Intermittent Fasting- a miracle diet?

Find out what I think about The Fast Diet

A couple of months ago I decided to look at the truth behind the hype of “The Fast Diet”. I had read a lot about this new “miracle” diet which had been the subject of so many media articles. The diet recommends limiting your calories for two days a week (500 calories for women and 600 for men) and eating normally for the remaining five. Firstly, I read Dr Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer’s book “The Fast Diet- The Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Younger.” Dr Mosley makes a compelling argument for the health benefits of fasting and references a wealth of research to support this latest approach to weight loss. In a nutshell, the break from constant digestion switches on your body’s “repair genes” and this can confer long term health benefits; lowering your risk of a range of illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. What’s more, it promises dramatic weight loss.

The idea of fasting goes against much of what I was taught when studying to be a nutritional therapist. I generally recommend that my clients eat little and often and never skip meals allowing blood sugar levels to stay balanced. Sticking to only 500 calories in a day seemed like a miserable proposition to me but I decided to give it a go in the interests of research.
Over the last couple of months I have regularly fasted for 1 or 2 days per week excluding Easter week. Surprisingly, the fast days were not difficult; I found myself more energised and focussed than normal. It is important to plan your meals carefully; always including good quality protein and plenty of vegetables in each meal. A typical day’s menu might look like this:

Late breakfast: Smoked salmon, 3 large handuls of spinach or rocket, plenty of lemon juice and black pepper.
Snack: Apple
Dinner: Prawn or chicken stir fry with 1tsp coconut oil, mange tout, broccoli, garlic, chilli, ginger, tamari and lime juice.
Drinks: lots of water and herbal tea.

The book promises that on your non-fast days you will not be tempted to overeat but will naturally gravitate towards healthier foods. That wasn’t the case for me. On the night before a fast day I found myself drawn towards foods I would normally avoid such as the children’s Easter Egg cache or left over birthday cake. I have lost weight- probably around 4 pounds (it’s hard to say as weight fluctuates dramatically between fast and non-fast days ) but my weight has now stabilised. Admittedly I am not overweight but I am at the top end of the healthy B.M.I. range for my height so could easily stand to lose a few more pounds. For sustained weight loss I would need to monitor what I was eating on the non-fast days. Dr Moseley now recommends 2000 calories on these days.

So what’s my verdict?

I definitely enjoy how I feel on fast days; full of energy, lighter, calmer and in control. However, this contrasts with non-fast days where I find myself over-eating. When I have a guidelines to follow I stick to them, when left to my own devices I go off the rails! This is a pyschological issue that the book doesn’t really address. A friend of mine- was the opposite. She said that before starting the Fast Diet she would often have days where she would hardly eat anything but as soon as she decided to “do” the Fast Diet she just couldn’t stick to it and at midday would wolf down a huge lunch three times as big as her normal meal! My mother-in-law has been following Fast Diet very successfully since January and has lost over a stone, finding it very easy to stick to and eating normally on her non-fast days.
The diet is pretty flexible which is also in its favour. You choose your fast days so they fit in with your life.
I am convinced by the research that there are huge health benefits to intermittent fasting. However for sustained weight loss it is important to limit your calories on the off days which many people can find difficult.
I have decided that for now I will not be following the fast diet. Instead I will be eating my normal low Glycaemic Load diet i.e. eating a balanced amount of complex carbohydrates (e.g. wholegrains, oats, beans, lentils), avoiding refined carbohydrates (white bread, cakes, cookies etc), lean protein at every meal and plenty of vegetables. I find this way of eating helps to keep my energy levels up and maintain my weight. When I want to lose weight I keep a much closer eye on the amount of carbohydrate I am eating and that usually does the trick. As my weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar are all at healthy levels so I’m confident this way of eating is the right way for me.
I am currently training to become a Zest for Life practitioner. Zest for Life is a programme set up by Patrick Holford and a nationwide team of nutritionists. It shows you how, by following a few simple steps, you can lose weight, increase energy and improve vitality and wellbeing- for long term success. Clients can choose to follow the programme for weight loss or health improvement. I will be teaching my clients in group or individual sessions all about optimum nutrition, how to improve eating habits and offering coaching to help them stay on track and break bad habits. Interestingly, Patrick Holford is launching a new book next month with his version of intermittent fasting which I am very keen to read.I’m very excited about becoming part of the Zest for Life team and will share more with you when I launch my pilot programme later in the year.
I’d love to hear about your experiences on the Fast Diet or other diet programmes. Please feel free to comment.

wp-admin

About Michelle Lake

Hi, I run Mission Nutrition, and I'm a nutritional therapist/ nutritionist helping people all over St Albans & Hertfordshire feel happier & healthier. If your diet needs an overhaul, come and see me for a nutrition consultation! Tel: 01727 852 167 / 01727 869 929 or email michelle@mission-nutrition.co.uk