PHOTOGRAPHS – Fab Fernandez
STORY – Emily Rapp Black
I’ve tried almost every diet plan, juice fast, health “lifestyle,” and detox out there. I’ve downed superfoods in weird shake combinations for five days straight, eaten nothing but eggs and meat on Whole30, fueled with only soups for a week, restricted my “feeding window” to six hours, and tried (unsuccessfully) to give up wine with dinner. As we do each January, my husband and I committed to a 21-day regime of juices, salads, and general starvation. By day three, we were so delirious we stumbled to Whole Foods and devoured a piece of Chantilly cake with our bare hands. I’ve tried paleo, ketogenic, South Beach, and Atkins.
Each time I set high expectations, only to feel like a failure when the program’s restrictions became untenable. Sure, if I didn’t have books to write, students to teach, and a child to raise I could stay home all day listening to my stomach growl and meditating to get through it. But unless you have nothing to do but obsess about what you are (or aren’t) eating, none of these plans is sustainable, and most border on cultish. Throw a doughnut into any CrossFit gym where paleo aficionados work out and watch what happens.
Does staying fit and fabulous have to be so difficult and miserable?
According to Kelly Gray, former St. John model and co-owner of the fashion label and boutique Grayse in Palm Desert, it does not have to be such a struggle to feel hot in your summertime duds, and it can also be fun. Yes, you read correctly. Fasting can be fun.
Gray was coming off a breakup when she found herself 40 pounds heavier than usual. She struggled to shed the weight, and it affected not only her body but her mood as well. “I couldn’t foresee a shining future,” she shares. She reached out to her former trainer, Scott Jansen, and he told her he was about to launch a lifestyle program called Fast Eat Live. “I can knock this weight off you, no problem,” he promised. Gray was skeptical, but the more she learned about the science and history Jansen brings to his heavily researched and self-tested program, the more she was convinced. Five minutes into a conversation with Gray, I was also convinced, and I immediately emailed Jansen.
The method is simple, he explained. Day one is a fast or “reset” day (following the proven metabolic benefits of intermittent fasting). Days two and three utilize a combination of paleo and keto nutritional principles (think fat and protein, very low carb), and on days four to seven, you live, as in you can enjoy any food or drink you like in moderation. These aren’t “cheat” days; these are “living” days. Gray enjoyed the flexibility: She could be disciplined for three days and still enjoy tequila on the weekends without derailing her fitness goals. Jansen, a coach, trainer, and former professional athlete, tried this system himself, and it worked so well with his busy lifestyle (he and his wife, Becca, have three children) that he wanted to spread the love to his clients. It was such a hit, he says, “that some of them were angry that I hadn’t introduced them to the system before. But I told them I’d just figured it out myself!”
On trainer Scott Jansen’s lifestyle program, Kelly Gray, former St. John model and co-owner of Grayse in Palm Desert, says she can be disciplined for three days and then enjoy the weekend without compromising her health and fitness goals.
The best part for Kelly Gray? This “sequence of eating patterns” worked, and it worked quickly. “The weight was falling off,” Gray says. “I don’t count calories … and I never felt like I was being denied food.” Rather than focus on “losing weight,” Jansen flipped the script and told her, “You have a lot of extra stored energy.” Accessing these energy stores through an easy-to-follow program, Gray experienced the massive difference. Fasting, she says, “makes you feel powerful.” She revisited her love of dance, started jumping on her trampoline at five in the morning, and even found herself in the mosh pit once again. “I had forgotten there was a person who liked to dance in here,” she says. With a newfound confidence in body and mind, she is getting back in front of the camera again and plans to walk the runway next year.
I decided to try Jansen’s program. Could it be that a 24- to 36-hour fast could feel like “a party that no one wants to leave” as Gray described it? On day one, I felt totally supported by Scott and Becca, who provide delicious and easy recipes through the website Artful Palate, and I felt motivated. They texted me throughout my first fast day, and when I only made it to 18 hours, they applauded and reminded me: “Every week presents different challenges.” Encouraged, I realized on days two and three that I didn’t crave sugar as much as usual, I didn’t experience a midday crash, and I was (wait for it) not hungry. Plus, my clothes were fitting better and my stomach started to look the way it did before children. I never felt obsessed with food as I have had on other plans, and I never felt like I was losing my mind, or that I lacked willpower or was “messing up” by not following some restrictive plan to the letter.
The system is designed to build in logistical ease for busy people while contributing to what Jansen calls “metabolic flexibility,” in which your body burns fat as fuel without daylong workouts or hours of Olympic lifting. Fast Eat Live means that you can enjoy social activities and dinner parties. You don’t have to hole up in your house drinking kale concoctions for 21 days or be that person who asks for a grilled chicken breast while everyone else is downing carne asada. As Jansen explains, “Give me three days, and I’ll give you four.” Those three days of discipline also teach the body to listen to its true hunger cues without having to obsessively measure or weigh one’s food portions, which is a slippery slope to body obsession and skewed attitudes about food. Although most people fast on Mondays, you can adjust that day so that you’re not stuck at a gala fundraiser unable to eat the fancy appetizers or enjoy a glass of champagne.
The system is designed to build in logistical ease for busy people while contributing to what Scott Jansen calls “metabolic flexibility.”
With Jansen’s program, there’s no guilt or failure. When I text him, “I fell off the wagon!” he reminds me that in Fast Eat Live there is no wagon. Because of its flexibility, this is a lifestyle plan that doesn’t encourage food pathologies. Without the threat of failure, there’s less chance of odd follow-up behavior like bingeing or negative self-talk. This is a big mindset shift for me, and one I am learning to embrace. If the week doesn’t go as planned, you can add a reset (fast) day whenever you like. If you’re in for a more robust fast, you can do that, too. Jansen’s program incorporates principles from other proven nutritional plans that on their own are untenable in the long term.
As Kelly Gray, and now I, will attest, this is the kind of approach to a fit lifestyle that can keep you looking and feeling great without sacrificing joy in the other aspects of life that make it worth living: food, family, friendship, and a glass (or two) of wine with dinner.