The article, The Fast Diet, Inside The New Weight-Loss Craze, that appeared in the March 25, 2013 issue of People magazine by Suzanne Zuckerman with Catherine Kast tried to make the Fast Diet sound dangerous.
The article is about the success in the US of a book that was published in the United Kingdom in February 2013, The Fast Diet, Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting (eating only 500 calories in 24 hours twice a week on non-consecutive days). It intrigued me because I knew something about fasting: I fasted on lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne for four days in a row (The Master Cleanse) several times in the early 70s with no harmful side effects.
After learning more about the coauthors of The Fast Diet, Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer, and reading their book, which contains many scientific references and their own stories of following the Fast Diet program, any doubts that the diet could harm me were put to rest.
Dr. Mosley trained to be a doctor at the Royal Free Hospital in London, England, and after passing his medical exam, joined the BBC 25 years ago as a television producer. He has created numerous award-winning science and history documentaries for the BBC and for America’s Discovery Channel, TLC, and PBS. Among them was the Emmy-nominated series The Human Face, with John Cleese and Liz Hurley, the Emmy Award-winning Pompeii: The Last Day, and the Emmy-nominated Supervolcano. As a presenter he has made a dozen series for the BBC, including Medical Maverics, Blood and Guts, Inside Michael Mosley, Science Story, The Young Ones, Inside the Human Body, and The Truth About Exercise. For his contributions to medical programming, Dr. Mosley was named Medical Journalist of the Year by the British Medical Association.
For more than 20 years Ms. Spencer has been a feature writer and columnist for national newspapers and magazines in the UK, including The Observer, The Times, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. She has had a column in the Mail on Sunday for over a decade, writing for 3 million weekly readers about fashion, beauty, food, lifestyle, diet, and body shape. In 2009 she wrote “101 Things to Do Before You Diet.” Today, she writes regularly on women’s issues and lifestyle for the Saturday Times, Marie Claire, Red, and other publications.
The People article quoted critics to the Fast Diet, “Five hundred calories a day is potentially dangerous,” says Dr. David L. Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. “You’ll probably have a headache and feel distracted.”
Other experts worry about cravings. “If you eat very little on Monday, by Tuesday you may say, I am going to have that brownie because yesterday I ate nothing.” says Karen Ansel, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “I can see more junk working its way into this diet, and over time you could end up with serious nutrient deficiencies.”
Dr. Katz goes further: “There’s a potential with this to push people into full-blown binge-eating disorders, where they have extreme restraint and don’t eat anything, and then when they’re eating again, they go completely bonkers.”
After being on the Fast Diet (also called the 5:2 Diet) for 12 weeks I disagree with both Dr. Katz and Karen Ansel. They obviously have not spoken to anyone who is on the Fast Diet program nor have they tried the program themselves.
I agree with Dr. Mosley and Ms. Spencer when they say that their feast-and-famine approach helps people make healthier choices. On fast days, “you cannot have a jelly doughnut and get through the day,” says Ms. Spencer, 45, who lost 20 lbs. in four months on the Fast Diet program.
“The hope is that you learn to like vegetables and lean proteins and end up incorporating them into your nonfasting days,” adds Dr. Mosley, who also cites studies done on rats and mice that say intermittent fasting extends life expectancy. As for the rest of the week, “don’t use this as an opportunity to pig out.”
Dr. Mosley is using himself as an example of the Fast Diet program’s success (at 56 he dropped 20 lbs. and brought his blood test results for heart disease risk into the safe range in three months on the plan. He is now in maintenance mode where he fasts only once a week).
I am convinced I can continue on the program for the rest of my life. I do not have a problem with feeling hungry as, after reading the book, I know it’s really good for me and I only feel hungry for a little while twice a week. I remind myself on fast days that I’m “fooling” my body into thinking it is in a potential famine situation and it needs to switch from go-go mode to maintenance mode thus reducing my risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and cognitive decline. I believe it is true that our bodies are designed to respond to stresses and shocks, and that it makes them healthier, tougher.
As to when to eat during fast days (is it better to divide the 500 calories into smaller portions eaten throughout the 24 hours or eat them all at once 12 to 20 or more hours into the 24 hour period?) studies are being conducted now to find out and we should have the results soon, but, so far, it seems the longer you wait to eat on fast days the better.
While I wait to eat toward the end of the 24 hours I remind myself that Dr. Mark Mattson at the National Institute on Aging thinks the longer the body goes without food, the greater the adaptive cellular stress response, which is particularly good for the brain.
Note: Intermittent severe calorie restriction is a positive stressor that triggers your body's adaptive cellular stress response. This phenomenon, the adaptive cellular stress response, is astonishingly precise and powerful. Positive stressors — exercise, severe calorie restriction, and certain phyto-chemicals in food (which are found in Anna's Perfect Green Soup and Dr. Gerson's Hippocrates Soup) — kick the body’s cellular maintenance functions into high gear, so our cells take care of themselves more efficiently and thoroughly than they would ordinarily. This also happens to be how they maintained themselves when we were young and at the peak of health. So, with cellular maintenance on overdrive, our bodies will continue to protect themselves from chronic inflammation, which causes a vast assortment of serious illnesses, not to mention overall aging.
My routine on fast days goes like this: After eating a meal, waiting an hour or two and sleeping for 8 hours I have a large cup of my homemade vegetable broth mixed with some Anna's Perfect Green Soup and Dr. Gerson's Hippocrates Soup. Then I drink water for the next 12 hours or more and then I have more broth and soup. Sometimes I can go 24 hours without having more than 100 calories of soup. However, if I feel really hungry I’ll eat 300 or 350 calories after 20 or 22 hours have gone by since my last meal. As the weeks go by I have a greater ability to wait to eat and I don’t think of it as will power; I think of it as getting accustomed to fasting.
My progress on the Fast Diet program has been very interesting. My bursitis in my left shoulder improved immediately and continued to improve until it completely disappeared after about two months. Recently something very hard for me to believe has happened: my April to June allergies have not appeared this year at all (even when I'm outdoors). I've suffered from springtime allergies for most of my life. When I was 16 my family visited my aunt and uncle in the San Francisco Bay Area (Marin) in June (1953) and the whole time we were here my eyes watered to the point that I couldn't see (for a week my mother guided me around whenever we were outside as though I were blind). In October 1982 I spent a month at the Gerson Cancer Institute in Mexico as a helper for a friend with cancer and I followed the whole cancer program (the daily 13 glasses of fresh organic vegetable juice, 2 coffee enemas, vegan diet) as it is supposed to heal allergies as well. After that my allergies were greatly improved, but gradually they began to bother me again, but never as much as before. Since I became friends with Dr. Kelley in 1996, and he recommended I try taking his enzymes between April and June, my allergies have been tolerable as long as I remembered to take the enzymes with my meals (at any other time of the year I couldn't tolerate the enzymes even with meals as they burned my stomach). So, because I've been on the Fast Diet program since March 5, 2013, this spring is the first year of living in California that I can remember not having even a hint of allergies (and not needing enzymes) from April to June.
Dale's Article on "Why you should take enzymes"
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Getting back to the People magazine article, I believe the writers were unfairly negative in their story about the Fast Diet program. First they called it a “Craze” then they quoted a nutritional spokeswoman who said the diet has the potential to push people into full-blown binge-eating disorders (I find this offensive as I believe the Fast Diet would be an enormous help for anyone with an eating disorder). Then they chose to close with the only less-than-encouraging comment Dr. Mosley probably has ever made about the Fast Diet: “It’s a powerful thing to do, and some people find they just can’t take it.”