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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, 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.
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.
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 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.
Posted May 3, 2013
We bought this book after we had seen the BBC production “Eat, Fast and Live Longer”. It was absolutely fascinating. In addition to the book, we would have bought a DVD of the show had it been available. Michael Mosley, M.D. explains the science behind intermittent fasting. He participates in three different fasting diets during the investigation and give us the results. He lowered his cholesterol, lowered his blood pressure and lowered his IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor), which ages us faster when it is at a high level. Oh yeah, another result was he lost some weight. He shows the link between aging and How and When we eat being as important as What we eat. He explains the beneficial affects of fasting on not only our body but on our brain’s aging. The co-author on this book gives the details of Michael’s fasting results and information on how to fast, when to fast, how to fit it into your lifestyle and more. I am in week three of the 5 days feast/2 days fast diet and have found it fairly easy. There are explanations and photos of typical 500 and 600 calorie meals. (On the fast days you are supposed to eat something.) The book is easy to read and understand and the scientific information is interesting. Another thing I liked about this book is you do not feel like you are being sold something. It is not hyper, loaded with exclamation points. I can recommend this book and wish I had learned all this information years ago.
19 out of 20 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 4, 2013
The Fast Diet is another book that is taking the alternative approach to weight loss. Its basic premise is that you do not need to kill yourself counting calories in order to lose weight. If you simply fast for 24 full hours, 2 days per week you can achieve greater results than if you counted calories for 7 days per week. The idea is very similar to Sleep Fat, Wake Up Thin. There are slight variations in each program but still very similar. I truly believe the results of both would be the same so if you are interested in trying either of these diets - read them both and see which fits best into your lifestyle. I think The Fast Diet will fit better into my life during the camping months but Sleep Fat, Wake Up Thin will work better for me in the non-camping months. Each season is approximately six months. So if you are not at all interested in starvation diets, these are the diets for you.
14 out of 16 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 19, 2013
I've been a yo-yo dieter all my life and several years ago vowed never to diet again. It always became a full time job and when i couldn't take it anymore, the weight came back and then some. Then i read about this 5:2 diet (which is what this book teaches) in People magazine. It made perfect sense and when you think about it, it's what thin people have always done naturally in a way. So I bought the book. I only have to think about what i eat twice a week and knowing I can return to my normal life the rest of the time makes it totally do-able. I am loosing weight and look forward to switching to only one day per week after I reach my goal weight. The first week i lost 2-1/2 lbs, 2nd week, nothing, 3rd week 2 lbs, 4th week nothing, now on my 5th. i am confident I will continue to lose. This makes so much sense and its so easy. This is one diet I know I can sustain for the rest of my life! Why didn't I think of this?!
13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 10, 2013
I have tried for nearly a decade to lose 10-15 lbs, simply to return to the size I was in my late 30s. I have a LOT of exercise will, but honestly, I was like a gerbil on a treadmill-going no where. Every 2 years or so, I would step up my workouts to an ungodly level-like a college athlete, no joke, desperate to get my body going. This resulted in barely any weight loss, hours & hours in the gym--and finally, a hamstring injury. I just pushed my 46 yr old body too far w/out mtg my realistic goal! I'd reached the point where I was ready to give up when I read about Dr. Mosley's plan & watched his PBS show. Many impressive doctors @ exceptional schools, doing real tests with measurable results. I bought the book & began. Friends: I have zero food discipline, but this is ridiculously easy to do. I look forward to checking my blood levels soon. I don't own a scale (just bought one), but I can tell you one thing I DON'T own any longer--my roll of belly fat and muffin top. In less than four weeks and with barely a thought, it's gone. The last time I did this I worked out 2 hours a day for 4-5 months & ended up limping. I'm still at the gym--but now I am enjoying vigorous but reasonable workouts. Doesn't feel like a sacrifice one bit, and I'm looking forward to even more weight coming off. A no-brainer lifestyle change for me. Permanently.
12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 29, 2013
I am fasting two days a week, feel great and never hungry. Do not wake up starving, actually not hungry at all the day after a fasting day. Try it, it is easy!
12 out of 17 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 12, 2013
Love It! I have been following the plan for 3 weeks now and find it very easy to do. I look forward to my fast days because they make me feel good. The first week was the toughest, but now my fast days go by without a worry. I think I have FINALLY found something that I can really stick to long term.
11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2013
I purchased this book after seeing the BBC program on the same subject by Michael Mosley. My husband and I have been following the plan outlined by Mosley for the past three weeks. We have been impressed. It has made us much more aware of our eating behavior, not to mention the value of the weight loss that comes very easily by reducing our calories only two days a week. We plan to make this our new way of eating. I would have given it a five star but the book did not go deeper than the BBC program which is what I was expecting.
10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 29, 2013
I saw this on TV and got it on my Nook and was on the diet in two days! Lost four pound the first week,Monday and Wednesday fast. So easy to do and easy to stay on, highly recommend.
9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I am going to give this book a try out of sheer curiosity. But, why does every diet have to revolve around restricting what you eat? Are you just setting yourself for failure? So I am going to order it and another book that my sister uses called The Hungry Chick Dieting Solution that has helped her lose 10 pounds so far and see what happens. I won't lie, I am leaning towards the Hungry Chick book after seeing her weight loss. But, we will see. .
9 out of 34 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 1, 2013
When I quit smoking almost two years ago, I gained over fifty pounds. I lost five lbs and got my cholestral levels at half of what they were, but I am still fat. I will follow the instructions of the book and post as The next few months go along.
8 out of 20 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 21, 2013
So far so good! I eat 500 calories two days a week, then eat a reasonable amount the rest of the time. I've done weight watchers for years and always felt deprived, or worse, GUILTY if I ate something I really enjoyed. With this diet, I struggle a little bit for TWO days, then I enjoy! I've had more wine to drink (small glasses) and more desserts (just a few bites) in the last month that I've had in YEARS. I'm still losing weight slowly and steadily. Most importantly, i do NOT feel guilty when I indulge, which is worth its weight in gold.
7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 8, 2013
The Fast Diet allows you to eat 500-600 calories/day for two days/ week. No restrictions so it easily fits into a busy lifestyle. The best part is that I am growing new brain neurons when I am hungry! Working well. Linda
7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 30, 2013
Posted April 5, 2013
As someone who's tried multiple types of diets, I thought I'd check this one out. After reading I tried what the authors suggested. Although it hasn't been that long, I have not found the diet very difficult to do. As the authors advise, when I want to eat something other than my 500 calories on fast days, I just tell myself to wait and I can eat it tomorrow. Drinking water helps. And, I've lost several pounds.
6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 17, 2013
This is a really good book and diet to follow. I found it to make total sense and easy to follow.
It is really easy to fast two days a week, and it helps to control your weight.
I lost 10 lbs without worry and stress. The pounds just dropped off. You do have to watch what you eat on the days you are not cutting back. It is not a license to pig out.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 19, 2014
A Skinny Gene? What Does it Have To Do With Brain Health?
The Fast Diet provides data about the benefits of intermittent fasting and the possibility of triggering the SIRT1 gene for weight loss. It’s done through a 5:2 ratio, eating normally 5 days then staying below 500 calories on the two low calorie days.
Interesting, the brain, too, is positively affected by fasting; the authors write that as little as 16 hours of fasting increases neural functioning. According to the studies cited fasting increases stress resistance and increases oxidative damage, improving memory in the process.
To accomplish the pragmatic side of fasting, 100- 500 calories recipes are provided. Some I want to try: 100- Pumpkin Carrot Bars, 500- Vegetable Sausage Medley.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 9, 2013
I read the book and started the diet but the fasting was really hard for me.
Maybe because I have two jobs and really long days.
After two weeks;I'm done did loose a 7 1/2 pounds but this diet it's not for me.
I felt tired,got headaches and couldn't sleep on the fasting days.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 25, 2013
Posted April 12, 2013
Thorough and easy to read. Great recipe and meal ideas. Simple to follow and just as easy as it looked to stay on track. Already working! Makes me really aware of every bite I put in my mouth - but in a good way!
2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 19, 2013