Have you noticed that when there's a major change of season, we often feel the urge to de-clutter our wardrobes, offices & homes? A good many of us also like to de-clutter our bodies at the same time. I'm one of them. Every Spring and Autumn Equinox I try and do a longer fast than normal, it's a naturopathic thing I have done since training as a Nutritionist, oh so long ago.
At the start of Spring, I did a 5-day juice fast that you can read about here. It was tough but It set me up for a healthy summer of Festivals, Fun & Frolicking! This time, for Autumn, I was lucky enough to be offered a brand new fast to try, called the Fast Mimicking diet, by Prolon, This unique and first of its kind plan is researched & produced by, as far as I'm concerned, the world's leading expert on the health benefits of Intermittent Fasting, Professor Valter Longo and his team.
The first Fast Mimicking Diet is all about food and the number of calories you eat in a day that enables your body to go into fast mode, much like the 5:2 diet. But the biggie for me is that Prolon provides every single morsel you need to eat each day so, in theory, dead easy. First the science:
I first came across Prof. Valter Longo when the 5:2 diet hit the headlines in the UK , a few years ago, as a result of Michael Mosley's TV programme, Eat, Fast and Live Longer. I took to the 5:2 like a duck to water and so did everyone else I know, including my own GP. You can read more here. It's still hugely popular today, more as a way of keeping weight off than for longevity & a disease-free life as hinted at in the original programme. After all, how can we measure that?
(Please don't attempt any of this if you suffer from any health conditions, are on medication or have any health worries at all, without checking in with your doctor first. )
Since that TV programme, Prof Longo and his team, at the University of Southern California, one of the leading centres for research on ageing and longevity, has developed this brand new, 5 day programme called the first Fast Mimicking Diet, (FMD) which he claims, after a decade of research, reaps even better health benefits than fasting 2 days a week, or doing the 16:8 or, any other form of Intermittent Fasting that may be in vogue at the moment.
"The time [five-day stretches] is important because the body needs to fast for three or four days before reprogramming itself, and the process of regeneration and rejuvenation begins," Longo says. Ideally, for maximum health benefits, and depending on your weight and pre-existing medical conditions, he would like to see most of us following this regime three or four times a year for a long, healthy & disease-free life.
"Fasting done periodically is a very powerful and natural way to help the body first recover from the incremental damages inflicted by unhealthy lifestyle and then to rejuvenate its cells and systems," says the Prof. He describes it as giving your body a complete rest so it can get to work on mending the cells, much like a car having an annual service. I like the sound of this. Especially as a little food's allowed and it's all prepared for me. So, how did my 5 days go?
Much like the 5:2 diet, you are allowed a certain number of calories a day. On Day 1, I was allowed a whopping 1100 calories so found it easier than I expected. The natural, low-calorie, plant-based meal programme allowed: an L-Bar - a nice nut bar - for breakfast; soup, olives & kale crackers (which I LOVED) for lunch; another L-bar at tea time whilst supper was minestrone soup, a small chocolatey crisp L-bar and a couple of supplements. ........... I was hungry, but felt happy and energised, although my brain went a bit dull so I was glad of an afternoon movie to take my mind off the hunger. I woke in the middle of the night hungry & wanting to wee more than normal. And this was only Day 1!
OMG Days 2-5 are now dropping to 770 calories a day! I hate herbal teas (there were a lot provided) so, as allowed on the plan, I am having my one coffee a day, black and split between morning and tea time as my two black coffees are equivalent to most people's one Americano. We'll see if it affected my weight & fat loss at the end. I had the nutty L-bar for brekkie; soup and olives for lunch; olives for tea, and mixed grain soup, & a choco crisp bar for supper. The special L-Drink is also introduced on Day 2. I got through a litre of this a day plus another litre of water a day. It helped with the hunger pangs and my energy levels..
A good day, I was always happy when it was kale crisps day! But I woke up at 2.15 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep for a long while I was so hungry. This email from Prolon, received the next morning, (they're very good at sending top tips throughout the plan) actually made my day. A bit of apple? OMG I haven't been this thrilled since Christmas! Less food than the day before: Nutty bar, tomato soup, kale crackers, and minestrone soup for supper. That was it. But the apple slices saved my life!
The olives re-appeared, thank goodness, and I spaced my snacks out throughout the day: nut bar for breakfast, soup at 1.00 pm. olives at 3.00 pm, more olives at 6.00 pm and soup supper with choco crisp bar at 8-9 so that I actually went to bed not hungry! It worked.
Yay, the last day! Even less food than the day before: the L-Bar nut bar, algal oil capsule, soup and crackers for lunch, and only minestrone soup for supper. I am so happy it's the last day. Although I've been full of energy and my brain was as clear as anything by Day 3, without any mood swings (which were really bad on the juice fast I did in the Spring), I have been hungry the whole time so am really looking forward to proper food. Soup just doesn't do it for me as it's just hot liquid to this foodie!
DAY 6 - TRANSITION DAY
This is the day I've been waiting for - back to normal eating, sort of. You need to be really careful the day after any fast and the Prolon advice is to stick to liquids initially, such as soup and juice. I made my usual morning smoothie, recipe here, and felt full very quickly. Light meals are recommended for the rest of the day avoiding rich, fatty food as much as possible.
I should know better but I had a chicken salad, with dressing, followed by two small chocolates, when I was out with a friend that evening and was really unwell the next morning and for the next few days. I still don't know, to this day, whether it was a tummy upset or that I, stupidly, introduced foods that I am intolerant to (dairy) way too quickly. In future, I will follow these more stringent suggestions as recommended by the Spa where I did the 5-day juice fast and use more common sense! Honestly, nutritionists, it's so often a case of 'do as I say not do as I do'!
AN ALTERNATIVE WAY OF INTRODUCING FOOD AFTER A 5 DAY FAST.
DAY 5: Just salad and/or vegetables with gentle grains such as quinoa. Easy on the dressing.
DAY 6: A few nuts can be added, literally 5!
DAY 7: introduce a little protein, such as chicken, pulses or fish.
DAY 8: a little dairy (only goat or sheep products).
DAY 9: ONE coffee (organic), if you have given up caffeine. Or do what I do and split a double shot between 2 drinks.
DAY 10: one glass of wine if you must! That's a far gentler transition for your body after such a carefully curated eating plan and gives you nearly a whole 10 days of detoxing.
The rest of the time, during back to normal life, I do what I normally do: try not to have booze between Sunday and Thursday, eat a healthy diet with lots of veg & oily fish, most of the time, have my smoothie every day, allow a few treats, try to walk 10 thousand steps a day & do weights & Pilates a couple of times a week. That's it! Fasting a couple of times a year like this is a much nicer option for me than doing 2 days every single week, as in the 5:2 diet, although it does have its place for a lot of people.
SO THE RESULTS - drum roll..........
I was about 9 stone 8 lbs (60.8 kilos) before I started and on Day 6 I weighed in at 9 stone 2 1/2 lbs (58.1 kilos). I haven't been that weight since I was twenty-one! But more important than the weight loss was the BMI & Fat Mass (the dangerous fat surrounding your organs). Both had come down to the low end of the scale and my Fat Index, whatever that means, was well below the normal figures. I am pretty sure I was near the high end of Fat Mass last time I was checked at the gym so this is an amazing result. And a good one health-wise for someone who didn't need to lose weight for vanity reasons. (I will check in again in a couple of weeks to see what the readings are after complete normality, eating out and having fun etc.)
Sadly, I don't know whether this will help me live longer or prevent heart disease & cancer, but the research is there and is compulsive and, as I service my car every year, why the hell wouldn't I service my body with these kind of results. It certainly can't hurt. But please don't attempt any of this if you suffer from any health conditions, are on medication or have any health worries at all, without checking in with your doctor first. And if you are over 70 please check with the doctor first.
The best part of the fast for me was that I had absolutely no prep to do, everything was provided for my meals and snacks, all be it in packets. So it was really easy to do at home. Much easier than preparing juices or counting calories. And I still had a social life. It costs £225 to do this 5-day fast, which may sound like a whole lot of money. (The profit is going straight back to Professor Longo's charities.) However, my 5-day juice fast, at a Spa, cost six times as much, although there were many treatments laid on and I was staying at a swanky country house type spa.
Would I do it again? Oh yes, a definitive yes. I am prepared to put my money where my mouth is and pay for this fast so I can do this 5-day Fast Mimicking Diet at least twice a year. It's much cheaper than going to a Spa and so easy to do at home. You know how much I love my food, albeit healthy food, so for me, this is definitely more do-able than the 5:2 diet every single week and if the Prof. is to be believed, far more beneficial for my long-term health.
UPDATE IN 2018
I am checking in with you right at the beginning of Spring as I am doing this Fast Mimicking Diet again. I am still spending lots of time resting, sleeping, having a massage, doing meditation, gentle exercise and even a colonic etc. just as I would at a spa, but I get to be at home with my fur baby. Although a bit of heat wouldn't go amiss! I'll let you know the weight and fat stats at the end of the fast. But it's going well so far.
THE RESULTS OF MY 2ND FAST MIMICKING DIET, SPRING.
I finished the fast, went to the gym for a weigh-in the day after following my own advice, above, for getting back to normal eating SLOWLY and gently, and found that I had only lost 4lbs/1kilo and no body fat at all! However, it was late afternoon after 2 days of being in the real world and the most important part, let's face it, is the long-term effect on my health, not the weight loss. I just keep visualising all my cells mending themselves which, according to Longo, they start doing as soon as you start feeding them normally again! I feel great and have none of the after effects I had the first time around and, sorry if this is too much information, my bowels throughout the 5-day fast and the 3 days since I stopped have not been so healthy for decades!
So I now know that a plant-based diet really suits my body and am carefully monitoring what affects me and what doesn't each and every day. I was always taught as a nutritionist that a healthy bowel equals a healthy body so am very thrilled. If you want to know more about what is healthy and what isn't, when it comes to your poos, do get in touch. I have always used the Bristol Stool Chart with my patients in the past. And if you want me to do a blog on this and how to work out which foods are affecting your bowel health, just let me know.
If you want to buy Prolon, here is the link and a whole lot more information.
And the U.S. link is here.
And please let me know if you buy it and try it, I would love to hear your experience.
See you soon, and have a great week,