I need volunteers

Either a disease is eating my body away or this diet is working. I need you to try the simple diet I’ve been using, and see if it works for you as well. If it doesn’t work for anyone else, I need to get myself examined by a doctor.

Three and a half weeks ago, on March 14, I started a new, super easy diet, after reading a new book that purported to unlock the secret behind losing weight (I wrote about it here).

Two words: It’s working.

I’ve lost 4-5 pounds so far. Here is my daily weigh-in chart:

My 21-day weight loss of 4–5 pounds on 5-Rule Diet

At first I gained a little, but for the last seven days there has been a distinctive downward trend, even though every morning as I step on the scale — due to guilt over my prior day’s gluttony — I expect the meter to go up. But for the past seven days, without fail, it has been going down. We’ll see how long this continues. Today I was especially naughty with my diet.

The sweet thing is, I’ve been eating more than I ever have, and almost anything I want. For example, I’ve switched from the Double Double at In-n-Out to the 3x3 (if you live east of Arizona, think of going from a Big Mac to something with three layers instead of two, and a lot more cheese and sauce). I’ve also been indulging in the excellent-value McDonald’s two for $5 menu. And Costco combo-slice pizza. Not every day, mind you, but…checking my credit card records…exactly 12 times in the past 21 days.

What’s going on? The diet is incredibly simple, doesn’t cost anything, and by the time you finish reading this article and run to the supermarket, you’ll be ready to start.

The 5-Rule Diet

Here it is in five easy rules:

1. Eat as much as you want at each meal, until you are full enough to make it to your next meal without needing to snack in between.

Rules 2 and 3 contain practical advice that will make lasting to your next meal easy. The only ingredient you should avoid eating altogether is added sweeteners, both natural and artificial. That includes avoiding sugar, corn syrup, stevia, etc. or any of the artificial sweeteners, like Equal, Splenda, Sweet ’n Low, etc. If the sweetness is naturally part of the fruit, vegetable, or liquid (e.g. milk), then it’s fine. But avoid anything where the sweetener is added. Also avoid sweet fruit juices, like apple or orange juice, since they are extremely sweet. Occasional cheating is okay, but better to cheat later in the diet, not at first. A life without ice cream is a life not worth living. A life without cereal might be worth living, but extremely inconvenient. I’ve eaten cereal with milk every day of the past 21, sometimes two or three bowls a day. I only have two kinds of cereal at the moment, so that’s what I’ve been eating: Kellogg’s Raisin Bran and Post Honey Bunches of Oats. I suppose it would be better if I didn’t eat cereal, but I need the convenience. If cereal is not part of your life, it’s best to keep it that way.

The one food you should try to eat more of is good fats. Fats help you feel full, and for longer. If you’re hungry between meals, it’s because you didn’t eat enough fat during your last meal. Eat more fat next time and you won’t want to snack.

A good fat is pretty much any fat that isn’t a trans fat. Any fat with the word “hydrogenated” in it is a trans fat. Throw that stuff out; don’t eat it. If it grows in the wild, like a cow or an olive or a fish or a turkey, it’s a good fat.

2. Absolutely no snacking between meals.

But you can drink as much unsweetened coffee and tea as you want, whenever you want. The tea can be regular or herbal. And you can add cream too, but only real dairy cream or half-and-half. Sweeteners are not allowed at all. If you’ve never developed a taste for unsweetened coffee or tea, now is the time. This rule is a huge help in getting to your next meal in the event you failed to eat enough food during your last meal.

3. Meal times are one hour long and there is at least 12 hours between the end of dinner and beginning of breakfast.

Your meal times, or feeding times as I’ve called them in my calendar, should be limited to one-hour periods, three times a day. The 12 hour rule is one of the most important parts of the diet, so make sure you follow it. This qualifies the diet as a form of intermittent fasting.

4. Take a swig of apple cider vinegar before each meal, and begin at least one meal a day by eating a whole avocado.

Vinegar is the underrated active ingredient of the Mediterranean diet. Some day it will get the credit it deserves. A medical study found that swigging two teaspoons of vinegar before your meal lowers your sugar uptake from the meal by 30%. If you’re on insulin or have other health issues, you should talk with your doctor first, but everyone else should immediately begin swigging vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is the most accessible and affordable form of vinegar, so use that. You only need a swig, so a small amount in an old water bottle will last a while.

The fat in avocados is fantastic, and will help keep you feeling full until your next meal, while pumping your body full of healthful nutrients — not to mention fiber. Incredible fiber. If you’re having trouble making it to the next meal without snacking, do three avocados a day, one at each meal. For quickly consuming an avocado, all you need is a knife and spoon, and about 2 minutes. Plastic knives work great if you’re in a cafeteria. Cut the avocado in half length wise and spoon it out. They are delicious. If you want to complicate your life, you can incorporate the avocado into your meal somehow.

Carry apple cider vinegar and avocados wherever you go. I have a bottle of apple cider vinegar at my desk at work, at home, and in my book bag. Somehow airport scanners are oblivious to vinegar. I’ve gone through airport security with vinegar in my carry on twelve for twelve times in the past 21 days with not one issue.

If it’s easy for you to carry around extra virgin olive oil, use that too. It’s also good fat.

5. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. And try a 24 hour fast if you have the guts.

If it’s meal time, and you’re not hungry, don’t force yourself to eat. Instead, skip the meal and stretch your “fast” until your next meal. Drink some tea or coffee with cream if the urge to snack comes before it’s time for the next meal. The more often you’re able to do this, the better. I’ve found that breakfast is the easiest meal to skip.

Do a 24 hour fast as often as you have the willpower. Have two feasts if you want, one before, one after, but consume only water, tea, and coffee for 24 hours. This will accelerate your weight loss. If you don’t have the willpower, it’s fine, don’t do it. After living by the other rules for a while and experiencing the incredible results for yourself, you may scrape together enough willpower to try a longer fast. And once you start, it won’t be difficult to do it more often. Some people do a 23 hour fast 3 times a week. Some people do it as a way of life — dinner only.

Note that if you’re on medication or have health issues, you shouldn’t try skipping meals without first consulting your doctor.

Now let’s address some misconceptions.

Misconception #1 — Fat is bad, low-fat is good

No, natural fat is good, low-fat is bad, and man-made fat is evil. Time magazine recently addressed the subject. And so did The Guardian.

Misconception #2 — In the end it’s the calories that count

No, in the beginning, middle, and end, it’s always the totality of your body as a biochemical system that counts. The body has many ways to burn calories — like 100 different ways — and you voluntarily control only one of them — physical exercise. The others are determined by your body as a biological system and your brain as a neurological machine continually maintaining homeostasis (think of homeostasis as a kind of chemical equilibrium where you’re still alive). These calorie-burning mechanisms involuntarily push your body toward its set weight. If you lie in bed all day, on average you will burn 1,500 calories in 24 hours. If you run a marathon, on average you will burn an extra 2,600 calories. So even while you “do nothing” all day long lying in bed, your body is busy running more than half a marathon. It stands to reason that a body can run farther or shorter if it wants, depending on what it needs to do to get back to homeostasis. It stands to reason that these fluctuations in involuntary calorie burn can be quite significant. So no, it’s not the calories you eat that count, it’s how badly your body wants to burn them that counts. The 5-rule diet I’ve described here apparently has been causing my body to burn more calories than normal, because I sure have been eating a lot more. Let’s test this out together.

Misconception #3 — It’s okay to snack, as long as it’s just a few calories

No, the brain triggers insulin release even as you lift food to your mouth. If you swish artificially sweetened water in your mouth and spit it out, your brain responds by releasing insulin almost the same as if you’d put a lump of pure sugar in your mouth. So you should brush your teeth right before breakfast and right after dinner, to include that as part of your meal and not spike your insulin with an artificial sweetener for no good reason.

Why does insulin release matter? Read the book. Insulin and resistance to insulin is what determines your body set weight.

Volunteer to test the diet

Please like this article, comment on it, or send me a private message if you are planning to try the 5-Rule Diet. Again, if you have medical issues, please consult your doctor first. If you’re ready to try it, buy some apple cider vinegar and avocados, and let’s do it! For each day, keep track of your weight and whether or not you broke any of the rules. Then share your results with me week by week or month by month. Let’s see what happens. If nobody else experiences the weight loss I am experiencing, I need to see a doctor.

Correction on Aug 9, 2016: Vinegar does not directly reduce insulin spike, but does so indirectly by reducing sugar uptake by up to 30%.