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My 4-day 800-Calorie Weight Loss Experiment – Part 1

Posted on October 18th, 2010 by Matt Schoeneberger

Last week, Monday through Thursday, I ate 800 calories/day. Here’s a rough sketch of what I ate, with a cumulative calorie amount following each item.


.5 Paleo Meal – 50

1 Paleo Meal – 150

1 tblsp CocoChia – 230

Roast Beeft/Sauerkraut – 800


7.5 oz celery – 35

.5 Paleo -85

1 Paleo – 185

10 oz Chicken Gizzard – 575

RB/Sauerkraut – 800


3 oz spinach – 30

2.5 oz celery – 40

4 oz ground chicken – 210

.5 paleo – 260

2.5 oz celery – 275

In –n –Out Double Double Protein Style w/o onion

Thursday 3 oz spinach – 30

2.5 oz celery -40

4 oz gound chicken – 210

4 oz ground chicken – 380

.5 tbls butter – 430

1 Paleo Meal – 530

Roast and Sauerkraut – 800

I weighed-in on Monday morning and Thursday morning on a Tanita scale which measures weight and bodyfat. The scale prints out these nifty little receipts with total weight, fat mass, fat free mass, total body water, BMR and a couple other things. They’re not the most accurate method of body fat analysis, but good enough for most people’s needs. One of their drawbacks is the affect that hydration has on the measurements, and this is important for my little experiment.

Stats – Start to Finish

Things to consider about the numbers below First, my starting weight was taken Monday morning, after a Sunday night of a salty beef and broccoli dish. I was also in pants and shirt while doing my best impersonation of an office worker. At finish, I was in shorts and a t-shirt after 4 days of very low carb and possibly somewhat dehydrated. (I know, I know, I screwed up the integrity of my experiment – “wear the same damn clothes at weigh-ins, Matt!”) What I’m getting at is that some of the weight lost was most likely water fluctuation and could have possibly been skewed by the weight of clothing.  I was weighing in an office, by the way, so nude weighing was not an option.

Second, my body fat percentage actually goes up, and because of this the scale says I lost all muscle and no fat. While I did think it was possible I was going to lose some lean tissue, this seems highly unlikely to me and lends more weight to my hydration theory. The body fat scale I was using measures body fat through means of bioelectrical impedance. This means that the scale sends a low-level electric current through your body and measures the resistance, or impedance. Being well-hydrated will skew the results toward a low body fat when compared to the same body being dehydrated.

Weight Start: 163.7 Finish: 157.6
% Start: 10.6% Finish: 11.3%
Fat Mass Start:17.4 Finish: 17.8
Fat Free Mass Start: 146.2 Finish:  140.1
Total Body Water Start: 107 Finish: 102

As you can see, whether I lost water, muscle or fat, restricting calories to 800/day dropped some serious weight. Even if you add 2 lbs. for clothing differences, I’m still down 4 lbs. in 4 days. However, the Tanita scale actually measures Total Body Water (TBW) and I started with 107 lbs of water and ended with 102 lbs of water. That’s 5 lbs of water weight loss!… according to the Tanita, of course.

It’s now a week after I started and I guarantee if I got on a scale, all that weight is back on. I’m not going to get on one because I don’t care. I didn’t do this because I wanted or needed to lose weight, I did it just to see what it was like to eat 800 calories/day. It sucked, btw. For a guy who is used to eating 2500-3000 calories/day, 800 was a struggle. This is mostly because I wanted to get a good amount of protein, so my fat intake was very low. You know how Jeff and I feel about fat (we love it and think everyone should eat lots of it – seriously!), so it was hard to keep fat so low.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll discuss more specifically the numbers I got from the Tanita scale and what they mean to my 4-day experiment, as well as what we all can learn from them.

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5 Responses to “My 4-day 800-Calorie Weight Loss Experiment – Part 1”

  1. sandi miller says:

    Hmmm…very interesting and not the outcome I was expecting. I can’t wait to read Part 2!

  2. [...] A few weeks ago, Monday through Thursday, I ate 800 calories/day.  You can read the first post from this experiment here. [...]

  3. Daniel says:

    So, incredibly short study with questionably accurate equipment and variations in clothing proves what exactly?

    There have been a number of fairly comprehensive studies done on the effects of VLCD diets (in varying macro makeups) on the effect of lean mass retention over periods of 3 weeks or greater that showed minor muscle loss and large amounts of fat loss depending on what sort of exercise the subjects performed during the study, and the macro make up of their diets.

    Why not review one of this in great depth and try to replicate the outcome with some conviction? Seems more worthwhile than slapping something together that doesn’t really indicate much.

    • Matt Schoeneberger says:

      I’ve reviewed many vlcd papers both here and in our book. I understand their applicability and I know all about lean tissue loss with and without differing exercise stimuli.

      This was simply a little something I wanted to do for a few days to experience what a vlcd actually feels like and share my experience on my blog. I could have very easily left out the info on variables and just reported the numbers but felt that would have been dishonest.

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