So, You want to drop a few pre-holiday pounds? The 5:2 Diet may be just what you had in mind…
The 5:2 Diet: What Is It, and Should We Bother?
If you love the idea of a slim, age-proof body, but you’re less in love with the idea of fasting to achieve it, then check this out.
I’m a big proponent of intermittent fasting (or as I like to call it “mini-fasting) as a scientifically proven way to help stabilize weight, promote healing and increase longevity.
But there’s no denying that fasting can be tough—too tough for a lot of us.
Enter the 5:2 Diet!
The 5:2 Diet was designed to minimize the feelings of deprivation, anxiety, and guilt that so many dieters endure. It offers a way to get the benefits of fasting with less emotional and physical discomfort.
Here’s how it works.
Every week, you spend two days doing mini-fasting and five days free from counting calories. You aren’t dieting most of the time, but research has shown that the 5:2 Diet is as effective for weight loss as long-term calorie restriction.
The “2” Part of the 5:2 Diet
For two non-consecutive days a week, you simply restrict your caloric intake to 500 calories (that’s for women—men can up it to 600). So, say for example that you ate your last meal at 8 p.m. on Sunday. The next morning you eat a very small breakfast and then another small meal in the evening. Then, on Tuesday morning you return to your usual eating pattern until your second fast day of the week. If you want some great recipe ideas then check out my book Fast Diets.
The deal is, you’re still eating on mini-fast days, but just very little compared to what you consume on a regular day. This doesn’t mean you won’t experience hunger—you will. But for many people, this approach is a lot more manageable than a full fast that goes on for 24 hours or longer.
Since you’re eating so little on the fasting days of the 5:2 Diet, what you eat matters a lot. The last thing you want to do is set off spikes in your blood sugar. To avoid that (and the accompanying hunger pangs, energy dips, and inhibited fat-burning), you’ll want to understand glycemic index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) scores, and choose foods that score low.
You’ll also want to keep serving sizes in mind—something an online food calorie calculator can make very easy.
A Few More Tips For 5:2 Diet Fasting Days
- Eat salad and soups to help your stomach feel full
- Eat healthy fat. For example, use a teaspoon of olive oil on a salad rather than drenching the salad in an unhealthy dressing. Cook with coconut oil instead of canola or vegetable oils, which are pro-inflammatory and won’t fill you up as much.
- More flavor means more satisfying. Give your limited food plenty of flavor with things like lemon juice, orange juice, or citrus zest and all the spices you can get your hands on.
- Weigh and measure your food after it’s prepared. Or you can use the recipes in my Fast Diets books which are broken down into 500 and 600 calories (see the bottom of this post for free recipes from my book).
- Drink plenty of fluids: Herbal, green, or unsweetened black tea as well as a cup of black coffee are all okay. Water is the best, and drinking 10-12 eight-ounce glasses of it is ideal.
- Avoid alcohol, refined sugar, junk food, and white starchy carbohydrates (white bread, white potatoes, white rice, and pasta—all of which cause blood sugar to spike)
The “5” Part of the 5:2 Diet
One criticism of the 5:2 Diet has been based on the idea that you can eat anything you want during the five days you aren’t fasting. And that idea could definitely derail you!
That’s because it’s human nature to want to reward ourselves after we work hard at something. So after a challenging day of mini-fasting, it can be tempting to think you’ve “earned” unlimited ice cream or chocolate cake. But that will undo the benefits of your fast, and it’s definitely not the approach I’m advocating.
Fortunately, studies have shown that people on the 5:2 Diet typically didn’t overindulge on non-fast days. And that’s probably because your body actually gets acclimated to mini-fasting, and when you start eating again, sensible portions of healthy food feel more satisfying than ever.
So what I encourage on non-fast days is eating for all-around health and vitality. That means continuing to avoid refined grains, processed sugar, legumes, and most dairy. These foods can create inflammation for many, and you’ll be amazed what going without them for two days can do for you.
The 5:2 Diet Isn’t for Everyone
For some people, eating a very small number of calories leaves them feeling hungrier than a total fast does. That’s because your body can adjust to a full fast whereas eating lightly can keep the sensation of hunger active. Also, the fact that you don’t completely abstain from eating means you still experience a rise in blood sugar during fast days. And that can stall fat loss.
As with other fast diets, the 5:2 Diet is not a good idea for pregnant women, children, or people with medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, or eating disorders.
But for many generally healthy adults who want to lose body fat and feel even healthier—especially those new to fasting—the 5:2 Diet just might be the answer.
You’ll get the almost magical benefits of mini-fasting along with the comfort of knowing you can eat well tomorrow. You’ll find you get in the flow pretty easily with little hassle.
That’s definitely worth the bother!
Keep thinking big and living bold!