What's your vision of summer? Leisurely strolls on the beach? Heading to the pool? If the wonders of warm weather are getting a dose of cold water because last year's bikini doesn't fit, there's a new version of the intermittent fasting plan that can help. It promises to give you the results you desire in just six weeks: "The Fast Beach Diet: The Super-Fast Plan to Lose Weight and Get In Shape in Just Six Weeks."
Author Mimi Spencer co-authored the famous "The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting," which teaches you how to feast five days a week and go on a restricted-calories plan two days to lose weight. In an exclusive interview, she explained how the Fast Beach Diet differs.
1. How does this plan differ from the original Fast Diet?
'The Fast Beach Diet was written in response to people who asked for a souped-up version of the original 5:2 plan. It’s designed as a kick-start program, which is tougher, wider-ranging and lasts for just six weeks. It includes the introduction of exercise, together with lots of fresh ways to change our habits around food, so that the choices we make on a daily basis can be as healthy and sustainable as possible. Basically, it is an extension of the original plan – but the key factor is that it is only intended to last for six weeks. It’s like a boot camp for fasters!"
2. What tips can you offer for restricted calorie days?
"Five-hundred calories (or six-hundred for a man) is, admittedly, not a great deal, so it matters that you choose your food wisely on a Fast Day. The 5:2 rule is ‘Mostly Plants and Protein’. Fill your plate with vegetables and salad, and cut back hard on fast-release carbs (these are the white ones – white bread, potatoes, white rice etc). Eat some protein, but make it lean (shellfish, skinless chicken, vegetable protein in the form of beans or tofu…) You need to opt for things that are satiating, so look for bulk and fiber from veggies – and dishes that are full of flavor (lemon, chili, herbs, spices – these all become paramount on a Fast Day)."
It’s important to understand that, while you may experience hunger pangs on a Fast Day, they are nothing to fear; they tend to be transient and increasingly manageable. The trick is to keep busy, distract yourself, and stay hydrated. Fasting gets easier in time – and remember, you do have some calories going in. This is not a total fast, just a brief break from food.
3. How much weight can someone lose in four weeks on the FastBeach Diet?
"The program is for six weeks, and a 2lb a week loss would be feasible. Some weeks you may lose more (particularly at the start); others may be slower going. Look at the trajectory not the daily number."
4. What are the benefits in addition to weight loss?
"The benefits of intermittent fasting go beyond any expected weight or fat loss. It can help cut the risk of a number of age-related diseases, and encourage the body’s repair mechanisms. There can be improvements in cardiovascular health, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and fasting also gives your pancreas a rest, boosting the effectiveness of the insulin it produces in response to elevated blood glucose.
"As my co-author Dr Michael Mosley points out in the original book, fasting will tweak your body into fat burning and increase its insulin sensitivity; this is turn will reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cognitive decline. There’s even evidence that it increases levels of neurotrophic factor in the brain, which should make you more cheerful.
"Beyond these anticipated benefits, there is a more subtle, psychological edge: The Fast Diet helps modify our behavior around food, making us more mindful and aware; it offers a practical way to understand our appetite, and give a bit more attention to what’s on the fork. For anyone who tends to eat on autopilot (hey, who doesn’t?), that new awareness can be hugely beneficial.
5. What's a sample day like on a restricted calorie day? (There's also a cookbook: "The FastDiet Cookbook: 150 Delicious, Calorie-Controlled Meals to Make Your Fasting Days Easy.")
"Most fasters opt for a 5:2 protocol, fasting perhaps on a Monday and a Thursday each week. Some will have breakfast (protein is important here, so an egg would be great) at, say, 7am – then a ‘Fasting Window’ of around 12 hours until supper at 7pm. They divide their calories between those two meals, looking for bulk and satiety from plants, plus some protein. Other 5:2 followers choose to save all their calories for an evening meal, which effectively means they are fasting for a longer period of time. Both approaches can be successful – it’s up to the individual to experiment and discover what works for them."