The 5:2 diet, another fad or something you should be doing?

October 25, 2014

Quite frankly I am fed up of hearing about all of these new diets. Low fat, high fat, high protein, low carb. How are we supposed to know what’s right? What really is the diet we should be undertaking in order to lose weight?
DTS

If it was up to me, a ‘diet’ wouldn’t even exist and we’d all be capable of feeding our body what it needs instinctively. But that’s just not realistic. There are all sorts of different diets, some with great evidence to support them and others with a very limited support as to why it is a diet we should be on. A large contributing factor to the formation of new diets is our current obesity epidemic with the aim that this will eventually cease to exist, and thus if it’s a new diet that is going to help this, so be it.

North-American-Obesity-Epidemic

When I first heard about the 5:2 diet, it was described to me as a diet where you starve yourself on two days and can eat whatever you want on the other five. What!? Starve myself!? There is absolutely no way.

Having read up about it, I found it described by the term ‘Intermittent Fasting’ and I was reassured that it did not mean stopping eating entirely and it meant reducing the amount that is eaten but for short periods of time.

“With 5:2 intermittent fasting you eat normally five days a week and diet two days a week, cutting your calorie intake for those two days to a ¼ of their normal level. This means that on, say, a Monday and a Thursday you will eat 500 calories if you are a woman, 600 if you are a man.”

DSC_2009_a_351514b DSC_2004_351501b

Looking at the images above, it doesn’t seem too bad to be eating on those fasting days and it is claimed that you should lose around 1lb a week and should enjoy a wide range of health benefits. These health benefits include improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity. Can’t really go wrong, right?

So I decided to try this diet out and I lasted one week, which is a total of two days ‘fasting’. Being a lover of food, the days on which I was fasting were the hardest two days of my life! I felt lethargic and starving and there was no way I could do it for another week, let alone for a long period of time. However, I did lose weight and that is one of the major aims of the diet. Having said this, there is no way I’d go to these limits to lose weight as I know I can lose weight by altering the things in my diet, not the amount I consume on two days a week.

The 5:2 diet is all very well and good having given results of weight loss and claims of increased lifespan and protection from disease but the evidence that supports this is limited when compared to other types of weight loss techniques.

weight-loss-scales

Realistically, is the 5:2 diet sustainable in the long term? I lasted a week but would most people be willing to stick with the plan for the rest of their life? We can’t forget about side effects of the diet, I certainly experienced a few of these on my fasting days and I was only on the diet for a week. Unconfirmed side effects include: difficulties sleeping, irritability, anxiety, dehydration and daytime sleepiness. I certainly felt irritated and sleepy during the day so I can confirm that these are realistic side effects.

So with all this being said, is it a diet that you should be undertaking? Personally, it is something I will never be doing again. This is mainly due to the fact in comparison to other (easier) types of weight loss programmes, the evidence base of the safety and effectiveness of the 5:2 diet is extremely limited.

Weight loss is simple in my eyes. It’s hard to start but once you get into it, it becomes a lifestyle, not a diet. There are three things to remember and weight loss is your oyster. Firstly, eat a healthy balanced diet, with at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Secondly, take regular exercise and finally, just make sure you drink alcohol in moderation. You don’t need to starve yourself to lose weight, you just need to slightly alter your lifestyle and it’s easy.

References
‘the 5:2 fast diet: Why fast?’
‘Does the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet work?’

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