When I was a teenager, I kept a diary for a few months. I'd write down my deep thoughts and spill the beans about my latest heartbreak.
In hindsight, it was all a bit self-indulgent. I dug it out recently when a Radio 4 producer rang to ask me if I had kept a teenage diary and, if so, could they read out extracts from it on one of their comedy shows?
I thought about it for a few seconds, and then decided it was far too embarrassing. But I'm glad I wrote that diary, and I really enjoyed rereading it, because it was an honest account of what I was like at the time. Indeed, it made me sorry I stopped keeping a diary — so much so that I've now returned to doing so.
That's because when it comes to keeping a diary or journal there are lots of positives. It not only jogs the memory, but also helps you achieve your goals. Writing down what you hope to get done is a first step towards actually doing it. Writing down your goals signals to your brain: 'This is important.'
When I was a teenager, I kept a diary for a few months. I'd write down my deep thoughts and spill the beans about my latest heartbreak
With that in mind, my wife, Dr Clare Bailey, and I, decided to create our own Fast 800 Health Journal, launched exclusively in today's Daily Mail. It is an easy-to-use diary and food planner that helps even those most lacking in willpower to achieve their weight-loss goals. It makes our already hugely effective Fast 800 diet even more powerful.
There's a lot of scientific evidence showing that keeping a food journal can be a simple, yet highly successful, tool for helping you stick to a new diet — and keeping the weight off afterwards. Not only is it there to remind you of your goals, but it also acts as a gentle 'nudge' when you start to stray.
No matter how good your intentions are, it's all too easy to 'forget' about that extra cappuccino you grabbed on the way to work, or the slice of bread you had with your lunchtime soup — unless, of course, you've decided to write everything down.
Our journal also includes lots of tips on how to make this diet work for you — some gleaned from the rapidly growing Fast 800 community (find out more at thefast800.com).
Our journal also includes lots of tips on how to make this diet work for you — some gleaned from the rapidly growing Fast 800 community
Last year, I introduced Daily Mail readers to the Fast 800 Diet, which pulled together the most up-to-date research on the benefits of intermittent fasting — on which I based my original 5:2 diet — and included the option of a rapid weight-loss plan, in which you eat 800 calories every day to kick-start your regimen and reap many health benefits.
As well as rapid weight-loss, following the Fast 800 approach should help put type 2 diabetes into remission and reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases.
When I lost 9kg (nearly 20lb) on the 5:2 diet in 2012 I reversed my diabetes diagnosis and restored my blood sugar levels to normal, which they have remained ever since.
I'm regularly stopped in the street by people who say that the diet has changed their lives — like the driver of a coach I was travelling on, who grabbed me to say he'd been on insulin for 16 years until he started my diet. He had lost more than five stone and was now off all medication. It's simply amazing.
As well as rapid weight-loss, following the Fast 800 approach should help put type 2 diabetes into remission and reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases
Although the Fast 800 is a diet, I'm not obsessed about weight loss for the sake of it — more for the health benefits it can bring, such as fixing metabolic disorders including diabetes, and cutting your risk of dementia and depression.
Clare and I are keen to make the Fast 800 Diet as easy to stick to as possible — and we strongly believe our journal is another tool with which to do that. We know it works because Clare and I tested it out on lots of enthusiastic volunteers, and some of Clare's patients tried it. In testing it, we were able to refine what to include.
As well as helping people get organised with lists, plans and charts, it also offers inspiration, with brand new delicious Recipes of the Week — from tasty curries to baked mozzarella fritters — specially created by Clare and one of the UK's leading healthy-eating recipe writers, Justine Pattison.
IDENTIFY YOUR BAD HABITS
We hope to fire up your motivation with top tips and stories from real dieters, as well as help you identify bad habits and avoid tempting situations that could unintentionally scupper the best-laid weight-loss plan.
Perhaps you're not sleeping well or are stressed at work. The journal gives you space to analyse these parts of your life and, by encouraging you to make helpful lifestyle changes, will allow you to establish a positive cycle.
In many ways, our journal is the opposite of Instagram. You don't show off in a diary, you are yourself. You're confronting your reality — and that means your bad habits. This is the key to making your diet a success.
I would, of course, encourage you to take 'before' and 'after' pictures when you have reached your target weight, and share them widely. It is great to celebrate your achievements with others.
The journal gives you space to analyse these parts of your life and, by encouraging you to make helpful lifestyle changes, will allow you to establish a positive cycle
That said, the real secret to long-lasting success is addressing the underlying issues behind any weight gain.
As I previously mentioned, the power of keeping a food journal has been backed up again and again in scientific research.
For example, my son Jack, who is a doctor, did a research project with Professor Roy Taylor of Newcastle University — whose groundbreaking work first inspired me to create the Fast 800 — looking at the characteristics of successful dieters.
For Jack's Masters he interviewed dozens of people who had lost lots of weight through doing a rapid weight-loss diet. Many had kept the pounds off, but some hadn't.
As well as the support of friends and family, Jack found that regular self-monitoring and tracking daily activity was important for long-term success.
Keeping an honest record of the food you've consumed really does make isolating bad eating habits much easier. Occasionally, people come up to me and say: 'I'm following your diet, but I'm not losing weight'. To which I normally reply: 'I'm very sorry to hear that. Have you tried keeping a record of what you are eating?'
Because it really is impossible not to lose weight on an 800-calories-a-day diet.
BE HONEST ABOUT WHAT YOU EAT
If you are not losing weight then it's because you are not being totally honest about your food intake. A few years ago I was involved in an experiment with a young, overweight woman who claimed to be eating less than 1,400 calories a day.
With her consent we gave her a drink containing something called 'doubly labelled water'. This contains an element which allows scientists to accurately measure how many calories you are burning, and therefore how many you are really consuming.
The test revealed she was actually consuming more than twice her claimed 1,400 calories. No wonder she wasn't losing weight. An honest food journal can be a bit of a shocker at first, but it's the kind of shock you need if you're truly going to meet your weight-loss goals.
As well as that blast of honesty, keeping a journal will help you get organised — a vital ingredient in the success of any diet.
Maintain a full store-cupboard of practical, healthy cookery essentials, too
There's space for a weekly shopping list and an easy-to-use weekly meal planner that will help keep you on the straight and narrow. Spontaneity, after all, is a dieter's number-one enemy, as it opens the door to all sorts of bad food choices.
You might think all this planning sounds like hard work, but it's only encouraging you to behave as your canny grandmother might have done when doing her food shopping.
Buy items with a proper meal in mind, rather than just making random purchases which can only encourage snacking and mindless eating.
Maintain a full store-cupboard of practical, healthy cookery essentials, too.
When it comes to cooking at home, Clare does most of it, but I do a fair bit, too.
And while we cook in entirely different ways — Clare is fantastic at looking in the fridge and concocting a meal out of nothing, whereas I tend to follow recipes — we have one thing in common. Neither of us likes complicated recipes with lots of ingredients, or wants to spend hours in the kitchen cooking.
The Fast 800 recipes reflect the reality of a busy life, so if they work for us, they'll certainly work for you. If we can get this organised in the kitchen, anyone can.
This organisation can bring holistic benefits as well as practical ones. Honing all the details of your diet in the pages of our journal can lead to a real sense of resolution, and create the right headspace. Removing excessive choice takes away pressure, bringing inner peace.
Indeed, we found people appreciated anything that took decisions away from them. Not to mention the fact that when you have everything planned out, with targets set in stone, you can only feel a sense of achievement when meeting them.
ADMIT MOMENTS OF WEAKNESS
It's no coincidence that we ask you to monitor your mood daily as part of the journal. Bad food choices can often come as a direct result of bad moods.
Pinpointing your emotions can really help with this. People's poor eating habits can be very ingrained, after all. In contrast, eating healthy Mediterranean-style food, which this diet is based on, has been found to boost mood and motivation.
That said, though, we've found that within less than a week, most dieters feel much better than they did — and, vitally, they don't feel hungry. In a very short time you can reset your metabolism.
There are plenty of crazy diets out there. Clare recently saw one which advised people with a BMI over 40 to eat toast and jam as a snack before bed!
Such constant snacking is fatal. Indeed, this 'diet' advised three regular meals and three snacks a day. That's effectively six meals which is, to my mind, non-stop, all-day eating. With such a 'diet', you are never going to burn fat.
You can start doing TRE by simply having your evening meal a bit earlier and your breakfast a bit later
One of the other elements I introduced with the Fast 800 programme is Time Restricted Eating, or TRE. It involves eating all of your calories within a relatively narrow time window each day — usually one of ten to 12 hours.
This extends the length of your normal overnight fast (the time when you are asleep and not eating), and gives your body a vital opportunity to burn fat and do essential repairs.
You can start doing TRE by simply having your evening meal a bit earlier and your breakfast a bit later.
Once you've got used to this, you can move to the 14:10 (where you eat all your calories in a ten-hour window each day, such as 10am to 8pm, and fast for 14 hours) or even to the 16:8, favoured by Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman.
We've included a space in the journal to record your progress with TRE. It's a real booster for both your weight and health.
With our new journal, let us help you on the next step of your weight-loss journey. After all, the more mindful we are of our daily lives, the happier and healthier we can be.
n The Fast 800 Health Journal by Dr Clare Bailey and Dr Michael Mosley is published by Short Books at £9.99 © 2020 Dr Clare Bailey and Dr Michael Mosley. To buy a copy for £6.50 (35 per cent discount), go to mailshop. co.uk or call 01603 648155. Additional recipes from The Fast 800 by Dr Michael Mosley (Short Books, £8.99, offer price £5.50) and The Fast 800 Recipe Book by Dr Clare Bailey and Justine Pattison (Short Books, £16.99, offer price £10.50). Offer valid until March 3, 2020. P&P is free.