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The FastDiet - Revised & Updated: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting Paperback – January 6, 2015
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About the Author
Dr. Michael Mosley is the author of The Clever Gut Diet, The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet, and the coauthor, with Mimi Spencer, of the #1 New York Times bestseller The FastDiet, which has been published in over thirty-two languages around the world. He is also coauthor, with Peta Bee, of Fast Exercise. Dr. Mosley trained to be a doctor at the Royal Free Hospital in London before joining the BBC, where he has been a science journalist, executive producer, and, more recently, a well-known television personality. He has won numerous television awards, including an RTS (Royal Television Award), and was named Medical Journalist of the Year by the British Medical Association.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
OVER THE LAST FEW DECADES, food fads have come and gone, but the standard medical advice on what constitutes a healthy lifestyle has stayed much the same: eat low-fat foods, exercise more . . . and never, ever skip meals. Over that same period, levels of obesity worldwide have soared.
Now many of those old certainties are being questioned.
There is nothing else you can do to your body that is as powerful as fasting.
When we first read about the benefits of intermittent fasting, we, like many, were skeptical. Fasting seemed drastic, difficult—and we both knew that dieting of any description is generally doomed to fail. But now that we’ve looked at it in depth and tried it ourselves, we are convinced of its remarkable potential. As one of the medical experts interviewed for this book puts it: “There is nothing else you can do to your body that is as powerful as fasting.”
Fasting: An Ancient Idea, a Modern Method
Fasting is nothing new. As we’ll discover in the next chapter, your body is designed to fast. We evolved at a time when food was scarce; we are the product of millennia of feast or famine. The reason we respond so well to intermittent fasting may be because it mimics, far more accurately than three meals a day, the environment in which modern humans were shaped.
Fasting, of course, remains an article of faith for many. The fasts of Lent, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan are just some of the better-known examples. Greek Orthodox Christians are encouraged to fast for 180 days of the year (according to Saint Nikolai of Zicha, “Gluttony makes a man gloomy and fearful, but fasting makes him joyful and courageous”), while Buddhist monks fast on the new moon and full moon of each lunar month.
Many more of us, however, seem to be eating most of the time. We’re rarely ever hungry. But we are dissatisfied. With our weight, our bodies, our health.
Intermittent fasting can put us back in touch with our human selves. It is a route not only to weight loss, but also to long-term health and well-being. Scientists are only just beginning to discover and prove how powerful a tool it can be.
A review article recently published in the scientific journal Cell Metabolism, “Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications,”1 which looked at some of the most recent human and animal studies, makes the point that “fasting has been practiced for millennia, but only recently, studies have shed light on its role in adaptive cellular responses that reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, optimize energy metabolism, and bolster cellular protection.”
In other words, we now know, through proper scientific studies, that fasting reduces many of the things that promote aging (“oxidative damage and inflammation”), while increasing the body’s ability to protect and repair itself (“cellular protection”).
The article concludes that fasting “helps reduce obesity, hypertension, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis. Thus, fasting has the potential to delay aging and help prevent and treat diseases.”
This book is a product of cutting-edge scientific research and its impact on our current thinking about weight loss, disease resistance, and longevity. But it is also the result of our personal experiences.
Both are relevant here—the lab and the lifestyle—so we investigate intermittent fasting from two complementary perspectives. First, Michael, who used his body and medical training to test its potential, explains the scientific foundations of intermittent fasting (IF) and the 5:2 diet—something he brought to the world’s attention during the summer of 2012.
Then Mimi offers a practical guide on how to do it safely, effectively, and in a sustainable way, a way that will fit easily into your normal everyday life. She looks in detail at how fasting feels, what you can expect from day to day, what to eat, and when to eat, and provides a host of tips and strategies to help you gain the greatest benefit from the diet’s simple precepts.
As you’ll see below, the FastDiet has changed both of our lives. We hope it will do the same for you.
Michael’s Motivation: A Male Perspective
I am a 57-year-old male, and before I embarked on my exploration of intermittent fasting, I was mildly overweight: at five feet, eleven inches, I weighed around 187 pounds and had a body mass index of 26, which put me into the overweight category. Until my midthirties, I had been slim, but like many people I then gradually put on weight, around one pound a year. This doesn’t sound like much, but over a couple of decades it pushed me up and up. Slowly I realized that I was starting to resemble my father, a man who struggled with weight all his life and died in his early seventies of complications associated with diabetes. At his funeral many of his friends commented on how like him I had become.
While making a documentary for the BBC, I was fortunate enough to have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan done. This revealed that I am a TOFI—thin on the outside, fat inside. This visceral fat is the most dangerous sort of fat, because it wraps itself around your internal organs and puts you at risk for heart disease and diabetes. I later had blood tests that showed I was heading toward diabetes, and had a cholesterol score that was also way too high. Obviously, I was going to have to do something about this. I tried following standard advice, except it made little difference. My weight and blood profile remained stuck in the “danger ahead” zone.
I had never tried dieting before because I’d never found a diet that I thought would work. I’d watched my father try every form of diet, from Scarsdale through Atkins, from the Cambridge Diet to the Drinking Man’s Diet. He’d lost weight on each one of them, and then within a few months put it all back on, and more.
Then, at the beginning of 2012, I was approached by Aidan Laverty, editor of the BBC science series Horizon, who asked if I would like to put myself forward as a guinea pig to explore the science behind life extension. I wasn’t sure what we would find, but along with producer Kate Dart and researcher Roshan Samarasinghe, we quickly focused on calorie restriction and fasting as a fruitful area to explore.
Calorie restriction (CR) is pretty brutal; it involves eating an awful lot less than a normal person would expect to eat, and doing so every day of your (hopefully) long life. The reason people put themselves through this is because it is the only intervention that has been shown to extend lifespan, at least in animals. There are around 50,000 CRONies (Calorie Restriction with Optimum Nutrition) worldwide, and I have met quite a number of them. Despite their generally fabulous biochemical profile, I have never been seriously tempted to join their skinny ranks. I simply don’t have the willpower or desire to live permanently on an extreme low-calorie diet.
So I was delighted to discover intermittent fasting (IF), which involves eating fewer calories, but only some of the time. If the science was right, it offered the benefits of CR but without the pain.
I set off around the United States, meeting leading scientists who generously shared their research and ideas with me. It became clear that IF was no fad. But it wouldn’t be as easy as I’d originally hoped. As you’ll see later in the book, there are many different forms of intermittent fasting. Some involve eating nothing for twenty-four hours or longer. Others involve eating a single, low-calorie meal once a day, every other day. I tried both but couldn’t imagine doing either on a regular basis. I found it was simply too hard.
Instead I decided to create and test my own modified version. Five days a week, I would eat normally; on the remaining two I would eat a quarter of my usual calorie intake (that is, 600 calories).
I split the 600 calories in two—around 250 calories for breakfast and 350 calories for supper—effectively fasting for around twelve hours at a stretch. I also decided to split my fasting days: I would fast on Mondays and Thursdays. I became my own experiment.
The program, Eat, Fast, Live Longer, which detailed my adventures with what we were now calling the 5:2 diet, appeared on the BBC during the London Olympics in August 2012. I expected it to be lost in the media frenzy that surrounded the Games, but instead it generated a frenzy of its own. The program was watched by more than 2.5 million people—a huge audience for Horizon—and hundreds of thousands more on YouTube. My Twitter account, @DrMichaelMosley, went into overdrive, my followers tripled; everyone wanted to try my version of intermittent fasting, and they were all asking me what they should do.
The newspapers took up the story. Articles appeared in The Times (London), the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and the Mail on Sunday. Before long, it was picked up by newspapers all over the world—in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Madrid, Montreal, Islamabad, and New Delhi. Online groups were created, menus and experiences swapped, chat rooms started buzzing about fasting. People began to stop me on the street and tell me how well they were doing on the 5:2 diet. They also e-mailed details of their experiences. Among those e-mails, a surprisingly large number were from doctors. Like me, they had initially been skeptical, but they had tried it for themselves, found that it worked, and had begun suggesting it to their patients. They wanted information, menus, details of the scientific research to scrutinize. They wanted me to write a book. I hedged, procrastinated, then finally found a collaborator, Mimi Spencer, whom I liked and trusted and who has an in-depth knowledge of food. Which is how what you are reading came about.
Mimi’s Motivation: A Female Perspective
I started intermittent fasting on the day I was commissioned to write a feature for The Times about Michael’s Horizon program. It was the first I’d heard of intermittent fasting, and the idea appealed immediately, even to a cynical soul who has spent two decades examining the curious acrobatics of the fashion industry, the beauty business, and the diet trade.
I’d dabbled in diets before—show me a fortysomething woman who hasn’t—losing weight, then losing faith within weeks and piling it all back on. Though never overweight, I’d long been interested in dropping that reluctant seven to ten pounds—the pounds I picked up in pregnancy and somehow never lost. The diets I tried were always too hard to follow, too complicated to implement, too boring, too tough, too single-strand, too invasive, sucking the juice out of life and leaving you with the scraps. There was nothing I found that I could adopt and thread into the context of my life—as a mother, a working woman, a wife.
I’ve argued for years that dieting is a fool’s game, doomed to fail because of the restrictions and deprivations imposed on an otherwise happy life, but this felt immediately different. The scientific evidence was extensive and compelling, and (crucially for me) the medical community was positive. The effects, for Michael and others, were impressive, startling even. In his Horizon documentary, Michael called it the “beginning of something huge . . . which could radically transform the nation’s health.” I couldn’t resist. Nor could I conceive of a reason to wait.
The scientific evidence was extensive and compelling, and (crucially for me) the medical community was positive.
In the two and a half years since I wrote the Times feature, I have remained a convert. An evangelist, actually. I’m still “on” the FastDiet now, following a 6:1 pattern, but I barely notice it. At the outset, I weighed 132 pounds. At five feet, seven inches, my BMI was an okay 21.4. Today, as I write, I weigh 119 pounds, with a BMI of 19.4. That’s a weight off. I feel light, lean, and alive. Fasting has become part of my weekly life, something I do automatically without stressing about it.
I feel light, lean, and alive.
These days, I have more energy, more bounce, clearer skin, a greater zest for life. And—it has to be said—new jeans (27-inch waist) and none of my annual bikini dread as summer approaches. But perhaps more important, I know that there’s a long-term gain. I’m doing the best for my body and my brain. It’s an intimate revelation, but one worth sharing.
The FastDiet: The Potential, the Promise
We know that for many people, the standard diet advice simply does not work. The FastDiet is a radical alternative. It has the potential to change the way we think about eating and weight loss.
• The FastDiet demands that we think about not just what we eat, but when we eat it.
• There are no complicated rules to follow; the strategy is flexible, comprehensible, and user-friendly.
• There is no daily slog of calorie control—none of the boredom, frustration, or serial deprivation that characterizes conventional diet plans.
• Yes, it involves fasting, but not as you know it; you won’t “starve” on any given day.
• You can still enjoy the foods you love—most of the time.
• Once the weight is off, sticking to the basic program will mean that it stays off.
• Weight loss is only one benefit of the FastDiet. The real dividend is the potential long-term health gains—cutting your risk of a range of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
• You will soon come to understand that it is not a diet. It is much more than that: it is a sustainable strategy for a healthy, long life.
Now you’ll want to understand exactly how we can make these dramatic assertions. In the next chapter, Michael explains the science that makes the FastDiet tick.
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Like many of you, after I gained weight, I never wanted my picture taken. However, I was browsing a friends facebook page and found a picture of me 2 years ago (wasn't even at my heaviest.) I wanted to show a before and after, maybe it will inspire someone out there.
Yes, still going strong, I quit losing weight it seems, but I am still a small and 30 in pants (I AM OK WITH THAT!) I still get compliments from people I haven't seen in a while. What can I say, this diet works! My coworkers in my office are always counting calories or carbs. When I bring up this fast diet, they do not even consider doing it, they rather be miserable counting and watching everything they eat. I can actually say I feel free from food now. Good luck, and I will keep you guys posted!
I returned to look at the comments. Just a quick update. I am still doing the fast diet. I haven't gained any of my weight back. Though I am trying to incorporate a healthier lifestyle on the days I do not fast. I have many friends and colleagues that have tried this, the number 1 reason they fail: GOING IN TOO HARD. They will fast 2-3 days and not eat anything. Take it easy, it's a big adjustment for your body to take. Eat the recommended 500 (girls) 600 (boys) calories. I suggest eating a bowl of oatmeal at night, so you can get a full nights sleep. Anyway, I have seen all the wonderful comments, thank you! I really feel awesome! I hope you guys consider this lifestyle and try to stay with it! It is difficult at first but the results are well worth it. I am providing an updated photo. Good luck guys.
But this book completely convinced me that your body doesn't go into the dreaded starvation mode until you have fasted for days or maybe even weeks. Certainly not after one day of low calorie eating. It's just the opposite. A little hunger puts you into fat-burning mode. And I can tell it's working. I've lost 7 of my EXTREMELY stubborn 15 pounds that I've been trying to lose, in just 3 weeks, and it's not just water weight. My measurements are smaller and people are asking me what my secret is! I have more energy on both fast and feast days, and my stamina us up. My exercise instructor said she was amazed at how much stronger I seem lately.
Because of my new understanding of how hunger affects the body, on my feast days I don't feel like I have to rush to eat right when I'm hungry. I actually like to wait until I have a nice big appetite. The food tastes better, and since I'm only eating 3 times a day I can really enjoy that bigger meal. It fulfills me much more than those diet-y little meals I was eating before. I think that's why I always used to fall off the healthy wagon. I was never really satisfied. Also, I don't stuff my face the way I would before if I got too hungry. Before if I happened to get really hungry, I'd pig out, thinking that I deserved to really go crazy since I hadn't eaten all day. Now I just see getting good and hungry as natural, and then I eat a reasonable amount.
And all the little tips in the book really helped me figure out how to make the fasting days fly by. The way I do it is that I drink coffee (with a little unsweetened almond milk and Splenda), Good Earth Tea (iced), lemon water, fizzy water and maybe chicken broth through out my busiest mornings. Then I have scrambled eggs with cheese at 1:00. A sweet potato with Greek yogurt and salsa at 4. Then I go to bed early. The tip I like best is just reminding myself I can have whatever I want tomorrow. Sounds trite, but it works like a charm. I always think I'm going to have a burrito or a huge take-out spaghetti and meatballs, but when the next day comes, my appetite is so small I don't feel like eating it. I also feel so light and healthy that it doesn't even sound appealing. Last week I did have a big old Panda Express lunch and this week I had the spaghetti, but when I stepped on the scale the next morning I was lighter than ever!
But for me, the best part is that I'm not on this awful diet roller-coaster. I used to be "good" for about 2 or 3 days and then I'd be "bad" and ruin it. Then I'd feel guilty so I'd eat more to make myself feel better, then I'd be good again, only to ruin it... This is no way to live! My feelings of self-worth should not be dependent upon what I eat! This new approach isn't about being good or bad. It's just eating or not eating. It's easy for me to not eat when I only have to do it for one day. I don't feel like I'm being "good." I just feel like I'm doing something good for my body. And the next day when I indulge- if I even do, I feel like it's all part of my healthy plan. I just know that this is something I can do forever. I actually look forward to the fasting days as a chance to re-boot. I also like to use the hunger pains to remind me to be live a life of compassion for myself and for others. But that's another story...