“It’s not a diet”, I smiled, lining up the spark to further inflame my colleague’s casual indignation at the thought of any diet, let alone this new fad. “It’s a lifestyle”. He turned away, spluttering his displeasure, much to my amusement.
And it’s true. I’m not on a diet whose sole, or even primary benefit is to lose weight. I’m on a diet to live longer and healthier. Though weight loss certainly does follow too.
Last summer, The BBC showed a TV programme in their long-running science series, “Horizon”, called “Eat, Fast, Live Longer”. For me, like many others it has been a life-changing hour of TV.
Frustratingly, the copyright holders (BBC Worldwide) seem unwilling to publish it online (though I have found a few copies on Vimeo). There has at least been a follow-up book – an Amazon best-seller – by the presenter of the original programme, Dr Michael Moseley: “The Fast Diet”.
The book and TV programme both detail the science behind this diet, but in a very crude nutshell, there is strong evidence that periodic fasting causes the body to go into a recovery mode that prolongs life. The other result of the fasting is, unsurprisingly, weight loss.
So what do you have to do?
It is very simple. For 2 days a week, you limit your daily intake of calories to 500 for a woman or 600 for a man. The other 5 days of the week you can eat anything. That’s right: anything.
On fasting days I tend to eat 2 meals of 300 calories – one in the morning, one in the evening – and simply skip lunch. Sure, I get hungry around noon but by about 2pm the feeling has passed and rather than hunger there is just a vague awareness that I could eat something. I fill the day with fruit teas and keep busy. It’s a combination that works for me.
So how has it affected me?
Well, first the simple stats:
I have been doing this for 3 months.
I have lost 5.7Kg (12.5 pounds).
My body’s fat has dropped from 21% to around 17%.
My body’s muscle has increased from 36.5% to around 38%.
The score for my body’s amount of visceral fat (the fat around organs) has reduced from 7 to 5. (Measurements courtesy of my Omron scales.)
My waist size (for trousers) has gone down from 34″ to 32″.
My blood pressure has reduced from 140/90 to 130/75.
Secondly, how I feel. Obviously I am pleased with the results and what they should mean for my health, so psychologically it has given me a lift. I had been trying to exercise away my unwanted “spare tyre” for some time without success. And I had been at a loss as to how to lower my blood pressure. So to make this change in just 3 months is a welcome step. I also have more energy. Even on fast days I commute to and from work on my bike. The only down side is that sometimes after fasting my sleep seems more unsettled (but I’m not sure how co-incidental this is).
The next step for me is to rebuild the muscle that has dropped off me since trips to the gym with the beautiful people got replaced by trips to the ball-pit with little people. So my focus is turning to exercise. I would like to keep fasting, perhaps a 6:1 regime in place of 5:2, so that the benefits are maintained. Expect an update here in a couple of months time.
In the meantime I am seeking out any new research in this area and, of course, others’ experiences… starting with any comments here and the chatter over at the 5:2 Fast Diet Forum.