Will the 2-5 fasting diet work for me?
This diet is all the rage right now. You eat normally on 5 days and for 2 consecutive days you fast. It seems there are two types of 2-5 fasting diet. For one, you eat no carbs for two consecutive days and then you eat normally. For the other, you eat no more than 600 calories for 2 days and then you eat normally.
What I have noticed from the media coverage is that Eating Normally has been translated into Eating Whatever You Like. These two things are quite different. Eating Whatever You Want looks to me like a licence to do just that. If I were to eat whatever I like then there would be a lot of cake, some nice wine, and nibbles throughout the day and maybe a takeaway in the evening. This kind of eating is what puts the weight on under normal circumstances. When the dieticians and diet designers talk about Eating Normally they mean 3 meals a day consuming about 2,000-2,500 calories and with fruit and veg and not too much salt, sugar and fat.
So does it work? There has been some research. According to Margaret McCartney, GP in Glasgow, who talked about this on Radio 4's Inside Health on 2 April 2013, there is not enough to research to give a definitive answer. She reports that while the research demonstrated weight loss it was conducted for only 6 months. Any diet will work if you sustain it for 6 months.
The issue for those of us wanting to manage our weight is whether this is a diet that we can manage for the rest of our lives. Because once we stop the diet we can expect to regain all the weight. There is plenty of research that shows that this happens in the vast majority of cases. But if you maintain this way of eating for life, then it is possible that it will help you to maintain a lower weight for the long term. And indeed, if you sustain any diet for the rest of your life, the weight loss will be sustained. And this after all is what we are looking for.
Going on a diet and losing the weight, only for it to all come back again, is just not worth the suffering and misery that diets cause.
I think that this diet is yet another fad. My main reason is the current talk that you can Eat Whatever You Like. Most of us would love a diet that allows us to continue our awful eating habits - which after all are so pleasurable. So when we are told that we don't really need to change anything at all about the way that we eat, then that is very attractive. I can see why it sells. But if we want to lose weight for the long-term, then we know that we need to change the way that we eat. All my clients when they come to see me know the things that need changing, they just don't know how to do it. That is the bit that I help with.
But they know they can't drink a bottle of wine a night, have pudding every evening and snack away on a whole packet of biscuits. But if a diet comes along and says they can, I can see why that might tick all the boxes.
I am not sure how the fasting is supposed to make up for Eating Whatever You Like. But there are aspects that might help you lose weight if you Eat Normally.
There are 2 kinds of 2-5 fasting diets. 1. you eat no carbs for two consecutive days, then you eat normally. This is like a mini Atkins Diet, triggering ketosis in the body, which burns fat. So that looks plausbile. 2 requires you to eat very few calories for 2 consecutive days. It seems that this might work by reducing your overall calorie intake. It may teach you how to eat more cautiously. Of course, if you Eat Whatever You Want, rather than Eat Normally, then this subtle change may not take place.
The other thing that interests me is that if you decide that the theory is sound, then you might well go for this diet. You will Eat Normally/Whatever You Like for 5 days. But you may find that 2 consecutive days on the fast doesn't fit in with real life. What days are you going to choose? The weekend because you have more control? What about the weddings, the parties, the social life, the boredom? So it might be the weekday, when you are working. If you get really hungry, you might not be able to function so well at work.
My main issue is that this requires a very high level of discipline. And for most of us who are troubled by our eating, this is the bit that is already missing. It is because we are not disciplined that we eat large portions or scarf a whole bar of chocolate in one go. When we have to be highly disciplined, we can find that we don't manage to do what we set out to do. This makes us feel like failures, so we start criticising ourselves and that tends to lead to a binge.
And because this diet does not require us to change our regular style of eating, we have not learned to make any changes to the way of eating that caused us to put on the weight in the first place.
I would love to believe that this diet is different from all the others. But I fear it is not. Diets have a poor record of success. For the majority, going on a diet results in weight gain. How miserable is that. When we want to lose weight, the first thing we think about is a diet. We don't realise that there are other ways to lose weight. But there are. Read my blog and get some tips.
What diets have you tried? Do you believe my assertion that diets don't work? Share your views with a comment.