Originally sent in email form, now posted in its entirety. Written by Marybeth Kram
So Josh and I are doing this 5-day fast-mimicking diet called Prolon, and I thought it would make it slightly more fun (read: less terrible) if I shared my thoughts throughout with my friends/family. It’s essentially a low-calorie diet that’s meant to not trigger your body out of a fasting state, to promote cellular regeneration. It was developed to combat aging.
Some background: I decided to do this diet because my psychiatrist recommended it after I complained about how I’m slowly gaining weight without doing anything different diet/exercise/stress-wise. It’s clear my metabolism is slowing with age (unless something else is going on that I don’t know about). I’ve also had bad IBS symptoms over the last week or so. I’m hoping my body just resets. I’d love to lose like 10 pounds too, but I’ll take 5. Josh is doing this with me out of solidarity plus thinking I’ll be less annoyed if he’s doing this with me than if he’s not doing this with me, and he ain’t wrong.
Day 1 (Sunday):
1100 calories today, consisting of teas, soups, nut bars, kale/almond crackers, olives, and a little choco-crisp bar. Slept in until 1 which I thought might help. Personally I spent the whole day craving pizza and being a little grouchy. Usually I’m in a great mood when I don’t have any responsibilities, but I felt a little bored with everything and very dissatisfied with the food. The nut and choco bars were fine, the soups and (like 8) olives were meh, and the crackers tasted like shit. Have I mentioned I already didn’t like soup or tea?
I went for a walk to enjoy the weather. Josh walked a shit-ton since he’s used to vigorous exercise every day. My IBS symptoms remained the same.
I was very hungry when trying to fall asleep, with my stomach growling a lot. Josh claimed to not be hungry, but then he never has trouble with snacking at night. I told him it’s too hot and I’m hungry, and he responded “it’s fine” and “you’re fine”. Fell asleep around 1, which is pretty good for me.
Josh had to wake me up from a nightmare where I was trying to yell to my mom and little brother that there was an intruder in our house. I thought I was paralyzed in fear which is why my yell was so quiet, but it turns out it was because I was sleeping. I eventually fell back asleep. Fun stuff.
Day 2 update to come tomorrow. In the meantime, anyone have any good Switch games to recommend that will distract me? I maybe should’ve waited to do this once the Breath of the Wild sequel came out. Oops.
Day 2 (Monday):
Woke up feeling fine, but then I never wake up hungry (usually nauseous). Planning to wait as long as I can to have breakfast/lunch (I never eat breakfast). I’m about as tired as any average Monday.
700-800 calories today and every day through Thursday. Oddly I’m glad I’m working to keep myself occupied. Today (and the remaining days) they give us a drink with vegetable glycerin to help preserve lean body mass during a fasting state. I already drink a lot of water, so I drank half of it with lunch plus other water, then Josh reminded me it needs to last all day. Gotta sip more slowly and alternate with regular water. Oh yeah, and gotta drink tea.
11:30: headache. I get headaches a lot, but headaches on this diet are apparently common due to cutting out sugar and coffee (you’re allowed a cup if you need it, but I’m not going to have any). I don’t have caffeine every day, so I’m gonna go with thinking I’d have this headache anyway.
1:30 breakfast/lunch. The mushroom soup was disgusting. Next time it turns up in my box I’m going to trade Josh for something else (he got the ‘Gen3’ soups and I got ‘original’). I was so grossed out that I had to reheat it and put the rest in a mug to gulp it down and then didn’t finish my nut bar and saved the last bite for later. The headache is gone though!
4: Headache came back but I had some olives and feel a little better. Have I mentioned the olives are green olives, the only kind of olives I don’t like? I love black olives; kalamata olives are pretty good; green olives are gross. Also I skipped my afternoon tea because the hibiscus morning tea was gross.
My minestrone soup for dinner was more palatable. I spent most of the evening annoyed at being hungry. Josh continues to not complain, and says he feels fine when I ask. We watched Batman (1989) with our friend Laura and any time there was food or drink I was like ‘I want that’. I don’t even like champagne, and I was like ‘gimme that’ when I saw it on screen. The movie was fun though- great performance by Jack Nicholson.
IBS issues remain. 🙁 I guess I can point to this every time my stomach is bad and Josh tells me to eat better, and I say that it doesn’t matter much what I eat, it’s still bad.
Fell asleep by 12:30, which is pretty incredible. I woke up at 5 to pee, and fell back asleep by maybe 5:45. All in all, a much better night’s sleep than average. I did have an epically long dream that started with the concept that if you accidentally get off this train at a specific stop, you can’t get a train from that station again for 10 years, and there’s no other way to leave this town (it’s magical). I ended up staying and making a life there. I was able to commute back to reality a couple times because there was a Knight Bus like in Harry Potter, but it would only show up if you truly considered the magic town your home base and intended to return shortly. At one point there were a bunch of fairy tale creatures and the beast from Beauty and the Beast (who looked like my improviser friend James Dugan, just with a furry vest on) decided to host a ball so I could find a partner. I don’t think Josh existed in this world, or really anyone I know.
Me: I would love a partner.
Beast: Then let’s do what we always do when there’s a problem.
Me: Throw a ball?
Beast: (overlapping) We throw a ball.
Apparently vivid dreams are a common side effect of this diet, and I already had wild, lucid dreams often. I’ll have to ask Josh if he’s remembering more dreams.
Day 3 (Tuesday):
Unlike my normal life, mornings are the easiest, since I’m already used to not eating breakfast. I decided to go into the office, packing my sad soup packet mixed with water in a tupperware to be heated in the cafeteria microwaves. I’m supposed to have the shitty crackers with lunch, but I’m planning to only eat half of them and save the other half for dinner. Dunking them in the soup makes them (and the soup) slightly better.
Lunch fiasco: First off I spilled some soup on my pants, which was fine because it’s mostly water, and my pants are red just like the ‘tomato’ soup. Then I melted a plastic spoon from the cafeteria in the soup when I tried to stir it. When I took it out of the microwave after letting it sit for a minute, I burned my finger a little but contained my yell to avoid public embarrassment. After all that, I ate the sad soup and 2.5 crackers (saving the other 2.5 for dinner soup) at my desk.
4pm: My stomach loudly growled while I was talking to a coworker. I decided to finally eat some of the nut bar. I still crave deep dish pizza dipped in ranch. No urge for candy really- just meat/cheese/bread, which is what I usually crave to be fair.
I’ve given up on drinking the tea. I hate it and it isn’t any calories anyway.
I randomly took my blood pressure when I got home, and it was 92/49, which is low even for me. After eating the other half of my nut bar, it was back to a more normal (for me) 99/57. Also my heart rate was 62.
Josh’s was 128/62, and heart rate 58, for reference.
I went for a long walk and spent the rest of the evening eating sad soup with my leftover 2.5 crackers, playing Fall Guys with friends over FaceTime with a cat in my lap, and googling when to panic about low diastolic blood pressure (google says 60, but Josh says I’m fine?).
I think I fell asleep at 1:30? I was all stressed thinking I’m dying of low blood pressure. Have I mentioned I have anxiety? Josh fell asleep in about 30 seconds, as usual on this diet. He usually falls asleep within 5 minutes, but the fasting state makes us extra tired. Last week I think I fell asleep at 3am every night, so it’s still a big improvement for me.
IBS symptoms remain rough. I’m getting more and more convinced that what I eat doesn’t influence my stomach much at all compared to stress.
Dreams remain wild. It was pretty disjointed this time, but here are some highlights: hit by a tornado while living outside on rocky terrain, ‘Legolas’ from Lord of the Rings but he had a dumb voice and I kept being frustrated with my brain for making it not be the ‘real’ him, a restaurant staff deciding to not serve me the mac n cheese and broccoli I ordered because the group I was with was too loud, and on a blackboard in my 8th grade Spanish classroom I wrote a poem about a love story that was happening in my dream (can’t recall the details, but it didn’t include me).
Day 4 (Wednesday):
I’ve been weighing myself, and was down 2 pounds yesterday but back up 2 pounds today. Maybe my weight won’t change at all. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Josh has lost 7 pounds so far.
I have been waking up more clear-headed than usual, but that could be the extra sleep I’m getting combined with my morning lack of hunger.
In most of the reviews I read, people only had a couple days with hunger pains and mostly thought the food tasted good. I highly disagree. I am all hunger and hating the food. The food makes me actively angry. But, doing this diet is supposed to help you live longer due to triggering autophagy (cellular clean-up, which could help prevent cancer) and reducing inflammation. It’s also good for lowering blood pressure, but obviously I don’t need that. Hopefully the long-term benefits outweigh my short-term agony. (Josh is fine.)
The day went a bit better than day 3. I was less anxious about my blood pressure but still hangry as can be. I had a bit of a headache all afternoon but that’s not that unusual. At one point I heard Josh doing pull-ups. I yelled at him and he claimed he was taking it easy. After about 5 minutes of him going back and forth between pull-ups and resting, I made him stop. I have too much anxiety that he’s going to push himself too hard and faint.
I felt a lot of joy and excitement about tonight’s episode of the reality show Vanderpump Rules (if you’re unaware, there’s some drama called the Scandoval that is crazy juicy). It was the first time during this fast that I was legitimately excited. Now it’s just a countdown to eating real food.
When I went to the bathroom after lying in bed for awhile, I used my pulse oximeter to check my pulse and blood oxygen saturation levels. It said 52 bpm and 100% oxygen, so… that’s good?
Fell asleep by 1am!
Dream recap: A main character named Jack Wright was in charge of piloting a car that looked like a small red sports car mixed with a dirt bike with 3 front wheels, and for some reason he had to face backward and use hand levers to turn it. He got court-martialed due to a corrupt syndicate trying to unleash evil on the world. I was attending the wedding where he got arrested. He snuck into the government building with the vehicle using spy skills and managed to take it out of their evil clutches. I was sometimes 1st person as Jack and sometimes 3rd person POV like a movie. At one point I was in the kitchen of the house I grew up in, arguing with Josh over what exactly it means to be court-martialed.
24 hours until I get to eat something tasty!
Day 5 (Thursday):
LAST DAY! LAST DAY!
Spent pretty much the whole day in a good mood excited about tomorrow. The last day was definitely the easiest, probably as a mix of my body being more used to this and the excitement of seeing the finish line.
Josh keeps cautioning me not to overdue it tomorrow. I honestly don’t think I will. I’m just excited to eat something I like! Did you know cheese is a whole food?
I have a few unpleasant things that could be stress, coincidence, or caused by the diet: more acne (like big chin pimples with lots of pressure that don’t wanna pop), spotting the last couple days (this isn’t that unusual for me though), and lots of muscle twitching. My left eyelid, my right under-eye, and my left thigh are all having a field day today. My left eyelid has been twitching intermittently for months though.
My lunch soup was as disgusting as usual despite the crackers to dip. I almost gagged on the last bite. I ate about 75% of my dinner ‘minestrone’ and called it a day. Fun fact, Josh got extra soups and is planning to eat them when this is done cuz he ‘likes them’.
I remembered I can have the juice from 2 lemon slices per day, so I sucked on a couple slices and they were glorious. Thank you to my friend Ali, who cut up her lemon for me to then take the littlest pieces from.
When I got home I danced around and chanted “LAST SOUP! LAST SOUP!” After that I kept asking if it was bedtime. Josh was very confused until I revealed that I just want to go to sleep so it can be tomorrow. He laughed about me being a kid before Christmas. I am! As we went up to bed I danced around and chanted about tomorrow, and he cautioned me I wouldn’t be able to sleep with all that excitement. Don’t care! Tomorrow will come either way!
Maybe I fell asleep around 1? I was kind of floating between being awake and asleep for a few hours though. At one point I sneezed thrice and Josh woke up to shush me.
Disjointed dreamscape: Went to Menards for shelving (which I’ve never done) and they said they only had 15-inch, not 16-inch which I guess I wanted. I had to get my brother Scott to help me figure out how to shut down a computer in his room because I couldn’t read the text; his partner Jill laughed (good-naturedly) while we tried. At one point I saw my dad and hugged & kissed him goodnight; I knew it wasn’t really him and was sad. Rode a giant beluga whale and had to hold my breath while it plunged; avoided giant sharks and pet a giant manatee (soft like velvet). Stayed with my family at Wisconsin Dells, but my cats came with and at one point there were 3 orange cats out in the snow and I couldn’t tell which one was Fox. I woke up thinking I gotta make sure their microchips are coded to us. I also woke with both cats on my legs, safe and sound.
Josh has not remembered any of his dreams, so really it’s business as usual around here. His Apple Watch has been warning him his heart rate while asleep has dipped down to 40 though. I’ll try to believe him that he’s fine.
I’ll send a follow-up with how the transition off the diet went, but that wraps up my Five Fun Days of Fasting! Thank you very much for reading if you did, since it made me feel less alone and like there was an outlet for my complaining.
Overall, my experience was probably worse than the average person’s would be. Good food is very important to me, to the point that eating bad food makes me viscerally upset, and I HATED the food. Josh’s experience was probably better than average because the motto our friends have chosen for him, ‘life is strife’, is apt; he loves challenging his self control and living by meager means. Plus he enjoyed the soups somehow. Today he’s telling me he just wants fruits, veggies, and nuts. Not me! I’d still slam a pizza dipped in ranch. But I’ll have self control (for now).
Oh and I did finally lose 5 pounds. I’m sure I’ll gain it back when I eat but I’m still glad to see something give. Josh lost 10.
NEW ZELDA IS HERE. BYE FOREVER
Thanks and love,
I regret to inform you I have not YET eaten deep dish pizza dipped in ranch. Every day Josh reminds me to take it easy. It would be kind of a shame to slam my body with greasy food and ruin my efforts. On Friday (transition day) at lunch I ate celery dipped in cream cheese and a few strawberries, and it was amazing. All day I was basically high from joy that I get to eat food I like. For dinner I had a healthy poke bowl that was… fine. I drank tequila soda so as to not have too much sugar, and was surprised that my tolerance seemed pretty much normal.
Sunday I had a big dinner at Girl & the Goat for a friend’s birthday, and it was SO GOOD. Today I had a chai latte with almond milk and espresso, and it was delicious.
My IBS was (thankfully) shaken a bit out of the bad cycle it was in. It’s still there of course, but I think the joy of the last few days being fast-mimicking-diet-free made me at least temporarily better. Also my pants are fitting a little bit better which I love. I hope this keeps up!
Thanks again to anyone who read through this journey!