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In-Depth Interview

Shayan Italia is the creator of START Wellness, an Intermittent Fasting app that is endorsed by doctors, fitness experts and cellular dieticians across India. While the app has some never-been-seen features, Shayan’s journey from music to wellness to intermittent fasting and finally START is far more interesting. Here at Krunch, we dive in to what makes his story unique and explore some key insights into both intermittent fasting and the START Wellness app.

1. You lost your Mum and Dad at a young age. And your journey started in music. From Hyderabad to London to Mumbai, help us set the stage for our readers:

I was born in Hyderabad and grew up to a Zoroastrian Parsi family. My two consistencies in life over the years have been music and wellness. You see, I unexpectedly started writing songs after losing my Mum at a young age. She gifted me a piano before she died which she never lived to see me play. My song catalogue has grown to over 100 songs with me releasing songs for the very first time in 2021. My Mum was a massive reader and an incredible jigsaw puzzler (100,000 piece puzzles!). She also read a book a day. My Dad on the other hand was more analytical: he was a Ph.D. in engineering (a graduate from I.I.T.).

I carry both my Mum and Dad’s personalities within me: my technical knowledge of things and attention to detail comes from my Dad and my creative imaginative side helms from my Mum. They say looks passes down genetically. But this is partly true. My Mum was gorgeous and my Dad handsome. All of their looks went to my brother. I’m an ugly duckling by comparison ha ha! This sucks for me big time! So the only way to get by with the ladies is to either become a musician or START a wellness app!

2. The START of your entrepreneurial journey was rather revolutionary for its time. Tell us more.

When my parents passed away I moved from Hyderabad to London where my elder brother was. There I needed money to explore options for projects I was seeking and didn’t have funds. It is here that eBay was growing in prominence with their slogan “think it, buy it, sell it”. So I took that advice and auctioned a portion of my future earnings on eBay. I raised USD 18,000 in 7 days. I guess the more bonkers you are, the chances of you raising finance rises exponentially. Ha! This story led me to be interviewed by Sir David Frost too.

3. What was the foundation of you getting into fitness?

I lost my Mum to Multiple Myeloma (Cancer of the Bone Marrow) and my Dad to Multiple Sclerosis (A degenerative nerve disease) when I was only a boy. Life dealt my elder brother and I a bad poker hand sadly. Couple this devastation with a breakup and you’ve got all the elements to promise yourself NEVER to succumb to this pain ever again. And so I did just that: I made a promise to never be victim to any disease or a heartbreak. Believe it or not, I was quite skinny in my teens. And so started the eating, the gymming, the swimming, the running, the squash and the eternal quest for the six mystical forces of the universe everyone craves: ABS!

4. When did the discovery and migration to intermittent fasting for you occur?

In my ultimate search for the holy grail, Abdominal Muscles protruding out of my stomach like a true Wolverine X-man
(which for some reason every man believes a woman desires – umm she doesn’t!), I tried every single diet regime, every workout regime, I even did the Arnold Schwarzenegger 5-cycle workout, which is INTENSIVE! I went from putting on a lot of muscle and looking like the guy any normal person would run for his life if he was put in a ring with me, to losing a lot of it (with the same person smashing my face in like a twig), to gaining some of it back (okay now this could be an equal fight people would pay money to see!). And in all this experimentation of diets and exercise, I found Intermittent Fasting (I.F.) to be the easiest to manage, and overall, the best lifestyle to adopt long-term, that has profound benefits to one’s body and mind, especially at a cellular level.

It’s because I.F. is all about the “WHEN” than the “WHAT”. It is all about when you ate, than what you ate! The science makes sense, and you don’t necessarily need to change your diet or get on an intensive exercise program to feel the difference in a short span of time. Intermittent Fasting also works wonderfully for those who consistently travel like me as your body clock surprisingly adjusts seamlessly. The biggest gain from intermittent fasting is my reduction in visceral fat percentage which is incredibly beneficial health-wise long-term. Visceral fat is the fat that surrounds your major organs and is a primary cause of things like heart disease etc.

5. How long have you been practicing Intermittent Fasting for and how long have you been working on the START Wellness I.F. program? Have you tried all the variants of I.F.?

I’ve been on I.F. for eons, but have been working on START for a little of over 2.5 years. It’s been quite a journey. Since adopting intermittent fasting, yes, I’ve been experimenting with all of its variants (16:8, 18:6, 5:2, OMAD, 24hr Fasting, Alternative Day fasting and the lot).

6. What according to you is the most effective method of intermittent fasting?

We all live busy lives in this new world of ours, post Covid, navigating through all the madness. Gyms are open one day, closed another. Everything is unpredictable. Having tried all the variants of I.F. I have found in a normal working environment, the 16:8 method is the most practical. It’s also the easiest to maintain, most fun to do, and you can start or stop on a cheat day and dive right back in, unlike being on say, the Ketogenic diet, which, once you’re out of, pretty much takes days to get back in! Also the 16:8 method fits perfectly into say someone’s 9-5 job life just fine.

7. Have you ever tried going on a long fast say 24 hours or more? What are the benefits?

Longer fasts are harder to do, but come with massive cellular benefits. I try and go on a 24-48 fast at least once a month as it propels autophagy (a state where your body produces new cells that eat up old ones), and fixes a lot of wrongs within your system internally. Autophagy has multiple benefits and is triggered in small stages, but its main “Woomph” comes post the 24 hour period and exponentially rises from 24-36-48-72 hours of fasting. 

The longest I’ve personally gone is a 72 hour fast. Man, does your skin glow after…it’s like you’re re-born! For a moment there, I truly was BUMBLE signed, sealed and delivered as fully DATABLE! Lol.

8. Don’t you feel hungry when fasting for so long?

When it comes to hunger, there is only one menace that exists: Ghrelin…the hunger hormone. It takes about 24 hours for Ghrelin to be subdued and that is where your new best friend “Leptin” its cousin comes in, supresses hunger and pushes Ghrelin out of the way. By 48 hours your system is not even craving any food as it is running purely on JET FUEL, aka, your Fat storage as it now uses as its primary form of energy. Burning fat is far more beneficial for your body than burning carbs, in general! Almost 95% of all hunger triggers are psychological than physiological.

9. When did you go from practicing I.F. to really researching the subject and then creating your own START Wellness program?

My research into intermittent fasting came about 6 months into practicing the same, when I started adapting to the 16:8 program, noticed it  to be more efficient for myself and seeing better results overall and quicker. The biggest problem I was having was, that while the basics of I.F. was being practiced and spoken about, the ancillaries were left behind. No expert or article produced anything comprehensive about the water intake, work out or sleep for that matter. So I started doing my own research, go on a trial-and-error basis and list my learnings along the way. It is then that the START Wellness intermittent fasting program was born and took shape along this phase.

10. Did you have any test subjects to substantiate your theory?

Like any good science projects there must be expendables, and what better way to test something untested than reach out family and friends. As I spoke about intermittent fasting and its benefits, one-by-one the guinea pigs started to line up to want to try the program and see what it was all about. It also became complex to explain all the nuances of I.F. (how to break a fast, how to correctly monitor water intake etc) and so I created a holistic PDF file on how to carry out the program the right way, with clear DO’s and DON’Ts. 

This led others, my test subjects (love calling them that!) great improvement in a matter of just 7 days and huge improvements over a 30-day period. 

11. Personally what has been the biggest benefit you yourself have seen on your own START program?

The one single differentiator over the years of being on START has been that I’ve never fallen sick since being on START, touch wood! And that singularly says a lot about the program. It’s because my cells are regenerating every day, my immunity is building every day. Of course we all have our weak days, our cheat days and we set the clock back a little but overall, START makes your RECOVERY process much faster, much more efficient. On START you’ll even recover from hangovers faster as it works for you at a cellular level.

12. Share with us some of the benefits your customers had with the START beta program? Did this inspire to create the START app?

Almost 90% of our testers on the START beta program saw immediate results in 7 days. Over 3-6 months people were losing over 25kgs, high blood pressure was turning normal, high blood sugar was normalizing, long term blood sugar was normalizing, severe Type 2 diabetics were not diabetic anymore and people with severe aches, pains and problems all faded away on the START Wellness Intermittent fasting beta program. So it was obvious, if I wanted to scale this and help others in the same way, then creating an app was the only way forward and grow it from there. But the program had to be automated, it had to be intuitive and it had to do something no other Intermittent Fasting app was doing. Also, all people on the START app have had no side effects so far to any of the vaccine shots. As far as we know.

13. So what is the START app? Did you study a lot of competitors? What makes it unique and different from other intermittent fasting apps in the market?

When I got into creating the START Wellness app, it’s important to say there were NO references to any other fasting app  out there. I generally follow this rule of thumb when I create anything. I don’t reference what is present in the market, to try and come up with something original, if not different. 

And thank God, I did this! As post finishing the first iteration of START and doing a market comparison, the other apps to me, are highly confusing, not user-friendly at all, and most ask you to pay up front, which I find highly unnerving. I’ve always been an endorser of the “try before your buy” approach. It builds trust. 

START is unique in that sense. Right from its design to its presentation to its humanization, START feels very human 

in your hand from the moment you open it to setting up your individualised 16:8 intermittent fasting program. It is an algorithmically driven I.F. program that locks to your own personal lifestyle & based on your individualised wake up time. From there START does all the work in the background and you can continue benefiting daily by adopting its best practices.

But that’s not all. START goes so much further. While the app’s program guides you on the best practices of when to eat, drink water, exercise etc, it also dives deeper and actually tells you when, say a timing of “drink green tea” passes its “relevance”. It does this by marking the timing for each activity in GREEN (excellent), ORANGE (could be optimised), RED (Bad habit, not good for you, needs editing). For this to work we had to build a custom timer from the ground up. No other I.F. app features this.

14. We’ve checked and most apps feature a fasting counter. Does START feature one too?

Yes, almost all the intermittent fasting apps work around a simple fasting counter, which your phone can easily handle (countdown timer). START features a perpetual fasting counter that automatically switches between your eating and fasting windows. It’s so much more convenient and sits in the dashboard page of the app which all START users access on a daily basis to input their readings.

15. When it comes to Health, most people trust the word of experts and Doctors. Do you have experts associated with the START app, apart from yourself? 

START is vetted by doctors, fitness experts, cellular dieticians, wellness specialists and more. We are featuring more and more experts within the app as well. Each of them have not just perused the app but actually tried it, use it daily too and recommend it to their peers and clients from all walks of life.

16. Knowledge is also POWER as they say. How does START empower others to learn the building blocks of I.F correctly and pass it on to others?

When I built START, the app was to ALWAYS answer the  “WHY”. So every part of the START app has a fun educational explanation video of the science enforcing “why” you do something. E.g. wake up and drink 1 litre of water. Why? We have a fun 1 min video explaining WHY! Stretch when you get up? Why? Yeah, we have a video for that too!  Too many people tell you “this is good” but when asked “why” fail to explain the same. They say “a friend told me” or “read it somewhere”.  We at START feel that the empowerment of knowledge is a key component to our future success as when someone is equipped with the right knowledge and recommends START, our brand carries that much more weight! Also with START we don’t give you an over-burst of knowledge. Our data is confined to what you do on START and nothing more. We keep it simple!

17. If you were to summarise in one sentence how START can help the ordinary person how would you do it?

START through its customised I.F. program enhances your hours in the day creating MORE TIME for you to spend on your dreams and aspirations while boosting your energy and optimizing your health and focus in the process.

18. Please list some of the key highlights of the START app for our readers: The highlights of your START Wellness app are:

• FREE 7-Day Trial (No Credit Card Charges)
• Full Access To All App Features During Trial Period
• Apple Health & Google Fit Integration
• Custom Built Algorithm Driven Intuitive Program Timer
• Full Daily Activity Tracker
• Integrates With Apple Watch and Google Fit Smartwatches
• Daily 1-Click Water Tracker
• Key Body Composition Metrics
• Automatic Fasting/Eating Window Counter
• No Ads Whatsoever
• 1-Click In App Subscription

 
19. Is START Free to try? Where is the app available and what is the cost of the programme? 

The START Intermittent Fasting app is available for both Android and iOS users and is setup for mobile smartphones at present. We do have plans to launch a web version too as many people spend their time now on their laptops working remotely. Your first 7 days on START are absolutely FREE! No up-front credit card charges whatsoever, no charges at all! After your 7 day FREE trial you can opt to subscribe to our introductory LIFETIME subscription plan through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store’s in-app purchases directly.

A majority of our users subscribe as you never know in future when you’ll just sway, put on a heap of weight and need to get on START to lose it! Who knows when the next pandemic will strike too! START is a lifestyle long-term investment and worth every single rupee spent. 

20. Is there a dietary or fitness programme that will come with the app? If so, can you elaborate. 

While at present START only focuses on its intermittent fasting program which doesn’t take into account your diet or exercise regime, our fun educational videos DO provide insights into maintaining a healthy diet. We also provide dynamic stretch module, a 7min workout module and a 4-7-8 breathing module that can be carried out anywhere. These are scientifically proven techniques that help you get better, feel better, burn more fat and build more muscle over a 21 day period. 

21. Every founder has a vision for his or her brand. What do you see in the future of START? 

START’s greatest power is in its name and its purposeful existence. We are a team driven by purpose to help improve the lives of others empowering them intrinsically to creating the best possible life for themselves, to achieve their goals and aspirations. The future of START is enormous with us looking to enter the nutrition and fitness space, but this is oversaturated at present. Unless we can intuitively integrate these two components, through smart data and within our START intermittent fasting program, it makes no sense to dive into this at present. We also plan to produce our own set of smart devices, link up with some of the world’s most cutting edge DNA testing and even create a device that tracks and learns from your sleep data, all linked up to your START I.F. program. There’s a lot to do, but, like Steve Jobs says “Focus on one thing and do it as well as you can, before moving onto another.” 

22. There are many myths around IF would you like to bust some? 

There is so much garbage on the internet, it’s not funny. But most of the pseudo nonsense comes from family and friends who try to play doctor, not to mention the old school doctors themselves who rely on medieval science. Let’s address the most common myths with a simple “No” or “Utter Nonsense” rating to make it a fun read. 

23. What category of people will derive health benefits from Intermittent Fasting? 

People who wish to:

> Lose body fat
> Increase their energy many fold
> Increase their focus
> Increase their immunity
> Reverse type 2 diabetes
> Lower their insulin levels drastically
> Improve their memory and brain cognition
> Lower their high blood sugar levels
> Improve their health without practicing a diligent exercise regime
> Lower their high blood pressure
> Improve their sleep cycle
> Improve joint paint and weakness
> Improve bone density
> Improve their sex life and stamina

24. Does START bring in all these benefits? 

Yes! All of these benefits come from using the START intermittent fasting app over a long-period.
The reason is because intermittent fasting, done the right way like on START, works at a cellular level. Here’s a bit of the science: When we don’t eat, our insulin levels drop (as there is no food coming in) and the body then starts to optimise all its little internal components and fix what is broken. The longer we don’t eat the more efficient it gets at this cycle. It even gets to the point that once your body crosses the 48-72 hour fasting threshold, the mind no longer even craves food intake as
its running purely on its FAT storage as the primary form of energy, a.k.a. JET FUEL for the body (I explained this earlier). You literally have to be reminded to eat, as you feel so good, sans of any food!

While fasting for 24-48 hours is not practical in one’s metropolitan life cycle, simply extending the normal fasting clock of say 8-10 hours to 16 hours has profound scientific benefits. Hence the 16:8 method of Intermittent fasting is highly recommended.

25. What are the common mistakes people make while following Intermittent Fasting? 

Most who practice any form of a program, don’t have the right foundational knowledge. The START beta program always had its reference PDF of the Do’s and Don’ts and that’s why people had a strong sense of understanding and came back asking the RIGHT questions. We’ve taken that entire process further, automated everything within the START app and really made people aware of what to do and what not to do through our fun education science videos section in the app. Key mistakes people make on intermittent fasting:

a. Not knowing how to break a fast correctly (this is fundamental!)
b. Consuming liquids and products that take you out of a fast by spiking insulin (hence they are not even practicing any form of fasting, but they think they are!)
c. Thinking they can eat anything and everything in their eating window and as much of the same (pizzas, burgers etc), then complaining they put on weight!
d. Not consuming enough water during their fasting program (this is paramount!)

e. Not optimizing their exercise routine to fit in with their intermittent fasting schedule
f. Not getting enough sleep
g. Not weight training during their IF program (this is highly beneficial)
h. Not consuming enough fats during their IF program (good organic fats are key!)

26. The world’s true medical pandemic is Type 2 diabetes. And I.F. is supposed to help with it greatly. But people are sceptical. What will be your message to people who are afraid or sceptical to try Intermittent Fasting? 

There’s a great saying: “The only true fact a newspaper prints is THE DATE”. People have been fasting for centuries and its common sense that has also made them do so. Too much eating is bad. It’s that simple. Did you know during the period of famine, during the World Wars, Type 2 Diabetes wasn’t even considered a serious problem. Why is that? Because with the scarcity of food, people were not eating often, perhaps even getting by with one meal a day – hence their insulin was always low, hence no result of high blood sugar! It’s not rocket science. Since the 70’s and the rise of the supermarket business model and 24/7 access to food, all hell has broken loose and diabetes has emerged as the true medical pandemic with over 450m people suffering worldwide from Type 2 and this is expected to touch over 750m by 2030. The worst part is, that it’s a completely REVERSABLE disease through intermittent fasting! Completely! It is proven by Dr. Jason Fung, Dr. Jai Vora (one of our very own START experts), Dr. Megan Ramos and more. 

27. Can people harm themselves on Intermittent Fasting? 

Intermittent Fasting works on a cellular level in every way. You can’t harm yourself from it as long as you fit in with the norm. Yes, certain people should consult their doctors before practicing any form of fasting: like pregnant women, people who have Type 1 diabetes, people with very low body mass index (BMI), people with hormonal disorders and people on heavy medication. And we’re the only app in the market that also issues this disclaimer before you go on the START program. Safety is always our No 1 priority! For the most part, in general for adults, of all ages, intermittent fasting, especially the 16:8 method which the START Wellness I.F. program is built on, where you don’t eat for 16 hours and then consume your daily calorie in-take in an 8 hour eating window, is perfectly safe and hugely beneficial for both your body and mind long-term. 

28. What kind of fitness regime do you advise with I.F.? 

When is the best time to exercise during Intermittent Fasting? It is proven that doing some form of weight training during your IF program is hugely beneficial. Also exercising within the last 4 hours of your fasting window is when you burn up to 3X (three times) more fat too! Basically, any form of exercise is always better than no exercise: fasting or no fasting! Just that, with fasting, you get an augmented boost in results overall.

Watch the START official video: it's a RUSH! On START, your first 7 days are FREE! No credit card required.

START App Key Features

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29. Shayan Italia Statistics: 

Height: 184cm | 6’1”
Weight: 77kgs | 171 lbs
Body Fat (InBody 770): 9.9%
BMI: 22.7 kg/m2
Body Water: 63.5%
Resting Heart Rate: 68 bpm
Basic Metabolic Rate: 1,863 kCal
Sleep Cycle: 7.5 hours

PEAK High Score: 861
PEAK Percentile: 99%

I.Q: Intelligence 139 | Creative 165

Shayan’s START Program:

09:30   Wake Up
09:32   4-7-8 Breathing
09:45   1ltr | 34oz Water (One Shot)
10:00   START Dynamic Stretch
10:30   Black Coffee
11:30   Exercise
12:00   1ltr | 34oz Water (With Exercise)
13:30   1st Meal (Break-Fast)
15:00   Green Tea
16:00   1ltr | 34oz Water
17:30   2nd Meal (Light)
19:00   Green Tea
20:00   1ltr | 34oz Water
20:30   Dynamic Stretch
20:45   4-7-8 Breathing
21:00   Last Meal
22:30   1ltr | 34oz Water
01:30   Dynamic Stretch
01:55   4-7-8 Breathing

02:00   Sleep

Shayan’s Diet:

First Meal of the Day

500gms meat/fish
500gms Mixture of 3-5 Assorted Veggies Cooked
Piece of Dark Chocolate

Second Meal of the Day (Half Meal)

2 x Fruits: Blueberries, Cranberries, Blackberries, Banana, Mango, Apple, Pear, Pineapple etc
Fist full of assorted nuts (Almonds, Brazilian Nuts, Apricots, Cashews etc)
1 Tablespoon of honey/Protein Shot

Third Meal of the Day (Half Meal)

500gms meat/fish
500gms Mixture of 3-5 Assorted Veggies Cooked
Piece of Dark Chocolate

Shayan’s Workout Regime:

Workout 3 days a week, only in a fasted state, last 2 hours of my fast mainly, alternate days with a two-day end rest:

Weight Days (All-in-one session Full Body Workout):

Legs:

5 x Barbell Squat
4 x Leg Pushes
4 x Leg Raises
4 x Leg Curls
4 x Calf raises

Back:

4 x Pullups
4 x Rows
4 x Pulldowns
4 x Back Curls

Chest:

4 x Bench Press
4 x Chest Dips
4 x Pushups
4 x Wings

Shoulders:

4 x Shoulder Raises (Machine)
4 x Shoulder Raises (Free Weights)
4 x Barbell Raises

Biceps:

4 x Dumbbells
4 x Machine Raises

Triceps:

4 x Dips (Machine)
4 x Pull Downs

Max Heart Rate: 120-150bpm approx

Circuit Training Day (H.I.I.T Training):

10 x Ropes
5 x Bag Lunges
5 x Plank

Max Heart Rate: 150-165bpm approx

Running Day (H.I.I.T Training):

4kms across the area, 20 minutes

Max Heart Rate: 175-190bpm approx.

Alternate HIIT Training:

Full body 20 min Workout:
Pamela Reif Intense 20 min body workout

2 x 7min Workout cycles

Sport:

Once or twice a week Badminton (doubles) x 2-hour sessions

Your START Wellness 16:8 intermittent fasting app, using cellular science, will greatly increase energy, immunity, focus and propel weight loss in just 7 days with no change to diet or exercise. In 30 days it will take you to the next level.

In 7 days, you'll FEEL the change.
In 30 days, you'll BE the change.
All you have to do is START.