very helpless feeling. I can also say that there was not a lot of enjoyment coming from my food. I thought there would be, but it was definitely ‘short-term’ gain type stuff.

(The other benefit of this experiment is that it shows that I am not some genetic freak impervious to weight gain..)

So learning to controlling impulses will allow you to eat less, but how exactly do we do this?

I’m not a psychology expert, so I’m not going to pretend to understand this side of weight loss.

Instead, I will simply share what works for me.

Step one for me has always been creating an impartial view of food. I don’t pass judgement on food, I don’t give it absolute values or standards or categorize it into good or bad (I find that most of these labels come from outside influences anyways). This allows me to avoid being drawn to ‘bad foods’ simply because they are labelled ‘bad’ (My experience is that the minute you label something as bad, you start to secretly yearn for it). It also allows me to avoid overeating good foods simply because they are ‘good’.

The second step is fasting. It is very common for me to hear that regular fasting has reduced a person’s desire to eat ‘all the time’. It’s a little bit of a mindfulness thing, as we learn that we don’t HAVE to eat, but it’s also very much a flow thing – you learn to simply fill the times you used to eat with other activities, and you just get into a really nice rhythm of eating less, and enjoying foods when you do eat.

Lastly – To control impulsive eating you need to be acutely aware of outside influences – Ie people asking you to eat, or people pushing you to eat (but not necessarily eating themselves). It could be family, friends, co-workers, etc. You’d be surprised when you stop and realize just how often people try to use ‘food’ as a reason to ‘talk’ or ‘hangout’.This is another thing that fasting once-in-a-while will help you with – making you aware of just how often people ask you to eat.

So for me controlling impulses has a lot to do with being mindful of what you are eating and why you are eating it, getting into the flow of eating less, and not being afraid to say No when people want me to eat.

Sometimes it helps to remind myself is that the reason I eat less is so I CAN eat during times of celebration…it’s kind of like saving for the important things.










Brad Pilon August 16, 2011 at 9:42 am

For the Adonis/Venus crowd

Waist is about 32.5 in the first pic, 33.5 in the second. Shoulders are the same.

paul August 16, 2011 at 10:18 am

I’d like to know what you plan is to remove it, if indeed that IS your plan? Are you just going to go back to whatever your traditional regimin is, or are you going to add something. I’m going to assume something like adding and extra DAY a week of fasting? What about controlling your current intake? Let us know, inquiring minds and all.

Brad Pilon August 16, 2011 at 10:21 am

Nah, just fasting 2x per week, and a little less eating on the days I don’t fast.

Honestly Starbucks has already taken care of this problem for me. By getting rid of the espresso brownie, they’ve saved me 205-300 Calories per day.


Mallory August 16, 2011 at 10:22 am

awesome recap. i agree with the outside people being the driving force for eating. they talk about, think about and are always eating. so the impulse is always there. i can imagine that listening to the outside impulse would drive many people to obesity. just something like meal times!

Brad Pilon August 16, 2011 at 10:30 am

I think part of it is that we’re not allowed to just go somewhere and ‘talk’. Aside from outdoor venues and our homes, most ‘meeting space’ in North America is consumer-space. Not all, but most.

paul August 16, 2011 at 11:12 am

yeah, the food stuffs at starbucks have really gone downhill. They USED to be quite good IMHO, now they are just utilitarian

Al August 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Two days of fasting is the simple part of the equation. Trying to eat less the other five days of the week is the other part I still have not quite figured out yet. I guess smaller portions and snacks (or removing snacks altogether) will do the trick. If I can get a hold of conquering the other five days then hopefully I will see some success.

I have been eating 2-3 big meals a day as opposed to much smaller meals throughout the day. Those 2 big meals are not working for me so I need to change. I understand the multiple meals/metabolism myth, but I think I might just start eating much smaller meals throughout the day. Maybe that will lower calories by doing that. Whatever it takes for to eat less on a normal basis. Sorry for the rant. This article lit a fire under me. Thanks.

Naomi August 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Yup, I did exactly the same thing and had similar results. This definitely proves to me that regularly counting calories plus adding in some planned fast days is part of maintenance.

Dan Wood August 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Thanks for sharing this story, Brad. It’s good to know that controlling your weight is not as easy as “pie” for you either. I was looking at old pictures yesterday of me when I was much younger (and skinnier) and just instinctively practiced interval fasting. That motivates me to get back into it!

Daniela August 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Hi Brad,
I’m really trying hard to get in the routine of fasting twice a week. Difficuly because I clearly eat on impulse.
My friend last night just told me about the HCG Diet…what do you think of it?

abir mandal August 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

To AI:
Eat one big meal a day. There is no way you can go over 1600-2000 calories this way.

Amber August 16, 2011 at 12:44 pm

You still look great, but I know that all changes start off small and you could look pretty chumpy in a couple quick months. ;-P

Thanks for sharing your experiment.

Being pregnant has caused a different style of weight gain experiment for me. 😉 But like you I am not concerned about how to lose the weight when it is time – now that I am free from OCD eating and such. I look at the added fat on my body and know that it is temporary and subject to change – no big deal! That feels so empowering.

Anne-Mhairi Simpson August 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I finally worked out a couple of weeks ago, at the age of 31, that I’m so gluten intolerant I’m almost coeliac. I cut out ALL gluten, even oats, and suddenly my appetite has vanished. I’d heard it was an appetite stimulant when I was researching the symptoms and so on, to confirm that I was definitely gluten intolerant and not dying of some random disease, but I hadn’t realised how much of my eating was stimulated by gluten. I have to make myself eat three times a day now, my calorie intake has dropped by nearly half and I’m losing half a pound to a pound a day.

Bear in mind I ruptured a disk in my back at the end of last year and have only just been able to start doing very basic exercises again, so this weight loss isn’t even down to massive workouts, just cutting out the gluten. Thought y’all might be interested 🙂

Joe August 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Thanks for the update Brad. I myself am heading to sin city tomorrow for a week and I’ve resigned myself to adding on a few pounds. Although I will probably not adhere to ESE while I’m there, I’m not stressing because I know once I come back home, I can get right back into it and the fat will come right back off. Your program has been truly liberating for me because the old me would not have been able to enjoy the trip because fatloss was such an uphill battle and I would have stressed over all the “hard work undone”. Not anymore. Thank you Brad and keep up the great work!

Rachel August 16, 2011 at 12:51 pm

What does a fast day involve?

Marilyn August 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Wow that’s such a dangerous experiment to partake in, but you knew yourself best so it was okay for you. If it had web me, I would’ve gone out of control and probably never go back to fasting 🙁 Anyway, good job…very cool read. Your book has taught me to really appreciate food. I find that when I fast more than 24 hours before an event, it makes the first bite of food that much more special.

Joe S August 16, 2011 at 1:13 pm

I kind of doubt you’ve even gained 4 pounds of fat. Usually after I go on an eating binge, when I switch back to a more diet oriented eating style I drop 2-3 pounds in a day from water weight fluctuations.

Elaina August 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Great article! I so can relate to that helpless out of control feeling you mentioned. It’s like the food takes over your mind or something, very weird how that happens. Especially because it’s just food for goodness sakes!!

I have a question. I have tried to use ESE many times and everytime I end up getting sick to my stomach with hunger to the point of almost throwing up. I also get very tired and just HAVE to lay down. What’s up with that?

wolverine August 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm

wow, i will be fine with your after picture!!!! WOW

Brad Pilon August 16, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I’m not a big fan of drugs. If 24 hours is too hard, there are lots of other great options, 16-8 style fasting is something I can support…check out

Anna Dornier August 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Fasting has definitely made me more aware of my food choices and how often I should not eat.

Just the other day, I was cooking my husband dinner while I was fasting. When I poured the salsa (I was making tacos) to add to the meat that was cooking in the pot, my impulse was to wipe the salsa on the side of the container and eat it. Then, I remembered I was fasting so I didn’t. I know salsa is not a lot of calories but it’s the little things we don’t pay attention that add up.

I can imagine this experiment not being fun especially when you start your normal way of eating and start practicing more control again 🙂

For those who have questions on eating days, having the smaller meals during those days have worked better for me compared to larger meals. I tried both strategies and the smaller meals seem to help me control the quality and quantity of calories I ate.

Anna D.

Mateo August 16, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Excellent post! I like your impartial view of food one I will try to adopt. I myself am on a couple of days of impulse eating but I always get to the same point and then get irritated and take off the weight I put on. It’s that plus minus weight range you talked about in one of your emails.

Symon Says August 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm

I agree with Joe S. I think most of that is water weight and not fat. Eating (or drinking) a lot of carbs will cause that. I’m surprised you even suggested it was all fat. I’ve started food combining and realized that I was just not getting all of the nutrients out of the food that I was eating together so it made me hungry later on. I think several small meals a day makes more sense (rather than large meals) because you’re not overloading your digestive system and enzymes especially if you’re food combining correctly. Seems to work for me anyways.

Joe Sinagoga August 16, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Hey Brad
What do you think of doing six days of leangains and one total fast day?

Brad Pilon August 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Why would you suggest water weight…there are over 21,000 calories that have to be accounted for? plus an obvious increase in body fat at the stomach level.

I accounted for 1 pound of food water weight, but bottom line, the calories have to be accounted for.

Plus both weights were fasted weights.

Julia August 16, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Hi Brad,
I`m sorry my question may sound silly… I`m a little confused with the calories/fat weight count.
I always though that 1lb of fat = 3500 cal, how can be 4lbs 21,500 cal?
I must be missing something important.. maybe amount calories that you get from consuming fat vs. amount calories that you burn from your fat…
Can you please point out where to look for answers? Or maybe explain it (I know you must be busy to waste time writing about something as basic as this)…

Thank you for your time, and for what you do for us, Brad!

Shannon August 16, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Hey brad, I have been fasting 1-2 days per week, most days I would eat approx 1000 calories per day. Is there any change to metabolism If this is done for extended periods of time. Or how low and long could you go before metabolism may be affected?

Al August 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm

To Abir:
Thanks for the tip. I never really thought of just subtracting a meal off my 2-meal plan. It also makes sense that it would be hard to go over 1500-2000 calories for that meal unless I tried hard enough. I will give it a shot. Thanks again.

Brad Pilon August 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Hi Julia,

Yep, you’ve got some incorrect numbers there.

Explanation is a bit beyond a quick comment (It’s something I cover in ESE University) but you should factor 12-13 calories per created gram of body fat.

Laura August 16, 2011 at 6:32 pm

I really enjoyed much of what you have to say. I do live in Las Vegas and thankfully I am not fat but that’s because I have developed a distaste for buffets and fast food. Honestly fasting has taught me that we are not starving, no need to eat the moment your stomach rumbles and the fact that most of the food I was actually eating prior to losing weight I really didn’t care for. Believe this I was just eating just to eat with no enjoyment what so ever. The result: I now think about my choices and as you say don’t eat impulsively. Great post.

Steve August 16, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Awesome stuff Brad. I’m going to share this on my blog on my website and on sparkpeople and some of it on my Facebook fanpage. Giving you all the credit though of course. If you don’t mind.

Julia August 17, 2011 at 3:28 am

Thanks so much, Brad!
I know now that I should educate myself on this topic. And I know where to look now!

Thanks again!

K August 17, 2011 at 5:39 am

great post Brad, I’d say business as usual.
anyway there is one thing you missed this time, although you are pretty much aware of.
this 4-5pounds on your belly is only partially fat. you wrote more than one time about water balance, as far as I remember you also wrote about how many grams of water is gonna get attached to a gram of carbs and to a gram of fats stored in different parts of our bodies. I don’t know if you’ve written about it but there is also a crucial factor, wich is water retention just about underneath the uppermost layer of your skin (especially at your abdominal area) following stomach (digestive) stress and suffering digestion.

so although the point you were trying to make I think is pretty much true (I mean the big picture, the conclusion), there were a few things wich were not described this time as accurately as usually.

keep up the good work anyways.

Caleb August 17, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Great post! I particularly enjoyed your insight about how, if you let it happen, the various pressures to eat WILL almost certainly control your eating behaviors! Taking a break from eating — today is my fourth day of a break (none of the days are two in a row) — sure reduces my appetite and the drive to eat.

I agree with several other posters and agree that at this point I have to be better about not overdoing it on the days that I am not taking a food break. Sure is easy to put on the calories if I feel all restraints are off.

Great insights as always!

Any chance you’d want to report on some measure of appetite on the days that people are taking food breaks versus the days they are not? For me, it’s not even close and that sure tells me that almost all of my everyday appetite is guided by external cues, including toxic statements, like: “Have a bite of this!” “It’s unhealthy not to have three square meals a day!” etc. (BTW, I thought your explanation in ESE about the derivation of the word “dinner” was very useful.)



Leon August 21, 2011 at 6:16 am

Hey Brad i know a lot of people ask questions here but i really hope if you would answer mine.
I am 18, i workout 4 times per week with weights(pretty intense: pullup with weights rows etc), i also walk daily minimum of 5km, and swim sometimes…
I fast about 2 days a week between rest day ( A B Fast A B Fast..) ,
can it hurt my growth? Can i still gain muscle with this fasting and not just maintain it?
If i eat about 700 calories more on the days i workout, is the fast becoming useless?
Thanks in advance for any answer or information, I really appreciate your out-of the box thinking and i hope you will release more books (thought i didnt read anabolic again).
Cheers more Israel. Leon.

Brad Pilon August 22, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Hi Leon. 1 – growth? Linear you mean? Doubt it. 2 – Yes. 3- Useless? depends on what you are hoping to accomplish with your fast.

Leon August 23, 2011 at 3:31 am

Thanks for the answers, Brad!
By growth i ment i want to gain few kg’s of muscle. I am currently 184cm 172pounds on about 13%bf, and i aim for 190 pounds 8%bf.
I am just little bit afraid: for example yesterday i fasted (with only water), and in the evening i ran 4km and walked 5km. I always eat the right foods, i am just not really used to fasting because after the fast you become smaller then before as the glycogen in your muscles is being used.. and after i see less perimeter i become really, well worried.
By the way Brad, you didnt say which foods people suppose to eat after the fast, i usually eat dairy products (never meat after fast, or i am wrong?..) but i eat a lot of them. In your book you said i can eat the foods i ate before the fast, well the questions is.. if i eat A LOT of dairy products (1L of milk+6 eggs+500grams of white cheese) after the fast of 24h, can it hurt/kill me?
Thanks for the previous answers!

damon August 23, 2011 at 7:56 am

Impulsiveness is what I’ve struggled with. I’ve found that a simple egg timer helps. I set it for 24 hours, and it’s somehow easier. Maybe it’s Pavlov’s dog, eat when the buzzer goes off, lol.

Clint - Crude Fitness August 24, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Great post Brad. I did my own little ‘vegas’ experiment when i took a vacation for a month to the states in May.
Not massive fat gains (and i trained on the road in my room when I could).
But you can see there are definitely differences to body composition.

I didn’t fast at all the entire trip either, but like you said – you feel ‘FULL’ ALL the time! Didn’t enjoy eating quite so much.

Jen - Personal Trainer Miami Beach August 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm

That’s a great post! I hear it often that people say fasting helps you to become aware of your relationship with food in general, that others sometimes push you to eat etc.
I LOVE food, so I’ve never really tried fasting. But maybe I’ll try it. Just have to educate myself a little bit more about that subject.

Thanks for sharing your experiences!



Neil September 28, 2011 at 10:35 am

Intermittent Fasting definitely helps you realise the small opportunities to over consume calories. Especially if you work in an office/social environment – when one person eats, everyone eats. It might be a token number of calories, but if you multiply that by everyone you work with (or live with) it soon adds up.

How long do you think it will take you to strip the 4lbs back off again – that’s the interesting bit. I always find removing fat is much harder than gaining it in the first place!

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