Once our kitchens were all stuffed with books from Nigella Lawson and others like her – and eating rich food was in fashion. But now as even Nigella has slimmed down, we’ve noticed a big swing away from such cookery books – and instead a clamour for diet books.
Yes it might be January 2013 when typically, following the excesses of Christmas, every newspaper and magazine always has run a diet special. But this new trend began last summer with the BBC Horizon programme about a type of fasting diet – where you eat what you want for five days a week and fast (or eat very little) for two days. And it’s a trend that hasn’t gone away – rather, it has gathered momentum.
A few days ago we reported on The Manhattan Diet – another just published weight loss book. So it’s not surprising a report in The Times claims that publishers are literally in competition (it calls it ‘diet wars’) with one another and racing ahead to get out books about this fasting diet. The report says as the idea of fasting has been around for some 2000 years no-one can officially claim ‘ownership’ of it – therefore there is a rush between publishers to ‘make it their own.’
One person who has a head start is Dr Michael Mosley. A medical journalist, he was the chap that extolled the virtues of the fasting diet on Horizon in the summer. He himself has lost weight on it and claims as well as being likely to lower your chance of getting cancer, diabetes and heart disease, it is a natural way of eating. This is because, he says, before the advent of supermarkets and 24 hour fast food outlets, our ancestors, the hunter gatherers, had to manage ‘feast and famine.’
Guess what? Dr Michael Mosley’s own book on this diet is about to be published. The Fast Diet, the simple secret of intermittent fasting, will include a calorie counter (on fasting days you are allowed 500 calories for women and 600 for men), full colour section plus menus for those ‘fasting days’.
What no-one has yet explained – perhaps this book will do this – is what happens when you reach your goal weight? Do you continue fasting on these days? Surely you could end up losing too much weight? Or be encouraged to binge and eat every chocolate in the house if you knew you were fasting the next day? I would also be concerned that fasting could trigger an eating disorder in someone who is vulnerable to one. And those miserable two days of not eating would surely come to rule your life. Apparently, for example, it would be difficult to exercise on those days (unless you want to faint off with hunger).
But what sort of example does this set to children, if you have them? How will a teenage daughter view her mother deliberately starving herself or eating separate meals from the rest of the family on the two fasting days? I have also yet to see a dietician’s quote endorsing this fasting diet – and there are currently no long-term studies available to know what future side effects could be.
I am also concerned about the way this book is being marketed. In an article in the Mail On Sunday Mimi Spencer, who has co-authored the book with Dr Mosley, says how she has tried the fasting diet and how well it works for her. At 5ft 7″ she has gone from 9st 6Ib ( a very healthy BMI 20.7) to 8st 7Ib. She claims this gives her a BMI of 19.4. But her calculation is wrong. Her current weight gives her a BMI of only 18.6, which means she is bordering on being underweight (18.5 and under is classed as underweight when you should see your GP.) The BMI calculator has this advice for Mimi: Your weight is towards the lower end of the healthy BMI range. We wouldn’t advise you to lose any weight and recommend that you follow a healthy balanced diet providing a range of nutrients for health. If you are concerned about your diet and weight, we’d encourage you to speak to your GP or Practice Nurse who will be able to give you personal advice.
This is the problem with ‘diets’ – the word ‘diet’ should be rebranded as code for ‘short term fix’. I cannot see how denying yourself food when you are hungry is healthy at all. It might not do your body any harm (although whether or not it has long term issues remains to be seen) but it certainly isn’t going to be healthy for your mind to become so obsessed with fasting and then eating. Bottom line, there is no substitute for eating a sensible ‘diet’ every day …
Have you tried the fasting diet? Did it work for you or was it too hard to stick to? Sister site Featureworld is currently looking to speak to people who’ve tried this diet (and succeeded or failed) for articles in newspapers and magazines. A thank you payment is on offer! If you are interested, contact us with your story.