The latest craze of dieting has come in the form of the 5:2 fasting diet. The basic concept of this diet is quite simple- limit your intake for 2 days per week, eat what you like the rest and weight loss will occur.
During the 2 fasting days males are required to limit intake to a maximum of 600 calories and females 500 calories per day. The only other rule is that these fasting days cannot be done on consecutive days. Here is the official page
For many people the ease of this diet is quite compelling as is the supposed weight loss and health benefits associated with intermittent fasting. The theory presented is that intermittent fasting does more than create a simple energy deficit, it also activates what is referred to as our “skinny gene”- a particular section of DNA that when activated helps make you skinny.
So is the 5:2 diet a legitimate approach or a passing fad?
There is no doubt that people are losing weight using the 5:2 fasting approach. But this is no different to any other popular diet that has come and gone before it. The Atkins, Dukan, Soup, Lemon Detox all produce an immediate drop in weight, but the real question is: does it work long term? Is it a sustainable approach?
Habits are key
The key to any successful diet is forming habits. Motivation and will power will only last for a limited period of time, so whatever approach you take needs to become a lifestyle. Therefore those who commence the 5:2 fasting diet need to ask themselves this question… is this something I can do for the rest of my life??
If the answer is yes, then the 5:2 diet might just be the answer you are looking for. However if the answer is no, then I would encourage you to look elsewhere.
Prepare to be hungry
From the feedback I have received, fasting days are difficult. Hunger is something all must contend with to successfully lose weight using this approach, which is not easy. Physical hunger is our body telling us there is a need to eat something. Ignoring this can lead to a lack of energy, low concentration, and a growing obsession with food.
The more we resist hunger, the more we think about food. This is one of the dangerous drawbacks of fasting. Some who have used intermittent fasting for a long period of time have described an almost obsessional relationship with food that develops. It becomes all you think about.
Although there is no real evidence from scientific studies to justify claims either for or against the 5:2 diet and other intermittent fasting techniques, I believe that the 5:2 fasting diet has the potential to do more harm than good.
Losing weight is never easy. But prolonged physical hunger is not something that you can live with for the rest of your life. Successful dieting is all about eating food that nourishes your body whilst forming healthy habits. How good you feel is what ultimately provides motivation to continue.