No. 16 – The Alternate Day Diet: Learn to Lie to Your Body

Last week I wrote about doing the Paleo Diet, and if it wasn’t clear, I kind of liked it. Or I should say, my body liked it.

I felt well.

And as a result, I now eat a modified PB&J every day (hold the bread, hold the jelly). Someday I’m totally going to order one like that at a restaurant and make them bring me some peanut butter in a little cup, like they do when you ask for mayo for your burger.

Anyway, another diet we tried was The Alternate-Day Diet. It was from a book. The book itself isn’t explicitly about anything natural or organic or crunchy, but it was a remedy. A remedy to being overweight. And like it or not, pretty much all of us are. What’s your doctor always saying?

“Try to get a half-hour of walking in three times a week…try to flex your abs as you walk…and while you’re at it, as you sit, as you work, as you eat…less food will fit under your abs if they are flexed…right? Just…anything. Anything other than how you are currently living. That would be an improvement. Any change.”

Doctors are mean, and they don’t walk three times a week. They smoke in those little rock-garden courtyards at the hospital that are supposed to look Zen except for the guys in lab coats sucking little sticks of poison.

They should at least make them hold one of those little pebble rakes while they’re out there.

Anyway, the info in this book helps remedy being overweight. Most ailments and diseases stem from having too much or too little of something:

Too much acid
too much fat
too little air
too little blood
= problems.

Initially my wife read about this diet somewhere on the Internet, probably a blog or something, and soon after every other day I was eating half of everything I usually ate, hence the ‘alternating’ part of the alternate day diet.

How does it work?

So you know how wrestlers in high school always starve themselves and destroy their metabolism and then bulk back up in the off season? Maybe that was you and now your body is destroyed.

Thanks Coach.

Most diets are like that, general calorie restriction. It doesn’t work though, you just hold onto more of those calories in the end because your body thinks you’re slowly starving and are going to need little fat-snacks for later, so it squirrels them away all over your body. But you don’t need them, you hate them, they’re killing you. Calorie restriction doesn’t work, unless your goal is to get fatter.

And having fat snacks on your body doesn’t look good at the beach.

But what some guys figured out, doctors or lab guys or whatever, they figured out that if they fed rats every other day, that the rats lost weight like crazy. So these authors pick up this, try it on themselves, and crank this book out with all the details of how it works.

Turns out that if you eat every other day, it triggers this gene in your body they’ve dubbed the ‘skinny gene.’ Just like general calorie restriction makes your metabolism slow down, restricting calories every other day makes it speed up, as well as shifts your food cravings towards food with more nutrients in it. It allows for some calorie restriction but eating regularly every other day tricks your body away from the starvation thoughts it would usually have.  So:

Low-Calorie Day – You take less in

Regular Day – You lie to your body about that other day by eating a normal amount (as much as you want, anything you want!).

Now when we started out we hadn’t actually read the book yet, just got the general idea. Simple 50% reduction of the foods I was already eating every other day. One day, PBJ (pre-paleo style), slice of cheddar, apple. The next day, half PBJ, half a slice of cheddar, half an apple.

Was I hungry after lunch? Sure, but I was eating what I normally ate, and normally I tend to over-eat so now I was under-eating by just a bit, not too painful. And in the back of my mind I always knew that today was the last day (HINT: With this diet, it’s always the last day of the diet) and that tomorrow I can eat whatever I want. If I choose to burn those eating cake all day, who’s to stop me?

So we’re doing this thing for a while, and I’m shedding pounds. Then we get the actual book, she reads it and I read it (most of it anyway) and we cut back to 25% on our down day, or as we decided to do it, 25% on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This is actually how you’re supposed to do it, restrict as much as possible on your ‘down’ day (we do M-W-F to make it easier to remember and to avoid any calorie restriction on the weekends which can play havoc with your social life, if you have one.)

And, amazingly, after doing the diet for a while you can drop it and your body will keep running this way for something like four weeks. Back when we first did this diet, we had to take a break from it and spend a month moving across the country, and that whole time I could just feel my body burning away, even though I wasn’t really doing the diet anymore. I lost like thirteen pounds without even thinking about it, three of those pounds leaving my body AFTER I quit the diet to make our big move. I was starting to feel like I might be loosing weight that I didn’t want to lose…you know that Stephen King story Thinner?




WIFE: What are you doing?

ME: Uh, grabbing a beer?

WIFE: (frowning) But there’s gluten in beer!

ME: (drinking) …and now there’s gluten in me, so what?…