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The fast track


  By far the simplest and most healthy way to get your diet underway is to start directly on the meal plan you've laid out for the duration of the diet, choosing when you begin as described above. Grit your teeth, reassure yourself that in three or four days you'll be feeling fine, and get it over with.

There is, however, an alternative. I don't recommend it, but I have done it myself, and if you find it impossible to get through the first few days of dieting on the regular meal plan, you might consider it. The idea is to start your diet by drastically cutting your calorie intake for the first few days: to engage in a partial fast. ``Huh? I'm hungry and you're telling me to eat less?''

There are couple of reasons to try it if all else fails. Remember, what makes the first few days of a diet tough is the delay between your cutting back on calories, the consequent fall in blood sugar, and the eventual transition to burning fat to make up the shortfall. If you gradually reduce calories, your body will tend to adjust metabolism downward rather than tap its fat reserves. That's why you need a substantial calorie deficit like 500 calories a day to get a diet underway. An even larger shortfall will cause a more precipitous plunge in blood sugar and should trigger the transition to burning fat more quickly. Starting your diet with a radical cutback in calories may reduce the length of the transition from three days to two or even fewer.

Second, fasting often induces a kind of ``beyond hunger'' state in many people. You may find this easier to endure for a day or two than the consequences of a smaller calorie shortage. Your reaction may be different, but many people find they don't feel much worse on 500 calories a day for one or two days than on 1200. If you're going to feel hungry, better to minimise the duration and wring the maximum weight loss from it.

If frustration with getting into a diet leads you to try this approach, be reasonable. Don't consider going totally off the feed. Instead, plan a calorie intake of 500 to 600 calories for each of the first two days of your diet, then move on to the regular meal plan. Since you'll be eating very little, concentrate on foods with lots of bulk but few calories. For example:

Food Calories
Low-fat cottage cheese (1 cup) 164
Hard boiled egg 82
Low-fat cottage cheese (1 cup) 164
Salad, consisting of:
   Iceberg lettuce (1 cup) 7
   Chopped onion (1/2 cup) 33
   Diced tomato (1 tomato) 26
   Italian dressing (1 tbsp.) 69
Total 545

You can season any of these foods with salt, pepper, or any other spices that are essentially free of calories. Along with these food items, drink plenty of liquids: at least three quarts a day. As we'll see on page [Ref], you need to keep plenty of fluid flowing through the rubber bag for the duration of your diet to dilute and flush out the nasty chemical by-products of breaking down fat. This is especially important when you're administering a shock to the system by fasting. You're trying to get the fat cells to start burning earlier and quicker, and you need even more water to wash out the gunk they'll spew as they come on line. Further, having your stomach filled with anything, even water that's just passing through, helps counter the immediate desire to eat; polishing off a tall glass of your favourite (non calorie bearing) beverage is at least putting something in your mouth when you'd rather be eating.   And yes, in case you didn't know, and, like most hackers, are a confirmed guzzler of diet soft drinks and aren't overly obsessed with organic this and natural that, be aware that caffeine is a highly effective appetite suppressant.

I don't recommend this kind of gung-ho start to a diet, but if you really have trouble getting past the first few days on your regular meal plan, you may want to give it a shot. I've done it both ways, and I must say that if, for some reason, I ever needed to lose a lot of weight again I would start off with a two day 500-600 calorie fast.

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Next: The long haul Up: The initial plunge Previous: Planning and scheduling

By John Walker