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How to Lose Weight Like a Lion: Fasting and Feasting for Fat Loss

Posted by | January 24, 2014 | Guest Post | 16 Comments
Feast and fast like lion for fat loss

Today we have a post from John Durant, past guest of the show and author of The Paleo Manifesto. John teamed up with PaleoHacks to put on PaleoCon, a free web summit that goes live next week. John interviewed me about “Fasting and Feasting for Fat Loss,” and this piece gives you even more insight.

If you dig it, register for PaleoCon here.

The Dirty Secret of Zoos and Why Animals Are Fat

Don't feed the lions!Zoos have a dirty secret: many of the animals are fat. And obesity is the least of it: cavities and lethargy are common; some species even have heart disease and Type II Diabetes. You won’t hear this embarrassing fact on a guided tour, and you won’t read it on any tour signs. What you will see are signs that say: DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS.

The primary purpose of these signs is to prevent people from giving hot dog buns, popcorn, and peanuts to the captive animals. But the signs teach another important point: it can be beneficial to not feed the animals. Animals benefit from going hungry sometimes. Fasting can be healthy.

Consider the lion. Wild lions often go days without eating. Not feeding is a normal and natural part of their life. But after a kill – perhaps a juicy antelope – lions will gorge on the carcass. Lions alternate being fasting and feasting. It’s what lions are designed to do.

Paleo Lion Rawwwr

Yet in too many zoos, captive lions are fed on a regular daily schedule. Zoos ignore their own advice: DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS. In my book, The Paleo Manifesto, I described the incredible results when one zoo decided to switch lions back to a gorge-and-fast feeding schedule:

In 1993 the Topeka Zoo had five overweight lions. They were fed on a regular schedule (once a day, six days a week), but the zoo decided to switch to a “gorge and fast” feeding schedule (once a day, three days a week) modeled after wild lions, which typically eat every two to three days. The food was kept the same—a ground mixture containing horsemeat—and each lion received the same amount of food over the course of a week as it had before; they now received larger portions on feeding days. The lions were allowed to eat until they had their fill and walked away from their food. Only then were leftovers removed from the enclosure. The four weekly fasting days were chosen at random, which meant that the lions sometimes experienced four days in a row of fasting.

Previously, the lions had always finished their meals, but now four of the five routinely left portions of their meal uneaten. The result was a decrease in weekly overall caloric intake—and significant weight loss. Four of the five lions lost from 9 to 16% of their total body weight (the fifth lion injured her leg and had been under veterinary care leading up to the measuring period). However, the benefits weren’t simply due to eating fewer calories; based on fecal samples, the lions digested their food more thoroughly and efficiently under the gorge and fast model.

Both captive gorillas and lions suffered from the same issue: we forced them to accommodate our regimented workdays. They were being fed on a human schedule, not a schedule based on how their species naturally eats in the wild.

So what’s a natural eating frequency for humans?

Too many nutritionists get it exactly wrong – advising people to eat lots of small snacks throughout the day in order to “keep their blood sugar up.” It’s called grazing for a reason – grazing is how herbivores eat, not carnivores or omnivores.

As Abel James argues in his interview for PaleoCon, humans can benefit from the same approach that helped the lions lose weight. Fasting and feasting can make it easier to lose weight.

Lions Need To Fast. Lions Need To Feast. And So Do You.

Now be sure to register for PaleoCon.

Our talk covers some of the practical benefits of fasting and feasting, including:

  • Fasting and Feasting for Fat Loss
  • The best way to fast for the first time
  • Why fasting will help you build muscle, not lose it
  • The truth about juice fasts and cleanses
  • What women should watch out for when fasting
  • How to improve your brain through fasting

There are a ton of awesome speakers, including Loren Cordain, Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, CrossFit star Julie Foucher, two-time Olympic gold medalist Erin Cafaro, founder of CrossFit Endurance Brian MacKenzie, and even some cooking demonstrations at Hu Kitchen, the hot paleo restaurant in New York City. Check out PaleoCon here!

Click Here for PaleoCon



  • Aaron V says:

    I’ve been fasting and feasting for a while now ( I average 1-2 meals a day) ,it’ll be nice to hear more about this particular way of eating.

  • Sylvie says:

    Interesting perspective! Love the concept of equating human and animal eating patterns.

  • Chantal says:

    Hi Abel,
    Just listening to the interview on paleocon… I was wondering if fasting and feasting is okay when being pregnant. I’m just over 4 weeks pregnant and I noticed that I’m not hungry at all. Preferably wanting to skip lunches… Eating makes me nauseous.
    When I eat, it’s healthy… Paleo.
    Love to hear from you.

    • Emily Dewey says:

      Hi Chantal – we can’t provide that kind of medical advice for liability purposes I’m afraid… Congratulations on your baby though, how exciting! :) – Emily, FBM Team

  • shennie says:

    Agreed! Please provide more information about feasting and fasting. Interesting topic and I am definitely interested in learning more about it. Thank you.

  • Ben says:

    I have been practicing IF for some time now, and love it. I’m wondering, though, what to consider when trying to add muscle mass (not bodybuilder type, just increasing size and strength). Is it possible to get the calories and protein necessary?

  • Martin says:

    I like John Durant for his writing but I wonder if he ever… lost any weight :-)

    My point is: he never had to (or did he??) and so I am not sure he is an expert on the topic.

  • shapna says:

    Fasting is really a very best technique to lose weight. But we have to do fasting in a disciplined way to achieve quick weight loss.

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  • Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular article!
    It’s the little changes that produce the greatest changes.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!

  • Hyok Lee says:

    I’ve done intermittent fasting, and it is something I still employ on occasion. But, I don’t like the cold hands I get during the fast. I would rather count macros. I know, I know, it’s not “wild” or “natural,” I like the freedom of eating when I want, as long as I hit my daily totals.

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