In 2020 I will be experimenting with Intermittent and Alternate Day fasting to lose weight and improve my health. My 2019 extreme diet needs a reboot.
Why I’m switching to an intermittent and alternate-day fasting diet
My 2019 diet plan did not produce the results I wanted. There were a lot of reasons. I knew when I entered a program of extreme dieting there was a chance of failure. I’d put a lot of time, effort, and emotional currency into planning and executing that diet. I felt I wasn’t giving it a fair shot. After all, it was me who flubbed up and fell off the program.
As the new year started I wanted to try again to lose weight through extreme dieting. But I had lots of evidence that trying a failed diet again wasn’t going to help me reach my goals. In a major break from my habitual way of thinking, I decided to go back to the drawing board.
This is how I arrived at a plan for intermittent and alternate-day fasting. It is a method of dieting that relies on when you eat as much as what you eat. I’ll still be counting calories and changing the balance of food I eat. But I am now open to much more diversity in my diet.
While my 2019 diet had its advantages, the overall effort was a failure. By switching to an intermittent and alternate-day fasting plan I am taking control of my diet.
Intermittent and alternate-day fasting is the new cool
Dieting fads and techniques sweep through like waves, rolling in and out. Intermittent fasting is currently on the rise and one of the most popular deliberate eating methods in the world. There have also been a lot of studies that indicate intermittent fasting is not only effective but sustainable and healthy as well.
- Intermittent fasting is a method of eating whereby you don’t worry so much about what you eat as when you eat. Ideally, your meals fall into a specific time frame, usually 8 hours. The remaining 16 hours of the day you do not eat. Since most people sleep for approximately 8 hours, that leaves another 8 hours of the waking day where the is no eating. Skipping breakfast and eating between the hours of noon and 8 pm with no late-night snacking is a common eating schedule.
- Alternate day fasting is a variation of intermittent fasting where a person eats normally (or on an IF schedule) one day, fasts the second day, and resumes normal eating on the third day. Most people limit their fast days to twice a week. This is known as the 5:2 method. On a fasting day, a person can either go without food at all, or limit calories to 25% of their normal daily intake. If someone is on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, on their alternate fasting day they could eat up to 500 calories.
Why I almost didn’t change to an intermittent and alternate-day fasting diet
There is a phenomenon in human behavior called “the sunk cost fallacy”. It is when people decide to continue doing something based on what they’ve already invested in it, even if the current cost and effort outweighs the benefits. “We’ve come this far!” is the battle cry of those mired in a sunk cost fallacy.
People invest stock and when that stock loses money, instead of analyzing the situation for what it is, they make a decision based on what they’ve already invested. This typically leads to even more money lost as the stock spirals down in value.
Frequently I find myself locked in a sunk cost fallacy mindset. I watched all of Lost and the last season of Game of Thrones in the unprovable belief that those episodes would get better. And that even if they didn’t… well, I’d already invested so much time into them that it would be a waste to give up now.
Those are just two examples of a life lived denying the present moment. A life lived in fear of losing what I’d invested. I’ve stuck with jobs, relationships, clothes, and a garden because I felt I had put too much into them to just walk away. Yet in every instance, walking away would have been the smarter and more profitable choice.
Making a plan, making the right choice
My new diet plan is divinely simple, yet devilishly difficult. In a series of three-day blocks, I will practice an intermittent diet followed by two consecutive days of alternate day diets.
So, on Day 1 I will eat balanced and healthy meals totaling approximately 1,600 calories within an 8-hour period. This will likely be from 11 am until 7 pm. Although, depending on my work and event schedule, I may start much earlier. The important thing will be to keep within my 8-hour window.
On Day 2 & 3 I will eat one nutritious meal totaling approximately 600 calories. It doesn’t matter what time of day I eat that meal. But as a habit, I would like for it to be before 7 pm.
While 600 calories are considerably more than 25% of my IF goal of 1,600 calories, I can game the plan by doing two ADF days back to back. In an average week, I will consume approximately 7,200 calories which are 35% fewer calories than if I just practice a full week of IF. The average 5:2 ADF diet only cuts 18% of calories off a full week of IF.
By alternating a day of intermittent fasting with two consecutive days of alternate-day fasting, I still get the sense of regular meals on a reasonable schedule. My goal is to always have two consecutive days of alternate-day fasting.
I have reserved a few “cheat days” in the calendar. On these days I can consume as much as 3,000 calories. That is so I can balance my virtues with just a little sin.
Tools to help me succeed
I’m still using my weight tracker app, Happy Scale, to record my weight and set my goals. And I am using my digital bathroom scale to weigh in with every day.
To plan my eating I am using a paid version of Eat This Much. It allows me to track food and calories, balance my meals between intakes of carbs, fats, and protein.
I am also still measuring my blood glucose levels using a testing kit and recording my progress in Glucose Buddy, another app.
I’m still buying my food at the local grocery store. I want to keep this part of my diet and weight loss as easy as possible. In terms of what I am eating and when I will cover that in future posts that will focus more specifically on each diet.