Why fasting is such a terrible idea

Did you know that the number one book in the UK charts is currently The Fast Diet, which promotes the idea that we should fast for two days every week?

If that doesn’t quite grab you, don’t worry. With summer, aka the bikini season, just round the corner, a veritable bonanaza of new diet fads is about to be unleashed to prey on womankind’s insatiable desire for thinness.

Which means an awful lot of trees are about to be needlessly sacrificed – because all the expert advice that is worth a damn is that DIETS DO NOT WORK!

Yup, you read that right. All that self-denial… all those punishing breakfasts… the grapefruit… the black coffee… the calorie counting…

Diets actually make you fatter.

Here it is in black and white. Reviewing 31 diet studies, UCLA researchers found: “You can initially lose 5-10% of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back, plus more.”

So if you are clutching a copy of the latest miracle cure in the hope that by chapter seven you will morph into Angelina Jolie, I’m sorry to have to disappoint you.

The Fast Diet is written by two authors [Mimi Spencer and Dr Someone] who spout scientific research — because diet books, like shampoo ads, are always so much more convincing with ‘the sciency bit.’

This particularly annoys me because, as it says on the NHS website: “There does not appear to be any research evidence that looks directly at the 5:2 diet.”

And here’s Scientific American: “Despite growing enthusiasm for intermittent fasting, researchers have conducted few robust clinical trials. Its long-term effect in people remain uncertain.”

And yet the authors are all over the media claiming it will make you thinner, live longer, outsmart dementia, cancer, heart disease etc.

We’re supposed to believe that Mimi Spencer, who is a mother, spends two days a week eating just 500 calories: one quarter of the recommended amount.

I can’t think of a worse example to set your children: ‘Oh no darling, Mummy is eating a peanut for lunch today because it’s her diet day.’

Oh, it’s just toe-curling.

Children are acutely aware of what we eat and what we think of our bodies. It’s absolutely no use telling your daughter that she should eat regular healthy meals and accept her body as it is if you’re fasting twice a week in a determined effort to be thin.

If you’re so fixated on thin and the denial required to get there, aren’t you setting her on the path to an unhappy body image and punishing diets – which, remember, don’t actually work?

Any Mum with children to look after tends to have a frantic day, up early, rushing about, the nursery, work, the park, housework, feeding, cooking. On 500 calories, you’re going to flake out before elevenses. Let alone be able to do the one thing which might actually keep you at a healthy weight – some good, old fashioned exercise.

‘Eat less, is the wrong message!’ says US obesity expert Dr James Hill. ‘The correct message is: move more and eat smarter. The most current research suggests that increasing energy expenditure will increase weight loss.’

So get off the sofa and go for a walk, it doesn’t have to be a run. Think back to when you did sport: was there anything you liked? Swimming? Badminton?  Netball? Could you get back into it? Of course you could. With a friend? Even better.

Didn’t you hear how Gwyneth, Madonna and Cameron Diaz maintain those figures? They go to the gym every single day. They work those highly paid butts, they sweat it off.

Chuck your diet books away, I beg you. Concentrate on being healthy, not thin. It’s better for you and a much better message for your kids.

I’ve hung with the superthin and I’ve found that to a stick they tend to smoke, drink coffee and look unwell, because they are.

I’ve hung with the athletic crowd too and I love the way they train hard and eat ‘clean’: natural unprocessed foods. A scene from 1980s movie Flashdance where the girls pig out on dinner then go to the gym to work it off transformed my relationship with food.

You only get one body, please stop hating it and wishing it was less. It’s doing fine, it’s got you this far. Cherish it and do good things for it.

Remind yourself and your children that every single shape can look sensational. Bin “I want to be thin”. Just get active, and glow!

This article also appeared in The Daily Record.


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