The DODO Diet Made Doable

words by Lorna Clansey

A boiled egg never tasted so good. It’s Tuesday and that means that today I am only eating 600 calories.

I was inspired to limit my calorie intake for one day per week when I saw Michael Moseley, the medical doctor and health journalist, on BBC’s Horizon programme a few months ago. He was investigating the health benefits of intermittent fasting and he discovered that alternate day fasting (one day eating normally and the next limiting intake to only 600 calories) had a huge impact both on his weight and his cholesterol and blood glucose levels. In the end, he felt that this one-day-on one-day-off approach was too restrictive to his life, so he stuck to eating normally for 5 days and then ‘fasting’ for 2, still with great results. Fast-living city workers are also now using this as a convenient way to manage their weight as it fits well with their lifestyle.

According to some nutritional therapists, intermittent fasting isn’t bad for us – probably more like our ancestors might have eaten. They do warn that it is important keep water intake high and not to use these low-cal days as an excuse to binge on the other days though! I know that I am of a healthy weight and that my blood chemical levels are in normal range, but I was interested to know if calorie-limiting could be beneficial to me if I only did it for one day every week.

Using the extremely helpful www.myfitnesspal.com I was able to calculate a menu for the day which might consist of a small bowl of porridge made with oats, oat milk and cinnamon for breakfast, a cup of miso soup, a stick of celery and a raw carrot for lunch and, for dinner, steamed broccoli with garlic, ginger, soy, lemon juice and sesame seeds and the (very welcome) hardboiled egg. Lots of herbal teas and 2 thin rice cakes with peanut butter complete the day. Oh, and 9 almonds. Calorie intake can be distributed differently throughout the day though depending on a persons lifestyles and needs. Although this doesn’t look like very much food, I’m only eating like this one day a week, so when my stomach starts to growl at around 9.30pm, I know that tomorrow I’m back to eating normally again.

So what are the benefits?

I’ve been surprised that I have lost a couple of pounds over the month that I have been doing this, despite having a few celebration days where I’ve eaten much more than normal. I also feel considerably more alert, energised and lighter on the day after the ‘fast’ and seem to get much more done. Another interesting side-effect has been that once a week I actually truly appreciate what I am putting in my mouth. I chew thoroughly and relish the flavour of things I wouldn’t normally view as special. Knowing that I can’t just snack later on or have another helping means that I am much more conscious when I am eating. It’s a good reminder of how we should eat all the time!

Any downsides?

The hardest  time of the ‘fast’ day is between 3 and 5pm but I’ve been surprised at how easy it has been overall and I haven’t felt unpleasantly hungry or weak. However, I made the decision to do the ‘fast’ when I was fighting a sore throat. This was not a good idea as I started to feel very faint at around 6pm and then only sugar would do. I’ve learnt my lesson and so will only do this when I feel well.

Will I keep it up? The answer is yes. I have plenty of feast in my life, so maybe it’s good to have a bit of famine as well.