One of the newest diet trends is the Fast Diet, as described by Dr. Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer in their book, The Fast Diet: Lose weight, stay healthy and live longer with the secret of intermittent fasting (Atria Books, February 2013); is gaining a lot of notice for its promises, criticisms and anecdotal evidence of effectiveness. Before you rush out to try it, there are several things that you should consider when looking at any new diet plan. The Fast Diet is too new to have a body of supporting clinical evidence to call its own, but it is based on some historical nutritional studies that reveal the potential pros and cons of adopting this approach. In addition, the concept of fasting is one that has been embraced for centuries, but more so for spiritual reasons and body cleansing.
The reality check
One of the basic rules is that if a new diet appears and proves popular, then just about everyone with a name and a title is going to come out and tell you why it doesn’t work and how cutting calories and increasing exercise is the only way to lose weight. Within this rule is a grain of truth, but the fact is that there are many diets that prove popular and are an effective means to lose weight. There will always be supporters and people who think a the diet is horrible. The other solid fact is that not all diets work for everyone and every diet is best supported by regular exercise and responsible nutrition. You have to find out what works for you and you have to determine for yourself if it’s healthy.
The 5:2 Fast Diet Plan
Dr. Mosley presents the Fast Diet plan in a 5:2 structure. This means for 5 days you get to eat whatever you want and for 2 days you fast. He spends the 244 pages of the book explaining why this is not as simple as it sounds. You don’t just eat fast food and junk Monday through Friday and then nothing at all on Saturday and Sunday; Mosley presents a careful balance of nutritional elements that are designed to redefine your basic diet and calorie intake and to add in the balance of intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is defined as a reduction of calories to 500 calories a day for women and 600 for men. You are allowed to drink as much water as you want. Mosley also outlines that the 5 days of eating should be broken up with a day of fasting every 2 or 3 days, rather than placing them back to back. The book contains many suggestions and recipes for how to ease into the fasting day so that you do not experience hunger pains or any symptoms of a drop in blood sugar levels. I think this is a much better method than just not eating for days on end.
The Pros of the Fast Diet
While the name and presentation of an intermittent fasting diet may be new, the diet itself is not. There have been numerous clinical studies done that show that it is a safe and effective way to lose weight. There are also many studies that suggest that it may have a positive impact on reducing certain types of estrogen receptor cancers, such as breast cancer; as well as provide other health benefits that do not appear in other diet plan studies.
The Cons of the Fast Diet
It is probably a disappointment to quite a few that the “Fast” in Fast Diet doesn’t refer to a quick weight loss, but the diet cycle is imagined over a 6 to 8 week time frame. For people that are obese, the results from the first cycle are reported to be dramatic. The biggest drawback of the Fast Diet is that if you do not eat a balanced diet, you can cause nutritional deficiencies easily. It can also be easily taken to extremes that can reinforce unhealthy eating patterns as well.
What should you do?
Talk to your doctor before beginning any diet plan if you have any health concerns or conditions. If you are in good health, then it’s safer to try a weight loss plan like the Fast Diet. If you use the 6 week plan as an opportunity to change your eating habits during those 5 days, you may benefit greatly from the structure and approach of this diet. Or this could not be the plan for you. If you are prone to extremes with your diet, stay away; fasting is something that you should not flirt with if you have problems with your body image.