Good news can sometimes feel in short supply at the moment — but not today. I am delighted to be unveiling a weight-loss challenge to Shape Up Britain with the results of a unique experiment — and they really are impressive.
More than 39 st lost between 30 men and women in just eight weeks, to be precise, and an astonishing total of 9 ft 8 in gone from once-bulging waistlines.
But it’s the impact on overall health that I am really excited about.
So if you, like them, have a bit of a spare tyre to lose, read on to find out how they did it — and discover the startling impact it’s had on their bodies, both inside and out.
I am delighted to be unveiling a weight-loss challenge to Shape Up Britain with the results of a unique experiment — and they really are impressive
The coronavirus pandemic has proved a big wake-up call for anyone who’s tipping the scales in the wrong direction — and that’s most of us, as two-thirds of British adults are now classed as either overweight or obese.
Not only are you more likely to die or suffer severe complications from Covid-19 if you’re overweight, but a vaccine, when one becomes available, is less likely to be effective.
Too much body fat, especially around the waist, makes your immune system less efficient and less able to produce the antibodies needed to make the vaccine effective.
On top of that, there’s an increasing body of research pointing towards increased risks of developing other serious chronic diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease and dementia if you don’t stay trim.
All in all, it is clearly time for urgent action.
Your chance to see Dr Mosley
Join us at 6pm on September 17 for an exclusive LIVE event with Dr Michael Mosley and Dr Clare Bailey as we launch, Shape Up Britain, using their Fast 800 plan to help you lose weight — fast! The event will be livestreamed so you can watch online as Dr Mosley and Dr Bailey discuss the plan and the science behind it. Book a FREE place at mailplus.co.uk/events
Our Shape up Britain volunteers followed an online programme devised by the fast800.com.
To join the 12-week online programme and save 25 per cent, visit mymail.co.uk for details.
Alarmed by the very real risks serious weight gain poses to our health, I was keen to team up with the Daily Mail to challenge the nation to shape up in time for winter.
With the help of my wife, Dr Clare Bailey, a GP and best-selling food writer, we put together a special series of tasty low-carb, low-calorie recipes and tips based on the solid science behind our Fast 800 diet.
Then, to find out how effective it can be, we enlisted the help of two different communities at opposite ends of Britain.
Thirteen people who live on the same street in the Devon town of Chudleigh and 17 members of a Facebook friendship group based around Rotherham, South Yorkshire, jumped at the chance to overhaul their lifestyles.
Our two groups included housewives, civil servants, administrators, engineers, teachers, nurses, therapists, mechanics and small business owners from a range of ages and with different body types and health issues. In short, a group of normal people, all carrying a bit too much weight, particularly after lockdown. And all keen to change.
I’m proud to announce they’ve achieved some extraordinary results, losing a total of 39 st 8 lb. The Devon neighbours lost 16 st 5 lb and the Rotherham group 23 st 4 lb, with 23 people losing a stone or more. The biggest individual loss was a whopping 2 st 3 lb!
But what Clare and I are particularly excited about is the impact this weight loss had on other areas of their lives.
All our volunteers underwent detailed assessments with Bupa Health Clinics before starting the diet to ensure they were suitable candidates and to unearth any health issues. They then had follow-up tests after eight weeks.
Lee Powell, 48, who runs a shop in Chudleigh, was delighted to discover his 13 lb weight loss had reversed his recently diagnosed non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Caused by a build-up of fat in the liver, this is a condition associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease and can lead to serious scarring, liver cancer and liver failure. The only way to cure it is weight loss.
Catherine Pashley, a 48-year-old complementary therapist from Sheffield, found she was no longer troubled by menopausal hot flushes and 42-year-old housewife Cat Duffin, also from Sheffield, was delighted to find her cholesterol levels had improved and her blood pressure readings had returned to normal.
‘It was so high at my first health check, the nurse told me I should inform my GP. At my second assessment, my blood pressure was in the normal, healthy range. Even the nurse was impressed I’d achieved this in such a short amount of time.’
This was a particular relief, as Cat’s own mother died after a heart attack aged just 50. ‘So I need to do everything I can to be there for my own children,’ says Cat.
Meanwhile, in Devon, Victoria Bateman, 35, who works in hospitality, lost 1 st 1 lb and found she no longer needs medication to control sinus tachycardia, a condition where an abnormally high resting heartbeat can cause episodes when the heart appears to race.
‘Have I cured myself? It’s incredible to think so,’ she says.
Sheffield volunteer, Dominic Havercroft, 37, who works at a truck dealership, found he no longer needs to see his chiropractor for lower back pain after losing 1 st 5 lb. He has a trimmer waist, too, having lost 3 in of belly fat.
This is of key importance health-wise, as we’ll see in my Shape Up Britain series next week.
I’ve lost 7cm from my waist
Kate Gardner, 48, a nurse, lives in Chudleigh, Devon, with her two children, Anna, 17, and Jack 14
Kate Gardner, 48, a nurse, lives in Chudleigh, Devon, with her two children, Anna, 17, and Jack 14, She says:
Last year I got divorced after 26 years of marriage, and at 5 ft 10 in and more than 13½ stone, I was the heaviest I’d ever been. Then in lockdown, I found I was eating rubbish such as biscuits and treating myself to a glass of wine or G&T most nights.
I’m a unit manager in an A&E department, and patients always bring us chocolates, so there was temptation all around.
My uniform was feeling very tight and I couldn’t do up my jeans. Restricting my diet to 800 calories a day was quite daunting. But remarkably I managed to stick to the plan, and continue to do so. I am a vegetarian and the meal plan had some lovely, tasty options.
I loved the way traditional meals were adapted, such as pasta being partially swapped with courgettes to bring down the carbs. And I would never have thought of using portobello mushrooms as a pizza base! Losing weight so rapidly has been a huge incentive — more than a stone already.
I really cut back on alcohol to maybe one drink a week, and eating only during an eight-hour window has helped me to avoid snacking in the evenings.
So far I’ve lost 1 st 4 lb. I am down to 12 st 5 lb and I am determined to lose another stone.
I’ve lost 7 cm (nearly 3 in) from my waist and am now a comfortable size 12 rather than a 14.
This really is a new beginning.
Dominic’s also delighted to have reduced his risk of developing type 2 diabetes after his initial blood glucose reading indicated he was borderline for prediabetes.
Almost all our volunteers have enjoyed more energy, improved mood and better sleep — some have even stopped snoring.
‘I feel fitter, healthier and that this is a chance to start again,’ says Lee Powell, whose wife Anna, 46, also lost a stone.
‘The diet came at just the right time for me. I’ve just had further hospital scans and they’ve confirmed that my liver is functioning normally again. I am thrilled.’
Our volunteers are typical of the population at large. Thanks to our grab-and-go lifestyles, which often features too many processed meals and sugary, starchy snacks, our waistlines have been expanding insidiously over recent decades.
Recent surveys suggest the average man in the UK weighs 13 st 5 lb, up from 12 st 6 lb in 1993; while women have put on 12 lb on average in that time — weighing 11 st 6 lb, up from 10 st 8 lb.
And as we get older, we tend to get fatter still, putting on a lot of weight as we enter middle age.
I put on around 2 st from my mid-20s to my mid 50s, which is fairly typical. It was only when I had my own wake-up call, in the form of a type 2 diabetes diagnosis in 2012, that I realised I had to act.
Carrying too much weight puts us at an increased risk of developing serious conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and ten types of cancer including bowel, breast, liver and pancreatic cancer.
Then this year came an added danger — if you catch coronavirus when you are obese or have raised blood sugar levels, you are much more likely to end up in intensive care with life- threatening complications.
To make matters worse, the pandemic hasn’t helped our waistlines. Father-of-four Stephen Brown, 43, general manager of a holiday park in Devon, summed up the experience of many when he said: ‘By the time lockdown ended, I was the heaviest I had ever been. I’d been furloughed from work, we were eating takeaways a couple of nights a week and having a couple of beers or glasses of wine a night.
‘I went up two sizes in my jeans and generally felt lethargic and out of breath. I also suffered a lot with flatulence and indigestion.’
I’m delighted to report that Stephen is now 2 st 1 lb lighter, no longer suffers from indigestion or anxiety and his wife Kelly, 46, who’s lost 2 st, tells me she’s over the moon he no longer snores.
Snoring loudly is a real warning sign that you may be overweight, particularly in men who tend to store excess weight around their necks, which constricts their airways. Before I slimmed down, I snored so loudly I could be heard all over the house.
Fortunately, weight loss really can put a stop to this, restoring marital harmony.
Stephen’s not alone in reporting that weight loss has also had another widely reported positive effect — dramatically lifting his mood and improving his sleep.
‘I feel so much more relaxed,’ he says. ‘I used to be quite an anxious person, waking in the middle of the night with my mind racing. Now I sleep like a baby.’
The Government recently launched a national crusade to create a slimmer, fitter Britain, partly inspired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s own serious battle with Covid, which he’s said to have attributed to being overweight .
Around 5,000 adults with type 2 diabetes are to be offered an 800-calorie ‘soup and shakes’ diet on the NHS. This is something I applaud: 800 calories a day is the basis for my own Fast 800 programme, which is currently helping 10,000 people to lose weight.
Why 800 calories? Because research shows this is enough to make sure you get the nutrients you need for optimal health and to stop you feeling constantly hungry, but low enough to ensure rapid, sustainable weight loss.
After nearly a decade of researching and writing about weight loss and diets, I am convinced the easiest, most effective way to reach and stick to a healthy weight is by starting on a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate regimen, before switching to intermittent fasting (the basis for my famous 5:2 diet) followed by a sustainable Mediterranean-style way of eating.
The health tests that show it’s good for you
Our volunteers took part in the Fast 800 online diet programme which involves recipes, advice, exercise plans and access to online coaching. They were also given Fast 800 shakes.
Before they began, they had comprehensive consultations and assessments with Bupa Health Clinics to check on blood pressure, diabetes risk, heart-rhythm screening, lipid profile (including cholesterol and triglycerides tests) and height, weight and body mass index.
Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, medical director of Bupa Health Clinics, says: ‘It is great to see the Mail volunteers have made such an improvement in their weight and health in just eight weeks.’
Visit bupa.co.uk to find out about their health assessments.
This approach was used as the basis for a recent study my GP wife Clare published with Professor Susan Jebb and researchers at Oxford University, in which overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes lost 1st 7lb (9.5 kg) and dramatically improved their blood sugar levels in just eight weeks, eating 800-1,000 calories a day of food (as opposed to soups and shakes).
Our Daily Mail volunteers are further proof that my Fast 800 approach works. While some were initially apprehensive about the concept of intermittent fasting, they embraced it, with most commenting approvingly on how easy it was to maintain.
As someone who’s been lucky enough to sample plenty of Clare’s cooking over the years, I wasn’t at all surprised to read their glowing reports about how straightforward, mouth-watering and satisfying her recipes are, not to mention easy on the wallet.
Rapid weight loss isn’t for everyone, but the great thing about the Fast 800 plan is that it’s very flexible, so you can tailor it to meet your own needs.
To help you start a new, healthier chapter in life, I’ve compiled this exclusive Shape Up Britain series, packed with meal suggestions, health advice and inspiring stories from our volunteers.
Starting in today’s Weekend magazine, we will be sharing tempting recipes for easy suppers and filling lunches — which we hope you will enjoy as much as our volunteers did.
And continuing all next week in the Mail, I’ll be offering more advice based on the latest research as well as our experience in helping people to lose weight, keep it off and transform their health.
Take it from Kelly Davis, a nurse from Devon who lost 2 st. ‘When the weight started falling off, it was better than any kind of sugar rush,’ she says. ‘It was literally like shedding my old life. I didn’t think it was possible — but it was.’
It’s never too late to start — and in just eight weeks from now you, too, could be enjoying a lighter, healthier life.
Additional reporting: Jill Foster and Angela Epstein
The Fast 800 Recipe Book: Low-carb, Mediterranean Style Recipes For Intermittent Fasting And Long-term Health by Dr Clare Bailey and Justine Pattison, foreword by Dr Michael Mosley (Short Books, £16.99).