The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting

The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting

by Michael Mosley, Mimi Spencer


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476734941
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 02/26/2013
Pages: 212
Sales rank: 525,721
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Dr. Michael Mosley is the internationally bestselling author of The Clever Guts Diet, The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet, and the coauthor, with Mimi Spencer, of The Fast Diet. 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 television presenter. He is married with four children.

Mimi Spencer is a feature writer, columnist, and the author of 101 Things to Do Before You Diet.

Read an Excerpt


  • 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 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

  • Table of Contents

    Introduction 1

    Chapter 1 The Science of Fasting 13

    Chapter 2 The FastDiet in Practice 65

    Chapter 3 Menu Plans 127

    Case Studies 149

    Testimonials 169

    Calorie Counter 171

    Acknowledgments 189

    Notes 191

    Index 199

    Customer Reviews

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    The Fast Diet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 64 reviews.
    New_Gardener1 More than 1 year ago
    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.
    TheStuffofSuccess More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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?!
    luckyladybug78 More than 1 year ago
    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.
    PatrickAdele More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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!
    jod4810 More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    MexicoDan More than 1 year ago
    Try it, you'll like it. I did.
    AugusteH More than 1 year ago
    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.
    bookreader716 More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    kat6 More than 1 year ago
    I am fasting for 1 week. It feels really good,. Very effective.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Saw the program on Public TV. Lost 30 lbs. following the simple guidelines. Read the book to get more details and recipes. It's not a complicated read and has a lot of personal stories, recipes, plus calorie tables, glycemic index and glycemic load tables.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    tenbrum More than 1 year ago
    Another diet book, and it seems to make sense. Time will tell if it works, but after a few weeks it seems to. IT could be half the length and get to the point more often, and it repeats itself a lot. The two authors don't seem to ever have had weight problems themselves. Still, it convinced me to give it a try. Would have been better with less chat and more example recipes. If you don't wish to read the whole thing - Eat less than 500(W)/600(M) calories two days a week. Eat normally the other days. That's pretty much it.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    The Fast Diet Cookbook is an alternative to the same old, same old Diet. It offers a simple yet manageable way to loose weight. This book offers a nice explanation of how to start a 5/2 plan, eat for 5 days and fast for 2. It lays out all the do and don'ts of how to follow the plan. It offers daily food plans, and guides you through with easy to use recipes. This book explains the benefits of fasting on the 2 day fast, it outlines what foods can be eaten and what calorie amount should be eaten. It offers food choices and meal plans. What I especially found helpful was the recipe's, meal plans and measuring charts. Also laid out was the benefits of doing this type of plan listing how it can help some of the health issues people face when being over weight. I find it easy to read and follow with a lot of great tips that can be helpful to all.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    A fast read with really valuable information. This program works. A must read.