If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, according to the old saying. Well, maybe so, maybe no. That’s my conclusion after reading The Mini-Fast Diet: Burn Fat Faster than Ever With the Simple Science of Intermittent Fasting, by Julian Whitaker and Peggy Dace. Testimonials abound in the book, but it hasn’t done a thing for me.
Intermittent fasting has gotten significant press lately. The book was published in 2012, and the dust jacket proclaims: “Lose up to 30 pounds in 12 Weeks!...Burn Fat faster than ever …” Dr. Joseph Mercola, who has a widely read website with health articles, has said that he tried intermittent fasting successfully. Headlines of some of his articles state: “Burn Away Fat Cells With This Simple Eating Trick” (May 4, 2012); “Intermittent Fasting Finally Becoming Mainstream Health Recommendation” (January 18, 2013); “Intermittent Fasting Shown to Improve Diabetes and Reduce Cardiovascular Risk” (May 17, 2013); “How Intermittent Fasting Stacks Up Among Obesity-Related Myths, Assumptions, and Evidence-Backed Facts” (March 1, 2013).
Julian Whitaker, who has written fourteen books, is a physician who operates a weight loss clinic using diet, exercise and some nutritional supplements, in California. He refers to his program as a mini-fast with exercise. The mini-fast is about sixteen hours, preferably during the night when one is sleeping and continuing the next day until about noon. No breakfast. His program includes some sweat producing exercise during the fast, to be spaced a couple of hours before eating. Whitaker says in the book that he tried this procedure himself and saw results right away. He says he was not hungry and liked not having to worry about counting calories. That’s right. His diet is a non-diet diet. He says in the book’s introduction that this diet is “the most successful, health-enhancing, and fastest-acting weight loss program I’ve ever come across. It eliminates the restrictive diets, calorie counting, and food cravings that are the bane of most regimens. It promotes habits that will lead to a lifetime of health. And it…selectively burns fat.”
According to the book, Whitaker’s program allows the dieter to eat a normally healthy diet and stresses the importance of exercise while fasting. He allows people who don’t want to fast during the night to fast for sixteen hours during other times of the day as long as they are eating only two meals during the twenty-four hour period and spaced within about eight hours. He says that the fasting time puts the dieter in a state of ketosis, which is a fat burning state that occurs with the fast. Some of us know about ketosis as the basis of the Atkins diet, which comes about by severely reducing carbohydrate intake. In Whitaker’s program, the dieter is encouraged to break the fast with some protein rather than high glycemic carbohydrates. Whitaker encourages people to eat a healthy diet. However, he is no Robert Atkins.
Ok, it sounded too good to be true to me, even with Whitaker’s many patients who tout their successful weight loss. So, I tried it. I have been going without breakfast for two and a half weeks. Unlike Dr. Whitaker and Dr. Mercola, who said they lost weight in days, I haven’t lost a pound. It is possible that I may be enjoying some of the other benefits that are enumerated in the book, but I don’t have the equipment to do medical tests. I feel the same as always. I don’t miss breakfast, but I haven’t been hungry in the morning for many years.
The book has many good parts. It is assembled with headlines throughout the text, before and after pictures with dieter testimonials, and boxed sections here and there about related topics that don’t interrupt the basic text. These features give us a book that is easy to read and good to look at. The book is organized into three useful parts: The Problem and the Solution; The Mini-Fast With Exercise Program; and Exercise and Diet Strategies.
Whitaker tells us why diets normally fail and that it isn’t the person’s fault if they do. He explains diet failures in laypeople’s language while using science that is documented in footnotes. He has a chapter about why weight loss matters, with science that is pointed enough to make a normal person want to lose weight as a health issue. He writes about some roadblocks to success, such as being hypothyroid or having other medical problems. He provides menus and some recipes for people who would like to use them. His thyroid solution strikes me as too simple; get the situation treated and you will be fine. I can say from experience that it isn’t a simple situation. It occurs to me that the dieter needs to do a lot of exercise, or maybe the diet works better for men than for post-menopausal women.
Whitaker presents one type of intermittent fasting. Another that is being discussed around the water coolers is a diet requiring the person to choose some days in which to eat a maximum of five hundred calories, while eating normally the rest of the week. This type of fast is explained in another book that I haven’t read, called The Fast Diet, by Michael Mosley.
I think Dr. Whitaker’s book has many merits. Is it too good to be true? Maybe and maybe not.