When a new diet first hits our shores it seems to pop up everywhere! And that’s certainly the case with the latest fad – intermittent fasting (IF) or the 5:2 diet (or other versions of that name).
My mother first brought the ‘diet’ to my attention after she’d seen it in a national newspaper magazine in mid January. A week or two later it featured in a weekend liftout in another newspaper. And I’ve just read about it in a magazine.
Essentially IF allows you to eat whatever you want for five days a week. But on two (non-consecutive) days, you eat only 25% of your usual calorie intake (about 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men).
Like most new fads there are worshippers and detractors and as with any ‘diet’ there are positives and negatives.
The worshippers view the way of eating / living as ‘revolutionary’ and some of the results being quoted are amazing. On top of good weight loss stats, studies are suggesting IF is resulting in reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and neurological diseases (such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s). In addition, linkages to longevity are being touted.
Those less-supportive of IF question some of the studies’ results and believe that more longitudinal information is required before claims currently being made can be substantiated. And there’s also the question of whether ANY diet or weight loss would lead to the health benefits being attributed to the IF way of life.
Dr Google found HEAPS of articles on the IF or 5:2 way of life, so I’ll leave the complicated scientific stuff up to the experts, or those like my Finnish blogging buddy, Satu at Body Capable, who relishes in research. (As for me… hmmm… not so much!)
While the health benefits (especially increased cognitive functioning) and extended lifespan appeal to me, I’ve been pondering more on the practicalities of the IF way of life.
I’ve read a few articles now and those who’ve been undertaking the program have been pretty happy with the results.
The benefits as they (and I) see them:
- You don’t feel as deprived – going ‘without’ on two non-consecutive days each week while eating what you want on the other days – doesn’t seem overly confronting. Anyone can do ANYTHING for one day (albeit twice a week)! Whereas reducing your calorie intake by the equivalent amount (2 x 75% or 3000 – 3600 calories) over seven days may feel overwhelming.
- You aren’t fasting completely. Well-versed weight-watchers can scare-up a fair bit of food for 500 calories if necessary. (I’m thinking soup and fish and the like.)
- You can choose the days you are fasting around the rest of your life. One of the guys interviewed does his fast from 2pm one day until 2pm the next day.
- It’s a ‘diet’. Even though it’s not continuous restricted eating, there’s a mindset thing that goes with putting limits and boundaries around your food intake which may not be sustainable in the long term.
- The 500 calorie limit (being overly restrictive) could play havoc with the minds of those who’ve suffered through eating disorders.
- It could lead to more bingeing on other days. I for one, have been known to partake in the occasional ‘Last Supper’ before starting a diet and/or I binge when I’m allowed to eat what I want again. I may well end up spending two days fasting and four days bingeing, with only one ‘normal’ day of eating!
Obviously I’ve drawn no conclusion as yet and am still pondering on the 5 then 2 diet concept. I know the Dietitians Association of Australia and UK’s NHS have both suggested that the population stick to tried and true healthy eating guidelines, but… well… you know…
What are your thoughts on the 5 then 2 diet? A fad or fantasy? Or worth trying?