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FAST DAYS MAKE IT HAPPEN FAST

Fast days are the bulldozers of the Diet Groove.  These are what shift the weight and make a big impact.  This is what makes the diet dramatic.

Sticking to the path of gentle, sensible progress will have you quitting in no time.  But equally when you do Reload with style and let yourself off the rails for a meal (...a day ...or a whole holiday season!) you’ve got to have something that will get you back on again pronto.  Fast Days are it.  And they are a glorious, instant-progress reward.

Fast Days let you do three great things. 

One: lose weight quick.  Stick a few of these days back to back and the pounds fall off. 

Two: a passport to pig-out a bit. Just get straight back to a Fast Day and it doesn’t’ matter.  These days put things right. 

And three: reset your whole appetite.  Let’s face it, the reason we put on weight is simple: we eat too much. Part of the impact of the Fast Days is to re-educate yourself to feeling fuller from eating less.  So, eventually, even on a Reload Day and you’re ploughing through a bag of chips you just won’t want to finish them. 

To work this well, of course, they have got to be pretty radical: so pulling no punches, this is where you need to mean it.  If the only way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn off then fasting has got to be the last word in losing weight. 

But Fasting?  Really?  Doesn’t that just sound a bit much? Isn’t it all about denial and willpower?

Well no, I’m still the person who can’t walk past the fridge without eating something from it.  So let me propose a way of fasting that is easy to get along with.

THE PROTEIN FAST

Other fasting diets will give you a limit to how many calories to eat on a fasting day.  They will give you a recommended meal plan and you’ll end up fixating on it like a condemned man deciding his final meal.  I’m not going to suggest that.  On a Protein Fast you can actually eat as much Pure Protein as you like – whenever you are hungry.

The fast will work if you just follow these simple instructions.

1. Try to eat as little - the very, very, very least - that you can.

2. Eat as much as you want – as long as it’s Pure Protein.  You can keep on snacking on pure protein to your heart’s content.  Just try not to (see rule 1)!

4. Have a bit of bran in the morning

5. Drink lots of water – as well as tea and coffee if you like

6. Chew sugar free gum

7. And nothing else.  No sugar in drinks, fully skimmed milk in tea or coffee, no alcohol.

Let’s take the first one first.  .  Fasting means not eating, well maybe a few hundred calories.  The ‘Five-Two Diet’ (an intermittent fasting diet for two days a week) talks about 500 calories a day.

Whatever number you put on it, it’s going to be a meagre day.  But it's balanced by instruction 2: being able to have a little snack when you need it really helps it work.  And when you are starting off on this diet the comfort of a juicy chicken leg (albeit without the skin) really helps you get through.  The trick is in the trade off between 1. and 2.  You can genuinely eat as much pure protein as you need to stop feeling hungry and to help the urge to snack and you will lose weight.  It's just going to work harder if you eat less. 

A WORD ABOUT PROTEIN

And now to the protein itself.  Think about eating a chunk of steak compared to a donut.  Digesting protein makes the body work harder.  Proteins are dense, complex nutrients.  They take time to break down and digesting protein consumes more calories than digesting fat or carbs.   It’s estimated that about 10% of the calories you use each day are actually burnt in the process of digestion.  It’s called the thermogenic effect.  The ‘effort’ of burning fat is just 3%.  For carbohydrates it’s around 5 to 10%, but for protein it’s 20-30%. This means you would burn approximately 25 calories when digesting 100 calories of protein.  And even then, gram for gram steak has fewer calories than donuts in the first place.

This is why everyone gets obsessed so easily about low carb, high protein diets.   They really do work.  Now don’t get me wrong here.  Cabbage soup for a week works too.   And sticking to low GI foods.  But the story’s not quite over yet.  Proteins have one extra trick up their sleeves.  And it a bit more psychological. 

Eating protein just feels bloody good.  Literally.  I’m talking unashamedly personally here but eating a leg of roast chicken, a grilled fillet of trout or a juicy steak is satisfying in a way that cabbage just isn’t ever going to be.  Well, without being cooked with bacon that is.  Protein tastes and feels great.

And related to that, and something else that’s more than just a bit handy for the dieter: protein fills you up.  Yes, complex carbs do give you a filling fix by dint of sheer volume, but protein tastes filling.  Nutritionists agree that protein is a better hunger-sating nutrient than either carbohydrate or fat.  And it’s been shown in studies that people who eat a higher proportion of protein feel les hungry and think less about food at any time6.  A useful trick if you want to lose weight.

Protein is one of the building blocks of our bodies, it’s in large part what we’re made of – it is a part of every cell: muscle, organs, bone, and is a source of fuel if carbohydrates are low. 

Keeping protein levels up works for the dieter.  One of the biggest dangers of dieting is simply the pain of depriving your body of fuel and nutrients.  Often dieting tires people out.   Their bodies react to the reduced supplies available by slowing down.  People lose energy and feel lethargic.  Their skin can suffer, their eyes form bags and hair looks lank.  But with a good supply of protein this is less likely to happen.

I eat some protein every day and as an aide to rapid weight loss it is an absolute treasure.  An egg for breakfast is just a happy way to start the day.  A piece of chicken for lunch hits the spot.  And for supper, a salad of smoked fish.  You don’t need to eat too much, and the protein helps because it fills you sooner and leaves you feeling full for longer.

THREE IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER

1. The key thing to remember is that drinking water gets you through.  Drink lots of it.  Drink it whenever you feel hungry. 

2. Do keep to the idea of a fast.  You really can eat as much Pure Protein as you like, you will still lose weight.  But it’s better if you give your digestion some time to stop and relax.  And the less you eat, the more you lose. 

3. If you are eating pure protein, (and not just water fasting) you need to start the day with a bit of bran.  It’s good for you and will stop you getting bunged up!

WATER-ONLY FAST

Let me reassure you straight away that in losing my 4½ stone I did not resort to this kind of pure fasting even once.  But since I’ve hit my target I’ve used it a fair bit to off-set any particularly high calorie weekends.

The point here is to go as far as you feel comfortable. You decide how far you can push it.  It does take a bit of getting used to but I think there might be something in it.  It can feel quite therapeutic.  A respite from consumption.  The wider health claims that are emerging for it are interesting too – one of the latest is that it can even delay ageing.  And don’t forget that just because all that most Christians manage to give up for Lent is maybe red meat, the majority of the rest of the world manages to fast seriously on a regular basis.  Three billion Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews can’t be wrong.

High Fibre VEGETABLES

A childhood soundtrack of ‘eat your greens’ every mealtime carries a lot of sway so I’ve never been happy with the idea of going for long stretches without some vegetables.  Then there’s the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and all that good stuff.  And there’s another factor.  From Banting to Atkins to Dukan the pro-protein diets have all been accused of causing constipation.  A diet that leads to digestive problems is not exactly setting off on the right foot.  And with low fibre diets also being associated with increased cholesterol levels and risk of type two diabetes the protein only diet wasn’t a route I felt happy to follow.  Plus, I like vegetables.

So here’s the simple answer.  If you are continuing Fast days into more than one or two then have a few vegetables.  Not lots, we do have to let the protein/fasting thing do its work, but a few leaves on the side or the odd stick of celery, isn’t going to break the bank. 

And to keep the calories down you do have to stick to the high fibre vegetables - avoiding the blood sugar peaks that the less complex carbs would create.  Keeping to low GI, low carb, high fibre vegetables has the minimum impact on creating glucose, oversupplying glycogen to the muscles, minimising insulin production and thus encouraging you to burn fat rather than build stores of it.

So you have to steer clear of the very starchy, sweet veg: potatoes, yams, cassava, parsnips, sweet-corn.  But broccoli, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, salad leaves, celery, cucumber, are all there.

Fruit has to take a back seat.  This was the one area I felt a bit uneasy about.  Again it comes down to the wisdom of those old wives (that I’m sure you ignore at your peril).  If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, could I afford to drop it if the day was a Fast one?  I could.  The point here is to lose weight and the sad fact is that gorging on fruit isn’t going to help.  Fruit may have been a wonder-fuel for early man allowing him to put down stores of energy through the easy conversion of fructose but that’s no good to me now.  On a Fast day you just don’t need the sugar.

The third point is something I’ve incorporated on Dukan’s advice.  Dukan became somewhat evangelical about oat-bran after attending a cardiology conference and hearing about how it reduces cholesterol and diabetes.  It works because it’s full of soluble fibre so, just like your Brussels sprouts and broccoli, it fills you up and helps to actually soak up and remove cholesterol, and because it is made just from the bran shell of the grain it is a particularly efficient source of fibre.

And there’s the fact that it’s a grain too.  And if you’re on a diet that’s nice to hear because you can use it to make muffins and pancakes and oatcakes and porridge and all sorts of carby stuff that you’ll otherwise be missing.  So I have been eating it everyday since I started the diet (well except when I’ve forgotten, er, or been on holiday) and I guess that means it’s contributed to my weight loss.  And while I’m more likely to make pancakes or oatcakes with it at a weekend, on a weekday it still gives me a simple, satisfying breakfast.  A couple of table-spoons of oat bran plus a couple of non-fat yogurt make a quick bowl of cereal that sets me up for the morning.

Gum

Just one piece at a time though.

Just one piece at a time though.

Not a lot to say here, but you could base a whole diet on just chewing gum.  Pick a sugar free one of course, and then just resort to it to fend of the snack attacks that will crop up on a fast.   It addresses the feeling of eating (a bit!), it gives you a bit of flavour and most importantly it’ll just help to get you to the other side of the yearning.

A FAST GROOVE

Fast Days are important.  First, because of their dramatic weight loss power, but also because they are great ways of controlling Amy and fighting back against the pressure of the Traybake.

Just the absolute knowledge that you’ve ruled out food for a day (or much of it) keeps Amy at bay.  There is a brutal simplicity about deciding not to eat all day that is actually easier to stick to than trying to only eat a little bit. It helps fasting become an easier groove to follow.

Perhaps it’s psychological but I think it’s physical too.  If you don’t eat anything, you don’t go near food, you don’t trigger your appetite or set up Amy’s pleasure and reward expectations. 

Simply do something else at lunchtime and you won’t even give her the option of thinking about food.  But if you go for a walk just be sure to take the back streets - away from Greggs!

And make the day easy on yourself.  Obviously don’t pick a day when you have arranged to meet a friend or have a lunch meeting at work.  Be a bit of a hermit.  I find Mondays and Tuesdays are easiest.

And don’t forget.  This diet is designed to stick.  Never make it so hard on yourself that it doesn’t feel right.  Don’t actually go hungry.  If you’ve drank some water, chew some gum.  If you’ve chewed some gum then eat some chicken.  It’s as easy as that.

Pure protein & Fibre Filled Veg really are the two great pillars of dieting success.   Both protein and fibre are vital to our health and, importantly, satisfying to eat.  They fill you up without spiking your blood sugar levels, so there’s no boost and crash rollercoaster of pangs.   They make it easy to not be hungry,

FINALLY on FASTING

Fast Days make losing weight easier than you ever imagined.  Ok, they are never going to be gastronomic delights.  Part of their appeal is that they are simple and deliberate.  They are about losing weight, losing a lot, and not suffering at the same time.  Not feeling hungry is the key to their success, being able to snack and getting on with it.  If I felt like eating I ate.  I kept a good selection of fish and chicken in the fridge and when I felt hungry I just ate some. 

The point is that Fast Days are not a life sentence.  They are a quick hit.  Or, at worst, an intense burst that you use to amazing effect.  You tuck them away into the boring parts of the week.  You don’t let them interfere with your socialising or your indulgent meals or your comforting take-aways on the sofa. 

And they are not even that bad.  You can still eat some nice food, you don’t have to get hungry and you can still finish off the day with a piece of chocolate. 

In Summary

1. Try to eat as little - the very, very, very least - that you can.

2. Eat as much as you want – as long as it’s Pure Protein.  You can keep on snacking on pure protein to your heart’s content.  Just try not to (see rule 1)!

3. Help it along with a bit of Fibre Filled Veg, especially going for more than 2 days.

4. Have a bit of bran

5. Drink lots of water – tea and coffee if you like

6. Chew sugar free gum

7. And nothing else.  No sugar in drinks, fully skimmed milk in tea or coffee, no alcohol.