Alternate-Day Fasting

On Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017, I started a basic ADF plan I’d read about on the web. Prolonged inability to breathe due to persistent uncontrolled asthma had me almost totally inactive from December of 2015 until the summer of 2016. I gained weight watching television, eating and drinking too much. Even after starting to get my breath back, I’ve found it hard to exercise consistently and, perhaps because of the added weight, dealt with some painful tendinitis in my right heel whenever I do much walking or jogging. All told my medical records show a net gain of 28 pounds since September of 2015, and the whole timeframe since then has been marked by fatigue, reduced libido, mental fog, depression, thoughts of death and feeling like my life is over — plus I haven’t worked since December 2015 and that has added to my sense of worthlessness and boredom which in turn led to more eating and drinking.

So in looking for ways to get busy living, I started researching some of the means and benefits of fasting for weight loss. I knew from previous experience that extended total fasts are pretty hard on the body and slow down metabolism. I looked at the 5:2 diet and the Warrior diet and the other popular forms of intermittent fasting, but ADF seemed like a good approach for me to start with since it doesn’t represent total deprivation on the fast days.

I’m 6’4″ and currently weigh around 304 pounds by my scale at home. The good news is that I haven’t gained any weight since last October, which is the last time I weighed myself at home. I guesstimate that I need just over 3000 calories a day just to maintain my current weight, without gaining or losing. So using the ADF pattern, my target is 600 calories on the alternating fast days. In the past four “fast” days this week, I’ve been eating a cup of plain Greek yogurt in the morning in order to take my vitamins and supplements, maybe a cup of raw vegetables and a dill pickle at lunchtime, and a salad with chicken or tuna in the evening. I use the MyFitnessPal app to track my calories on the fast days; and I sort of loosely track calories on feast days too but not to the point where I’m censoring myself or having OCD over every little grain of salt. Maybe I should start taking my vitamins at night so that I can just eat one 500-600 calorie meal in the evenings on the fast days.

There are pros and cons to everything. In this first week, here are the negative effects I’ve experienced on the fast days:

  • Hunger
  • Fatigue, especially in the afternoon
  • Trouble sleeping at night (tossing & turning)
  • Intestinal confusion and distress (diarrhea or feeling like I need to “go” all day)
  • Irritability, especially in the afternoon/evening
  • Feeling cold in the hands, feet and upper body

Here are some of the positive things I’ve noticed this week:

  • Though I’m not sure if I’ve lost weight yet, I can tell that my shape is changing
  • My stomach is shrinking: I’ve noticed that on the feast days I get full faster and I’m really not pigging out on junk food
  • I have more general awareness (calories, content, and consequences) of what I’m eating and am definitely consuming more nutritious foods every day, not just on fast days
  • I’m hydrated, drinking a lot more water
  • I’m eating less overall
  • I’ve been very productive this week. I’m on my feet getting things done in spite of sometimes feeling hungry or needing to stay near the toilet on fast days
  • I find myself praying more and have a God-focused sense as I am seeking to serve and please Him with my body as with everything else. I need His strength to really change.

I ordered a book about ADF but it hasn’t come yet. I know from articles and videos on the web that many of the negative symptoms I’m experiencing should begin to dissipate or disappear as I train my body to rely on fat rather than glycogen/sugar — most of the proponents say the fast days become “a breeze” after 7-10 days on the plan. We’ll see. I’ll post progress updates on Wednesdays.

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