Hailed as the biggest diet revolution since Atkins, the Fast Diet has quickly gained popularity both here and abroad. And with River Cottage chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recently extolling the virtues of the plan, it is once again hitting the headlines.

The Fast Diet

Pic: Getty

If you're keen to know more about the what, why and how, here's how to get started.



What is the Fast Diet?
Based on the idea of intermittent fasting, the Fast Diet advises abstaining from eating for short periods, while eating normally the rest of the time. According to Dr Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer, authors of The Fast Diet, this approach means you'll lose weight and enjoy a range of health benefits, without cutting out all the good stuff.

Why?
Advocates claim intermittent fasting not only helps you to lose weight, but could increase your life span, reduce cholesterol, protect against diseases such as cancer and diabetes, and improve cognitive function, reducing the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's. However, many of the studies that have so far been conducted involved animals, and further more extensive research would be necessary to provide clear evidence of the health benefits for humans.

How do I start?
Though some intermittent fasting regimes involve doing without for longer periods of time, Dr Mosley's book suggest the 5:2 approach - five days of normal eating, with two non-consecutive calorie controlled days. This system recommends eating the standard recommended daily intake on normal days - 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 for men - then cutting back to 500 calories for women and 600 for men on the fasting days. On those days, plenty of fluids are advised (water and herbal teas), and you can even snack on sticks of celery or pepper to keep the hunger pangs at bay.

Unlike the Atkins diet and many others, there is no need to cut out whole food groups so the risk of diet boredom is reduced, and many who have tried the 5:2 regime report that it was surprisingly easy to stick to.

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Does it work?
As the guinea pig for the Horizon documentary Eat, Fast and Live Longer, Michael Mosley lost almost a stone in weight over the course of five weeks by following the plan, and his glucose and cholesterol levels improved. And in his recent article for The Guardian, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall claimed to have lost 8lbs in just over two weeks.

However, while the diet is unlikely to do real harm, it is not recommended for pregnant women, diabetics and others who already suffer from long-term health problems, so it is always best to check with your GP before embarking on any new regime.

Have you tried the Fast Diet and did it work for you? Leave your comments below...