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There's nothing more exciting as an author than when your title start reaches foreign shores. Here's an excerpt from one of the U.S. interviews that launched Eat, Fast, Slim.
Amanda, tell us a bit about your background in terms of health and nutrition.
I was involved heavily with sports in my teens so I’ve always been health-aware. I then moved to the US on a university year and that sparked my interest in diet and nutrition even further. I ended up giving up a six-figure salary in my mid-twenties to follow my path - many people thought I was crazy so I’m delighted to say that I’ve proved them all wrong! I’m now researching obesity alongside working as a nutritionist and earning a living as a health writer and broadcaster. I’m also a mother of four kids so I’ve a huge desire to create a legacy that in some small way helps the next generation get back on track with how they eat and how they live.
What inspired you to write Eat Fast Slim?
Eat, Fast, Slim represents a decade of my life. In so many ways, this book is a very personal story. It’s taken me ten years to explain through science the astonishing results of the IF approach that I was lucky enough to come across earlier than most.
Books on intermittent fasting as a weight loss strategy are at the top of bestseller lists in both the U.S. and U.K. Why do you believe IF is such a hot diet trend right now?
At the heart of the matter is the simplicity. For once, here's a framework for eating and living that really delivers results without the need to give up the enjoyment of eating delicious food.
Unlike many other authors in this area, I celebrate the scientists who are working at the cutting-edge of fasting research - they are my rock stars! I don’t claim to have invented fasting or tell people that one approach, such as 5:2, is the only way to fast. People need to have the benefit of the full picture and should be able to make their own choices.
Besides being a trend among consumers, it also seems to be a hot topic among researchers. Why do you believe that researchers have now taken an interest in fasting as a weight loss strategy?
Fasting was first focused on as it was understood it could extend lifespan and health span. Weight loss was the beneficial side effect! However, with obesity the key driver of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, it’s clear that any approach that helps with health and weight loss is going to warrant continued focused research.
Are you surprised by how popular fasting has become? Why or why not?
I was interviewed a couple of years ago about the weight loss industry I am said I thought that IF would be the next big game-changer. It's a no-cost solution to a costly obesity problem; perfect for today’s climate. It’s a healthy, simple answer to the diet industry that has become tricky, over complicated and sometimes just downright ridiculous.
About how many people do you estimate have followed your plan?
I’ve no idea. I know the book has been translated into many languages all over the world so I can only begin to imagine how many people have followed it now. Mind-boggling really!
All told, how many total pounds would estimate people have lost using the guidelines in your book
People lose weight according to how much they have to lose in the first place. Everybody has a natural set-point where you feel healthiest and that varies according to body frame and composition. So, it's my goal that each individual finds that happy place themselves rather than focusing on a one-size fits all.
Can you explain in the simplest terms possible what “intermittent fasting” is? We think many people will read it and think they won’t get to eat!
It can be summed up simply as this - watch the clock, not the calories. All you need to do is widen the gap between meals to allow your body to tap into fat reserves more easily. If you constantly drip feed fuel (food) into your body it never has to use it’s fat stores. Importantly, you get to eat lots of delicious, healthy food too!
How did you learn about IF?
My discovery of fasting was not conventional. I'd headed to India after becoming a nutritionist and discovered how embedded intermittent fasting was in the health system known as Ayurveda - it linked back to what I'd been studying and helped convince me of the approach. When in India I lived in a simple ashram and worked with a local Doctor - living without hot water was kind of tough. But, for me, it was life-changing. If it all sounds a bit Eat, Pray, Love, it was!
When I got back to the UK and got my big break on TV, I started started piecing it all together I realised that some of my celebrity body-icons had been using versions of fasting - mainly 16/8 for a while. I set up fasting retreats and the results were amazing. I guess the rest is history.
Did you yourself lose weight using an IF approach? If so, please elaborate—ie, what was your fasting schedule like, how much did you lose, how had you gained?
For me, IF helped me shift the stubborn last 10 lbs. I'm not naturally slim, I'm more athletic and like most people, I struggled to get my body back after babies through conventional means. Just as importantly though it gave me much more freedom with food. I'd struggled with weight in my teens - I was a international level sports competitor with a lot of pressure on body weight - and it released so much of the dieting mentality that I believe can be so destructive.
How does IF in general “retrain” hunger?
Fasting every now and then also helps you to recognise the difference between physical hunger and hunger that you feel out of habit or compulsion. We sometimes get physical hunger pangs because we associate certain situations or cues with eating, not because our body really needs food. By ignoring all hunger signals for a few hours at a time, you start to find it easier to recognise the difference, and only eat when your body is truly hungry. From the hunger point of view, I think 16/8 is much easier to deal with than 5:2.
Does IF increase metabolism or fat burning? If so, how?
Amazingly, IF does both - it’s not just my experience reporting this incredible facts, it’s the research. In fact, all the research on fasting seems to show that eating less often could actually boost your metabolic rate. In one study, conducted at the University of Nottingham, a two-day long fast boosted resting metabolic rate by 3.6%. Research also provest that more of the calories you use for fuel during fasting come from your fat stores.
It’s one of the reasons IF is so popular amongst what I call body professionals - athletes, models or even body builders. To find a system that increases metabolism, burns more fuel from fat and is protective over lean muscle mass is revolutionary.
Please explain in the simplest terms possible why fasting is better than following a traditional low-calorie diet.
There are three big reasons why fasting is better than dieting.
Firstly, traditional diets misrepresent the calories in / calories out equation. We’ve all heard that a pound of fat is roughly equal to 3500 calories, so the traditional calorie-counting approach is to cut calories by 500-1000 per day in order to lose 1-2lb per week. The trouble is that, as you get slimmer, you become lighter and that actually reduces the amount of calories you burn at rest (your basal metabolic rate). Coupled with the fact that long-term calorie restriction can lower the metabolism even further, it’s clear that traditional dieting models are a great repeat business model for the diet industry but are not very good for the body!
Secondly, even if you get your calories exactly right, how boring does counting every calorie get? Demotivation, either as a result of not seeing the numbers on the scales going down as quickly as they were, or through boredom, can lead to lapses, which slows down the rate of weight loss even further.
Thirdly, the IF approach burns more fat and preserves lean muscle mass - which helps keep that all important metabolism firing.
How does fasting boost levels of growth hormone in a way that low-cal diets don’t? And how does this boost increase weight loss?
Fasting triggers the release of growth hormone (GH), which encourages your body to look for other fuel sources instead of attacking its muscle stores. This is thought to be a survival advantage - back when humans were hunter gatherers it would not have made sense for our muscle mass to reduce when food was scarce - we needed strong legs and arms to hunt down our dinner!
In one study carried out by researchers at Intermountain Medical Centre, participants were asked to fast for 24-hours. During this time, GH levels rose by a whopping 1300% in women and 2000% in men.
You mention the 16:8 method of fasting. First please explain what that is.
16:8 refers to hours of fasting and non-fasting. For 16 hours a day, you are fasting - but bear in mind this includes the hours of sleep. Typically this means finishing dinner at 8pm and not eating until 12 noon the next day however some people choose to stop eating at 4pm and have breakfast as normal the next day.
Bear in mind, IF doesn’t mean you can’t drink fluids - in fact, a cup of tea or coffee with a splash of milk is fine during the fasting window as are herbal teas and, of course, water. You eat normal, healthy food in the 8-hour window of time.
What benefits does it offer over the very popular 5:2 method of fasting?
16/8 is the only fasting method that doesn’t require calorie counting - you watch the clock instead of the calories. For those who struggle with the dieting mentality, or for people who struggle to get by on just 600 calories in a day (I’m one of them), it’s a much better approach.
How does concentrating all calorie intake into an 8 hour period enhance weight loss?
It’s really quite simple - you eat less overall and your body has tapped into it’s fat reserves during the 16 hour fasting window - a double whammy! You are not hungrier after your first meal than you would have been had you eaten the extra meal so you are not tempted to over-eat either.
Is there a calorie limit that people should aim for during the 8 hours of eating?
As long as you focus on quality foods, you don’t need to worry about quantity. It’s hard to overeat on real food - nobody ever binges on salmon do they?
Please give us a brief description of how readers should aim to eat during that 8 hour period?
My rule is if you can’t pronounce what it says on the label, don’t eat or drink it! Eating bulky foods to help stay slim is a good motto too - supersize vegetables and fruits which are full of naturally filling fibre. Ensure an adequate intake of protein as this helps you feel fuller for longer. Aim for a palm-sized portion of meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent for the first meal after your 16 hour fasted period.
How many women do you estimate are meal skippers?
I think what’s so great about IF is that many women do it naturally from time to time. If I earned a dollar for everytime a client has said, “I used to do that in my twenties (when I was a size 6) and then I read I had to eat little and often, so I force myself to eat breakfast (and now she’s a size 14).” IF is actually quite instinctive - getting back in tune with how your body works naturally is really empowering.
You say in the book that when following the 16:8 fast, you can choose to skip breakfast or dinner. Is there a reason, other than scheduling, that you’d recommend skipping one over the other? And if so, why?
It’s simply down to individual preference. I like to get the fasting period over with by noon so I can relax the rest of the day. Truly, figure out what works for you as an individual.
Some people may worry that skipping breakfast is actually bad for the metabolism. Can you please why this is not the case?
This is a myth based on what’s known as the thermic effect of food. No matter what time of day you eat, your metabolism is raised a little by the action of digesting the food.
Over and above that simple fact, research on fasting seems to show that eating less often, like the 16/8, could actually boost your metabolic rate. In one study, conducted at the University of Nottingham, a two-day long fast boosted resting metabolic rate by 3.6%. It may sound marginal but in many ways, weight loss is ‘won’ through an accumulation of these marginal gains.
Who is the 16:8 plan best for?
People who want results without the hassle and headache of traditional dieting. It’s perfect for those looking for health benefits too. Fasting is now considered an acceptable treatment or approach for reducing inflammation, promoting longevity, improving insulin response, boosting cardiovascular health and even supporting cancer treatment. The thing about fasting is that it can deliver these health benefits and more, without many of the unpleasant side effects or the extortionate price tag.
What’s the most you’ve seen someone lose following the 16:8 fast? And how long did that take?
Gosh, I hear so many positive stories it's hard to single out just one. So many people lose that last hard to shift 10lbs, but I've heard of many who have significant amounts of weight to lose, say 30kg or more, using 16:8 to great effect.
What kinds of feedback have you heard from women who have used the 16:8 plan to lose weight?
The common feedback is a new kind of 'food freedom' - and that it’s so much easier than most diets!
Besides weight loss, what health benefits can readers expect to see when following a 16:8 fast?
I’ve already mentioned some of the deeper health benefits that fasting can bring. However, it’s also really nice to focus sometimes on the longevity effects - if you build IF into your life there’s a good chance you’ll live longer too!
What are some tips for making the first few days of fasting easier?
If you go into a fast after a meal containing lots of refined carbohydrates and sugar, you’re going to have a miserable time; blood sugar will peak, then fall fast and you’ll crave sugar. Adapt your previous meal to minimise the problem. Your last meal before you start to fast should contain protein, fibre and slow-releasing (low GI) complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, whole grain bread or plenty of veg.
Plan your fast breaking meal in advance. Pack it with lean protein, lots of fruit and vegetables and low GI carbs. Not only does this ensure you haven’t just wasted that last 16 hours by blowing all the calories, but nothing is going to taste as good as that first meal – make it healthy and you’re more likely to eat healthily for the rest of the day as well.
Finally, be aware that you shouldn’t be eating meagre ‘diet’ portion sizes any more. Spending so long not eating means that portion sizes at meal times should be generous as long as the food is healthy.
How long can someone safely stay on the 16:8 fast?
Well, it's totally safe so really I'd think about following it until you reach your ideal weight, and then using it intermittently to help maintain it. I use it about twice a week now just to help tick over.
If someone only wanted to follow the 16:8 approach for a week, how would you recommend that she ease back into non-fasting eating?
There's no problem with a stop and start approach so you really can just give it a try for a week - aim for 6-days out of 7 to really see the benefits.
What words of encouragement do you have for readers who’d like to give 16:8 a try?
Just do it! You've got nothing to lose except the pounds you don't want! It costs you nothing, has beneficial side effects and means you can leave the old calorie-counting dieting mentality behind. What are you waiting for?