Dr Michael Mosley's best diet and health tips, from fasting to sleep

The much-loved British TV presenter and health expert Michael Mosley tragically died on the Greek island of Symi last week after going for a walk in high temperatures. He was found after an intensive search, having seemingly fallen down a steep slope. Mosley was known for his health advice on dieting, sleep and exercise.

As well as a moving statement by his wife, Mosley’s death has sparked huge numbers of tributes from his fans. Ex-Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said Mosley helped him lose seven stone and regulate his type 2 diabetes. Others said Mosley’s advice had helped them to lower their cholesterol levels. Here are some of his most recognised contributions to health guidance.

The 5:2 Diet

Michael Mosley (Avalon/Channel 4/PA)
Michael Mosley (Avalon/Channel 4/PA)

Mosley popularised the 5:2 diet, which had been written about in a scientific paper, as well as in a 2012 documentary called Eat, Fast and Live Longer. It said sustained weight loss could be achieved by fasting for two days a week and eating normally for the other five. On the diet, two days a week are devoted to eating around 500 to 600 calories, about a quarter of the normal intake. Mosley then co-wrote The Fast Diet in 2013, with writer Mimi Spencer, which has sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

The diet had several famous fans: the then Chancellor George Osborne lost two stone, on the advice of his aide Thea Rogers – who later became his wife. Benedict Cumberbatch also took up the 5:2 diet to slim down for his role in the BBC series Sherlock. The scientific basis for the diet was somewhat contested, but many said that it had helped them, while Mosley said he got interested in dieting to combat his own type 2 diabetes. Mosley explained that he was “more 6:1” in his dietary habits, and enjoyed alcohol and chocolate.

However, Mosley said he tries to “minimise the amount of booze I drink” by alternating a glass of water for every glass of alcohol. He also suggested going on a “brisk walk” after a big meal such as Christmas dinner to help “divert some of that fat and sugar from my blood into my muscles, where it can be safely burnt off”.

The Fast 800 diet

In recent years, Mosley championed the Fast 800 diet. It’s stricter than 5:2, encouraging adherents to eat only 800 calories per day for a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of twelve weeks, which is said to spark fast weight loss. Carbohydrates are then slowly reintroduced, before users embark on a more permanent “moderately low-carb [and] Mediterranean-style” diet.

Mosley’s three-part series for Channel 4, Lose a Stone in 21 Days (2020), was criticised by the eating disorder charity Beat for promoting extreme weight loss and crash dieting. However, many disagreed and jumped to his defence, saying the diet helped them feel more healthy. Emma Waring, Editorial Director of Moonflower Books, on social media after his death that Mosley’s Fast 800 recipes helped her lose over six and a half stone and “taught me how to eat in a way that allowed me to lose weight while still enjoying satisfying and delicious food.”

Sleep tricks

Michael Mosley spoke openly about his struggles with insomnia. He made a Radio 4 podcast series Sleep Well to help people with drifting off, sharing five tips. These included slow breathing, taking a warm shower, and bathing in the morning light when you wake up, which helps set the body clock. He also suggested not lying in bed and struggling to sleep, but getting up instead, as well as not putting pressure on yourself to get eight hours, and instead listening to your body.


Mosley was interested in exercise too, creating a documentary called The Truth About Exercise in 2012 which explored whether there were any benefits to intensely working out for just three minutes a week. He found that his insulin sensitivity improved, but his aerobic fitness had not: which advocates argued was because he was a non-responder.

Mosley explored how different people benefit from different types of exercise, which can just be walking or even fidgeting. Not long before his death, Mosley offered five tips for boosting wellbeing, and included Nordic walking – a moderate exercise using walking sticks. His other tips were eating flaxseeds, helping others, playing an instrument and reading poetry aloud.

He used himself as a guinea pig

Michael Mosley has gone missing (Nathan Williams/BBC/PA) (PA Media)
Michael Mosley has gone missing (Nathan Williams/BBC/PA) (PA Media)

Mosley first worked as a banker, before training as a doctor and then joining the BBC as a producer. In one of the first TV shows he made, Mosley featured Dr Barry Marshall, who had given himself with a stomach ulcer to prove they were caused by an infection rather than stress, thus changing the way people thought about the disease.

When he later became a presenter, Mosley often used stunts himself. They included ingesting tapeworms for the BBC4 documentary Infested!, eating a black pudding made with his own blood for The Wonderful World of Blood, and injecting himself with snake venom and swallowing a camera for Inside the Human Body, leading to rare footage of the inner workings of his organs.

Lifestyle tips

As a newspaper columnist and BBC presenter, Michael Mosley would often make suggestions to readers and listeners about to improve their lives. As such, he wrote about how to remember names by visualising them. “If I meet someone called ‘Ben’ I might imagine a huge clock (Big Ben), on his forehead to help me recall his name” he wrote. He also told readers that eating an egg (which is full of protein) rather than cereal for breakfast would build muscle.

In his presenting work, Mosley tried out different pastimes and explored their value. He advised on the benefits of swimming, which builds a range of muscles while being gentle on the joints. Similarly, he praised the Chinese martial art Tai Chi, saying it was healthy for the heart, can boost immunity, as well as improve brain function. Throughout, Mosley hoped to entertain the public, as well as push the boundaries of knowledge about healthier living.