Alternate Day Fasting: Lose Weight Fast, with Fasting!

—the article title reads. The letters are long, spindly and black, like shadows of the words themselves. I scroll down. 

Luke is off somewhere with his “buddies,” as he calls them, so I have the house and the computer to myself. 

            I had typed “lose weight fast” into the search bar and this was the first result to catch my eye. Now this aggressively cheerful article about weight loss bathes me in its cold glow, inviting me to probe deeper into the magical health benefits of starving myself every other day. I keep scrolling. 

            Dr. Harold Gore, LA nutritionist and weight loss expert, smiles toothily out at me from the screen. He’s in his early-to-mid-forties, with silvering hair and a large, craggy-handsome face. An all-American boy all-grown-up sort of charm about him. It’s the kind of face women like to look at. The kind of face they feel they can trust. 

Weight loss methods and products are so rarely peddled by women, though they’re perpetually marketed to them. Women don’t trust other women, and they definitely don’t appreciate being told what to eat, or not eat, by them. Dr. Harold Gore, LA nutritionist and weight loss expert, understands this.

Dr. Gore tells me that the fastest, most fool-proof way to lose weight is to alternate-day fast. It’s simple (and so self-explanatory I wonder how he manages to make a living off of it), all you have to do is eat nothing the first day, then eat one very large, very filling, and very protein-rich meal the next,  there’s nothing else to it! Seems easy enough. I scroll down some more and see that Dr. Gore sells how-to books, online courses, and gives lectures to help guide you on your weight loss journey. Mystery solved.

I click the “testimonies” tab at the top of the page. A woman’s face smiles back at me, a quote floating beside her:

“I lost 30 pounds in 3 months with Dr. Gore’s book, Every Other Day. I’ve tried countless diet plans, pills, and workout regimens, but I could never commit to any of them! I was always a ‘my diet starts tomorrow’ kind of gal. But now I feel like I’ve finally discovered the secret to fast, easy weight loss. I’ve even dropped 3 dress sizes! Thanks Dr. Gore!” 

There are three pages of this. I exit the site. 

I’m alone the rest of the day. 

Alone to ruminate on the miraculous teachings of Dr. Gore and his congregation of devoted starving followers. Luke’s house is big, weirdly big for the amount of people that inhabit it. (Two.) There’s a lot of room to think.

I go into the kitchen and stare into his massive fridge. It’s loaded with stuff from both of us: a six pack of beer (his), a bottle of white wine (mine), slabs of bacon (his), a carton of eggs (his), a package of uncooked hamburger patties (his), and a bag of oranges (mine). 

I reach into the bag and pull out an orange, then stand above the massive sink in his massive kitchen, slowly working the peel away from the innards with my fingernails. 

Looking down at the thick, wide-pored skin winding away from my hand in a loose spiral, I imagine doing the same to my fat, digging my fingers into my soft fleshy sides and peeling away layers of skin until I am like the orange: all moist muscle and sinew. If only it were that easy. 

“I lost 50 pounds thanks to Dr. Gore’s new book: TEAR OFF YOUR SKIN NOW!” 

I stare at the orange in my hand, naked and wet. Then I open up the trash can and toss it in. It lands at the bottom with a heavy thud. My diet starts today. 

“You’re going to have to lose weight, you know, for the Eva role.”my agent had told me over the phone. As if I weren’t already severely, almost aggressively thin. As if the bikini pictures snapped by photographers and sold to tabloids didn’t already prompt headlines such as:

Hadley under Fire for Suspiciously Skinny Physique: “She’s hardly even there!” says People Watcher’s Body Analyst 

Anorexic Actresses: has Ren joined their malnourished Ranks? 

Ren Hadley Shows off Slim Figure in New Bikini: Mexican Tapeworm to Thank?

Headlines like these glare out at me from magazines in grocery store check-out aisles, the tabletops of less fashionable doctors’ offices, the racks at airport newsstands. I wonder what these same magazines would have to say after the weight loss.

Luke Josef Milton Seen with Mystery Skeleton Woman: is he Cheating on Ren? 

Walking Skeleton Spotted Dining at Local Restaurant: Wouldn’t the Food Just Pass Right through her? 

Fleshless Zombie Woman Frightens Local Children. 

“How much?” I had asked. 

“Right now they’re saying somewhere between fifteen and twenty pounds,”

At that moment I weighed around 112 pounds. Already tiny. If I dropped 15, I would be in the 90-something range. 

“And how, exactly, am I supposed to do that?” I asked her evenly.

“I don’t know Ren, they already think you have a tapeworm, would it really be so bad if you went out and got one?”

“Ha ha.”

“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” she said. “Oh, and don’t forget to stay out of the sun. You’re supposed to be playing a demon, so we can’t exactly have you rocking sun-kissed skin,” 

“Got it,” I said, and hung up the phone, thinking of the description of Eva, the vampire/demon woman in the script. Deathly pale, deathly thin. Sad news for aspiring paparazzi everywhere. Ren Hadley would no longer grace the beaches of Los Angeles showing off her slim figure in a new bikini. Instead, she would stay indoors. Instead she would starve. 

The first day is torture. 

All day I think of nothing but food. After dropping the orange heavily into the trash can at 12 pm, my mouth waters for it. I can feel my mouth filling with saliva, which I quickly swallow. I follow this with a sip of tepid water. Dr. Gore says that if you’re going to fast, you have to drink water. Lots of it. So I fill one of Luke’s glasses with water from the sink and sip it slowly. But my body still begs for the orange. 

I imagine myself tipping over the trash can, digging through it with my hands like a raccoon until they close around the orange. I Imagine biting into it, letting the tangy-sweet juice gush down my chin. Even though there’s a whole bag of them in the fridge, I don’t want to be wasteful.

But I control myself. All day, I control myself. Carefully avoiding the kitchen and any thoughts of temptation. I watch TV instead. It’s not like I can go outside; the sun is shining and the day is warm, inviting.

I sit on the plush couch in Luke’s massive living room with my feet tucked under me, taking slow, regular sips of tap water. The colorful symbols of countless streaming apps flash before me on the enormous screen like portals into other worlds. Luke has a subscription to every streaming service known to man, half of which go unused and would accumulate dust if they could. So many selections I’m overwhelmed.

I choose one and hit “resume play” on My 600 Pounds and Me, a show chronicling the lives of the morbidly obese. A woman weighing just under this morbid milestone materializes on screen. The angle is wide, so the viewer can take in every roll, every lump of flesh seeping from the chair. She speaks directly to the camera. 

“My name is Kelly, I’m thirty-one years old and I weigh five hundred and sixty-seven pounds.” The angle changes to a close up of Kelly’s face as she already begins to cry. 

“I have always struggled with my weight. It began with my childhood. I was neglected, so I turned to food.” Photographs fade into one another of Kelly as a child, Kelly as a teen, Kelly as a young adult. In each one she grows progressively larger. I take another warmish sip of water. 

Cut to Kelly at home, sitting heavily in a chair in her tiny kitchen, a plate full of food in front of her. She stares straight ahead as she eats, taking bite after bite, seemingly without tasting. She continues in voiceover:

“All I think about is food. It consumes my thoughts all day, every day. As I’m eating one meal, I’m already planning the next,” She says, spooning a forkful of scrambled eggs into her mouth, biting a sausage off her fork, followed by crispy, greasy bacon, waffles drenched in thick maple syrup, a biscuit loaded with melted, golden butter. 

You would think I would feel sick watching Kelly eat; disgusted even. But my mouth begins to water again. I lick my lips.

My tongue looks strange, darting out in front of my face, long and thin like a snake’s. Was it forked, even? I must have imagined it. I stick out my tongue again and squeeze it between my fingers. It feels thick and damp and short, like a normal tongue should. Weird. 

I change the channel.

At 6:45 pm Luke returns home. 

I haven’t moved from the couch, my eyes glazed over by the lulling blue glow of the screen. An unskippable ad for a diet pill flashes across it.

“Hey you,” he says, wrapping his arms around me and kissing the top of my head. I’m suddenly aware of myself and how I must look to him; unshowered and un-makeuped, sitting on his couch in my TV-trance.

“How was your day?” he asks.

“You’re looking at it,” I tell him, gesturing to his massive TV. “How was yours?”

He tells me about his day with his buddies, how they met for lunch and drinks at the exclusive Hollywood-only club and restaurant, Bergman’s, then a quick, tipsy trip to the soundstage of one of his buddy’s films, followed by the perusal of a downtown Rolex shop, topped off by a final drink at another exclusive Hollywood club.

“Sounds eventful,” I manage. He asks me if I’m hungry. 

“I ate earlier,” I tell him. But I have to rearrange the pillows noisily around myself, turn the volume up on the TV, set the glass down on the table with a loud clink, anything to cover the growling, snarling sound of my stomach beginning to turn on itself.

Day two of Alternate Day Fasting: Breaking the Fast

I write this on the first page of a brand new black spiral notebook; the kind high schoolers use. “If you’re going to diet, do it right,” Dr. Gore says, “don’t waste time fasting if you’re not going to keep track of your caloric intake.”

So I write on the next line, in neat pencil letters:

1 order of kimchi fried rice from Madam Mam’s Korean Bistro, to-go. Includes: rice, diced green onion, spam, kimchi, and a fried egg. 

Calories: 373.9

Total Carbohydrate: 45.2 g

Dietary Fiber: 0.4 g

Sugars: 0.5 g

Protein: 13.8 g

“Does it check off all the boxes of your [every other] daily allotted meal? Very large, very filling, and very protein-rich?” Yes, yes, and yes. The food is the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. After going so long without eating, Madam Mam’s is an epiphany. I devour it like an animal. 

Luke sits on the couch beside me, happily chewing, home for the day from his full-time job of screwing around. He’s still clueless about my new diet, and I plan on keeping it that way for as long as I can. I know he’ll only worry, tell me I shouldn’t have accepted a role that encourages me to hurt myself.

At least I still have roles to accept, a devilish voice reminds me. I’m taken aback by this voice, by her rudeness, her audacity. I would never think something like that! Not about my loving, faithful, wonderful boyfriend who’s done nothing but love and support me. I would never say it out loud, anyway.

But the voice has spoken in first person. At least I still have roles to accept. Is this voice me? I glance at Luke again, sitting on the sofa with his feet propped up on the expensive coffee table, his eyes fixed unwaveringly on the TV. Luke, who spends his days in an inebriated whirlwind of expensive toys and exclusive pastimes, surrounded by people. Surrounded by distractions. Who hasn’t landed, or even been offered, a substantial role in years. In fact, just the other day, at Bergman’s . . .

Luke stands at the entrance of the packed restaurant, the first of the buddies to arrive, trying desperately to catch the attention of the hostess. Bergman’s is located deep in the arrhythmic heart of Hollywood, as every tourist, celebrity-watcher, and photographer knows. Yet only the famous are allowed beyond its lobby and into the exclusive, dimly-lit dining lounge.

And for the first time he can remember, Luke stands at the threshold waiting to be let in, instead of within the dark, comforting anonymity it paradoxically offers.

“Miss?” he says, lifting a hand in polite insistence. She ignores him, focusing her attention instead on the computer, the phone, anything but him. She’s tall, about 5’9”, with beachy waves effortlessly curled into her [bottle] blonde hair, big blue eyes like a doll’s, a pouty little rosebud mouth. 

When finally this goddess has checked and double-checked every reservation, answered every call, filled the little ceramic bowl on the hostess stand to the top with after-dinner mints, only then does she acknowledge him. She isn’t supposed to speak to non-celebrities. Not unless they’re really persistent.

“Can I help you?” she asks.

“Yes, I had a reservation,” he says evenly. 

“What’s the name?” she asks, and he tells her. 

“I don’t think we have anyone by that name,” she says, looking defiantly at him, rather than at the computer where the reservation must surely be listed, mustn’t it? But the hostess/goddess, so young and so well-trained, doesn’t seem to want to look. 

Luke leans in close so that only she can hear, and says “Look, I know I made that reservation,” and he repeats his name again, slower, as if maybe she didn’t hear him correctly. Still nothing. 

So he leans even closer, his humiliation rising so that surely his face must be flushed pink, or even red by now, and gently reminds her of the TV show he starred in. 

“Sound familiar?” he asks. 

“When was it on?” 

“Nineteen ninety-four to two thousand four,” 

Her expression remains unchanged. “I was born in two thousand four,” she says flatly. 

“Jesus Christ, how old are you?” 

“Seventeen,” she says with a shrug. Luke is speechless. He never imagined the day would come when seventeen-year-olds everywhere didn’t faint at the sight of him, worship at his feet, as if he were  a god. 

But then, absolution. His friends with their beautiful, angelic, life-saving, famous faces come barreling through the door, clapping Luke on the back familiarly, calling him by name, and placing pricy cigars into his clammy hands in token of male friendship. And the goddess flashes them her beautiful smile, her rosy lips peeling back to reveal two perfect rows of gleaming teeth. She leads them to a table in the back, without asking for a name. 

As humiliating as this scene is, as demeaned and humbled as he feels, at least Luke hasn’t had to pull his final, most debasing, emasculating card. He hasn’t had to lean in closer still, for a third and final time, to whisper almost imperceptibly in the perfectly-shaped, tender shell-ear of the goddess, and intone the name of her fellow goddess — no — the very creature that other, lesser immortals worship at the temple of, and say:

“Maybe you know my girlfriend,” before giving her my name, like an offering. 

This scene comes to me in fragmented pieces, like a song ravaged by static on the radio. I hear parts of it from Luke himself, other parts from the buddies, and still others come to me in what isn’t said; in the teasing, prodding laughter of such buddies, the looks between them, the barely concealed bitterness hidden behind the lighthearted, self-deprecating manner in which Luke says, What young girl in LA these days would recognize an old man like me? 

That devilish voice—though cruel and unwanted—is right. At least I still have roles to accept. 

I try to stifle her anyway, shove her down into some back corner of my mind where she can’t be heard. I focus my attention on the fried rice, the kimchi, the egg. Luke sitting next to me on the couch, happily chewing, blissfully unaware. 

Day Three of Alternate Day Fasting: Not Eating Again

I write on the second page of my brand-new black spiral notebook. After that I don’t know what to write. I’m supposed to be fasting so there are no calories to count. Only the vast, blank emptiness on the page before me. 

It’s only 10 am, and I’m already hungry. I need to do something to distract myself, so I turn on the TV. But I’m bored with reality shows, with their contrived plotlines and bouncy music. I switch to Luke’s rarely used horror-only streaming app and select an old black-and-white vampire film. 

The crackle of static, as on a record just before the music starts, then a swell of sound, blares through Luke’s expensive speakers as the opening credits flash on screen. A list of long-forgotten actors, writers, and producers— ghosts.

The female vampire is tall, waifishly-thin, with piles of dark hair cascading down her white nightgown. She walks through a graveyard of Styrofoam headstones lit by studio light, smoke pouring in around her feet. She looks good for having just rolled out of the grave.

Her eyes are green. I can tell this despite the black-and-white, by the way the light catches in them like fire. She looks like Eva. 

This observation compels me to pull the script out and thumb through it in front of the TV. As the 1930s vampire woman floats across Luke’s massive TV, I imagine Eva, my modern vampire/demon character, juxtaposed over her. The vamp wears a floor length nightie with just the suggestion of sex underneath, while Eva appears in lingerie. The mere suggestion is no longer enough. Yet both women, both creatures, are immortalized through film, withering away in real time as soon as the camera fades to black. 

I turn my full attention to the script: high-school age Eva flirting with boys at her locker, going out with them on dates. The character is supposed to be 17, though I turn 23 in May. But the physical similarities remain. Raven-black hair, green eyes, and soon, pallid-white skin and bones.

I read scenes of Eva in her underwear, white one minute, soaked in blood the next. Eva in lace panties and matching bra, writhing on the bed like a worm, kissing, biting, sucking, slurping, devouring. My stomach begins to growl. It’s after 11 now, and my hunger feels almost animal. I put the script away. 

Day 5 of Alternate Day Fasting: Hunger like a Pit 

The days pass slowly, dragging themselves along like zombies. I hang out on Luke’s couch for hours, flipping through shows, through magazines, thinking of nothing but food. Luke is off who-knows-where again. I am alone. Always alone. 

Strange how I still refer to the house and everything in it as his, instead of ours. Luke’s kitchen, Luke’s couch, Luke’s toilet. All of it is his. But this is my home too, I live here. Shouldn’t it be our kitchen, our couch, our toilet? 

No. Says that voice again. You’re just a visitor here. 

The voice is female, sexy, with a generous serving of vocal fry. I go into Luke’s bathroom. The voice is coming from inside me, I know that much. But she isn’t me. 

I look into the mirror; at my features that are so like hers. The dark waterfall of hair, the flesh stretched across the facebones, the grey-green eyes with the trapped fire beneath. 

There’s something on my face, I notice. I lean closer to inspect what appears to be—a line, a hair, a crack—across my pale cheek. I squint in the dim light of the bathroom, trying to make it out. When I reach up to touch it.  I can feel Eva . 

Day 7: I am Withering Away and Nobody Knows it

 “How’s the script?’ Luke asks after returning from another rowdy, boozy day with the buddies, sunburned and coated in a thin layer of sweat, the sweet/stale smell of whiskey on his breath. 

“Fine,” I say. He’s standing in his massive kitchen eating leftovers from lunch, a club sandwich—turkey, bacon, lettuce, and tomato on bread. The smell is intoxicating and I can feel the inside of my mouth filling with saliva. I’m so hungry it hurts. 

Luke regards me casually, asking surface-level questions about the script and the character as I watch him scarf down his food.

“Do you feel like you’re connecting with her so far?” he asks. 

Distractedly, I answer “Who?” not focusing on his words but on the crunch of bacon, the slippery bright tomato, the thick slices of bread. 

“Your character,” Luke reminds me. Luke Milton Brown, whose connection to his character on a certain beloved 90s/noughties sitcom consisted only of a scrawled signature in slippery black ink in the corner of a glossy shirtless photograph, last reprinted in Teen Beat Magazine in 2005, then never again. 

“Oh,” I say “Yeah,” and we have a stilted conversation about Eva, the script, what day production begins. It only takes a few minutes before we run out of things to say to one another. 

I wish I could see inside of his mind then, understand what he must think of me. Of Ren Hadley, his much-younger, much more famous wife, with “ethereal glamour,” and “catlike sensuality,” voted People Watcher’s “Hottest Woman in America,” while his California born and bred good looks slowly faded, like dirty bath water down the drain. The once sandy-blonde hair gone a slack brown, the famed abs of yore turned soft and flabby from disuse and too many club sandwiches. 

A piece of lettuce falls from his lips and lands on the kitchen floor. He doesn’t seem to notice and I don’t bother to pick it up. It will likely stay there, withering away all weekend until the housekeeper comes on Monday and sweeps it into the trash.

Day 11: Three Dress Sizes

I continue fasting and eating, fasting and eating. The voice of Dr. Harold Gore urging me to be strong, to count every calorie. Make every calorie count. Along with the voice of Dr. Gore is the sultry, sexy-girl voice of Eva. She praises me when I don’t eat, scolds me when I do. 

I keep myself alive in this way, alive but not. My flesh becomes deathly, pulled across my bones like latex, ribs showing through, waist like a doll’s, my limbs so thin you could blow on me and I would crumple.

Day 13: Going, going 

I try to keep her down as long as I can. Staying in bed all day with the curtains drawn, the fan spinning madly overhead. I can feel her thrashing underneath my skin like a wolf. I close my eyes and give in to sleep, knowing I can’t keep her at bay much longer. I’m so hungry.… 

Day 15: Gone

Eva comes out of me that night. She peels my skin back like the skin of an orange and crawls out. She leaves the rest of me behind, crumpled and forgotten on the bed. 

In a trance, I remain completely still beside Luke, bathed in the blue glow of the television as he mindlessly scrolls through shows. He doesn’t seem to notice that I am merely a discarded orange peel. 

“Want to watch My 600 Pounds and Me?” he asks. I nod, almost imperceptibly. 

Meanwhile Eva is standing naked in the closet, digging through my clothes with her long ragged nails, searching for something to wear. Luke doesn’t seem to notice her. She pulls out a slinky black dress  shot through with tiny sparkles, and a plunging Elvira neckline. Black spindly heels. She slips them on and slinks into the night. 

Eva makes her way into the arrhythmic heart of the city. Into dizzy, teetering LA. All around her people part to let her pass. They stare after her, unsure if their eyes have deceived them. Eva notices this but pretends not to, doesn’t say a word. Instead she retreats to back alleys between bars, deserted side streets, empty parking lots. Looking for prey. 

She comes across two young men smoking cigarettes in one such empty parking lot. I can see the men through her eyes, though I remain safely on Luke’s memory foam mattress, eyes fixed blankly on the TV. The men are skinny but sinewy, muscular. Dressed casually in T-shirts, jeans, sneakers. One has a baseball cap on backwards. They probably just graduated from film school. One is probably writing his screenplay, the other hopes to direct. 

Eva walks toward the men, her (my) big heels clacking loudly on the cement floor of the parking lot. 

“Hey,” one of them says to the other,  “isn’t that Ren Hadley?”

But he’s wrong, it isn’t Ren, it’s Eva, and she’s hungry. But of course he doesn’t know this, so he turns to the she-devil whom he has mistaken for the starlet and asks, 

“Hey, aren’t you Ren Hadley?” and she answers truthfully and tells him,

“No, my name is Eva.” 

“Wow, you look just like her,” they marvel. 

And she says “thank you, I get that all the time.” 

One of the men says “you’re even prettier, actually,” and she thanks them again and smiles, revealing beautiful white teeth; sharp as fangs, one of them thinks. But he doesn’t say this out loud. 

In the script there wasn’t actual sex, movie-Eva was impatient, but this isn’t a movie and the real Eva can’t wait. The real Eva is hungry in more ways than one.

So she lets both men place their hands down her back and lead her to the shabby apartment they call home. She lets them take her inside, pour her a drink, give her a hit from their ancient bong. Then the real fun begins. 

Her grey-green eyes alive with fire, Eva slips off the stolen dress and lets it fall to her feet, and the men reach out to her. Her skin is hot to the touch, almost sizzling. But they don’t care. They’re intoxicated by the drinks, the weed, her.  Eva’s long-nailed hands are on them, touching, feeling, grabbing; it almost feels like  she has two pairs of arms instead of one, and she’s kissing them all over, kissing and licking and sucking and biting, biting so hard they cry out, but Eva doesn’t stop, instead she bites harder, so hard she breaks skin, draws blood, and she’s kissing again, kissing and licking and sucking up the blood with her forked tongue. 

The image of real Eva, naked, soaked in blood, becomes transposed again over the image of Eva the 1930s movie vamp, over my own deflated image in my orange-peel daze, an unholy trinity glittering in old Hollywood black-and-white. 

Now Eva is within me again, we are one flesh, and I am powerless to stop her as I turn to Luke beside me on the massive bed, tear into his flesh, spray blood onto the walls, the sheets, the huge TV. His cries are weak and helpless, almost inaudible as I greedily lap up the blood like fine wine. I can just see the headlines the next day, when LAPD inevitably discovers the scene:

Luke Josef Milton, Star of 90s TV Show Nobody Remembers Found Dead in Home Just like Career.

Ren Hadley’s Washed Up Boyfriend Dead: Is She Back on the Market? 

Eva Slays Boyfriend: Will They Stay Together in Underworld? 

Seventeen-year-olds everywhere would see these headlines, scratch their little blonde heads and ask, who? 

I get up from the bed, hair clotted in red-black blood and entrails, and go to the bathroom to wash my face. My face floats above the sink, white as a ghost. Except for the juicy, wine-red blood seeping down my face, trickling into my mouth, forked tongue darting out to catch it. My belly feels warm and happy, full at last. I place my hands with their long, ragged nails over it, feeling its warmth beneath them. 

The next day, I won’t eat a thing.

Thanks Dr. Gore! 

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