False fasting – Fasting without fasting in test with my results



A 5-day mock fasting cure is very popular. No wonder: it is supposed to offer all the advantages of classic therapeutic fasting – although there are three meals on the table every day. I dare to try it myself.


I like to eat, and I like to eat a lot. Actually, I don’t have a problem with that – better than joyless counting calories. However, I am increasingly noticing that this constant plus in food is not good for me: I often feel heavy after eating, and I have digestive problems on stressful days.


Especially if I eat sweets or dairy products in the evening, I am exhausted and look bloated in the morning. I’ve also gained several kilos over the past few years, and I’m now well above my feel-good weight.


I’m not the only one with that: On average, people in Germany eat too much and too much food and spread it out over around 15 hours a day.


As our ancestors had quite naturally, regular meal breaks – when they could not hunt game and find few berries and roots – are a rarity today. In addition, most of us do not move at least 150 minutes a week as recommended.


No wonder obesity, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases are now widespread. Modern eating habits have also been shown to promote inflammatory processes in the body, which can lead to cancer, depression, and much more in the long term. Not an appealing prospect.


False fasting, my personal experience, and review

Since it’s spring and I’m a big detox fan, I decide: I’m going to fast.


Smoothie Detox Challenge


However, classic therapeutic fasting is out of the question for me. As a mother of two small boys, I cannot pull myself out of my professional life and our everyday family life to the extent that would be necessary for the physically and mentally challenging fasting phase.


What exactly is sham fasting?

Fortunately, chance comes to my aid. While browsing Netflix, I came across an episode of the series “the goop lab with Gwyneth Paltrow” exploring the impact of diet on biological age.


The actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her colleagues are doing the self-experiment: They eat a certain way for a limited time (vegan, the Mediterranean with fish, fake fasting) and then test whether their biological age has changed.


the gooplab Gwyneth Paltrow


The sham fasting emerged as the clear winner: in just five days. I’m impressed – and want to know more.


Mock fasting is originally called “Fasting Mimicking Diet” (FMD) and was developed by cell biologist and age researcher Professor Valter Longo and his team at the University of Southern California. It is a purely plant-based diet that is very low in calories, protein, and carbohydrates but rich in unsaturated fatty acids.


Gwyneth Paltrow’s biological age was reduced by 1.7 years in 5 days!


Specifically, after a preparatory day of low-carb eating, three meals a day are eaten that total 1,000 to 1,100 calories on the first day and around 750 calories on the following four days. Carbohydrates are only available in vegetables, salads, mushrooms, and legumes. The protein content is reduced to about ten percent. The fats come from nuts, olives, and olive oil.


There is water and herbal teas to drink – caffeine junkies can drink one espresso a day in an emergency, but coffee withdrawal is recommended beforehand. The FMD can be done up to once a month.


Caution: Like all fasting cures, sham fasting is unsuitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women, very slim people, and those who suffer or have suffered from eating disorders. In addition, everyone with chronic and acute illnesses must clarify sham fasting with their doctors.


Longo developed FMD because he was fascinated by the far-reaching positive effects of classic therapeutic fasting. Fasting mice were healthier overall and lived longer, and they also survived cancer significantly more frequently. However, Longo also observed some negative effects of fasting:


  • Muscle mass was lost.
  • The immune system was weakened.
  • Fertility was impaired.
  • The body’s basal metabolic rate was reduced due to slowed metabolism (which can lead to weight gain after fasting).


I’m impressed – and want to know more.


That’s why he had the idea of ​​developing a diet that provides the body with sufficient nutrients and doesn’t shut down digestion but at the same time simulates a fasting phase.



The positive effects of mock fasting

The sham fasting developed by Longo does exactly that. By lowering the blood sugar and insulin levels and other chemical substances in the blood, the deficiency sensor AMPK is switched on. The result: the body switches to the fasting metabolism.


And this fasting metabolism has many advantages:


  • Weight loss: Due to the reduced food intake, the body attacks the fat reserves. Depending on the initial weight and normal eating habits, the scales can show up to 8 or 9 kilos less over five days. Most of it is water, which is quickly restored by the body. Two to three kilos of real weight loss are possible.
  • Autophagy: False fasting stimulates what is known as autophagy, which leads to cell rejuvenation. In this fascinating process, the body collects broken proteins, old cell material, and germs break them down into their components and uses the resulting amino and fatty acids and the remaining sugar as fuel to maintain cells. Detox and anti-aging by recycling “garbage” – is pretty awesome!
  • Improved blood values: Fasting has been proven to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, leukocyte counts, and inflammatory markers, insulin sensitivity normalizes, and blood pressure and heart rate are lowered.


Incidentally, these are not theoretical considerations: In 2017, Longo was able to prove in a study with 100 participants that his FMD had similar positive effects to pure water fasting – without the negative effects mentioned above.



Self-experiment: 5 days of fake fasting

That all sounds fantastic, I think. But as is well known, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so for the next five days, I will be doing a false fast.


If you want to do the original Valter Longo cure, you can order a box for 200 euros with three meals for each of the five days. Apart from the fact that I think it’s quite expensive, I remember that Gwyneth Paltrow didn’t find the packet soups, which make up the main part of the box alongside olives, nut bars, and nutritional supplements, unpalatable.


Since I also prefer to eat fresh meals, I decide to use the recipes from Zoe Bray-Cotton’s book “Five Days Only” to dispute. I don’t have to follow a fixed meal plan but can put together my three meals a day (two main meals from the breakfast and main meal recipes plus a snack) from the 42 purely plant-based recipes.


Fasting food Zucchini spaghetti


The day before: The nervousness increases

To be honest, I’m a bit jittery. Not only against classic fasting symptoms such as sleep and circulatory problems and detoxification symptoms such as headaches and bad breath. But also that I thoughtlessly take a pretzel piece from my son’s hand and put it in my mouth.


That I might be downright obnoxious. Or simply sit down in the park with a spaghetti ice cream on the second day and declare this stupid fasting story over.


The day goes completely differently than planned: I actually wanted to cook a healthy vegetable soup and go to yoga – a low-carbohydrate diet and exercise the day before accelerating the metabolic switch to fasting metabolism. Instead, a particularly nasty case of PMS forces me to bed.


When I get up at 5 p.m., I’m really hungry and devour a piece of coconut cake first. Oh well.


Incidentally, my husband (who loves burgers, pizza, and spaghetti Bolognese and likes to eat chips and chocolate until late at night in front of the TV) spontaneously decided to participate in the mock fasting. I’m curious to see how he will do with the vegan, reduced-calorie meals…


Day 1: Surprisingly large portions


The next morning I woke up very hungry. Maybe the coconut cake day in bed wasn’t as bad as preparation for the fake fast. As empty as my stomach feels, I should get into the fasting metabolism in a few hours – when you’re supposed to be no longer hungry.



During the morning, I keep noticing how often I think about food and how often I reach for little things and want to put them in my mouth or buy a snack somewhere. Even though I’m hardly hungry.


The zucchini spaghetti for lunch then tastes surprisingly delicious. In the afternoon, I am tired and yawn constantly. I’m considering whether I should drink the espresso allowed in an emergency. Since it’s very hard for me to fall asleep when I drink coffee in the afternoon, I refrain from doing it.


Shortly afterward, I’m fine again.


We shovel in a surprisingly generous portion of bean and cocktail tomato salad in the evening. Very tasty – and so much that we almost can’t make it. 1000 to 1100 calories are allowed on the first day, and the portions are correspondingly larger than on the remaining days. 


My husband checks the recipe again because he’s afraid he’s made a mistake with the quantities. But everything is true.



We go to bed early and sleep well.


Fasting without fasting day 2



Day 2: Stress is poison when fasting


Today, we are only allowed to eat 700 to 800 calories. That still sounds ok for a few days. However, a quick estimate of our normal meals shows that I eat around 3000 calories a day, and my husband, even closer to 3500. 


In the morning, I don’t feel hungry at all. However, I am very impatient with my children. Around ten o’clock, my stomach feels uncomfortably empty, and I eat my day snack – delicious raspberries with nuts. When my husband wants lunch at noon, I’m not hungry.


The oriental cauliflower and aubergine salad I eat at 2 p.m. easily last until dinner (celery fries with guacamole). Overall we feel fine throughout the day – except for slight detox headaches that ebb and flow.


What we do notice, however, is that we tolerate stress even worse than usual. If we have to do several things simultaneously, we immediately feel overwhelmed.



Day 3: Flatter fasting low

Since I have a longer appointment away from home in the morning and I can’t manage to eat anything beforehand, I drink an espresso – it curbs hunger and gets my circulation going.


My husband decides that he can no longer drink water and herbal tea and buys sugar-free soda. Although fasting experts do not recommend this, it has not been scientifically proven to damage the fasting effect. That’s enough for my husband’s approval.


Otherwise, it’s holding up surprisingly well. Yes, he even talks about wanting to eat healthier in the future. In this respect, sham fasting is already a complete success on the third day. In addition, my scale shows a good 2.5 kilos less.


However, as the day goes on, my mood drops. I’m feeling jittery, and my brain seems somewhat slower than usual. I think that’s called “brain fog” in English. When I pick up my older one from a birthday party, a father asks me where I left our little one – and I can’t answer him right away.


After a few seconds, I remember that he’s at my husband’s house, but it still shocks me to think about it.


A word about digestion: it can become unbalanced during sham fasting. 


My husband hasn’t had a bowel movement for two days. I, on the other hand, have diarrhea today. Maybe I can’t tolerate all the vegetables and the acidity that goes with them? Or does my intestine use the opportunity to clean up?


In the evening, there is still a broccoli soup scandal. My husband over-seasons the soup, so I wouldn’t say I like eating it. I almost start crying – I’m hungry! – and complain bitterly. My husband thinks that’s stupid and, thanks to his delicate nerves, pimps back.


The best way to avoid all the stress, especially in the beginning, is to add special detox smoothies. You can take this 1-minute quiz to see if smoothie detox can help you also.


Smoothie Detox Quiz


Luckily it occurs to me that we still have everything for the mushroom lamb’s lettuce. After I ate that, I felt better. Still, it’s all too much for me. As I lie in bed later, I have the feeling that my heart is beating far too fast. Maybe this fake fasting cure is more strenuous for my body than I think.


Day 4: Ketone Frustration and Yoga

When I kiss my husband in the morning, I notice his breath smells funny. Zoe Bray-Cotton writes in her book that this is a sign that the body is now in full fasting mode. We buy test strips in the pharmacy that can detect ketones in the urine (costs: around 8 USD for 50 strips). Ketones are the substances released by the liver when carbohydrates run out.


They ensure that we have less appetite, are more relaxed, and activate autophagy (see above), but they also protect cells from stress and reduce inflammation in the body. When we do the test, it turns out that my husband is full of ketones, while my urine only traces.


I’m offended – after all, it’s day four, and I’m fasting just as properly as my husband! 


In the afternoon, I worry about whether we are moving enough. Exercise is important during the fast to prevent muscle breakdown and stabilize circulation. But I don’t trust myself to do my regular 75-minute power yoga class in the yoga studio.


Zoe Bray-Cotton recommends going for walks in nature, but my everyday life doesn’t leave time. So first, I’ll try some of the yin yoga poses that she recommends for Day 4 in her video program and books. In the end, I practice this wonderfully gentle sequence by Zoe Bray-Cotton, which is good for me.


Special yoga program for fasting



Day 5: Final sprint

I wake up refreshed. My stomach may feel empty, and I get hunger pangs now and then, but overall I’m fine. Also, my ketosis strip this morning shows I’m high in ketones, hooray! So even though I’m fully fasting now, I don’t have any issues with bad breath.


This may be because I drink a lot – at least two liters of water or herbal tea per day is recommended during the fast to help the body detoxify. Especially sage tea and mint tea help against bad breath. Or maybe it’s because I always pull oil in the morning.


This Ayurvedic practice moves cooking oil or special mouth-pulling oil back and forth in your mouth for a few minutes and then spit it out (be sure to rinse your mouth out thoroughly and brush your teeth afterward) to support the body’s detoxification. I also use a tongue scraper to remove plaque from my tongue every time I brush my teeth.


Apart from that, it is clear that I will get the last day over with without any problems. Deep contentment spreads through me. I managed to fast for five days successfully. And that although I have never done any diet in my life and have never dared to fast. I am proud of myself.


Carbohydrate high food day 6


Day 6: Carbohydrate high

I did it! My husband and I have lost 10 pounds, and my stomach is flatter than it has been in months. My skin is exceptionally clear, and my body looks a lot fitter than usual – even though I’ve been moving a lot less than normal this week. All in all, I am very happy with the result of the five days of fake fasting.


For today, Professor Longo recommends eating a healthy, high-protein diet while also allowing carbohydrates in the form of pasta, rice, and potatoes. The day after the sham fast, the high-protein and high-carbohydrate diet are important to prevent muscle breakdown. 


While my husband makes a bulk purchase (he has very ambitious plans about what he wants to eat today). I look forward to the delicious ramen soup that we will get for lunch. And think about what insights the past few days have brought me.


I’ve realized how often in my normal day-to-day life, I mindlessly stuff things into my mouth – sometimes just because they’re lying around, usually because I have some uncomfortable feeling I want to push away. And I’ve found that if I allow those painful feelings and don’t act on them, they’ll go away on their own, and in an amazingly short amount of time.


Also, I was really surprised at how delicious I found the low-carb recipes.


How good food tastes when you’re really hungry! 


I intend to cook our favorite recipes regularly from now on, maybe with a little rice or potatoes. I also want to snack less and take at least a 14-hour break from eating between dinner and breakfast as often as possible. This ensures that the body regularly goes into a short fasting mode and addresses its fat reserves (see intermittent fasting ).


One thing is clear: This was not my last fake fast. I can well imagine that we will regularly fast for five days – to detoxify and regenerate, get healthily rid of excess pounds, or provide relief after a phase of too much (Christmas!).


Smoothie detox for fasting


Conclusion: Fake fasting is a hit


Fake fasting gets an (almost unreserved) recommendation from me. It is easy to implement in everyday life, has all the advantages of fasting without putting excessive strain on the body – and the meals that are allowed taste delicious and are surprisingly filling.


Personally, however, I would advise against sham fasting for anyone who operates heavy machinery or takes care of small children…


Full mental functionality is required for such responsible jobs, which can sometimes suffer during sham fasting. But everyone else can benefit from this everyday and low-threshold fasting method!


If you are looking for the best weight loss diet plan – I am reviewing and testing a new method of mixing 5 diets to supercharge weight loss in my article here.




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