Fasting Diets: Fact, Fiction or Fucking Useless?

BBC Breakfast

I read a post the other day about how to make your food budget go further. It was very interesting for many reasons. Feeding a family of four costs a fucking arm and a leg, especially with the increase in food prices that have hit the world due to…erm… weather. For example, the price of wheat has gone up by 29% due to poor harvests caused by shit weather. It says so here.

On a more personal level, swan and saffron is more expensive than ever before. But, putting aside my southern-fried swan leg and sipping something fizzy while I type, posts about how to make your pound go further are helpful to us all. Anything that means you have more pounds in your hand at the end of the week must come in, if you’ll pardon the pun, useful.

I was watching a piece on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning which talked about a new movie which has actors in it. Quartet, directed by Dustin Hoffman, about old opera singers who live in a posh nursing home. Not one that has an overwhelming smell of wee, urine infections, and confused people wandering around in their nighties. A nice one. A nice one in which has Billy Connolly living in it. This piece talked about attracting older people back to the cinema, and the power of the ‘Grey Pound’.

What? The Grey What? Pipe down a moment, I smell some absolute shite on my new shiny BULLSHIT detector. I got it for Christmas.

The ‘Grey Pound’ is, according to Wikipedia, used in the context of marketing and refers to the economic and environmental power of those over 48 years of age. I remember a similar term being used in advertising when appealing to gay and lesbian consumers – ‘the Pink Pound.’ I hate these terms. The Grey Pound, the Pink Pound. What next? The ‘Hound Pound’ for consumers who have dogs? The ‘Orange Pound’  for people who like sunbeds and fake tans? I could go on. Really, I could.  But I think it’s best I say, ‘fuck off with that shit. Please. And take your smug market-ese with you’ And close the door while you’re doing so as you’re letting expensively heated air out the door.

Anyhow, I digress. The piece that really annoyed me on Breakfast News followed on from this and was about fasting diets, which ties up nicely with where I came in about making your pound go further. Apparently, according to this doctor arsehole, evolutionary science backs up the legitimacy and efficacy of fasting diets. We, when we lived in Africa, gorged on stuff and then went days and days without food. And then gorged again. Fasted again. Gorged and so on, and so fasting diets are more like we’re used to. Evolution tells us so.

Feast, famine, feast, famine. A bit like my sex life over the past twenty years.

Two ting. A) I’ve never lived in Africa. And B) I’m not sure this person would appreciate being told to feast and then fast for a few days.

Famine

But we can say this. We can do the gorging and fasting thing from our First World lifestyle. We can chose to do this. We can chose to fast while others in the world simply don’t have anything or enough to eat. This doctor fellow told us how he eats what he likes five days a week and then, on fasting days, eats salmon, and has no milk in his coffee.

I wonder if the fasting had made him a little delirious. And wonder if he’d considered the fact that, when we lived in Africa, it was a while ago and, perhaps, we’ve evolved the other way?

But this diet is supposed to make science sense. “Reducing your calorie intake could help your brain, but doing so by cutting your intake of food is not likely to be the best method of triggering this protection. It is likely to be better to go on intermittent bouts of fasting, in which you eat hardly anything at all, and then have periods when you eat as much as you want,” said Professor Mark Mattson, head of the National Institute on Ageing’s laboratory of neurosciences, in Baltimore, US of A. “In other words, timing appears to be a crucial element to this process,” he told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver in 2012.

For those who haven’t spotted it, the initials of the American Association for the Advancement of Science are AAAS. Innit. A bunch of AAAS.

Of course, I’m not knocking science. How dare I? Science is science and even the BBC have made a sodding TV science programme about fasting diets which means that some more people might buy into this. (FYI, this piece has a picture of a Professor Longo who studies growth hormone deficiencies. Professor Longo. It’s like an expert on mice being called Professor Mousey. FFS.)

Forgive me while I denounce this new dieting fad as a bunch of steaming arse nuggets. As we all know, not one diet fits all. What works for me may not work for you and now, post Christmas, it’s all about cutting out the excesses advertising so carefully made us embrace just before Christmas. As the wonderful @MonocleAndFez pointed out yesterday, and please forgive me for paraphrasing this a bit, ‘Christmas is all about EAT EAT EAT and New Year it’s all about DIET DIET DIET.’ Like night follows day. Next it’ll be about the hidden salt in our food. Oh wait. That was on this morning.

Diets aren’t a one-size-fits-all ting. I don’t like the Cabbage Soup Diet (Farty), the Atkins Diet (Halitosis), the Tropical Monkey Diet (Made Up), the Jesus Diet or that diet put into a book by the Hairy Fucking Bikers. The fasting diet sounds scary. I get twitchy about 5ish and hit a slump if the only thing I’ve had all day has been a black coffee and a lick of a salmon. Gimme some fucking food. And I’ll be fine. And a biscuit. Then I’ll be finer.

But evolutionarily speaking, somewhere buried in our mitochondrial DNA, is this acceptance of fasting and a need for it. We gorge, we fast and so it’s okay to use fasting as a dieting method. It is. A doctor on BBC Breakfast news said so and so did someone when talking AAAS.

And, remember, which takes me nicely to the point that I came in on, if you don’t eat anything for two days a week, then you can also make your family food budget go so much further.

I’ve heard others talk of this diet. Like real people. Is this something you’ve got experience of? Or is my total rejection of this just because I was a bit grumpy yesterday? Please let me know your lovely thoughts.

And thanks for reading.

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10 responses to “Fasting Diets: Fact, Fiction or Fucking Useless?

  1. I read quite a lot of american blogs of people who use intermittent fasting as a method of eating & maintaining weight rather than to diet. As a balance if you will. However all I have read about it is nothing like it was presented in the BBC documentary. I did it for about 2 months in the summer (fasting for 16 hrs and eating for 8 IIRC) and it suited me quite well as I am not a huge breakfast eater and it’s nice for once to find something that doesn’t say YOU MUST EAT BREAKFAST….
    As you quite rightly said this method isn’t for everyone and there is no one nutritional strategy that fits all.

  2. I have actually been on the 5/2 diet.

    The 600 calorie restriction on 2 days of the week I found was too difficult for me to attempt. So in the end I found about 1500 per day was about right. I did actually lose weight on the diet. In the end I stopped the extra nibbles.
    For example if the kids didn’t finish a meal and I like it, I are the bits I liked. Packets of crisps and chocolate become once a week instead of every day. After a whole I was less strict about the diet itself, but was generally being good at eating less. Smaller portions for meals, not picking in between times, drinking green tea instead. I had managed to keep the 9lbs I lost off until Christmas ….

    So it gave me the tools to retrain how I was eating…which is a good thing!

  3. I have done Atkins in the past and it works. Everything works…for a while. Basically, anything other than eating less and exercising more is going to wear thin (Pardon the Pun) after a while. You can only live through eating normally. Anything that comes in a bottle that you should drink for a few days and then you’ve lost all this weight is bull. So is eating in any way that you cannot sustain for a normal amount of time. Fad I tell you!

  4. I’ve done eat stop eat but not the eat nothin option. There is a version that has an 8 hour feeding window and 16 hour fast. So for example first meal is at 12, last meal at 8 then nothing till the next day, you train an hour before the end of the fast. I used it to shift some stubborn fat that just wouldn’t go no matter how much I trained. Useful for specific goals but like all fad diets your body adapts quickly and becomes ineffective.

  5. I have to agree. I know one size doesn’t fit all but to me a diet should be a lifestyle thing and teach you some lessons along the way. Portion control, exercise and moderation being just 3 of them. Fasting diets like the 5:2 diet, or those ones where you have milkshakes (Cambridge?) and even ones where your food is sent to you (Jenny Craig, Diet Chef etc.) in my mind are lazy and will teach you nothing. Better to follow a healthy eating pattern that you can do for life and not feel deprived than one you can’t keep up with or where all the hard work is undone as soon as you come off it.

    Great post. And the Prof Longo thing made me LOL.

      • Brilliant post- I particularly enjoyed the bracketed bits after the named Historical Diets. You forgot the Sacred Heart Hospital Diet lose 19lbs in 3 days ( day one was a tablespoon of peanut butter and a boiled egg ) ( did anyone ever go to the Sacred Heart Hospital? ) and the Conley hip and thigh diets and her 28day inch loss plan ( I once made it to day 18 ) , the F Plan diet ( there’s no f in diet ) and what about that new fangled Paleo diet ( sabre toothed lion sandwich anyone – on wheat free bread of course! )

  6. I watched the Horizon program the BBC made on the subject of fasting, and found it really interesting. It made sense, scientifically. But I think it was more about finding an optimal diet for health and longevity than weight loss. Weight loss (which did happen) was merely a side effect.

    I’ve been following this way of eating for several weeks now and have lost a few pounds (only a few, but it’s a start). As a complete foodie (and yes, a bit of a glutton), I stopped over the festive period, but today marks the start of getting back on the wagon.

    As for how hard it might be (feeling weak, dizzy, whatever), although I was initially worried about this, it was easy! And I never thought I’d say this, but my low cal days (600) are the days I feel the best! Well…until about 10pm when I just want to go to bed! But that could be the result of being an old fart, who knows?!

    You’re right though, no one diet fits all. But this fits me just fine. (Unlike my jeans which appear to have shrunk in the wash…again!).

  7. The only time I’ve ever dietted was when I did Atkins, & it actually worked! I was quite overweight at the time, & worried about my health. Otherwise I don’t bother: I just try to eat reasonably healthily, eat & drink in moderation & get a bit of exercise. Most diets, in my considered opinion, are bollocks.

    And yes, I can be a bit of a self-righteous git. A slightly overweight self-righteous git :).

    I love your point about fat being a disease of affluence. We’re so pampered here, relatively, & we so often don’t realise it.

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