DR MICHAEL MOSLEY explains why it's essential to have a regular eating pattern

We’ve seen all this week how the foods you choose play a vital role in helping you to lose weight and keep it off.But when you eat is also crucial and this is why we’re fans of intermittent fasting — first in the 5:2 diet, and now in the updated Fast 800 programme.For years, we’ve been told that eating little and often is the way to stay slim, but research now shows it is better to leave longer gaps between meals.We’ve seen all this week how the foods you choose play a vital role in helping you to lose weight and keep it off. But when you eat is also crucial and this is why we’re fans of intermittent fasting — first in the 5:2 diet, and now in the updated Fast 800 programme [File photo]Eating little and often is supposed to suppress appetite, but people who do this end up eating more. Snacking also means that, because you are constantly bombarding your body, you are forcing it to keep on producing insulin and stopping it from carrying out repairs.The insulin clears the extra sugar in your blood by storing it as fat around your middle — and this visceral fat is particularly bad for your health.Conversely, after about 10-12 hours without food, your body starts a process known as autophagy, when it ‘spring cleans’ old cells.Ban snacking  Concerns about the impact of constant snacking led Dr Satchin Panda, a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego in the U.S., to pioneer what he calls Time Restricted Eating (TRE).This involves eating calories within a ten-hour window by extending your overnight fast and going without food for 14 hours — also known as 14:10. We recommend you do TRE as part of The Fast 800, but ease into it.Start by trying to confine your eating to a 12-hour window (try 8am to 8pm), before attempting a ten-hour window — such as 10am to 8pm. Some people find it easier to skip breakfast and have just two meals a day.Drink enough water outside those windows, as staying hydrated keeps feelings of tiredness and light-headedness at bay. Eating all your food in ‘windows’ enhances the effect of The Fast 800. Many people say that they also find it a much easier way to manage a fast day — but it’s useful for non-fast days, too.At first, you may find it difficult to kick a snacking habit. However, you should find that, as your body adjusts to fat-burning mode, burning calories from your stored fat, thanks to your Fast 800 programme, you’ll no longer feel as hungry as you did.Have a glass of tap or fizzy water instead, as many people often mistake thirst for hunger. You’ll soon find it easier to maintain long gaps between meals. Our recipes are based on a Mediterranean-style diet packed with vegetables, pulses, fish, lean meat and olive oil. Research shows that a low-carbohydrate diet of this type has a unique power, not just to help you lose weight, rebalance your appetite and keep weight off, but also to cut your risk of serious disease.One recent, influential study to examine the effects of Mediterranean eating on health is PREDIMED research, which followed more than 5,000 healthy people at risk of cardiovascular disease.After almost five years, those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet were 30 per cent less likely than those on a low-fat diet to have had a stroke, heart attack, or died due to cardiovascular disease.The Mediterranean-style diet succeeds where others fail, as it isn’t just about eating less of the wrong foods — it’s about eating more of the right ones.The good news is that foods you may have thought ‘off limits’ such as olive oil, butter, cheese and avocado are on the menu. This means you need not feel as though you are depriving yourself or relying on willpower to lose weight. Foods to indulge in . . . * Eat eggs for breakfast: boiled, poached, scrambled or as an omelette — they’ll fill you up for longer than toast or cereals. They’re delicious with smoked salmon and a little chilli or a grilled tomato. * Or try full-fat yoghurt with berries, such as blackberries, blueberries or strawberries, or a sprinkling of flaked almonds. * Eat more healthy fats and oils: along with oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), consume more olive oil. A splash improves the absorption of vitamins. Use olive, rapeseed or coconut oil for cooking. * Legumes, such as lentils and kidney beans, are healthy and filling. Eat them instead of starchy carbs — sprinkle them in salads or stews to add extra protein. * Use butter instead of margarine; cheese in moderation is also fine. * Nuts are a good source of protein, minerals and vitamins, contain healthy fats and are high in fibre. Nibble, chuck them in salad or stews, but eat few on 800-calorie days, as they’re high in calories.. . . and those to avoid * Try to avoid sugar, sugary treats, drinks and desserts. Instead of using sugar, try stevia and xylitol. * Minimise or avoid starchy ‘white stuff’ — bread, pasta, potatoes, rice: brown rice is OK, but some wholemeal breads have added sugar. Switch instead to quinoa, bulgur (cracked wheat), whole rye, whole-grain barley, wild rice and buckwheat. * Remember, low-fat products are often filled with sugar to make them palatable. * Eat sweet fruits very sparingly: berries, apples and pears are fine, but tropical fruits such as bananas are full of sugar.  How it worksFAST 800 We recommend you start with this stage to kick-start your weight loss and metabolism. Limit yourself to 800 calories a day, every day, to lose up to a stone (6kg) in three weeks. Try to keep to this for at least two weeks for up to 12 weeks. And try to eat all your meals and drinks (apart from water) within a 12-hour ‘window’ (such as 8am to 8pm ).New 5:2If you’re nearing your target or don’t have as much weight to lose, switch to the New 5:2.On the New 5:2, you will fast for two days of the week — limiting your calorie intake to 800 on those days (instead of the 500-600 we suggested with the original 5:2). Eat normally and healthily, following low-carb, Mediterranean-style guidelines (vegetables, good quality fats, pulses, nuts and seeds, wholegrains and lean fish and meat) for the remaining five days of the week, without worrying about portion size to lose 2-4 lb (1-2kg) a week.MaintenanceOnce you’ve hit your target, stick to these general healthy-eating principles. Make sure you add a fast day regularly.One pot roast-chickenAn all-in-one chicken dish.Serves 4Per serving: Cals 460 l Protein 44.5g l Fat 18.5g l Fibre 8.5g l Carbs 20g * 2 rashers smoked back bacon, cut into roughly 2cm strips * 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced * 1 medium chicken (about 1.6kg) * 1 tbsp olive oil * 150g baby carrots, trimmed * 150g baby parsnips, peeled and trimmed * 200ml hot chicken stock (made with 1 stock cube) * 100ml dry white wine, or extra stock * 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (optional) * 200g frozen peas Preheat oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas 6. Combine bacon and onion in a medium flame-proof casserole and place the chicken on top. Drizzle with the oil and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Roast for 30 minutes until golden brown.Remove from oven, transfer chicken to a plate and add the carrots and parsnips to the casserole. Pour in the stock and wine, and scatter with thyme, if using. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables, cover and bake for 45-55 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through.Lift the chicken onto a warmed platter. Place the casserole on the hob and skim off any fat. Stir in the peas and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil hard for 2-3 minutes, or until the pan juices are reduced by half. Season. Carve the chicken into chunky pieces and serve in deep plates or bowls with the vegetables and cooking liquor.5:2 NON-FAST DAYSIncrease your portion size.Easy chicken tagineA filling Moroccan-inspired casserole with fibre-rich chickpeas. Serve with green beans or leafy salad.Serves 2Per serving: Cals 447 l Protein 41g l Fat 17g l Fibre 10g l Carbs 27g * 2 tbsp olive oil * 1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced * 300g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, quartered * 1½ tsp ground cumin * 1½ tsp ground coriander * ¼ tsp ground cinnamon * 1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks * 1×400g can chopped tomatoes * 1×210g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed * 4 dried apricots, roughly chopped * 1 chicken stock cube * Handful fresh coriander or parsley leaves, roughly chopped, to serve Preheat oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas 6. Heat the oil in a medium flame-proof casserole over a medium heat. Add the onion and chicken and gently fry for 6-8 minutes, or until the onion is lightly browned, stirring regularly. Sprinkle with the spices and cook for a few seconds more, stirring. Add the pepper, tomatoes, chickpeas, apricots and crumbled stock cube. Pour in 250ml water, season and simmer. Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is tender. Sprinkle with coriander or parsley to serve.5:2 NON-FAST DAYSIncrease the portion size and serve with 3 tbsp quinoa or bulgur wheat.Lamb SaagA handy, throw-it-all-together curry that you can bung in the oven and forget about. Use a good-quality curry paste for the best results. Serve with cauliflower rice (see below right) and a cucumber and red onion salad.Serves 4Per serving 361 cals l Protein 29g l Fat 21.5g l Fibre 3.5g l Carbs 10.5g * 1 tbsp coconut or rapeseed oil * 1 medium onion, finely sliced * 500g lamb neck fillet, trimmed and cut into roughly 3-4cm chunks * 60g (about 4 tbsp) medium Indian curry paste, such as rogan josh or tikka masala * 50g dried red split lentils * 200g frozen spinach Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4. Heat the oil in a flame-proof casserole and gently fry the onion for 5 minutes.Add the lamb pieces, season with sea salt and ground black pepper, and cook for 3 minutes, or until coloured on all sides. Stir in the curry paste and cook with the lamb and onion for 1 minute. Add the lentils and spinach and stir in 500ml water. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 1–1¼ hours, or until the lamb is tender and the sauce is thick.5:2 NON-FAST DAYSServe with brown rice, minty yoghurt raitha and pickles. Cauliflower Rice (200g) 34 Cals Hold a small cauliflower at the stalk end and coarsely grate to resemble grains of rice. Steam or sauté raw cauliflower rice for 3-4 minutes. Stir in chopped parsley or coriander, or squeeze over fresh lemon juice for added flavour.Mussels with tarragon sauceMussels make a fabulous, cheap, low-calorie — yet high-protein — meal. If you haven’t cooked them before, don’t be put off, as they are incredibly easy and the quality of farmed mussels in the UK is superb. Serve with a 50g slice of brown sourdough or wholegrain bread (119 calories).Serves 2Per serving: Cals 381 l Protein 27g l Fat 24g l Fibre 2.5g l Carbs 4g * 1kg fresh, live mussels * 1 tbsp olive oil  * 1 medium leek, trimmed and thinly sliced * 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced * 100ml dry white wine * 75g full-fat crème fraîche * 3-4 fresh tarragon stalks, leaves picked and roughly chopped, or 1 tsp dried tarragon Tip the mussels into the sink, scrub under cold running water and remove the ‘beards’. Discard any mussels with damaged shells or those that don’t close immediately when tapped on the side of the sink. Put the good ones into a colander.Heat the oil in a wide-based, lidded saucepan or shallow flameproof casserole, over a low heat. Add the leek and garlic and gently fry for 2-3 minutes, or until softened but not browned, stirring. Add white wine, crème fraîche and tarragon and season generously. Increase the heat under the pan and bring the wine to a simmer.Stir in the mussels, cover tightly with a lid and cook for about 4 minutes, or until most of the mussels have steamed open. Stir well, then cover and cook for a further 1-2 minutes or until the rest are cooked.Divide the mussels between two bowls, removing any that haven’t opened, and pour the tarragon broth over the top.Cook's tipIf you can’t get hold of tarra ...Read more

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