Week 1 Summary

Day 8, Feast Day #4

One week of intermittent fasting is complete and I am feeling much more optimistic about ADF being a lifestyle that I can sustain. I mentally handle the idea of being hungry much better now than I was at first. I also am able to get most of the nutrients I need on a low amount of calories from eating mostly vegetables on fast days. I am taking vitamin/mineral supplements now for the rest, and frankly, the amount of vitamins and minerals I have been getting on my feast days compared to my fast days is much lower. 

Eating a standard American diet of pancakes, beer, hamburgers, and fried food is giving me a huge amount of calories, sugar, and fat on feast days. But there is only a little vitamin A, iron, calcium, and potassium getting in my body these days. I will admit getting enough calcium is something I usually have to supplement because I am lactose-intolerant (very much so) and it seems like I would have plan my entire diet around potassium in order to get the 4,700 mg that is now recommended. I couldn't even find a supplement for potassium that had more than 3% of the DRV at the health store. I just have to be more conscious about including potassium rich food in my diet (root veggies, tropical fruit, potatoes, avocado, etc), especially since I know my grandmother struggles with low potassium and has been hospitalized for it.

So far my calories by day looks like this:

Fast day average: 433 kcal
Feast day average: 2607 kcal
Total average: 1,520 kcal - So, I am still eating less on average than I would normally.

What I have found interesting is that the amount of calories I have been eating on my fast days has decreased gradually (down to just 347 calories yesterday), while on the other hand my feast day caloric intake has increased gradually. I think the crazy feasting behavior has also been me seeing if I can manage to make up the entire 1,500 calories I missed on my fast days up. The closest I have gotten is still 500 calories short, and that was with eating two breakfasts, a bacon cheeseburger, and a 3-course meal at a sushi restaurant. (It was an epic feast day.)

Again, I woke up with a headache. However, it was not nearly as bad as the headaches have been. I also took Sondra's advice and got a magnesium supplement, took that today with breakfast, and my headache is gone now. Amazing! Studies like this one show a link between low magnesium and headaches and that adding magnesium to the body alleviates headache pain. Thanks again, Sondra.

The best part about starting ADF is how much more aware I am of the types of food I eat and what dietary values they hold. I also really appreciate eating everything. I also had no idea how many calories were in foods. Keeping a food diary has been a huge wake-up call to how I have been eating for years. It reminds a lot of when I first started using Mint to track my spending. After I tracked my income and spending for a month I had a wake up call about how much money I wasted---mostly on food, drinks, and miscellaneous things. This was the impetus for me saving my money and being smarter with finances. I feel tracking what I am eating is giving me that same wake up call and will help me eat healthier.


Fast(ing) Food - Low-Cal Tuna Salad

Day 7, Fast Day #4

One of the reasons I have made it this far with alternate day fasting is that for one glorious part of my fast day, I feel full and the rest of the time, water and tea do a fairly good job of keeping my stomach occupied. Don't get me wrong, I am still hungry most of the time. But the tea and water help my stomach forget about its emptiness for a bit.

Now, 400-500 calories is not a lot of calories, but it can be a great mass of food if you want it to be. Or it could be less than a cup of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream. Although the latter option provides a great deal of bliss for a moment, the rest of your fast day is going to be even more difficult.

So what am I eating and drinking on fast days? 

Most of the volume I am consuming is zero calorie liquids: water, tea, and coffee. The tea and coffee may have a calorie or two here or there, but they are worth it for the variety for me. I start drinking water as soon as I wake up and keep drinking it until bedtime. I have found I am much thirstier in general both fast and feast days on ADF than I was prior to this diet. I have been drinking an average of 6 cups of tea a day, one cup of coffee, and 8 glasses of water a day. I get heartburn a lot, so one coffee is all I can really handle in terms of caffeine intake on a fast day. The herbal tea is great because some of it tastes kind of like food and the different flavors provide the variety I need to not go crazy.

Currently in my tea arsenal I have: Stash Strawberry Pomegranate herbal tea, the Kroger Brand (Private Selection) Peppermint herbal tea, and Kroger Brand (Private Selection) Rooibos Red Tea. These are all caffeine-free. The strawberry pomegranate flavor is tasty, but there is no resteep value in it. The others are good overall for the money. I drank all of my remaining ginger and jasmine tea already. A lot more tea is going on the grocery list for next week. It is a good thing I love tea and normally drink it without any sweeteners.

In terms of foods, I have been mostly eating raw and pickled produce this week:
  • Carrots (a whole carrot, ~30-35 kcal)
  • Broccoli  (a spear, ~10 kcal)
  • Onion (a slice, ~15 kcal) - for flavor
  • Celery (a stalk, ~5 kcal)
  • Cabbage (a leaf, ~5 kcal)
  • Spinach (a leaf, ~2 kcal)
  • Dill Pickles (large, whole pickle, ~10 kcal)
  • Pickled Sweet Peppers (1 pepper, ~5 kcal)
  • Clementine (one fruit, ~40 kcal) - TREAT
  • Navel orange (one fruit, ~70 kcal) - TREAT
I feel like this little guy:

I eat most of these things solo. However, I made some of these things into a salad and put on Kraft's Fat-Free Zesty Italian dressing (~15 kcal per two tbsps). I am not really a fan of any fat-free or light dressing, so I would never eat a salad with this dressing normally. But when you are hungry, everything tastes a lot better. If you have low-calorie salad dressing recommendations that don't taste too sweet, I would LOVE to hear them.

On the pre-prepared foods side, I am currently loving Progresso's light line of soups. The ones I have been eating are 120 calories per can (60 calories per serving, two servings per can): Light Savory Vegetable Barley, Light Vegetable and Noodle, Light Zesty Southwestern-Style Vegetable. No can opener required on these, so they are an easy take-to-work food too.

I also have developed a cheap and low-calorie take on tuna salad which I plan on eating for lunch again today:

Fast Day Tuna Salad
  • one 2.5 oz size Bumble Bee Premium Light Tuna in Water Pouch (~70 kcal/pouch)
  • 2 tbsp celery bits (~2 kcal)
  • a dash or two of lemon juice (not enough calories to register on the nutrition label)
  • dill pickle relish (not enough calories to register on the nutrition label)
  • sprinkle of pepper
  • heavy sprinkling of Old Bay seasoning 
Mix this all in a bowl or tupperware and eat. I was surprised by how good this tasted. Always take all of my taste opinions with a grain of salt because I am rather hungry on my fast days.

I am aware some of you may have the misfortune of not knowing what Old Bay is. It is a delicious seafood spice blend from Baltimore, MD. I went to college at the University of Maryland, College Park and one of the most important things I learned in those four years is that Old Bay makes almost anything taste incredible. I put it on and in crab, crab cakes, salmon cakes, any type of fish really, mac 'n' cheese, pasta, potato chips, corn, in dips, on any battered and fried food. You can substitute this with a generic seafood seasoning... but you should really buy Old Bay and join the Old Bay Nation with me. Your mouth will thank you. No, I am not an Old Bay spokesperson, I just love it.


ADF Side Effect - Headache

Day 6, Feast Day #3

Much like on my second feast day, I woke up to a headache this morning. Super fun. On Tuesday, my second feast day, the headache lasted all day, despite taking some ibuprofen in the afternoon. When I do get a headache, it is typically from caffeine withdrawal or eye strain and is cured with caffeine or sleep respectively. I may be fasting every other day, but I am not giving up my daily morning cup of coffee, so it likely isn't caffeine withdrawal. I am thinking it is related to ADF.

Zach did an internet search and found forums where other people starting an ADF diet also experienced headaches. I seemed to draw the short stick, since Zach isn't experiencing this symptom at all. There are some theories floating around about why these headaches are happening, namely: dehydration, not eating, and sugar or carbohydrate withdrawal.

I do not think this is related to dehydration at all. I have been drinking copious amounts of water and herbal tea on fast days to stave off hunger. Yesterday I consumed: a 10 oz cup of mild roast coffee, a 10 oz cup of strawberry pomegranate tea, two 10 oz cups of ginger tea, a 16 oz cup of rooibos tea followed by a 10 oz cup of rooibos tea, two 12 oz cups of mint tea, and four 12 oz cups of water. That is 138 US ounces or the equivalent of over 4 liters and over one US gallon. That is a lot of liquid, and doesn't include the fluids in all the vegetables and the bowl of soup I had for lunch. Clear pee = hydrated.

Now, not eating seems like a much more likely reason for the headaches. The Mayo Clinic lists "skipping meals" as a cause for headaches. Additionally the Physician's Desk Reference cites skipping meals or not eating for an extended period as a trigger for both migraine and tension headaches

Previous to starting ADF, I was used to not only eating three meals a day, but lots of small snacks during my day. Moving to one small meal a day has been a big habit shift for me. From what I have read from other people experiencing this problem, the headaches often go away after a couple weeks or can be remedied with splitting the day's calorie allotment between two meals instead of the one. I may need to try two tiny meals in hopes of skipping my fasting hangover if this doesn't stop on its own. However, consuming multiple meals will cut the time I am actually going without food and might not give me all the benefits I am seeking from intermittent fasting.

As for sugar withdrawal, that could certainly be an explanation too. I have been keeping a food diary on MyFitnessPal.com and with their mobile app and it calculated that for my height & weight I should ingest about 34 grams of sugar a day. Now for the harsh reality: my approximate average sugar intake on my last two fast days was 33 grams. In comparison, on my last two feast days I ingested a disgusting 126 grams of sugar on average. Yes, I ate some sweets during my feast, including chocolate chip pancakes and beer for a meal. My two baseline days of calorie counting were at an average of 115 grams of sugar per day too. Holy diabetes, Batman! I knew I had a sweet tooth, but that is just kind of gross.To give you a better picture, 126 grams of sugar is over 30 sugar cubes.

In research done with rats, scientists have also found that rats show signs similar to opioid-dependence when their sugary diet is suddenly limited, suggesting there is such a thing as sugar addiction in rats. However, there is also newer research showing that there is no scientific support that the sugar dependency seen in animal models occurs in human trials. This study clearly hasn't made its way into the wikipedia article on this. 

So the jury is out on whether these headaches are from not eating for awhile, from sugar cravings, or something else. Hopefully it goes away soon. Either way, I should probably make an effort to not eat as much sugar since my insides might just be rivers of cornsyrup from years of not tracking my sugar intake and my apparent mouthlust for sucrose.


Why on Earth Am I Fasting?

It is Day 5 of my alternate day fasting (ADF) diet today, my third "fast day" and also the day I realized, I might want to blog about this experiment.

"Why the hell are you fasting?!?" you ask. Let me explain before you decide I have totally lost my mind.

I first learned about ADF from watching Dr. Michael Mosley's show called "Eat, Fast, and Live Longer" when it aired on PBS last week. It is a fascinating show that starts with a 101 year-old badass running a marathon in London. That man is by all rights impressive for both living to age 101 and running a freaking marathon. This guy restricts his calories all the time and doesn't practice ADF, but it certainly caught my attention. The show explores calorie restriction and different methods of calorie restriction as a key component in reducing one's risk of all kinds of diseases related to aging, including: heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Mosley explores and tries out overall calorie restriction, three-night four-day fasting (every few months), and ADF.

ADF is exactly what it sounds like: you fast every other day. It isn't a hardcore no calorie at all fast, but instead a 75-80% reduction of your daily recommended value calorie intake (a "fast day") followed by a day where you eat whatever you want (a "feast day"). The researcher in Mosley's program notes that even on feast days, people in the study only averaged about 125% of their DRV of calories on feast days, so you are still eating less calories than two days of eating 100% of your DRV or more. For my purposes I am allowing 400-500 calories on my fast days and Zach is doing 500-600 calories.

Now, I am not stupid. I figure most of the benefits from fasting would be due to losing weight. Weight loss in general isn't exactly hard math either. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you do this long enough, you become overweight and put yourself at a higher risk for diseases related to being overweight. My progression up the pant sizes over the years and beers tells me this is truth.

So why fast and not just cut calories everyday like a normal person with weight loss goals? Well, Dr. Mosley highlights the work of scientists studying ADF and this pattern of eating has been shown to do more than just help test subjects lose weight through the usual everyday calorie restriction. ADF triggers burning of fat and decreases the amount of IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor 1) in your body. Lowering IGF is showing promise as a mechanism to slow down age-related disease, Alzheimer's, and cancer. Zach and I read some of the published research, like this paper, which does a good job of summing up what is going on in terms of the ADF research world.

The Zach and Lauren family histories include pretty much every age-related disease out there. Zach in particular is worried about Alzheimer's disease because he saw multiple grandparents lose their marbles over time and experienced how hard that is for a family. So it was really Zach, not me, that was fired up to try alternate day fasting ourselves. Me, on the other hand, I really like to eat and was more hesitant. However, if ADF does work, extra years down the road with a cognitively functioning Zach sounds great. Even if it doesn't stop me from developing high cholesterol, I could stand to lose some weight in the short-term. So, that is why I am hungry right now and had my one 400 calorie meal for lunch today.


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