Last year sometime, I happened to be watching the NBC Nightly News and was suckered in by a teaser for some sort of ‘eat every other day’ diet. The segment detailed what the report claimed to be a new phenomenon of people losing healthy amounts of weight by eating whatever they wanted one day and having one 400-500 calorie meal the next day. My brain was screaming bullshit, but I decided not to let it go.
I found myself seeking out the research this diet was built on and came across Dr. Krista Varady’s “Every Other Day Diet Book”. Other than some reassurances that this would work and some ideas for 400-500 calories meal recipes, the basics of this diet were quite clear and an instruction manual was not really needed.
I decided to give it a shot. I had put on some pounds since being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease a few years back and wanted to see if I could really hack it. I figured I would give it one week. If I felt like absolute shit, I would stop. I ended up doing three months on the diet once then took a few month break and did four more months. Since there really wasn’t any place on the net to go to get a lot of feedback on how the process worked, I figured I would jot a few of my experiences down here.
The first few days the first time I tried this were not that difficult. The book suggested to suck down tea on the fast days to help with the hunger. Since I do that already, it was no big deal. At the end of the first few fast days, I felt exhausted though. I could tell something was going on with my body and the intense deep sleeps of the first few weeks reflected that. When I woke up after a fast day, I still felt tired and wanted to get breakfast into me as soon as possible. Those first few breakfasts were larger than normal and energy levels did not start to return to normal until an hour or two after the meal was consumed. After that I ate pretty much as normal throughout the rest of the day and didn’t worry too much about what garbage I was wolfing down (at least not initially). You’d think you’d go absolutely hog wild on feast days, but outside of breakfasts in the beginning that was not the case.
In the second week, I started noticing a pleasant surge of energy on the fast days. You’d get up and be ready to go, sometimes arising earlier than usual. Overall the feeling of the fast day was one of pleasantness. The body felt at ease and a lot of other things started to fall in line. The autoimmune disease had created a great deal of limits on flexibility, but soon I noticed less problems with stiffness. There was also more mental clarity, enhanced libido, lower blood pressure, cleaner poops and decrease of indigestion.
As for weight loss, I think it comes off pretty quick in the beginning (1 to 3 pounds in a week). Keeping track of it daily is a huge help too.
What to eat
The 400-500 calorie fast day plan was not always workable. In Varady’s book, male dieters said that things operated better around 600 calories. I took note of that and kept it in the 500-600 range and felt better when I did that. It really came down to 400-500 calorie lunch and then a 100-200 calorie snack later on. That was it. I didn’t prepare any special meals for that. Just roughly counted calories and went from there.
There were times when holidays or other plans screwed up the schedule and I broke discipline for those. It’s not a big deal and the pounds did not immediately go back on.
As I went on, there was a consistent desire to pig out on feast days, but you get fuller a lot quicker so you end up eating a lot less than you would before you started this process.
Irritability is definitely an issue when you’re deep into a fast day. A snack helps a little, but be prepared to notice some personality changes in those moments.
I’m not a big exerciser. I like to take walks but that’s about it. The disease limits me as far as doing more intense physical activity is concerned, but when I experienced energy surges on fast days I attempted to be more active. I took up bike riding for a bit, but I felt completely wiped out after a 6 or 7 mile ride more times than not. The weight does come off faster this way, but it took a hell of a lot out of me doing that on an empty stomach.
There have been several points where I felt like my whole body was telling me I should stop. That’s what led me to end it after the first three-month trial. Unfortunately much of the weight returned, but that was more of my fault for not having a maintenance plan in place.
The second time around has been much smoother. It was easier to adapt and I went back on the diet because I think my body wanted to be on it. I am learning to read my body better and when there are times I feel like I am running into a nutritional deficit, I just pick up an extra day or two of normal eating.
On fast days, you’ll pick up an extra hour or two not having to deal with the process of procuring those two or more meals you are missing. This is a pleasant side benefit to all of this.
A lot of times on this diet you will not notice a significant weight loss on the scale, but your clothes will fit much looser than they used to. This time around I am down about 20 pounds in four months. Look, I have never been a guy that has been over 200 pounds, but I felt like that was a possibility if I didn’t watch what I ate.
Food tastes much better when you’re denying yourself cravings for it. Hell, I am even cooking more now because I cherish the hell out of those days I can eat. Having something to look forward to every other day does wonders for the mental health too.
The biggest obstacle to doing this is retraining your mind to think differently about food. Once that is done, I think this is possibly something you could do to maintain a healthy weight for the rest of your life.
I will be updating this post as any other observations pop into my head.