The pictured Dr. Michael Mosley has come up with a plan to help people improve their health and diet during this final lockdown
Sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day. It's been nine long months since we were first banned, but now we're back. The difference this time, of course, is that there are vaccines and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, I'm incredibly optimistic that it will all be behind us by summer.
But right now, Covid-19 is still a risk. So what can you do to protect yourself from the new and much more contagious variety without straying as far as possible from everyone else?
Well, there is good evidence that if you get in good physical, mental, and metabolic shape, you can navigate safely for the next several months.
To help you with this, my wife, Dr. Clare Bailey, a general practitioner with more than three decades of experience, wrote The Fast 800 Easy, which will be serialized on The Mail today Sunday and this week's Daily Mail. It's based on the science behind my Fast 800 Diet, a quick weight loss program that involves first following a low-calorie, low-carb diet before switching to intermittent fasting, or what I call The Way Of Life (more on that later) . And there has never been a better time to follow our plan.
As a general practitioner, Clare has seen the long-term effects of being overweight or obese on the health of her patients. These include an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, stroke, some cancers, depression, dementia, and infertility. And now you can add to that list: "Risk of Ending Up in Hospital and Dying If You Get Covid-19".
With a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35 – officially morbidly obese – the chance that a person will die from contracting the virus is 40 percent higher, meaning they are now considered to be extremely clinically prone to death Covid is classified.
And that's a concern for more of us than you might think. It is often said that a third of adults are overweight or obese, but these are people in their twenties who tend to be lighter. If you rule them out, the numbers are shocking. According to the NHS, 78 percent of men over 45 and 73 percent of women over 65 are overweight or obese.
If you carry too much weight around your waist and have type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome (large waistline, high blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood lipids) in particular, which also increases your risk of Covid, you can really benefit from some of it quickly to lose.
GP Dr. Claire Bailey (left), pictured with her husband Dr. Michael Mosley, co-developed the Fast 800 weight loss plan, which helped some people shed two stones in just ten weeks
Some people have managed to shed two stones in just ten weeks on the Fast 800 weight loss plan. So you can take advantage of this lockdown by losing weight, improving your metabolic health, and protecting yourself in the event that Covid strikes.
Does the vaccine work just as effectively in people who are severely overweight? There has been much speculation that obese people may react less well than other vaccines do, but Pfizer data suggests that the sting works equally well in people of all weights.
Regardless of whether you are at risk from Covid-19 due to obesity, it is important not to believe that the sting is a prison-free card.
What does the Fast 800 Easy contain? Well it's flexible. You might want to start with The Very Fast 800. This is an intense, rapid phase of weight loss that you can get started – eat 800 to 1,000 calories a day, split up between two or three low-carb meals, and avoid snacks. Stick to this plan for two to 12 weeks depending on how much weight you want to lose.
Some people like to split their 800 calories over three meals. Others find it easier to eat in pairs, with a late morning brunch and an early dinner. Likewise, some people prefer to consume up to half of their calories as meal replacement shakes. Others want real food for every meal.
Regardless of your chosen approach, there should be something for everyone.
You can try The New 5: 2 – eat 800 calories a day two days a week and a normal Mediterranean diet for the remaining five days. You can split your calories over two or three meals, but try to eat within a time window like 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. This version of the diet should fit seamlessly into your daily routine while promoting steady weight loss.
But what should you eat? To get you started, you can find delicious, low-calorie recipes in today's magazine You that can be thrown together in a few minutes and that don't use fancy ingredients. This is pretty important when you hit the stores. This week, starting tomorrow, there will be more recipes in the Daily Mail every day.
Our recipes are categorized by meal type – breakfast, light bites, soups, main courses (with meat, fish, and meat-free options and side dishes) and even the occasional treat. Everyone has a calorie count so you can stick to the plan.
It is a good idea to plan your meals in advance, especially if you are cooking for others. This way, you are far less likely to succumb to temptation or have a bite to eat while cooking.
Many of the recipes are gluten free and we offer some dairy free and vegetarian swaps.
When you've reached your weight loss goal, move on to The Way Of Life's maintenance program: a healthy Mediterranean way of eating – not counting calories, but portion control.
The Fast 800 Easy recipe allows people to double the serving size of low-fat, high-protein foods like fish, chicken, or meat without using sugar and starchy carbohydrates like bread and pasta
An easy way to do this is to double the serving sizes of our low-calorie Fast 800 Easy recipes, or add extra protein to a dish like fish, chicken or meat, vegetables, or less starchy carbohydrates like beans or lentils. However, try to stick to a low-sugar and starchy diet like bread and pasta to prevent the weight from gaining weight again. If you find that your clothes feel a little too tight, you know what to do.
As I wrote earlier, I have a very personal interest in weight loss and healthy living.
I started focusing on this area in 2012 when I discovered I had type 2 diabetes. I wasn't particularly overweight, but I had too much fat in my midst (visceral fat that has been linked to diseases like type 2 diabetes).
I managed to lose almost a stone and a half in eight weeks and get my blood sugar levels back to normal by following what is called a 5: 2 diet, cutting my calories two days a week, and eating normally other days .
My weight loss had another effect: it also stopped me from snoring around the house, which Clare was especially grateful for.
I later met with Professor Roy Taylor, a world expert on diabetes at Newcastle University, who explained that by losing all weight, I drained the fat from my liver and pancreas, and that reversed my diabetes.
When I first met him, Prof. Taylor had already done a number of smaller studies that showed that people with type 2 diabetes who ate a diet of 800 calories a day for eight weeks weren't just one and a half stones lost but also saw big improvements in her blood sugar and general health. He later conducted a larger study called the DiRECT Study with Glasgow University nutritionist Professor Mike Lean, which involved hundreds of diabetics.
A key part of the plan is to avoid foods high in carbohydrates and high sugar like bread, potatoes, and pasta
They proved that the eight-week 800-calorie diet resulted in sustained weight loss and after a year nearly half of the patients in the study were still in diabetes remission. Her blood sugar was back to normal even though she was off medication. And despite the widespread belief that people who lose weight quickly get it back up even faster, patients who followed the 800-calorie approach had lost most of the weight two years after the study began.
The DiRECT study also tracked a group of patients who received standard care – this was normal medical advice to lose some weight along with medication. Three had strokes and heart attacks, while five had cancer. One patient in the control group died showing how dangerous type 2 diabetes can be. This resulted in the NHS offering the Prof. Taylor and Prof. Lean approach to more than 5,000 patients.
As Prof. Lean said to me in the last interview: "For years we have been asking patients with type 2 diabetes to take the pills and not to worry too much." It's time to tell them this is a serious disease with nasty complications, especially if you develop it in your 40s or 50s. The good news is that with the right help, a lot of people can now be shot by it. "
In the DiRECT study, patients were asked to consume their daily calories in the form of meal replacement shakes before eating more normally again. Inspired by this study, Clare began asking her overweight patients if they would like to try the 800 calorie approach, but with real food based on a low-carb, Mediterranean diet (high in protein and fiber and high in nutrients, thank you lots of vegetables).
She gave them recipes to try and they were delighted to discover how filling their low calorie meals were and how delicious they were. They were especially pleased with how quickly they lost weight and saw improvements in their blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
But Clare wanted to prove that this approach really worked scientifically, so he turned to Professor Susan Jebb, a world body on weight loss at Oxford University, who recently conducted a study called Droplet in overweight and obese patients.
As in Prof. Taylor's study, this was a large study with half of the patients receiving 800 calorie meal replacement shakes while half in a control group received standard care.
In contrast to the DiRECT study, the patients in this study did not have diabetes. But the health benefits of rapid weight loss showed again, with the average weight loss after a year being more than a stone and a half – one stone more than the control group. That was very impressive, but the question Clare asked Professor Jebb was, would it work if you were on the diet with real food?
So Clare worked with Professor Jebb and her team to create the Diamond Study, which enrolled overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Patients were randomly assigned to either 800 to 1,000 calories of healthy low-carb foods, just like the items in our Fast 800 Easy plan, or to a control group, who received healthy diet advice.
When the Diamond study was published in April, it found that those who followed their diet for two months lost an average of 9 kg, which was almost four times more than those who followed the standard recommendations. And unlike the control group, they also saw big improvements in their blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
At the same time the Diamond Study was being set up, Clare and I had created an online program with the help of doctors in the UK and Australia, which you can find at thefast800.com. Not only does this offer a wide range of menus and exercise programs, it also offers healthcare professional support.
To date, nearly 20,000 people have completed the program, and we've found that people tend to follow a pattern – losing a lot of weight at first and continuing to lose weight more steadily as they move from the rapid weight loss phase to what we call the path of life. We saw an average stone and a half weight loss at the end of the 12 week program. Those who sign up for The Way Of Life's maintenance program show another steady weight loss.
You don't have to lose that much weight to benefit from it. Studies have shown that if you are overweight or obese, losing as little as five percent of your body weight lowers blood pressure and levels of fat (triglycerides) in the blood, which in turn significantly lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
It also lowers your risk of cancer. Carrying too much fat in the body leads to the release of hormones and inflammatory agents that make the disease worse. According to Cancer Research UK, many cancers are linked to being overweight or obese, including two of the most common: breast and colon cancer.
It will also help you sleep better. If you're anything like me, when you put on weight, it's not just about your tummy, it's your neck as well. That means you'll snore more often and develop sleep apnea much more often, a disorder that causes people to stop breathing while they sleep.
A 2014 study found that people who lost five percent or more of their body weight got about 20 minutes more sleep each night, and it was better quality sleep.
And of course, you will reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In one study, people with pre-diabetes (high blood sugar but not yet in the diabetic range) who had lost more than five percent of their body weight were up to 90 percent less likely to have developed type 2 diabetes four years later than they were those who don't.
With that in mind, your question might be, when should I start?
Well my answer is.
The best time to shed those lockdown pounds is right after you've put them on. And given the ongoing threat from Covid-19, this is really the time to get back in shape safely and quickly.
- The Fast 800 Easy from Dr. Clare Bailey (Short Books) is available now for £ 16.99.
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