Losing weight and living longer

I watched a fascinating documentary yesterday called Eat, Fast & Live Longer.

In it, reporter Michael Mosley explored several fasting approaches and the effect they had on overall health and life expectancy – and the insights were amazing.

He started off comparing his health to a guy who had been on a calorie reduction diet (1200 calories a day) for 10 years and he came out in pretty bad shape when measuring some key health indicators and looking at risk of cardiovascular disease.

Then he looked at fasting for a 72-hour period and went through the process himself (water, black tea and a 25 calorie cup of soup per day). What was interesting was that even in such a short period of time many of his key health indicators moved in the right direction. Of particular interest was that his IGF-1 levels dropped to about half of what they were previous to the fast (there is a great part of the documentary which suggests low IGF-1 levels lower the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease etc.)

Lastly he spent some time looking at ADF (alternate day fasting), which involves fasting for a day (in this case not technically fasting, but eating 500 calories) followed by eating anything you like the following day – and you just repeat that cycle. What was really interesting is you would expect people to go crazy on their ‘eat anything you like’ day. However surprisingly people ended up only eating approx. 20% more than they might normally on that day – so it proved a good tactic for reducing overall calorie intake.

At the end of the program he did 6 weeks on a modified version of the ADF program where he fasted 2 days a week (500 calories) and ate anything he wanted 5 days a week. Here’s the best bit – he ended up losing a stone in weight and improved many of his key health indicators significantly!

Whilst the biggest factor in overall health and how long we live is linked to our genes (not much we can do about that – blame your parents), what we eat does seems to have a significant impact (we can do something about that).

Ultimately most things always tend to boil down to a bunch of simple things and in my experience for diet it’s the following:

• Reduce calories
• Limit / control carbohydrates
• Fast
• Eat unprocessed foods
• Follow a schedule you can be consistent with (even if it isn’t the perfect picture)

My Challenge:

I weighed myself this morning and I came in at 14 stone, 2 lbs (199 lbs) – not good at all.

I’ve really fallen off the wagon in the last couple of years and have struggled to make health a priority – from exercising through to eating. As a result I generally feel pretty crap about my health and body.

So I am going to jump right into ADF, following the schedule below:

• Mon, Weds & Fri – Fast (500 calories)
• Tues, Thurs, Sat & Sunday – Eat what I want (but be sensible)
• Every 8 weeks – fast for 72 hours (followed by eating what I want for 4 days)

Whilst it might seem quite aggressive I’m confident I can stick to this given it’s more flexible than some of the other eating plans I’ve followed.

It’s tempting to wait until next week (I’m currently in San Francisco) but screw it – I’ll be starting tomorrow and will do an update on my progress.

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