Magazine editor Vicky Eldridge, 39, was a comfort eater who had been on every diet going. Then she tried new fasting-mimicking diet Prolon – where you eat food that provides the effects of fasting – and lost two dress sizes
I’ve always struggled with my weight since I was a teenager and was always a real emotional eater. I would try to diet and be healthy and then would end up comfort eating or binging and that kept me in a place where I fluctuated between being two to three stone over weight.
My portion control and food choices were not always the best either. If I could, I would eat bread, cheese, pasta and potatoes all day.
I am approaching 40 and had had enough of being unkind to my body with food. I stopped drinking alcohol three years ago, had started doing more fitness and wanted my body to reflect my new healthier lifestyle and mindset. I knew I needed to make some positive changes to my diet.
I tried all kinds of diets over the years from calorie restricting and low fat diets to the Atkins, Cambridge and South Beach diets, but I never really stuck to anything long term. I would start off feeling motivated and lose a few pounds and then pile it all back on.
I tried to diet but would end up comfort eating or binging which kept me fluctuating between two and three stone overweight
When I was offered the chance to be one of the first people in the UK to try out the new Fasting Mimicking Diet by ProLon, I was both excited and a little apprehensive.
ProLon is a five-day plan that mimics the effects of fasting on the body but let’s you actually eat. Low in calories, sugars, and protein but high in good fats, ProLon is a proprietary formulation of 100 per cent vegetable-based soups, energy bars, energy drinks, teas, and supplements.
Created by Dr Valter Longo, possibly the world’s foremost researcher on fasting and its effects on both weight loss and longevity, the aim of ProLon is to offer a practical, achievable and healthy way to gain the benefits of fasting, without totally giving up food. The mix of practicality and science behind ProLon appealed to the editor in me.
The new nutritechnology
ProLon fits into a new but rapidly developing field known as ‘nutritechnology’ that uses the growing understanding of the molecular connections between specific food components and the genes that regulate ageing and regeneration. It aims to develop ways food can be used to promote cellular changes that are safe but similar to those caused by medication to help hold back the ageing process.
I liked the fact that ProLon is not just about weight loss bit also about long term health benefits and longevity. The meals come in five small boxes (one for each day) and include plant-based energy bars, soups, a variety of snacks, drinks and supplements. You follow this for five days then eat a normal, balanced diet for a month before repeating it. Three cycles are initially recommended spaced a month apart, which I have done under the guidance of Nutritionist Kim Pearson. You can then do ProLon 2-3 times a year for ongoing health benefits and maintence.
‘This five day diet programme is the result of two decades of research and development by world- leading researchers in the field of nutrition and ageing,’ Kim says.
‘ProLon is an innovative, practical approach to gaining all of the benefits of fasting, without having to go without food. I’ve been fascinated by the research studies carried out by researchers at the University of Southern California demonstrating the positive impacts ProLon has on biological ageing and health risk factors.
‘ProLon been shown to help reduce blood sugar levels, systemic inflammation and dangerous visceral fat just to mention a few of its many benefits.’
Yes, you eat – but not much
Basically you get a box of mini-meals that make up everything you’re required to eat for the five days. Be a warned, there isn’t a lot to it. Three olives as a snack, a small bar for breakfast, a light soup for dinner.
It’s specifically designed to contain foods that do not trigger nutrient sensing pathways so you have to only eat what you’re given – the only thing you can add is black tea and coffee or herbal teas.
‘Nutrient sensing pathways are the body’s mechanisms for detecting when food has been consumed,’ says Kim. ‘When they are triggered the body will come out of a fasted state. ProLon has been specifically designed to contain foods that do not trigger these nutrient sensing pathways’.
The idea is that you do this five day fasting mimicking diet three times a year leaving at least 12 weeks in between each cycle, which means you’re only fasting for 15 days out of a year. It triggers weight loss so if you maintain a healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise, the healthy weight loss should continue.
How the fasting mimicking diet works
Some people have asked me why don’t you just stop eating for five days, but ProLon works for me because I couldn’t stick to something that involved no food at all.
The fasting mimicking diet provides the body with the necessary macro and micronutrients while keeping it in a fasting mode at the same time as activating stem cell-based regeneration in multiple organs and systems.
This basically means it allows participants to benefit from the positive effects of fasting while allowing them to consume food regularly and minimising side effects.
‘Fasting mimicking diets have been shown to induce autophagy – a process that helps to maintain healthy cellular function,’ says Kim. ‘During autophagy cells repair, regenerate and rid themselves of debris. Prolonged fasts also promote stem cell generation’.
The reality of being on a fasting mimicking diet
I’m not going to lie though, I found the first cycle of ProLon quite difficult and was hungry and thinking about food throughout the five days.
However, the fact that it was just five days and I could see weight dropping off me every day, kept me motivated. The first time I did it I lost seven pounds so my weight was going down daily.
It also became much easier each cycle I did. For me, day three was always the hardest on every cycle. I had low energy, felt really hungry and found it mentally challenging. I would definitely advise doing the fast during the week when you are busy with work and have distractions.
I did the first cycle from a Thursday to Monday because I had a weekend with no social plans and thought this would make it easier to stick to it if I didn’t have the temptation of being out with friends. But the addition of boredom made it even harder. I was just lying around at home watching movies and this meant I had plenty of time to think about how hungry I was.
The second and third time I did it from Monday to Friday and it was much easier when my day was full and I wasn’t thinking about food so much.
Don’t overdo exercise while fasting
I would also caution against strenuous exercise. Although I was advised not to, the first time I did ProLon I went to a spinning class and felt really faint during it. The next time I tried doing yoga but again I didn’t feel I had the energy to get through the class. I normally exercise regularly, I do three to four classes a week and also go running, so I thought I’d be ok, but in hindsight I would have been better not to try doing anything challenging during the fast – a walk in the park would have been better.
I also really struggled with the lack of coffee and I had a horrible caffeine withdrawal headache for the first two days. I used to drink between four and six cups a day but I cut it out completely during ProLon and now try to have no more than two a day.
‘Because coffee can interfere with the beneficial effects of the fast, it’s not recommended to be consumed with Prolon,’ says Kim. ‘However for those who cannot go without, coffee should be limited to one cup a day.’
Kim was on hand to offer support and encouragement, which really helped. I visited her in clinic for weigh ins and we spoke on the phone and messaged on WhatsApp. Kim had done the plan personally so she provided guidance based on her own experience as well as giving professional insight. Regularly checking in with her on my subsequent cycles meant that when I was tempted to give up, I had someone to encourage and motivate me.
In my first cycle I lost seven pounds. On the second I lost five pounds and on the third I lost three.
In between cycles I also worked with Kim following a nutrition plan she created for me that included plenty of fresh vegetables, sources or protein like eggs, organic chicken and fish, healthy fats and a little low sugar fruit. Kim’s plan was low in sugar and processed food and included no dairy. This meant that not only did I keep off the weight I’d lost on ProLon, I boosted my weight loss further.
I’ve lost 2 ½ stone in five months
I’ve lost 2 ½ stone in five months and have now maintained a healthy weight for the last six months. I even managed to get through a two week holiday in Mexico and Christmas maintaining my weight but still enjoying myself.
It helps that I don’t drink alcohol as often my bad food choices would be as a result of a hangover. This Christmas instead of making the whole of December an excuse to eat, I stuck to Kim’s plan right up until Christmas Eve, ate what I wanted until New Year’s Day and then went straight back on the plan. By the end of the first week of January my weight was the same as before Christmas. Usually I put on at least half a stone over Christmas.
‘Vicky worked hard to maintain and further her weight loss between cycles,’ says Kim. ‘She stuck closely to a balanced nutrition plan that I had created for her to follow in between her ProLon cycles. She also exercised regularly, and that seemed to be a winning combination for her.’
Shedding fat from the tummy area
I had my visceral fat [fat around the middle] and bloods measured after the first cycle. My visceral fat dropped from 121.8cm2 to 107.1cm in just five days. I hadn’t really thought about visceral fat. While I was slightly overweight I wasn’t obese and I was relatively fit and healthy otherwise so I was surprised that the first measurement of my visceral fat was on the borderline of being too high. Once I’d done ProLon it was perfectly in the healthy range which was a relief.
‘Fasting promotes fat loss throughout the body but research shows that it particularly targets visceral fat, the fat stored around our middle,’ says Kim. ‘We certainly saw this to be the case with Vicky.’
Better overall health too
My bloods also showed that every single marker had improved. Significantly, in just five days, somatomedin-C a marker for inflammation and IGF1 a growth factor had dropped from 18.1 nmol to 17.0 nmol. Low levels of IGF-1 are associated with a lower risk of diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
‘Fasting has been shown to reduce levels of IGF1 – this is believed to be because the body is not looking to encourage growth when in a fasted, self preserving state,’ asserts Kim.
My relationship with food has totally changed.
After doing ProLon I felt energized and it inspired me to really change the way I eat longer term. I now tend to make healthier choices on a daily basis because I want to keep off the weight I have lost. I’m cooking and preparing food to take with me to work and making meals from scratch every night at home. I have also found that doing ProLon and surviving on so little food highlighted the fact I could eat less so I now take more time over my meals and stop when I am full.
Long term changes in appetite
My relationship with food has totally changed. Through working with Kim I have learnt to be more mindful about what I eat especially when I’m feeling stressed. She’s encouraged me to realise that when I reach for sugar when I’m feeling overwhelmed I may get a momentary kick but then I end up feeling worse.
Having something that doesn’t play havoc with my blood sugar like a couple of squares of 100 per cent cocoa chocolate or some sliced apple with organic, sugar free, peanut butter is a much better choice.
It seems my appetite isn’t as big as it used to be now, which I’m chuffed about.
‘During a fast the body adapts to become used to smaller quantities of food,’ Kim Says. Often, those fasting find that they become more in tune with their body’s hunger signals. Many of us tend to eat regularly, regardless of whether or not we are actually hungry.
‘Fasting can remind us that a little hunger is perfectly normal. Many people who have undertaken a fast report that once they begin to reintroduce foods again, they are much more mindful of what they eat. Their awareness of how food affects them has often increased and it can trigger a desire to continue eating in a way that serves their body and mind.’
Reduction in bloating
My stomach has felt flatter and less bloated since doing ProLon too mainly because I’ve really cut down on the amount of carbohydrates I eat which make me bloated.
‘Undertaking a fasting mimicking diet can help to reduce bloating for a couple of different reasons,’ says Kim. ‘First, many foods that can commonly trigger bloating, such as wheat and dairy, are eliminated in an FMD. Secondly, overeating is a common cause of bloating meaning that the reduced portion sized are unlikely to trigger bloating due to eating large quantities of food.
Feeling better long-term
ProLon was definitely worth it for me. My advice to anyone considering it is to really stick to it and not deviate. It’s specifically designed to contain foods that do not trigger nutrient sensing pathways so even if you feel like one cup of tea won’t hurt, it will!!
I feel healthy and happy after doing ProLon. The most important thing for me when I started this journey was to be healthy and kind to myself after years of thinking I wasn’t good enough or being at odds with my body image.
I’ve dropped two dress sizes and I have had lots of compliments from friends, family and colleagues saying I look the best I have in years. After a decade of being slightly overweight I finally feel comfortable in my own skin and happy with my body. I didn’t want to be too skinny. I’m nearly 40 and being a size 10 and still having my curves means I feel confident.
The fasting mimicking diet: what you need to know
What is it? ProLon is a five-day plant-based meal programme that nourishes the body while convincing it that it is in full- on fasting mode. Known as a Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD), ProLon means that for the first time in history fasting with food is possible.
What’s the promise? As well as promoting weight loss ProLon also triggers biological processes that the body uses to protect and rejuvenate itself in response to five consecutive days of fasting.
Who created it? Developed by longevity expert Professor Valter Longo at the Longevity Institute of the University of Southern California (USC) and under the sponsorship of the National Institute for Aging and the National Institute of Health. Dr Longo is the author of recent book The Longevity Diet which explains the benefits and practice of fasting for weight loss and health.
Any celebs on it? No but there are plenty of documented celebs who fast including Hugh Jackman, Ben Affleck and Beyonce
What does the science say? ProLon is scientifically proven and clinically tested to mimic fasting and its benefits including cell regeneration, healthy aging, and fat driven weight loss.
How long do you do it for? Five days per month 2-3 times a year
Alcohol yes or no? Not during the five day fast. You simply eat and drink the food provided in your daily box. Any deviation from this may reduce the benefits of the fast.
What happens after the diet? On Day 6, after the ProLon diet ends, users should avoid binge eating and resume their normal diet gradually. They should start with liquid foods, such as soups and fruit juices, followed by light meals, including rice, pasta and small portions of meat, fish and/or legumes. A normal diet can be resumed on day 7, or 24 hours after the end of the ProLon diet.
What’s the cost? £225 for five days or three boxes for £600. One box contains everything you need to complete a full 5-day cycle of the Fasting Mimicking Diet. It’s available from prolon.co.uk
Pictures by Will Coddington