It’s that time of the year again! Time to lose those extra pounds we’ve gained over Christmas by going Veganuary, starting a detox plan or just eating less and exercising more.
I’m not a big fan of juicing at this time of the year and, in fact, think January is one of the worst months of the year to do any extreme detox. Far better to wait till Spring. However, I am a big fan of the 5:2 diet. A gentle form of fasting for health as well as weight loss and one that my own Doctor in Saltdean recommends to her patients! (Always check with your own doctor first before embarking on any change of diet).
'EAT, FAST & LIVE LONGER' - THE SCIENCE.
When I was training as a Nutritionist, we were encouraged to fast once a week to give the body a chance to rest and mend itself. There wasn't much science attached to it in those days but, thanks to the research that's being carried out in the U.S. by experts such as Dr. Valter Longo, Professor in Gerontology and Biological Science at the USC, and Director of its Longevity Institute, there is growing evidence that calorie restriction can help you:
Improve your brain function
Professor Longo's tests published in the journal Cell Metabolism in June 2015, found that old mice placed on cycles of a four-day, low-calorie diet reduced visceral belly fat, lived longer, and had increased numbers of young stem cells in several organs, including the brain, where neural regeneration was boosted, as was memory.
He refers to intermittent fasting as a chance for your body to get to work mending itself, much like a car service, instead of driving non-stop with your foot on the accelerator!
WHAT IS THE 5:2 DIET
The simple premise is that for five days a week you eat what you like, including puddings, alcohol and treats. (However, for January you may well be avoiding alcohol and puddings!) Then for two NON-consecutive days a week you restrict yourself to just 500 calories a day, if you're a woman, and 600 calories a day, if you're a man.
Dr. Michael Mosley, introduced the UK to the 5:2 plan as an easier version of Professor Longo's 5 day fast, in an article for the Telegraph, and the BBC Horizon TV programme, 'Eat,Fast, & Live Longer.' After he followed the plan for five weeks, he had lost 14 lbs in weight, his body fat had reduced by 8%, and his blood sugar and cholesterol had dropped to normal levels after he had been deemed border-line diabetic. That was enough for many thousands of us to follow suite.
The sheer joy of eating what you like for five days a week, and fasting for two, has made this a very do-able health regime and one that I find very easy and effective.
TOP TIPS FOR EASY FASTING.
Anyone who is on medication or suffering from health issues such as diabetes should seek medical advice before embarking on any form of fasting.
Buy or download a calorie counter app.
Download some low-calorie, but healthy recipes.
Chose two days to fast when you haven't got a lot to do, either physically or socially. Mondays and Wednesdays are the best for me as I usually have a quiet day working at home broken up by a Pilates class and a gentle dog walk.
If you have never fasted before, start slowly by extending the time between your supper and your first meal the next day. If you eat at 7.00 pm and have breakfast at 11.00 a.m the next day you will have accomplished a 16 hour fast without even trying!
The when and how you eat your 500/600 calories a day is up to you. Experiment. Some prefer a proper breakfast, such as egg on toast and then use up the rest of their calories at supper time, eating nothing in between. Others need to eat three times a day, and will have low calorie snacks such as a crisp bread with low calorie cream cheese and steamed veggies in the evening.
Drink plenty of water and hot drinks throughout the day. A glass of room temperature water usually stops my hunger pains in its tracks. A cup of miso soup is only 25 calories so is also a great filler. But water is the very best if you want to avoid those detoxing headaches.
THE WAY I DO THE 5:2 DIET
I eat a healthy but not calorie restricted meal the night before my fast day by 7.00 pm latest. Something like baked salmon and greens keeps me full for the evening and avoids those bed-time hunger pangs.
The next morning, I have black coffee and plenty of water till 11.00 a.m. and then have my daily smoothie: one banana, a small glass of almond milk, a scoop of protein powder and a big dollop of yogurt or vegan yogurt. 200 calories max. Or, if you don’t have a blender, a poached egg on toast, easy on the butter!
Between 3-4 pm. I have a snack, such as a banana or a boiled egg, at 80 calories.
Then by 7.00 pm I eat my other 150-200 calories in the form of loads of vegetables, either on their own or with a small piece of grilled chicken, fish, tofu or an egg white omelette.
There are plenty of recipes for the 5:2 on-line and you’ll find suggestions on my blog: www.alternativeageing.net
That's it! In 24 hours you will have survived a pretty painless fast by spending eight of those hours asleep whilst, hopefully, giving your body a chance to carry out those essential internal repairs that intermittent fasting encourages as well as losing those Christmas pounds, especially if you can manage to do the 5:2 for a month.