Diets are nothing new. They’ve been around since Roman times, although it seems the Victorians are to blame for our obsession with the faddy ones. Slimming advice in those times included sprinkling your body with hot sand and eating a bar of soap a day!
With a population keen to lose weight, the Victorian slimming industries were quick to jump on the bandwagon. Weight-loss products such as Dr Gordon’s Elegant Pills were popular, providing you didn’t mind consuming daily doses of arsenic, strychnine, soap and thyroid extract…
Time has marched on… so have the diets… although some are just as outlandish. The sceptics amongst you might think intermittent fasting is just another trendy fad. If I hadn’t tried it for myself, I’d probably be agreeing with you. After all, we’ve had the South Beach diet, the Skinny Bitch diet, the Atkins diet and there was even an Ice Cream diet, so what makes intermittent fasting different?
Intermittent fasting has grown in popularity since being tested by Dr Michael Mosley on Horizon’s Eat, Fast and Live Longer programme last August (if you missed the original programme you can now read all about it in Dr Moseley’s The Fast Diet: The Secret of Intermittent Fasting – Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer). What appealed to us here at Nina & Co. was the prospect of a lifestyle change which delivered a lot of other health benefits, rather than just being a dietary fad or a quick weight loss gimmick.
Research at the Baltimore Institute on Ageing shows fasting protects you from diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons, and reduces the risk of strokes. Research also shows that fasting can reduce blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and the amount of growth hormone the body produces, (high production of which has been linked to several cancers). So, I have to say, a diet and way of life that is backed up by this much reputable research is good enough for me!
So without any more ado, we set out to test 5:2 Intermittent Fasting for ourselves. Included in our very own celebrity panel of guinea pigs was me (Nina), Andy (our art and music expert) and Rod (Andy’s Dad). Captain didn’t participate, being already in the peak of condition, although he did lend a lot of moral support.
How 5:2 intermittent fasting diet works
The 5:2 diet is simple. You eat normally for 5 days of the week and fast for 2 days. Fasting doesn’t mean starving yourself, I hasten to add. During the fasting days, women can have 500 Calories and the men’s allowance is 600.
Of course, it’s important to remember ‘eating normally’ equates to eating sensibly. I don’t think the diet has been invented that would improve your health if you constantly binged on burgers, chocolate and buns!
Although we lost weight (more than 3.5 stone between us!), that wasn’t our main motivation for fasting. We were more interested in the wider health benefits of reducing our cholesterol and blood sugars. Fasting also has a positive effect on DNA repair genes, which reduce the effects of ageing; so, the idea of fewer wrinkles was an obvious incentive for me, maybe less so 80-year-old Rod!
Nina & Co. fasting results!
After five months of 5:2 intermittent fasting, in March, we dropped back to a maintenance level of fasting for just one day a week. Rod’s blood pressure has been normal for four months now and he has been able to discontinue his medication (under guidance from his GP).
My cholesterol level, which was OK before, has dropped by 0.5, putting me firmly in the healthy bracket. And all three of us feel energised, healthy and simply great!
Unlike the majority of fad diets, 5:2 Intermittent Fasting is much easier to stick to. Let’s face it, when there’s nothing much more than lettuce, cottage cheese and boiled fish to look forward to for months on end, staying on the weight loss wagon is always going to be tough.
But when you’re fasting for just two days out of seven, you don’t need the same level of will power and motivation. We chose to fast on Mondays and Tuesdays because it suited our lifestyle and allowed us to make up for the weekend’s excesses.
The beauty of intermittent fasting is its flexibility. You don’t have to fast the same days each week. If you’ve got friends coming for a meal or are going to a party, you don’t have to break your diet – you simply move it to another day of the week! You can still eat things like pasta, cheese and enjoy a couple of glasses of vino collapso with a clear conscience – and that’s my kind of diet!
I’m sure most of you by now are thinking this all sounds too good to be true, and you’re wondering how it can possibly work. Well, put simply to lose weight your energy output needs to be 3,500 Calories greater than your food input. But it’s not as simple as that. During prolonged periods of reduced Calorie intakes, your body goes into survival mode. Your metabolic rate will drop, meaning you must take in fewer Calories in order to lose more weight. The beauty of fasting is your body never gets used to Calorie drop, and so your metabolic rate remains consistent!
No doubt the slimming product manufacturers will be queuing up to poo poo the idea of intermittent fasting. It’s not in the interests of an industry worth billions of pounds to promote a healthier and easier way of losing weight. But there’s no doubt it’s working for us here at Nina & Co. and we can only suggest you try it for yourself.
Of course, if you really prefer a fad diet, there are still a few from the Victorian era worth a punt … all you have to do is swallow tape worms or chew and spit your way to good health!
If you missed the original Horizon programme you can read all about 5:2 intermittent fasting in The Fast Diet: The Secret of Intermittent Fasting – Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer and find great fasting day recipes in The Fast Diet Recipe Book: 150 Delicious, Calorie-controlled Meals to Make Your Fasting Days Easy