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49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Effective diet underpinned by fascinating science that appears to have significant and important long-term health benefits, 13 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: The Fast Diet: The Secret of Intermittent Fasting - Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer (Paperback)
The first, and probably last, diet book I'll ever read. Most diets don't work, or when they do the loss is only temporary. We all know that. So why did I bother to read this? And why am I persuaded that it might be a different and important new approach to health and well-being?

I was given this book by my parents-in-law who had found it very helpful. Another friend has also successfully followed the 5:2 approach for about six months. I was curious because, as a man in his early fifties who eats healthily and is fairly active, for the first time in my life I am finding it harder to shift the post-Christmas paunch. Usually upping the running and exercise has resulted in fairly easily weight loss. Not any more it seems.

What is most startling about this book is that weight loss is only a part of the story. The real dividends are around longer term health and which include a reduced risk of heart disease, dementia, cancer and diabetes. The evidence is compelling and persuasive. The other attractive aspect is that the 5:2 approach means that the participant only has to exercise will power for two days out of five and can eat normally on the other days.

Basically, the theory goes that our bodies are designed to adapt to periods without food and, during periods when the body receives fewer calories, it goes into repair mode resulting in various beneficial changes. The authors advocate eating normally for five days a week, and cutting calories for two days a week (500 for women, and 600 for men). The book explores all the current scientific evidence, busting a few myths in the process, and also recognises that everyone is different and therefore suggests various strategies.

The book is short and very readable and it has inspired me to try it out. Many people have made this a permanent change. The book concludes with twenty pages of short testimonials from people who have found it helpful, including some medical practitioners reporting on their patients. The book is well worth reading if only to inform yourself about some fascinating science that appears to have significant and important health benefits.

EDIT (written on 7 March 2014):

Following my review above I started the 5:2 diet on 13th January 2014. One of the most instructive things about restricting calories for two days per week is the realisation that hunger pangs do not necessarily signal an essential need to eat. Far from it. By resisting the pangs and enduring the minor discomfort, I discover that they go away. That's not to say it is easy but having got into a routine I now know it just requires a bit of will power. The knowledge that the following day will be unrestricted is also very helpful. I also abstain from alcohol on the restricted calorie days and, since starting the diet, I have stopped eating between meals, except for fruit if I feel peckish, and I am generally eating more vegetables.

Here's my results...

Monday 6th Jan 80.4 kg (12.7 stone)
Monday 13th Jan 80.1 kg (12.6 stone) (BMI 22.67)
Monday 20th Jan 78.1 kg (12.3 stone) (BMI 22.11)
Monday 27th Jan 77 kg (12.1 stone) (BMI 21.8)
Monday 3rd Feb 76 kg (11.9 stone) (BMI 21.51)
Monday 10th Feb 75 kg (11.8 stone) (BMI 21.23)
Monday 24th Feb 75 kg (11.8 stone) (BMI 21.23)
Monday 3rd Mar 72.5 kg (11.4 stone) (BMI 20.52)

(BMI: 18.5-24.9 = healthy weight)

I am amazed at the success of this diet and will probably move to just one restricted calorie day a week having got to my target weight. Michael Mosley suggests this is the best way to maintain a healthy weight rather than to continue to lose weight. I will probably continue to abstain from alcohol for two days per week.

After trying different permutations I discovered that not eating breakfast and going without any food for as long as possible works best for me. Some days I have some porridge for lunch with blueberries -other days I last until the evening without evening. Dinner is usually a bowl of steamed or roasted vegetables and some tofu (usually with a bit of Balsamic vinegar). I now find it relatively simple to stay under 600 calories on the two restricted calorie days - with plenty of water and hot drinks to ward off any hunger pangs. Miso Soup at 18 calories is a good tip too.

EDIT (written on 19 May 2014):

For the last couple of months I have been moved to a 6:1 approach. Six days of eating normally and one day of fasting. I now have dinner, as normal on a Sunday night, and then eat nothing until having another dinner on Monday night. This means I completely fast for 24 hours. I moved from 5:2 to 6:1 as I have been consistently at 70 kg (11 stone) and do not want to lose any more weight. This approach works very well at maintaining my target weight. I assume I still get some of the health benefits associated with fasting.

EDIT (written on 27 Jan 2015):

By the end of March 2014 I was down to 70 kg (11 stone) and I switched from fasting for two days a week to one day a week. I stayed at around this weight for most of 2014. Over Christmas 2014 I ate more and my weight went back up to 77 kg (12 stone) so, at the time of writing, I am back to doing two days fasting.

I am also experimenting with not eating breakfast and waiting until lunchtime ever day for my first calories of the day. After a week and a half this already feels quite normal. Whilst I wake up feeling in the mood to eat, once I've drunk some water and a couple of cups of coffee, the hunger pangs quickly disappear and I don't feel hungry until around midday. I also feel very energetic, focussed and productive. Since making these changes I am almost back to 70 kg (11 stone) which I perceive to be my ideal weight for optimum health.

Coincidentally I have just bought another copy of "The Fast Diet: The Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer" having given away my previous copy. It's also been updated so even more reason to re-read it. I'll add another edit if the new edition contains anything worth commenting upon.
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