DR MICHAEL MOSLEY: Food to improve your mood… and boost your energy!

People often stop me in the street to tell me how good they feel after shedding weight on my Fast 800 programme.

As well as looking slimmer and seeing big improvements in blood pressure and blood sugars, they are delighted to discover they have fresh reserves of energy and a new zest for living.

Often this comes as something of a surprise to them — they’ve been so used to feeling permanently exhausted and sleeping badly on a regimen of ready-meals, constant snacks and little or no exercise that they’ve actually forgotten how life used to be when they were lighter and fitter.

But hearing about people joining exercise groups — or being able to play with their children or grandchildren — is music to my ears because ultimately the goal of a good weight-loss programme is to enable you to enjoy better health and quality of life than before.

They’ve been so used to feeling permanently exhausted and sleeping badly on a regimen of ready-meals, constant snacks and little or no exercise that they’ve actually forgotten how life used to be when they were lighter and fitter (file photo)

So I was very pleased to learn that Kerry Moxon, a 41-year-old administrator from Sheffield, had enthusiastically taken up spinning classes after losing 2 st 2 lb in eight weeks on the Shape Up Britain challenge.

The fast 800 challenge 

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 to complement the recipes.

To reap the best health benefits, you need to keep up your healthy habits

To reap the best health benefits, you need to keep up your healthy habits

Before they began, they were given comprehensive consultations and assessments at Bupa Health Clinics to check measurements including blood pressure, diabetes risk (calculated using several factors including HbA1c blood tests), heart rhythm screening, lipid profile, weight and body mass index. They were then re-assessed after eight weeks. Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, medical director of Bupa Health Clinics, says: ‘It is great to see that the Daily Mail volunteers have been able to make such an improvement in just eight weeks.’

But he emphasises this is just the beginning — to reap the best health benefits, you need to keep up your healthy habits.

Visit thefast800.com for the online programme. For more information on the health assessments, go to bupa.co.uk

Kerry freely admits the weight ‘piled on’ — three stone to be precise — when her gym closed and she found herself ‘living off toast’ during lockdown.

‘I’d tried to lose weight on my own but it wasn’t shifting. My knees were clicking, my blood pressure was a bit raised and when I saw the number on the scales I thought: “How have I let myself get to this point?”’

Just eight weeks later, it’s a different story. ‘I’ve got so much more energy now and, with the gym reopened, I’ve got something of a spin class addiction. I’m doing ten classes a week, but I love it!’ she enthused.

The coronavirus pandemic has proved a wake-up call for anyone who’s carrying too much weight, and that’s most of us: 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.

On top of that, more and more research is now pointing towards the increased risks of developing other serious chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and dementia if you have a bulging waistline. This is alarming, but don’t despair. As we’ve been revealing all this week, it is possible to reverse all this within a matter of just weeks, as our unique experiment has shown.

It was with this in mind that I joined forces with the Daily Mail to devise our special Shape Up Britain challenge with the help of my wife Dr Clare Bailey, a GP and best-selling food writer.

We’ve put together a special series, which we’ve been sharing all this week, full of tasty low-carb, low-calorie recipes and advice based on the robust science behind our Fast 800 diet.

To show you what could be achieved, we recruited the help of normal people, all of them carrying too much weight and all wanting to change.

Thirteen people who live on the same street in Chudleigh, Devon, and 17 members of a Facebook friendship group based in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, stepped forward to see how much weight they could lose in just eight weeks, and what other health benefits they would reap.

Their weight loss has been most impressive: the two groups lost 39 st 8 lb between them, with 23 individuals losing more than a stone each.

But even more brilliant to see is the exciting impact losing weight has had on other areas of their lives.

All our volunteers were given detailed assessments before they started with Bupa Health Clinics to ensure they were suitable candidates and to unearth any health issues. These were then repeated after eight weeks.

There were reports of reduced blood pressure readings, improved cholesterol levels, lower blood sugar levels and reduced joint pain as well as other health benefits besides.

It’s fair to say that many found it quite an adjustment to swap their old habits for a new regimen, particularly if they’d been eating a lot of processed food high in sugar or starchy carbs. ‘I was shattered for the first week, but my energy levels soon returned,’ was how Kerry summed up her transition to low-carb eating.

Secrets to our shape up Britain success

Our 30 volunteers lost 39 st 8 lb over eight weeks. Here’s how you can emulate them:

  • Use cinnamon instead of sugar as a sweetener — sprinkle it over yoghurt, for instance.
  • Drink fizzy water and herbal tea to stave off hunger pangs. 
  • Keep your hands busy if you get hungry — take up a new hobby whether it’s knitting or gardening.  
  • Enjoy pudding? Save your ‘breakfast’ until after your main meal in the evening. 
  • Find an exercise you love such as a spin class or a dance video on YouTube and download an exercise or steps app to see how much exercise you’re doing, then try to beat the total.
  • Join a Facebook or WhatsApp group to share tips and motivation.
  • Plan, plan, plan ahead — it makes all the difference if you have a lunch or breakfast you can simply grab from the fridge. 

‘The first four days were tough,’ agrees 35-year-old Victoria Bateman, who lives in Chudleigh and works in hospitality and often grabbed ‘something unhealthy’ for supper.

But she persevered on our Fast 800 programme, inspired by the simplicity of the recipes to lose 2 st 1 lb.

‘The tomato and cannelloni bean soup was so simple but so filling and satisfying. I’d often take it to work for lunch. By day ten, I found I’d adapted. I was less tired and sleeping better,’ she says. ‘With a stone off, I’ve got so much more energy,’ agrees Carly Murphy, a 32-year-old party planner from Rotherham who lost a stone.

There are good reasons for this. Our typically busy lives mean we often grab snacks, sandwiches and ready-meals rather than cooking from scratch, and these tend to be full of sugars and starchy carbohydrates that cause blood sugar levels to spike.

Because high levels of sugar in the blood are toxic, our bodies respond to the excess glucose by producing lots of the hormone insulin. This makes your body store that excess energy around your waist in the form of fat.

But the surge in insulin, required to rapidly bring down your blood sugar levels, also has the side-effect of producing an energy slump, which is why many people feel tired in the middle of the afternoon, particularly if they’ve had a high-carb lunch.

The Fast 800 diet, however, with its focus on Mediterranean-style ingredients such as fish, good fats, nuts, legumes and plenty of fruit and vegetables, ensures you don’t get such big blood sugar spikes. So shedding an unwanted spare tyre is only the beginning of the many positive health benefits you can expect if you join our Shape Up Britain challenge.

To inspire you further, today we’re sharing some more delicious Mediterranean-style, low-carb recipes created by my GP wife Clare from the wide selection that our volunteers enjoyed.

Soup was a particular favourite with our volunteers, even with those who didn’t regard themselves as soup fans. It’s easy to make and store.

There are so many different flavours you can experiment with, and it’s also surprisingly satisfying.

Ring the changes with the fennel and butterbean soup featured here. Another autumn favourite is pumpkin and pancetta soup (see thefast800.com for this and more recipes).

All have been carefully calculated to give you all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need for optimum health and keep you feeling full and satisfied. As someone who’s been lucky enough to sample plenty of Clare’s cooking over the years, I know you’ll enjoy them.

Start on our Shape Up Britain challenge today and in just eight weeks’ time you, too, could be lighter and have more energy than you’ve had for years.

  • NOTE: The Fast 800 is only suitable for those who are overweight or obese. If you have any health concerns or you are taking medication, speak to your GP before embarking on the plan. 

 Apple, Pear and Hazelnut Yoghurt

Apple, Pear and Hazelnut Yoghurt

Apple, Pear and Hazelnut Yoghurt

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: nil

Serves 1

  • 1 pear, sliced
  • 10 g hazelnuts
  • 100 g plain full-fat Greek yoghurt
  • 1 apple, sliced  

Place yoghurt in a bowl and top with sliced fruit and hazelnuts.

Calories per serving: 287 

Green Brekkie Bowl

Green Brekkie Bowl

Green Brekkie Bowl

Prep time: 15 minutes 

Cook time: 20 minutes  

Serves 1

  • ½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 70 g kale, de-stemmed and shredded
  • ½ courgette (approx 75 g), chopped
  • 50 g button mushrooms, sliced
  • 50 g spinach leaves 
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar 
  • ½ avocado, mashed 

Place a large frying pan over medium heat and add the olive oil, paprika, kale and courgette.

Cook for approximately 7 minutes, or until the kale turns soft, you may need to add a splash of water to help this along. Now add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes.

Finally, add the spinach, turn off the heat and stir through. To poach the eggs, add water and vinegar to a large saucepan until 8 cm deep. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Crack an egg into a small bowl. Using a large spoon, gently stir the water in a circular motion to create a whirlpool. This will draw the egg into the centre of the saucepan. Carefully slide the egg into the water.

Cook for 3 minutes for a soft yolk, or 4 minutes for a firm yolk. Using a slotted spoon, remove the egg from the water. Repeat with the other egg.

Place the wilted greens into a large bowl, add the avocado and top with the poached eggs. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.

Calories per serving: 343 

Greek Yoghurt and Dill Chicken with Greens

Greek Yoghurt and Dill Chicken with Greens

Greek Yoghurt and Dill Chicken with Greens

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 13 minutes 

Serves 2

  • 80 g plain full-fat Greek yoghurt
  • Fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed  
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 360 g skinless chicken breast
  • 150 g green beans, washed and trimmed
  • 1 bunch tenderstem broccoli

In a large bowl, combine the yoghurt, dill, garlic, juice of ½ the lemon and 2 tsp of olive oil. Whisk together, cover and refrigerate.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the chicken for approximately 15 minutes, or until browned and cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside — cover with tin foil to keep warm.

Steam the beans and tenderstem broccoli over a pan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes, until tender. Drain.

Cut the chicken into strips, divide between two plates with the beans and tenderstem broccoli. Drizzle the yoghurt mixture over, season with salt and pepper. Squeeze over remaining lemon juice and enjoy.

COOK’S TIP: Cooking for family? Serve with brown rice, lentils or a slice of seeded bread for those with no weight to lose.

Calories per serving: 339 

Mushroom Stroganoff with Greens

Mushroom Stroganoff with Greens

Mushroom Stroganoff with Greens

Prep time: 8 minutes

Cook time: 18 minutes

Serves 2 

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced 
  • 2 tsp ground paprika 
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced 
  • 350 g button mushrooms, sliced 
  • 150 ml vegetable stock 
  • 3 tsp Worcestershire sauce 
  • 150 g broad beans
  • ¼ cauliflower (approx 200 g), cut into florets 
  • ½ head broccoli (approx 150 g), cut into florets 
  • 45 g plain full-fat Greek yoghurt 
  • 50 g alfalfa sprouts 

Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the paprika and garlic and cook for a further minute. 

Add the mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes. Pour in the stock and Worcestershire sauce, bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, steam the broad beans, cauliflower and broccoli for 5-6 minutes, until tender. Take the mushrooms off the heat and stir in the yoghurt.

Season to taste. Divide the stroganoff with the steamed vegetables and alfalfa sprouts between two plates.

Calories per serving: 361 

Asparagus Salad with Egg

Asparagus Salad with Egg

Asparagus Salad with Egg

Prep time: 5 minutes 

Cook time: 10 minutes 

Serves 1 

  • ¼ lemon, juice only
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 6 asparagus spears 
  • 60 g cherry tomatoes, halved 

In a blender, combine the lemon juice with spring onion, capers and garlic, and blend until almost smooth. While still blending, gradually add olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of water to help with the blending if there’s not enough liquid.

Hard boil the eggs. To do this, half fill a saucepan with water (ensure you have enough water to cover the eggs) and bring to boil. Once the water is boiling, gently, lower in the eggs and boil for 7 minutes.

Remove the eggs from the boiling water and immediately place them into a bowl of cold water. Peel and halve the eggs — season with salt and pepper.

In a serving bowl, mix tomatoes into the asparagus and arrange eggs on top. 

Top with the dressing and season with salt and pepper.

Calories per serving: 251 

Protein-packed Salad

Protein-packed Salad

Protein-packed Salad

Prep time: 10 minutes 

Cook time: Nil  

Serves 2

  • ½ x 400 g tin red kidney beans
  • ½ x 400 g tin brown lentils
  • 30 g rocket
  • 2 tbsp capers, and ½ tsp caper brine
  • 1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • ½ tbsp tahini
  • ½ tbsp tamari sauce
  • ½ tbsp apple cider vinegar

To make the salad, drain the lentils and kidney beans and split across two bowls with the rocket leaves and capers. 

For the dressing, mix the caper brine, peanut butter, tahini, tamari sauce and apple cider vinegar together in a bowl. Add a splash of water if it needs loosening. 

To serve, pour half the dressing over each bowl of salad.

Calories per serving: 222

Fennel and Butterbean Soup

Fennel and Butterbean Soup

Fennel and Butterbean Soup

Prep time: 12 minutes 

Cook time: 25 minutes 

Serves 2

  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped  
  • ½ onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 courgette (approx 150 g), chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
  • 600 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 x 400 g tin butter beans, rinsed and drained 

Saute fennel, carrot, onion, courgette and garlic in a large saucepan with a splash of water until the onion has softened.

Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the butter beans and stir until warmed through.

Using a hand blender or food processor, blend until the soup becomes smooth. Divide in two and serve. Season to taste.

Calories per serving: 218

Fasting has given me MORE energy 

I want to be in good shape at 40

Chris Hall, 39, is a company director from Sheffield and is married to Sarah, with whom he has three children, Taylor-Jo, 19, Louis, 15, and Alfie-Bear, 12. He says:

As I run a kids’ football team I’ve always been active, but years of eating rubbish had seen the pounds creep on. I had been suffering from a bad back and my knees were starting to hurt, too. So when a friend put me forward for the Shape Up Britain challenge I thought: ‘Why not?’

I’m turning 40 in a few weeks and I want to start my new decade afresh.

Craig Hall before starting Fast 800

Craig Hall after Fast 800

Chris Hall, 39, is a company director from Sheffield and is married to Sarah, with whom he has three children, Taylor-Jo, 19, Louis, 15, and Alfie-Bear, 12

Craig Hall 

Before weight 15 st 10 lb
After14 st 1 lb
Total weight loss 1 st 9 lb 
Height 5 ft 8 in 
BMI before 33.3 
BMI after 29.8 
Waist before 36 in 
Waist after 34 in 

The key to weight loss has been the fasting for 16 hours a day. I’m not a breakfast person so it was easy for me to skip that and have lunch.

I’ve been using the Fast 800 recipe book more than the online plan and have rediscovered my love of cooking.

Before starting this diet, I realised we were relying too much on convenience food. But now I like cooking meals such as Sunday lunch with plenty of veg and or Parmesan chicken. I’ll even have some of the leftovers for lunch the next day.

If I have a craving about 9pm, I’ll have some green tea and I’ve even been able to treat myself to the odd takeaway or a couple of pints of beer, and the weight has still come off.

My wife Sarah has been enjoying the meals with me and she’s lost 8lb, too. I’ve found I am moving around more easily. My knees and back are much better. The weight was all around my stomach and it’s disappeared.

I want to get down to 13 st and I think it will be easy to stick to this way of eating for the rest of my life.

My uniform fits again

Kelly Davis, 41, a community children’s nurse, is married to Stephen. The couple have two sons, Finley, 17, and Cameron, 15, and live in Chudleigh, Devon. She says:  

Whenever I have tried dieting in the past, the weight would just go back on again. So much so that I’d given up.

Kelly Davis before starting Fast 800

Kelly Davis after Fast 800

Kelly Davis, 41, a community children’s nurse, is married to Stephen. The couple have two sons, Finley, 17, and Cameron, 15, and live in Chudleigh, Devon

Kelly Davis 

Before weight 15 st 3 lb
After13 st 3 lb
Total weight loss 2 st 
BMI before 40.2 
BMI after 34.9
Dress size before 18 
Dress size after 14 
Waist before 41 in 
Waist after 38 in 

As a result, I was feeling low and not good about myself. I wouldn’t get on the scales so when I started the Fast 800 plan and found I was the heaviest I’ve ever been, I was horrified.

But it wasn’t really surprising because I was comfort-eating and that left me feeling sluggish so I didn’t do much exercise. My work uniform was tight and when I caught myself in the mirror, I looked lousy.

This has been an amazing opportunity to stop bad habits. For me, it wasn’t a diet so much as a different way of life and one I could incorporate with family meals for the boys. I’ve loved the sheer choice of dishes such as the garlic prawns, and the pesto cod. It’s all so tasty!

It was a challenge at the start. The first week I had headaches and no energy. But after giving up sugar, I expected this would happen. But when the weight started falling off, it was better than any kind of sugar rush.

Within the first week, I’d lost 10 lb and I was a stone lighter within three weeks. It was like shedding my old life. In fact, someone at work the other day said I was glowing.

Obviously, the diet and weight loss has played a key part in that, but so has taking up mindfulness and exercising again. I love skipping and doing the HIIT exercises from the Fast 800 online programme. Now my clothes fit so much better and I feel less bloated.

Best of all, I feel happier, which means everyone in the house is happier. That’s why I’m going to stick with this. It has literally been a revelation.

Endorphin rush beats a sugar high 

As our volunteers discovered, the Fast 800 plan has another commonly reported benefit — a more positive outlook on life.

‘I’ve found my mood has improved,’ says mother-of-one Victoria Bateman, 35, who works in hospitality management and lives in Chudleigh, Devon, with husband Kieron.

‘I have taken antidepressants in the past so can be prone to feeling low. I’m not on medication at the moment, but can sometimes feel a bit down.

‘But I haven’t felt at all like this since starting the diet. I do wonder if that has played a part.’

Victoria is right: there is good evidence a Mediterranean diet will improve your mood.

That’s probably because the fibre and other nutrients ‘feed’ the good bacteria in your gut, which in turn produce chemicals that dampen inflammation throughout the body, including the brain. And that helps reduce depression and anxiety.

In other words, eating certain fruit and vegetables — including onions, berries and leeks — can have a direct, positive effect on mood and mental wellbeing.

‘I find myself feeling so much more relaxed,’ says Stephen Brown, the 43-year-old manager of a holiday park in Devon who lost 2 st 1 lb. ‘I used to be quite an anxious person, waking up in the middle of the night with my mind teeming with what I had to do the following day. Now I sleep like a baby.’

Another big benefit is once you start losing weight, you’re more inclined to exercise simply because it isn’t such hard work.

This was true for civil servant Joanna Brown, 41, from Sheffield, who lost 1 st 8 lb. ‘I’ve had a personal trainer for a while and I’ve noticed the exercises are getting easier. I feel much lighter when I am moving,’ she says.  

  • Recipes taken from thefast800.com online programme followed by our volunteers. The Fast 800 Recipe Book: Low-carb, Mediterranean style recipes for intermittent fasting and longterm health by Dr Clare Bailey and Justine Pattison, foreword by Dr Michael Mosley (Short Books, £16.99)

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