We have every diet plan under the sun available - from the 5:2 to Blood Type to Paleo. But does any of us really know what to eat? Since the obesity crisis is still raging, it seems we are still far from finding the answer.
With that in mind, we have teamed up with rejuvenation experts Bodhimaya, a retreat company loved by Kate Moss, for a once-and-for-all, fad-free approach to eating, grounded in the latest nutrition science on anti-ageing and disease prevention. The Bodhimaya Method is designed to support the body’s healing and repair processes - that means better, younger looking skin, improved mental clarity and energy, health and longevity promotion and as a by-product, weight loss.
Bodhimaya, founded by brothers Daniel and Cornelius O'Shaughnessy (a meditation expert and nutritional therapist respectively), are known for their award-winning mind and body rejuvenation retreats - favourites with celebrities, burned-out professionals and people with health issues such as anxiety, depression, IBS or who are going through menopause. It's proving increasingly popular with the growing army of people - us included - who want a simple eating plan that cuts through the nutrition hype, fits in with our lives and keeps us healthy, alert and energized to do what we want in life (which doesn't include obsessing about food).
The four-week plan launches for the first time today with Get The Gloss and you'll find all the details below including links to recipes. Because it's buildable, you can do as much or as little as your lifestyle and willpower allow. It starts very simply with cutting out snacking for a week and ends in an optional weekend of juices, smoothies and soups.
At the heart of The Bodhimaya Method is ‘digestive rest’ or intermittent fasting (IF) – giving the body periods of time when it doesn’t have to deal with digestion and can turn its attention towards rejuvenation and repair. This is why not snacking is the first principle - in our culture of grazing, many of us don’t experience true digestive rest until we’re asleep.
Science is unearthing ever more about the positive impact that IF (popularised by diets such as the 5:2 or Fast Diet and the 8-Hour Diet) has on cardiovascular health, cell repair, oxidative stress as well as the genes involved in disease prevention and longevity (scroll down to the end of this article for the health benefits of fasting).
The Bodimaya Method uses the 16:8 principle - eating all your meals within an eight-hour window, making it one of the simplest fasting plans to follow (stay with us, we'll explain). "The key to The Bodhimaya Method is to let the body go without food in a safe, healthy and controlled way," explains Cornelius. "The main focus of the programme isn't weight loss, although it's certainly a positive side effect. What we are aiming to do is let the body go into a fasting state. Science shows that fasting causes a number of metabolic and genetic changes that are beneficial for the body, and going 16 hours without food allows us to reap the powerful benefits of these changes.”
Unlike the 5:2, the Bodhimaya Method doesn’t involve calorie counting in any way. It’s based on two golden ratios, which Daniel and Cornelius have identified as the most beneficial to wellbeing. They are 1:7:2 and 16:8.
The two golden ratios
This tells you what to eat in a day: 1 portion of carbs, 7 portions of fruit and vegetables and 2 portions of protein.
“We recommend a balanced carbohydrate and protein intake and an abundance of fruit and vegetables. This isn't an extreme diet. It may be different to what you're used to, but the science and the results we get from using it with clients shows us that these are the magic ratios," says Daniel.
This tells you when to eat.
“We build up to a daily 16-hour food-free period, which means eating all your meals within an eight-hour window. It's easier than it sounds, most of the fasting is done while you are asleep and you eat between 12 and 8pm or whichever eight hours in the day suit you," says Daniel.
Why are these ratios effective?
"The 16:8 ensures your body is going into repair mode and the 1:7:2 ensures that it is fuelled by all the nutrients it needs to repair itself, " says Cornelius. "This means you're eating the way you are meant to eat, which is helping you have the body (and the mind) you were meant to have."
If you want to take things further, there’s the option to add a weekend ‘fasts’ (which involve juices and a light soup) every six months (see 'Week 4' and 'Ongoing' below) or take part in a six-day Bodhimaya retreat in the UK or South of France.
The best part of The Bodhimaya Method is that it’s not bootcamp; going off plan is positively encouraged. “The Bodhimaya Method works best when approached with a relaxed attitude,” says Daniel. “Stick to the rules about 80 per cent of the time and you'll see a significant change in your physical and emotional wellbeing. Eating shouldn't be cerebral and we shouldn't become obsessed with it."
Daniel recommends doing the Method during the week and relaxing at the weekend, but continuing to avoid snacking and high sugar foods. “Relax your meals at the weekend and have a glass or two of wine if you want. Going off plan now and then keeps the body used to dealing with various foods, but if you do nothing else from The Method stick to the not snacking and not eating sugar if you can.”
"We see the best results in people that are more relaxed with The Bodhimaya Method," adds Cornelius. “They don't feel like they are depriving themselves and they aren't stressing or obsessing about following the recommendations."
The all-important stress detox
Stress management is the final tool in the Bodhimaya arsenal. Stress can have effects every bit as damaging to the body as bad diet. “It causes us to age, overeat, drink too much, retain weight and has been linked to the development or worsening of most health concerns,” warns Cornelius. He recommends five to 20 minutes meditation a day as a way of managing stress.
"When you meditate, all you need to do is focus on your breath. Don't try to stop thinking, clear your mind or even try to relax. Just sit and be, returning your focus to the breath whenever you're distracted."
Are you ready?
The Bodhimaya Method Four-Week Plan
From simply cutting out snacking to a more intense weekend rejuvenation fast, each layer of the Bodhimaya Method brings benefits. Each stage builds on the previous one and culminates in a weekend cleanse for those who want to really want to maximise the benefits.
Week 1 - Quit snacking
It's as simple as it sounds. Simply stop eating between meals. Carry on eating as you have been during meal times, but just cut out snacking (and that includes sugary milky coffees and fruit juices - drink water, tea or an Americano with a bit of milk). Make sure you have adequate protein in your meals (for portion guides see Week 2) as this will help you to feel full. Try to keep the meals as nutritious as possible by including vegetables and make sure that only a quarter of your plate is carbohydrate. Stop eating after dinner.
This phase of the Bodhimaya Method helps you to get used to gaps between meals. The body is given a well-earned break from food, which even on this scale, can begin to activate some of the benefits of fasting. You'll find that just from following this recommendation, you'll feel healthier, less bloated and have more energy.
Week Two - Clean up your meals with the 1:7:2 principle
Building on Week 1, continue with the no snacking but this time gradually eliminate foods which can have a negative impact on the body such as alcohol, caffeine, wheat and dairy. Sugar is the worst offender here - not just added sugars but foods high in naturally occurring sugars such as dates, honey, maple syrup and agave nectar. Start by eliminating the food that’s easiest for you to give up.
Use the 1:7:2 principle, detailed below, as your guide to what to eat throughout the day. For tasty meal ideas, check out the recipes on the Bodhimaya website.
1 portion of carbs a day: ideally eaten with your evening meal.
eg a handful of raw oats, 150g sweet potato/carrot/butternut squash/beetroot, 70g cooked brown rice or quinoa.
7 portions of fruit and veg a day: don’t max out on the fruit here. This means 5 vegetables and 2 fruit.
You can have unlimited amounts of five different above-ground veg such as spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, courgette, artichoke etc. Half an avocado counts as one of your five. Count below ground (root) veg and starchy veg such as butternut squash as one of the carb portions.
Of your two portions of fruit a day, ideally one being berries.
2 portions of protein a day: One portion equals 2 eggs, 1 standard salmon fillet (120g) or other fish, 120g chicken, turkey or steak 200g full fat yogurt 200g cooked chickpeas or other beans.
For dressings, use organic cold-pressed olive oil and apple cider vinegar and cook with coconut oil.
Withdrawal symptoms? Help is at hand...
Missing sugar? when the munchies strike, drink water or herbal tea (three litres max) or have one of the following: 1tsp of nut butter with handful of raspberries, 1 tsp cacao nibs, half an apple and nut butter, 2 tsp of stewed apple and cinnamon. Not that we’re advocating snacking, this is just to get you through clean-up week.
Coffee: if withdrawal is hitting you hard, try cacao nibs ground down in a Nutribullet and heated in a saucepan with cashew milk. It'll give you a boost and isn't as caffeinated as coffee. Green tea is also an alternative. Go easy on both though as they still contain caffeine.
Wheat: If it's a sandwich you're missing don't go for shop-bought gluten free bread - it's a highly processed, refined carbohydrate and full of preservatives. Take 10 minutes to bake the Bodhimaya bread . It’s quick, easy, lower in carbs, freezes well healthy and most importantly, tastes delicious (many people prefer it to normal bread) or have two brown rice cakes (Waitrose or Kallo) or gluten free oat cakes with your evening meal.
Dairy: Use almond or cashew milk and coconut yogurt. Make your own cashew milk by blitzing a handful of cashews and water with a tiny pinch of salt in your blender. If you are finding this week challenging, spend two weeks on this regime before moving on to phase three.
Week 3 - Eat within an eight-hour window with the 16:8 ratio
"This is where we really bring out the benefits of fasting," says Cornelius. Having cleaned up our diets and eliminated snacking, the next step is to eat within an eight-hour window ensuring 16 hours a day is spent without food. "This is much easier than it sounds as you'll sleep through most of it (the Bodhimaya Method recommends nine hours of sleep)."
Start eating at 12pm and stop eating by 8pm. Eat your 1:7:2 meals at 12pm, 3:30pm and 7:30pm.
The upshot is that you miss breakfast, which might take a couple of days to adjust to, but most people get used to it. "Gone are the days when breakfast was the most important meal," says Cornelius. You can, however, decide to eat breakfast at 8am and stop eating at 4pm if you prefer.
Sample one-day meal plan:
2 scrambled eggs and 100g spinach cooked in coconut oil
8tsp toasted hazelnuts with salad leaves, fennel and artichoke
Grilled salmon fillet, 130g vegetables, 50g quinoa
Week 4: Short rejuvenation fast
At this point, if you're feeling committed to the cause and enthused by the benefits you've already seen, you can build in the following rejuvenation cycles. These are short ‘fasts’ (where you have only juices, smoothies and soups) which greatly enhance the rejuvenating (and therefore anti-ageing) effects of this way of eating.
Give the digestive system a rest from Friday night to Monday morning by having a smoothie or juice for breakfast, lunch and in the afternoon (watch the natural sugar content in the smoothie – limit bananas, oranges, mango and pineapple) and nourishing soup for dinner.
Full details of the gentle weekend fast are available on the Bodhimaya website . It includes recipes for juices, smoothies and soups and help with planning your weekend.
Ongoing: Hopefully you will love the way you feel on The Bodhimaya Method that the concepts of 1:7:2 and 16:8 will be part of your everyday life (with that all-important treat time at weekend). Bodhimaya recommends every six months, to set aside three days (best done Friday night to Monday morning) for a short rejuvenation fast as above, with soups, smoothies and juice.
If you would like to fast for longer, which can be extremely beneficial, Bodhimaya recommends this only as part of a supervised programme such as their six-day retreat, which combines meditation and yoga with three days of bespoke juices and supplements. During nutritional workshops, you’ll learn healthy cooking skills to take back home (making sauerkraut, gluten-free bread, granola, healthy chocolate mousse among other things) and – importantly - a gentle reintroduction to food which will help you stay with your new eating habits long-term.
For a personalised eating plan (with optional genetic testing) book into the Bodhimaya Clinic on Harley Street or arrange a Skype consultation, or head to one of their retreats in the UK or South of France.
Contact them on www.bodhimaya.com 0207 205 4112 for mind and body rejuvenation consultations (prices from £160) in person or via Skype, genetic testing information on retreats in the UK and South of France.
Booking is open for the following 2017 retreats: UK January 19th-25th, March 17th-21st. South of France April 30th-6th May, September 24th-30th.
NB: Always consult with your doctor before making a change to your diet or embarking on a fast or cleanse, especially if you’re on medication, have a health condition or have any unusual symptoms. The Bodhimaya Method is designed to help you optimise your health. It should not be used to treat or cure any condition. Fasting isn’t suitable for anyone who is pregnant or has a history of eating disorder. Short rejuvenation fasts also need to be modified for anyone who is suffering from adrenal fatigue. If you’re highly stressed or suffering from exhaustion we recommend you speak to your doctor and book a consultation with Bodhimaya to see whether adrenal fatigue may be a problem for you and for help managing your stress more effectively.
The science bit: health benefits of intermittent fasting
• Activation of the genes involved in disease prevention and longevity
• Increase in the production of human growth hormone (the ‘repair and grow’ hormone which increases muscle, reduces fat, boost collagen, balances hormones and increases energy and libido) by up to five times.
• Induces ketosis - the process by which the body uses fat instead of glucose for energy.
• Induces ‘autophagy’ - the ‘empty trash’ process of our cells, cleaning out viruses, bacteria, damaged proteins. This cell repair process is anti-ageing and helps prevent illness
• Supports brain health
• Decreases insulin and boost metabolism to help maintain a healthy weight
• Reduces inflammation and oxidative stress both of which play a key role in the development of illness and disease.
• Supports cardiovascular health with a positive impact on blood pressure and HDL and LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers and blood sugar.
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