FEAST AND FAST. When you need to lose weight but aren’t ready to give up on chocolate cake or cheeseburgers just yet, the 5:2 plan might be the best path to a new and leaner you
The hardest part of any diet plan is summoning the willpower to stick with it. Sure, red rice and poached chicken with a side of steamed baby vegetables is packed with nutrients while low in calories, but it’s not as satisfying as a plate of fried rice and deep-fried chicken with a side of vegetable tempura. Still, some approaches will allow you to enjoy the latter (moderately, of course) while still gaining the benefits of a diet consisting mainly of the former. One of the more popular (and currently re-trending) members of this category of dieting is the 5:2 diet.
Five for Feasting
The 5:2 diet is basically a form of intermittent fasting. For five consecutive days a week you eat what you want, and for the other two you basically starve yourselves. Of course, the proper way to go about this is not simply “5 days of feasting and then 2 days of fasting.”
For one, the “eat what you want” part doesn’t mean that you can do fast-food takeaway for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At least not if you still expect real results. The 5 of 5:2 are days where you eat normally—as in what you would normally eat if you weren’t fasting. If you want to be a bit more technical about it (and for optimum results) it’s best to follow the recommended daily calorie intake of 2,500 calories for men and 2,000 for women.
Then, during the two “fasting” days, you cut your calorie intake to a quarter of the recommended daily levels—so, that’s around 600 calories (rounded down) for men and 500 calories for women. There is, however, no restriction on what you can eat during the 2 of 5:2. This is why you might come across references that classify this method as an eating pattern instead of an actual diet.
A word of caution: It’s important to note here that you should pick two non-consecutive days. In other words, there should at least be one non-fasting day between each fasting day; and this is because the way intermittent fasting works.
Two for Fasting
The big question surrounding 5:2 and similar methods is: Why not just cut calories across the board? Now, there is a strong argument to be made for general calorie control and other healthy lifestyles for the long run. For more immediate weight loss goals, however, fasting—intermittent fasting, to be exact—is often seen as more effective since it forces your body to go into “repair” mode while cutting calories all at once might push it into “starvation” mode.
When the body thinks that it’s starving, it will start storing calories as fat in anticipation of long periods of time with no food. The stress caused by brief fasting, however, will merely force your body to allocate more energy for cellular repairs, which uses up your energy stores.
To 5:2 or not to 5:2
As with many popular diets, what the 5:2 method lacks is absolute scientific proof that it works as advertised. (Please keep in mind that “proper” scientific research entails years—or decades—of study.) So, what we have are mostly anecdotal evidence and personal stories. And not all of those stories are in favor of the 5:2 pattern.
All that being said, this method can work; and there are plenty of common threads from the many 5:2 success stories that we can distill it to the following key points:
• Expectations from following the 5:2 diet needs to be realistic: This is primarily a weight-loss tool and might not necessarily lead to other health benefits.
• The 5:2 diet should be approached as a short-term undertaking to reach certain weight loss goals. Long-term intermittent fasting might be unsustainable.
• Obviously, this diet should not be attempted by children, pregnant women, sufferers of Type 1 diabetes and those still recovering from surgery.
• The effects of fasting might come as a shock, especially during early stages. Lower energy levels should be expected, and daily activities might be affected.
• As mentioned earlier, willpower will be a major issue, especially as it is extremely easy to overeat after fasting periods.
“For more immediate weight loss goals, however, fasting is often seen as more effective”
Nothing can really replace healthy eating habits, proper exercise and generally leading a healthy lifestyle. Properly carried out, however, the 5:2 diet can be your ticket to shaving kilos without abandoning all your favorite dishes—which, when you think about it, is why most attempts at dieting fail in the first place. Still, giving up on chocolate cake or cheeseburgers isn’t such a bad idea.