Will 90-Days of “Grazing” Make You Fat?

Tue, Sep 27, 2011

Eat, Eat, Eat.... For 90 days. What Happens?

What do you think? I want to know…

I was talking with some friends the other day and we got into a bit of a heated debate about the scenario I’m about to share with you.

But before I lay it out for you, I need (and want) to hear your opinion on this. Tell me what you think would happen—as best you can given the information. Will the 10 participants in this “virtual life-study” gain weight, or “get fat” in the 90 days or not?

When I get 20 comments, be that today, tomorrow… whenever. When you and 19 other people have shared your opinions, and the reasons you believe that, I’ll give you my 3 cents.

The Participants

The participants in this study are relatively fit, healthy men and women (say, 50-50). Not super-athletes, not “fitness freaks” but people who live a clean, healthy lifestyle, exercise regularly–as part of their lifestyle, not in spurts–and are at or near an ideal weight. They’re all in their 30’s, so it’s not a youth or an age thing.

Can you picture them? Do you know some people like this? They’re not on some diet, not running around screaming the praises of low carb, not shoving the vegan life down anyone’s throat with a seven foot plunger. We’re talking fit, healthy and wonderfully average people.

The Scenario

These 10 wonderfully average and healthy, fit people are to be placed in a new, different and unfamiliar environment for 90 days. Their homes, their cars, their offices, every where they go will be an endless supply of junk food. Not just sweets but every shape, sort and size of processed, bulk sized, Wal-mart cart classic “American” (hate to say it but it’s true) crap food.

For these 90 days these good, fine people will not only be free to eat as much as they like of any of this “stuff”, as often as they like–and even more disgusting is they are going to be encouraged to eat it. They will have some subtle motivations, maybe some incentives to taste, test and check out more variety or snacks, meals and soda’s. We’re talking breakfast cereals, Pop-Tarts, and Cap-n-Crunch until your mouth bleeds!

Boxes of donuts, loaves of Wonderbread (it’s a wonder they can call it bread), frozen pizzas, ice cream from every made up country in the world.

Now, there’s no forcing them to eat any of this. They are just FREE to do at they please. Eat what they want, when they want. It’s there. They can get other food, but they have to work for that–go get it, make it, themselves. It’s all an uphill climb. And–this may be the worst of all, so brace yourself–no, they will not be allowed any Full Strength for the entire 90 days!

Insanely rough, I know!

My Question for You

Hopefully you’ve got the picture. These 10, healthy people are to be thrust into living in a virtual, endless “Food Land” for 90 days.

My question is, will they gain weight and if so, how much? Will they get fat in the 90 days? Why or why not?

What will the effects on them be, mentally and physically?

I am confident there is something to be learned, some gem of wisdom to be gained through this thought experiment. So let’s hear your take and let the debate—or collective agreement begin.

Thank you in advance for sharing your deep thoughts…

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This post was written by:

- who has written 190 posts on Shawn Phillips | Start Strong Monday.

Author, speaker, sprinter, trainer, fitness guru and Integral philosopher...Shawn Phillips

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60 Responses to “Will 90-Days of “Grazing” Make You Fat?”

  1. Pete Says:

    I feel that healthy people tend to healthy food. Some may start to fall for the junk food but as they feel less and less fit will become disgusted with it and joyfully revert back to healthy food. Being sluggish, tired, and in a sugar daze really is not a great feeling.


  2. Tony Says:

    I would venture to guess that if these people truly cared about their health, they’d indulge for a few days and then taper off whether they want to or not.

    Since I’ve been using your system, whenever I have the opportunity to indulge, I may do it, but not to excess. It’s almost as if my body automatically rejects it and I don’t think about it anymore. After eating so much junk food, if you’re healthy and listen to your body, you’ll end up craving healthy stuff.

    So they may gain a few pounds if they keep it up but if they already live fairly healthy lifestyles, they’ll stop themselves at some point. I guess, they’re just going to “wet their beaks” (to use a line from The Godfather II)!


    • Shawn Phillips Says:

      I think you are on to something here… Tony.

      It sounds like you’re not “using my system” but have leveraged the tool that is is to develop your own strength and nutritional freedom. A sort of Nutritional True North…

      “Truly cared” is a tricky place to be. Noble but let us consider the act of an addict, who’s fallen into the clutches of a dependency which is not, in no way, within the concept of “rational, logical control” or discipline.

      Would they “not care” for people in their lives or are the simply weak, vile people? Of course not…

      Yes, you get “the freedom” and you establish a new baseline, of sorts…



  3. Emily Says:

    I don’t see how this “new environment” is any different than the one we all live in everyday?? We’re all faced with food choices every day. We can chose to prepare healthy meals each day which takes time, or we can simply visit the vending machine down the hall or the fast food joint on the corner.

    True that if you throw someone into a truely new environment they will likely experiance some additional stress and some may be more PRONE to overeat, others may eat much less than they normally would depending on emotional reponse to stress. Whether they maintain improve their current level of health just depends on their level of motivation, and their reasons to maintain a healthy lifestyle.


  4. Mark Alan Effinger Says:

    I really like the contrast Mike Goodrich presents: Gain Fat vs Get Fat.

    Well said. That one made it to my whiteboard.


  5. Bob Says:

    They will all stay the same weight. When we are told “you can’t”, the body naturally goes against this “can’t” and we gain weight.

    The fact they are free to eat anything, their subconscious will kick in and they will eat a normal amount of calories that their body needs, and they will stay the same weight.

    The grazing aspect of the challenge will cause them to have an increased metabolism, some may actually lose a few pounds.


  6. Rae Says:

    Wow, this is so interesting. I personally think that since these folks are already healthy and in decent shape, that they know how to eat right and the proper portion sizes of what a “normal” meal should look like.
    I imagine there will probably be a few headaches and a few rebellious stomachs initially from the extra sugar and grease and whatever else they take in, but I really don’t think they would gain a whole lot of weight because they still know how to eat the correct portion sizes.


  7. Hiro Pro Says:

    It has nothing to do with the food. It has everything to do with the social interaction. Meal preparation and Meal Time has long been established as a primary social magnet. All generations, all genders, all ethnicities, regardless of socioeconomic status. Food is the reason to gather. Very few people will choose to go sit alone and binge on Junk Food. If they were like that, they never would have made it in to the study group. Most people want to be part of a group. Even if everyone in the study were strangers, groups would form. In the group, everyone KNOWS that junk food is bad. All it takes is someone to say it out loud and get everyone nodding. Then they take the lead and start encouraging healthy choices.

    If there are even a few socially skillful champions of good choices, the vast majority of participants will help. If everyone is open and encouraging instead of judgmental and condescending, magic will happen. Success builds success. 90 days is a long time for establishing friendships, creating healthy habits and even reinventing yourself.

    A group of supportive, engaging friends make hard work seem fun. Meal planning, prep and even cleanup are not a burden if friends share the experience in a positive way. It’s really what we all want but so rarely get. This group would be set up for success!

    Not only would they lose weight, eat healthier, and get fitter, they will have created a jump start for a new healthier lifestyle when they go home. They will have new friends they can call for support and encouragement. The best way to help yourself is to help someone else.


  8. nelson Says:

    point is they will gain weight no matter wat i diet rich in junk foods spills nothing but fat alot of it no nutrition value nd most of it there getting from sugar carbs not healthuy ones like fruits or veggies.nd if there not at least working out they get more fatter


  9. catherine Says:

    Hi Shawn,
    I find the answer right here almost at the end of your article: “They can Eat what they want, when they want. It’s there. They can get other food, BUT THEY HAVE TO WORK FOR THAT-–GO GET it, MAKE it, THEMSELVES! It’s all an uphill climb…

    As a personal coach, many times new clients approach is: “I have heard wonderful things about you, like almost all your clients see results, I need your motivation!” I intermediately see it as a red flag. People are looking for external motivators ( the carrot on the stick) You mention this on your book :), so my point is a great average seek after other forces to motivate, instead of doing the internal personal grow to “change” and become whole people. Any effort requires love to our self and if we stir up God given passion and Spirit we can do anything, beyond we can dream or imagine. But when there is accountability- responsibility to respond, many fail cause they are overwhelmed with life (kids, wife, work, paying the bills) plus taking care of my own self? If we can start with us first and love ourselves on a healthy balanced way, we will never compromise because CHARACTER WILL ALWAYS BE FIRST. My integrity will be first cause I do love myself! no matter if external conditions change. I will not allow the outside to influence me. I will influence my environment!


    • Shawn Phillips Says:

      As always, Catherine, a thoughtful, insightful, passionate message!

      Thank you for sharing… and sharing a real world truth. I so agree…. it’s not the lack of want, it’s the stresses of life which cause us to react in conditioned ways.

      So, when we are reacting in conditioned ways, if we want to live a fit, high-energy life, it’s imperative that we condition healthy eating habits. Right…

      As you mention, my book, for that is the single, common, driving message in Strength for LIFE: That if it is to be, it’s up to you. But more so, deeper, it’s not just about courage, and discipline it’s about being compassionate to self and developing the muscles of freedom–the awareness and capacity to work towards that conditioned freedom. And tapping into that power, finding your way, for many is directly strengthened and awakened by tapping into the power of the spirit, the love of self and life and all mankind.

      There’s so much here to talk/share about.

      Thank you for the inspiration.



  10. Jeff Says:

    I agree with Emily that this experimental food environment is not unlike the one most of us live in every day. Since the group is described as generally fit and not “fitness freaks” or dieters, it would indicate that they are very good at self regulation and have made naturally good choices to live in strength. Some may indulge in the novelty of the junk food, much like I enjoy my “cheat” day once a week, but I don’t think the group on average will stray far from their original body composition over the 90 days.


  11. Cindy Says:

    I believe that they will put on weight.
    It will be sort of like when you go on holiday. It’s unfamiliar and your routine is out of whack so you relax and let go.
    I would be surprised if any do not put on at least a little weight and be tempted by the ‘junk food’.
    If they do i would be very impressed as they must be very strong willed people who prioritise health more than anything else.


  12. Andy Says:

    It’s all about discipline. If you already live a healthy lifestyle, the “free binge” temptation won’t throw you into a life of unbalance. You may cheat a little, but quickly realize you feel terrible & probably would work even harder to get back to your healthy routine. Life is about choices & if staying fit & healthy is what makes you happy, then no way will you deviate from your comfort zone.


  13. Tim Schlesener Says:

    If I’m one of the 10 people I would get really fat. I’m one that needs to stay on plan with meals and exercise. Given the choice and abundance of unhealthy food I’d probably make the wrong choice, especially when plunged into that environment. Heck, I have enough trouble just avoiding vending machines in hotels when I am sitting around being bored. It would not be good.


  14. Matt Says:

    I think the results will be all over the board, and will depend on where individuals are in their “personal” cycles. For me, I go through 3 or 4 cycles a year. When I’m kicking butt, I could handle any environment and stay the course. When I’m slacking, I can gain 20 pounds in 90 days eating pretty decent foods…just too much, at the wrong times and not exercising well or enough. When I hit the upper-end (the point for me that I hit when my clothes barely fit and my kids start teasing me) I start kicking butt again. I imagine if I entered this environment when I was slacking, I would probably hit my upper limit in 30 days or less, which would then lead me back on my horse, named Strength. It is entirely possible that I come out of the 90 days in better shape than I entered.
    What would be interesting is a graph of everyones weight plotted weekly thru the program. I think it would spike pretty quick and then come back down.


    • Shawn Phillips Says:

      Well done Matt…

      I think you’re telling a story that could be titled, “My Life (insert your name here) in Fitness.” I’ve got to do a story about this.

      I like the graphing idea. That would be fun.

      As for your take, I think you’re right about how it might go for you, because you know what you’d do.

      Part of my story and the people I “selected” for this mission, was that they were specially equipped for the stresses–able to withstand the extreme heat without melting, if you will. I’m talking about a projection of “me’s” and some others I know, whom when faced with… well, waitmy write up is on the way.

      Thanks Matt!

      “The Fitness Philosopher”


  15. scott Says:

    I am afraid you will be disappointed with the results. If anyone of the ten is like me and has a hectic schedule they will fail miserably without the meal replacement shakes. When I don’t have time to prepare a meal, a shake is quick, easy, low calorie and good nutrition. Unfortunately another quick easy substitute to healthy eating is junk food. Hopefully anyone that falls in to this trap will realize what is happening before they pack on 5 to 10 pounds. I hope your results prove me wrong. Thank you for all your insight.


  16. mark coughlan Says:

    Weight loss is a matter of consuming less energy than you burn.
    Getting this done is much more of a mental and social challenge
    than it is a physical one.

    You already know you have to somehow eat less, but how are you
    actually going to do that? (of course that is what the AGD program
    is for).

    But there is a sinister plot afoot to derail your progress. And
    that is the constant barrage of ‘health’ info you get from the
    diet and fitness media and marketers.

    They are constantly trying to tell you the right way to lose
    weight…the ‘healthy’ way to lose weight.

    Of course there is never any evidence or proof of what this way
    is and nobody agrees on it either. They just all parrot the
    concept of ‘the healthy way’.

    The problem with this approach is that there is no single
    definition of ‘health’. You will have your own definition of
    what you consider healthy. I nor anyone else can tell you
    what to find valuable in this regard.

    So trying to tell you there is a ‘healthy’ way to do something
    means they are also assuming they know what you value as healthy.

    I don’t make this assumption.

    I have no idea if you choose to eat certain foods for ethical,
    environmental, economic or any other reason. That is your choice
    and you should be free to make that choice.

    What I do know is that weight loss comes about by creating a
    calorie deficit. And if weight loss is what you want then you’ve
    got to keep your eye on the prize and don’t get side tracked
    worrying about the ‘healthy’ or right or wrong way to do it.

    The truth is weight loss itself improves almost every known
    traditional medical marker of health, not to mention you look and
    feel great once you’ve lost weight.

    As far as I am concerned losing the weight is itself the ‘healthiest’
    thing you can do no matter what you eat to do it.

    You can decide what foods you want to include in your diet based
    on any number of reasons as I’ve already stated. Whatever foods
    you are comfortable eating and that fit your world view will be
    perfectly fine for weight loss.

    You can do it eating meat, or being a vegetarian, you can do it
    eating refined sugar or no sugar, you can do it eating bread and
    pasta or none at all. It’s entirely your choice.

    Whatever you believe to be healthy for you is for you to decide.
    Sure you can use some general guidelines to help guide your food
    choices, but in the end it’s still your choice


  17. James J Says:

    There is no constant or average result unless you look at an average ‘population’. Americans are considered a relatively obese culture/ people as a result of their environment which is a constant barrage of poor food choices. No matter where you are unless you know what really is healthy and not marketed as healthy you are very likely to make a poor choice based on chance. Eg fill your car up with gas ,when you go and pay look around you? Can you actually see anything that is absolutely healthy? The beef Jerky? ( what the nitrites?) the peanuts? (peanuts are grown in soil so poor nothing else will grow in them) the energy drinks? The protein bar ? The bottled water ( there are no guidelines or testing on bottle water…) How far does a person want to go? As for weight gain the obese population is as a direct result of the American environment which is pretty much as explained above. When you go to a grocery store pop tarts, captain crunch. all that S…stuff is always a choice…….. Even Organic grocery stores and the whole organic or vegan movement is just another smart marketing ploy for garbage in some cases worse than junk food. Ever look at the sugar content in Soy ‘MILK”?
    Soy is not supposed to be consumed by humans. It was originally for replenishing nitrogen in soil as a crop rotation and is undigestible unless fermented.


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