Saturday, March 8, 2008

Am I Done? And, Alternate Day Dieting...

It is quite common amongst WLS postops to hear someone say, "I'm not losing... It has stopped. Do you think I'm DONE??" And, most of the time, this person is still very early into their WLS journey and nowhere near done losing the weight they will lose. Most of the time they are still in that "honeymoon" window. For those of you who don't know what the "honeymoon" period is, it is the first 6 to 18 months after a person has weight loss surgery. It is usually the period of prime losing time. Many people will lose the bulk of their weight during this timeframe. It is somewhat easier to lose during this time as it is also the time when you have the most malabsorption from a procedure of this nature. It will depend on how well you work the tool/program you were given. The more time passes, the more your body adapts and attempts to make up for the bypass you've had done. The body tries to compensate for the bypass by developing the little absorption receptors farther down the colon. It doesn't mean that your body WILL work better at absorbing later. It just means that it COULD.

Not every person's experience is the same! Same goes for weight loss patterns. We did not gain the weight in the same way and we won't lose it in the same way or at the same pace. Some folks will lose weight like water running off a hill (seemingly effortlessly and nothing slows it down) for the first 6 months and be at goal by 7 or 8 months out. Others will lose at a bit slower pace and take a year to reach goal. And yet more will lose even more slowly and take 18 mos to 2 years to reach goal. It is all individual! I'm 18 months postop and still 20 pounds away from my goal. I lose less each month. It seems I can go for weeks just eating sensibly and getting my protein in each day and not gain or lose. BUT, I have to knuckle down to lose anything again. I'm hoping this means I'll do okay once I decide to just maintain and not try to lose any more.

All of this leads us to look for what will get the weight loss going again... We try anything another WLS postop suggests.
We've upped our protein.
We've increased our water intake.
We've upped our calories and lowered our calories.
We've increased our exercise and even changed our exercise to shake things up.
We've cut carbs thinking we were eating too many and even added carbs to keep out of starvation mode or give increased energy for hard workouts.
If another WLS postop says it worked for them, many of us will give it at least one try if we feel we may be done losing but don't really want to stop just yet.

This weekend, I read an article about Alternate Day Dieting. I've actually had a similar recommendation from a WLS postop. She called it ZigZag dieting. After reading the article, I realized we were talking about very similar things. The article talks about eating a normal diet one day (whatever your "normal" diet is) and then a reduced calorie day the next and alternating continuously like that. During maintenance, you would still follow the alternating day plan, but would eat a bit more on the lower intake days as your goal would not be to lose. The ZigZag dieting that had been mentioned to me was cutting back calories and carbs to a really low point for a couple of days in a row and then upping calories for a couple of days to sort of shock your system and prod your body to start losing again. It keeps your system from becoming used to or adjusted to a particular eating program and finding a "comfort zone" of sorts. For example, if you normally ate 1200 calories and 80 carbs per day, on the "low" days of this diet, you might eat 700-800 calories and 30-40 carbs and on the "high" days you might eat 1500 calories and 100-120 carbs. Your body won't know what happened and you may just get that losing engine back into gear. Quite often, this same diet strategy may be paired with a kick in the pants to your exercise program, so you really don't know if the loss you see is from one or the other or even just from a couple of low cal/low carb days and the subsequent water loss that low carb days can prompt.

Does any of it really work better? Or, is your body just ready to start moving down again? This article mentions studies with lab animals that "experienced profound health benefits" when fed only every other day. There is mention of longer life and slower progression of age-related diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and even Alzheimer's. They state that this alternate day dieting can help keep you from becoming bored with your diet as on the up days, you can have more food, more calories, and can even indulge in beloved food items when you take a notion. While on the low days, you eat that boneless, skinless chicken that you might otherwise become sick of looking at... LOL But, the article also states, "
Of the different ways to impose caloric restriction, he said, overall calorie restriction yields the most robust results. Eating 30 to 40 percent fewer calories every day translates to an increase in longevity of the same percentage." Well, we already KNEW that! Fewer calories in equals more weight loss potential! So, if they felt the need to point this out, then will the proposed up day--down day alternate day diet plan really make a bigger difference than just an overall calorie reduction? Or, is this just another fad diet in the making??

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Lea:

I am the publisher of the forthcoming Alternate Day Diet by Dr. James Johnson to which you referred in this posting. May I send you a copy of the book, which I think will answer many of the questions raised and give you a better understanding of the mechanism of the diet, which goes well beyond just restricitng calories.

You can email me with your mailing addres at


John Duff,
G.P. Putnam's Sons
Penguin Group USA Inc
375 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014
212/ 366-2566

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