The grapefruit diet, the feeding tube diet, the cabbage soup diet, the baby food diet, and for the laziest of dieters, the apocryphal tapeworm diet (the parasite gains all the weight so you don’t have to – a minute on your lips, a lifetime on the tapeworm’s hips) … we are a culture obsessed with simple diets that promise big tricks.
Our fixation with the fast fat fix hasn't gone unnoticed by the business sector. In fact, the U.S. weight loss industry rakes in a whopping $20 billion annually on books, surgeries and all the other pills, gels, gadgets and gizmos that promise a slimmer waistline. Each year sees the arrival of the next miracle diet – the one that promises easy weight loss with the least amount of effort.
Unfortunately, the weight-loss industry is no match for the food industry, which can raze a dieter’s best intentions as thoroughly as Godzilla can topple a city. Junk food, soda, fast food, and obscene portion sizes at restaurants all conspire to lure helpless dieters away from their skinny jeans and back into the realm of obesity and diabetes statistics. By some estimates, more than 80 percent of people who have lost weight regain all of it — or more — after two years.
It’s easy enough to follow a diet for a short while, but as any responsible list of weight-loss tips repeatedly reminds, it must become a lifestyle change or the pounds will return. Yet making a lifestyle change out of protein-only or grapefruit-only is generally neither feasible nor advisable. If only there were a simple way to eat a nice variety of what we want, without special meals or tallying points or utterly depriving ourselves — with the result of not only losing weight, but actually keeping the pounds off as well.
Which is exactly what the new book, "The 8-Hour Diet: Watch the Pounds Disappear Without Watching What You Eat!," promises. Brought to us by Men’s Health magazine Editor Peter Moore and former Editor-in-Chief David Zinczenko, the biggest selling point of the diet – aside from simplicity, deceased weight and increased health – may be that you get to eat anything you want. Yes, you heard that right, eat anything you want.
Well, that is anything you want for eight hours at a time, alternating with 16 hours of fasting.
But wait! Don’t click away! If the word “fasting” brings to mind abject misery, like crawling on your hands and knees through the desert roasting in the sun without water or some other desperate scenario, that’s understandable. Think of it this way: If you include your eight hours of sleep in the fasting time, it’s only four hours before and after sleeping that you don’t eat. Which pretty much means you don’t snack after dinner, you skip breakfast, and then eat yourself silly for eight hours. Okay, in truth, eating doughnuts and bacon for eight hours isn’t really going to benefit you; you do need to have some semblance of healthy eating. But the point is that this diet is conceived around when you eat, not what you eat. And it can be done as little as once a week or as frequently as every day.
“It’s so flexible,” Moore (pictured at left) told MNN. “Look for the amount of weight loss you need, and dial the fasting in, between one and seven days a week.” And it’s undeniably simple. “Look at watch; open mouth or don’t open mouth,” he said.
And yes, now is when all of the oft-repeated dieting ‘truths’ start flashing in the brain like neon signs on the Vegas strip: Don’t starve your metabolism! Eat small meals throughout the day! Don’t skip breakfast! But according to the authors of the book, studies show that the opposite can be true.
For instance, we all "know" that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but Moore calls into question this reverence for the morning meal. “It’s so ingrained in our culture, but the fact is that the science behind the whole breakfast thing has always been kind of shaky, and when you start looking into it, you see as much science against the breakfast hypothesis as you see in favor of it, so maybe we’ve just been wrong all these years,” he said.
Not only does the book explain that intermittent fasting isn’t unhealthy, it sets out to show that not eating all the time provides some truly notable health benefits. Moore explains that when researchers look at people who are practicing intermittent fasting, they see that blood sugar metabolism is vastly improved, and triglycerides and blood cholesterol levels go down. Increase in human growth hormones is a standard benefit, as is neurogenesis.
"For a baby boomer like me, the thought that because I’m doing intermittent fasting I am growing more brain synapses every day that I do this, and as a result of that I’ll be able to find my car keys. It’s amazing,” said Moore (pictured left), who has lost significant weight on the diet and whose enthusiasm goes beyond general author exuberance and into the realm of someone who has been graced with a serious epiphany.
“You look around and there’s one study after another supporting what is indeed an ancient practice and it was like eureka time when all of a sudden I was down 10 pounds after going on the diet. You connect points a, b, c, d through z, and all of a sudden you realize we’re on top of something really extraordinary and potentially important here,” he said.
The book explores the science behind the concept, shatters many a fasting myth, and shows how to maximize the health benefits of the diet. It also offers recipes, eight-minute workouts to "turbo-charge" the plan, and 100 things (science-based tips) to do instead of eating. The book is holding steady in Amazon’s top 100 books since its publication, and is garnering praise from readers.
“I didn’t need to lose a lot of weight but I’ve been on a lot of diet plans because I try them out as a health editor," Moore noted. "But this is the first one that ever budged the needle for me, and to the point that I had to ramp it back because I was afraid I’d lose too much weight. That really says a lot to me about how amazingly, weirdly, magically effective this is.”
In other words … a miracle?
Related diet stories on MNN:
- Americans' surprising food vows for 2013
- What is the best long-term diet plan?
- These two diet plans got a thumbs-up from U.S. News & World Report