A couple of years ago, Dr Michael Mosely came upon an eating plan that he found seemed to work.
So impressed was he that he turned it into a flourishing business. Called the 5:2 diet, it works on the principle of intermittent fasting.
It is pretty simple really. Eat 5 days a week normally but healthily and have way less calories on two days of the week.
‘The theory is that the semi-fast gives your system time to recover and heal to ensure normal internal functioning, and your body draws its energy from fat stores thereby burning fat and promoting weight loss over time.
According to Mosely, this is not a short term quick fix diet but an ongoing eating plan. Once at goal weight, the fasting occurs on only one day a week, not two, to maintain the new level of health and fitness.
I recall the BBC series episode where Mosely investigated a number of different eating regimens based on fasting. It was in pursuit of finding the most healthy eating plan for good health and longevity.
One was a permanent caloric restriction which was primarily vegetarian. My partner has been on a similar eating plan for over a year to control cholesterol by diet rather than statins. Too restrictive and limited for me.
Another plan was periodic complete fasting. Three consecutive days on 25 calories. I could not maintain that! The health benefits gained by Mosely on this model were also short-lived.
Next Mosely looked at Alternate Day Fasting – eat restricted calories one day then eat whatever you like the next – literally.
Then it was the intermittent fasting model. Mosely favored this over the Alternate model primarily because of the reported benefits of healthy brain aging.
The intermittent fasting plan seems a sound model and I was impressed when I saw the episode. Certainly Mosely’s results, apart from his weight, but certainly an improved set of blood results such as cholesterol readings.
“No pills, no injections and no hidden cost.” is how Mosely describes fasting.
Fasting or severe caloric restriction is, in my view, extreme and not recommended.
Intermittent fasting seems viable to me. Weight loss is certainly a benefit though what appeals more is the health benefits to inner functioning systems like cholesterol, glucose etc.
So how does the 5+2 work?
There is a plethora of material now available about the model. The key element is to eat what you like (healthy food only of course) for 5 days and restrict your intake for two days (not consecutive days). If you want to explore it further, head over to Mosely’s site and you can dig deeper.
Personally, I’m prepared to adopt it as a way of life. I will give it three months and see the results. If it’s favorable in terms of weight loss, and my medical test results are positive then I will continue. Based on a recent experiment with pure fasting for a day I believe I could manage the two day less-intake mode without issue.
I’ll be choosing Monday and Thursday as my lower-intake days. I need to ensure I schedule low-energy activities for those days at first until I get used to it.
The trick for me is eating healthy on the normal days and being ok with the odd treat (not regular or daily!!). Switching the automatic pilot of reaching for chocolate into grabbing something healthier is key. That is going to be a permanent diet change anyway.
That’s the appeal to me about this diet. It is based on healthy eating, mostly fresh real foods where possible with the occasional extra treat. My personal view is that eating food that’s least processed or unprocessed is the way to go. I have learned that it’s not how much I eat but what I eat that stacks on my weight. My past diet consisted of high calorie, low nutrition ‘food’. So from that point of view it is no different to the plan I have decided to adopt. It’s about fueling my body and not my emotions!
It’s not unusual for me to eat less than the recommended calories (when I avoid eating rubbish – that high calorie, nutrient-poor stuff) so the lower calorie days will not be a strain for me. My challenge is to continue to make the best food choices every day and avoid falling back into old patterns under pressure.
Intermittent fasting is not a panacea and may not work for everyone. My initial one day trial was positive so I’m prepared to give it a red-hot go for three months. I may see benefits earlier but that is when I’ve arranged to be back at the doc’s for the tests.
Wish me luck!
Warning: only undertake a fasting model when in good health, not pregnant, not underweight and with medical supervision. Get a starting blood test result as a baseline to measure the health impact.
PS – watch the episode if only for the inspirational marathon story starter!