apple-water-diet-515You may have heard of the new diet craze sweeping the nation. Also known as the 5:2 or Intermittent Fasting, the Fast Diet is being hailed as the easy way to weight loss.

The idea is simple – eat normally for five days a week, and reduce your calories on just two non-consecutive days to 500 for women, and 600 for men.

For those that partake in a myriad of fad diets like the Atkins, the Baby Food Diet (yes, really), The Dukan Diet and The Paleo Diet, this radical new approach to dieting seems like a dream come true.

This new way of eating also benefits your health in many ways. As well as weight loss, it could lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and many more illnesses.

Many people are cynical and say the body will go into ‘starvation mode’, the book shows that this is a common myth. Starvation mode only kicks in after extreme calorie deprivation over a long period of time (ie weeks – not a day).

IGF-1 or Insulin Growth Factor 1, is a hormone that promotes growth in all the body’s cells. This hormone is essential when we are growing, but as we age, it is thought to be associated with cancer and accelerated ageing. Periodic fasting is thought to reduce the amount of IGF-1 in the body, which helps our ‘repair genes’ switch on. After only a few hours of fasting, the body goes into fat burning mode. Constant picking at food ensures your body makes and stores fat continuously.

So, does this diet work? Yes, it does. I have been on the diet since February 2013 and have lost nearly two stone so far. I have struggled with my weight over the years. After meeting my husband, who is an incredible cook, my weight started creeping up. Contentment and butter made me fat. I also stopped smoking three years ago and food became my new addiction.

After a shocking weigh-in (a lady never reveals her weight, so don’t even think about asking), I attempted to become an all-out fitness freak by doing high-powered exercise classes and not eating much. I then became pregnant, and due to complications, was told by my GP to avoid all exercise apart from walking and swimming. At this point, I gave up and focused on growing my baby. Food became a way to ease morning sickness and my cravings for fish and chips were ‘good for the baby’.

I successfully grew a 10lb 7oz beautiful bouncing baby girl, and despite my ample childbearing hips, she was born by emergency caesarian. I let myself recover from the birth but was shocked at how big I had become. I joined a fitness class to help shed the weight, but progress was slow. I had seen a programme about the diet, and decided to buy the book: The Fast Diet by Dr Michael Moseley and Mimi Spencer.

The Fast Diet Begins Despite sticking to the diet rigidly, I wasn’t losing as much weight as I had hoped – the book said you could eat what you wanted on your non-fasting days, and I was. What it actually meant was this: you can eat what you want, as long as it is within your allocated calorie intake for your gender – ie 2000 for women, 2500 for men. Never being one to count calories, I downloaded the app My Fitness Pal to see what was going on. The app made me realise that on average, I was consuming around 3500 calories per day! No wonder the pounds, or should I say stones had crept on.

Armed with this shocking revelation about my eating habits, I decided enough was enough. So, I now stick to my allocated amount on non-fasting days, and the inches are shrinking, and, I am nearly two-stone lighter; I feel fitter, healthier and on my way to fitting back into my pre-pregnancy, pre-nonsmoking clothes.

It is not easy – 500 calories in a day is a pittance, but, you get used to it. Each fasting day is a challenge, but, you know that tomorrow you can eat that cake, or have a glass of wine. It is just a day.

The waves of hunger are just that – waves. They ebb and they flow, but they pass. You may feel faint or get headaches the first few times you fast, but it does get easier. The results are worth it, and they way you feel the next day is incredible. Surprisingly, you don’t wake up wanting to stuff your face with chocolate croissants.

Here are my top tips for getting you through a fasting day:

• Drink plenty of water with lemon or lime slices – that little bit of flavour really helps

• Drink black coffee to keep you going – if you can’t do it without sweetness, try agave syrup – low in calories and GI

• As a polo addict, I keep some sugar-free polos on hand for when I am in need of some minty refreshment

• Have eggs for breakfast – they keep you full up

• Plan your meals before your actual fast day – your brain may be a bit too fuzzy to think about it on the day

• Keep busy – I find it easier to fast on work days

• Mentally break the day into chunks – it helps get you through

• Go to bed early on a fast day – I find I have trouble sleeping as I feel so empty – a nice warm bath and cup of chamomile tea helps

• Try an app like My Fitness Pal to help you keep track of your calorie intake

• Remember, it is only for a day – tomorrow you can eat what you want

And on non-fasting days, be aware of the calories in drinks – that morning latte has more calories than you think

Dr Moseley and co-author of the Fast Diet, Mimi Spencer have a website with lots of advice and support: The book has lots of ideas for meal plans.

So, it does work. It is also flexible, you can change your fasting day if you need to. It has made me much more aware of what I eat day-to-day. I have a long way to go, but I know I am on the right path. All these years of overeating are over.

There is freedom in this new way of eating, and for me, that means an end to food guilt and fad diets. I have a pair of jeans that I haven’t been able get past my hips for a few years now. Who knows, I may just be able to fit into them by Christmas…

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