The 5:2 Diet: Does It Really Work?

The 5:2 Diet: Does It Really Work?

“You’re looking trim,” I said to a friend of mine recently as she sashayed her shapely butt through the bar. “I know,” she grinned, “it’s the 5:2 diet and I am LOVING it!” She ordered a bottle of wine and left me wondering: how was it possible to lose weight yet still drink wine?

I’ve never been one for faddy diets, primarily because I like food – all food – and the thought of restricting and limiting my intake of my favourite foods, which are generally always the ones you need to restrict, puts me off. The more I tell myself I can’t have something, the more I want it. This mindset also works for alcohol, cigarettes, clothes, holidays, shoes and men.

“You can eat (and drink) what you like for five days,” she said, ” then you need to star-sorry-fast for two”. Hmmm I thought. Eating what I like I can do, but fasting? Not so good at. Hence the blubber.

But with Christmas fast approaching, my meals are getting stodgier, heavier and yummier and that generally means my butt is also going to get heavier. I want to look like a Christmas fairy at the parties, not the Christmas frump. So, when this svelte mate (who bless has never had much luck with diets) seemed so delighted with the 5:2 and  the results were that obvious, I decided to look into it. If it’s good enough for J-Lo,  Miranda Kerr and Phillip Schofield, then it’s good enough for me, right?

What is the 5:2?

Well in principle, it sounds simple enough: for two days a week you must only eat a maximum of 500 calories a day (or 600 for men) and those days DO NOT have to be consecutive. For example, choose Thursday and Monday (actually don’t choose Monday, it’s grim enough as it is!) or Tuesday and Friday. It’s up to you, but they don’t have to be in a row. The rest of the week you can eat normally! “Whoopee, crack on with the fried bread for breaky and pizza for dinner,” I hear you cry.  Umm, no. Though, ‘normal’ does not mean you can fill your boots with curry, but it does mean you can stick to 2,000 (2,500 for men) healthy calories, which is pretty much what most people eat on a ‘normal’ day, right?

Why does it work and what are the pros and cons? 

With intermittent fasting, as it’s known to nutritionists, it’s apparently effective because by cutting down calories intermittently, rather than all at once, means your body doesn’t go into ‘starvation mode’, but ‘repair mode’ as is the case when you crash diet. During this repair mode  the body apparently restores its damaged cells, using more energy and using more fat, whilst in starvation mode it does the opposite and causes your body to store the fat for the rainy days. The 5:2 diet is said to:

  •  improve cognitive function thus helping to prevent conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • give your digestive system a rest.
  • reduce risk of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.
  •  reduce accelerated ageing and even cell divisions like those found in cancer.

However it could also:

  • cause you to overeat on the ‘normal’ days
  • cause mood swings
  • cause difficulty in sleeping
  • cause bad breath
  • cause dizziness and nausea
  • lead to nutritional deficiencies if your body doesn’t get the right daily balance
  • fasting days could leave you with less energy

As with all diets, it’s recommended you speak to your GP or nutritionist before embarking as it can be a huge shock to your system, especially if you’ve never fasted before. On fast days, its definitely advisable to stay out of the way of annoying people, do less and stay away from restaurants too! Alcohol is a no-no unless you’d rather have two G&Ts than eat a boiled egg and 28 lettuce leaves (68 calories according to Citymapper!). Regardless, to me, it seems mental that anyone would want to go two days in cold London without any mashed potato or chicken pie or stew or…aah, something tells me this is going to be harder than it sounds…

photo courtesy: Shuttershock

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