The Fast Diet

by lrmetcalfe

The Fast Diet or The 5:2 Diet, is the latest fad sweeping the diet world.

A few of my family members and friends, have started to undertake this diet, after speaking to them, I was concerned about the basis for this regime. I thought I would do some research and write an article on my findings.

 

The Fast Diet- The Premise

Fasting has been a part of many cultures for hundreds of years, and it’s health benefits have been studied by many research programmes.

Early findings show that benefits of intermittent fasting (the style of fasting promoted in the 5:2 diet) include reduced risks of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, insulin resistance and immune disorders. However research is in the early stages, many of these studies have been done on animals or on small, human sample groups.

The author of The Fast Diet, Michael Mosley, designed the 5:2 diet, after filming a BBC documentary called ‘Eat, Fast, Live Longer’. Following his research into fasting for this programme, he decided to restrict his calorie intake to 600 calories for two days a week and eat ‘normally’ for 5 days a week. He lost 19lb and his body-fat percentage decreased. His blood chemistry was analysed before and after the diet and many risk markers for disease such as cholesterol and fasting glucose levels improved.

He wrote a book detailing his experiences and advocating this diet, in which two days a week men consume 600 calories and women 500 calories, eating normally for the rest of the week.

 

What I like about the fast diet-

The sections on insulin and balancing blood sugar were of great interest to me. The diet places emphasis on controlling insulin levels, eating low GI/GL  foods on fast days which keep your blood sugar balanced. There is a lot of research to suggest that by controlling blood sugar levels we can lose weight, increase our energy levels and reduce the risk of contracting diseases such as diabetes.

The meal plans for the fast days do look delicious, and I think it is important if you are following this diet, to try and follow these plans as they ensure you are receiving the maximum amount of nutrients for the small amount of calories consumed.

 

My concerns- What about the 5 days you are not fasting?

‘The Fast Diet’ book goes into great lengths to tell you what to eat on your fast days, and gives a lot of healthy choices; my biggest concern is how little is mentioned about what to eat on the five days a week you are not fasting.

When I first heard about this diet, it was from someone who was excited to do the diet, as he could eat all his favourite junk foods five days a week and then only had to diet twice a week. The book says ‘eat what you like 5 days a week’, and provides no further guidance-so what if I like to eat a diet high in saturated fat, processed foods and low in fruit, vegetables and fibre, 5 days a week?

Does eating a small amount of healthy food twice a week, compensate for 5 days of eating unhealthily? The book assumes that we all know how to eat healthily for the 5 days a week, but a nation that struggles with obesity and a UK diet industry worth 2 billion pounds, may suggest otherwise.

 

What dieters say… A woman’s point of view:

Why did the Fast Diet appeal to you?
I can eat normally for 5 days I only have to count calories/ cook special meals twice a week. This is convenient as sometimes on diets I end up cooking three meals for me, husband and 3 year old child.

Did you experience any side effects when completing the fast diet?

On fast days I was hungry and lacked energy but otherwise no.

What do you think the pros and cons of the diet are?

Pros – health benefits are major and only dieting for 2 days
Cons -hard to have a ‘normal’ day on a fast day as you’re quite tired

How long have you done the diet for, do you think it is sustainable, could you do it long-term?
I did it for two weeks but lost and then gained weight, as I was eating too much on non-fast days.  I will go back on the diet when I have lost weight to maintain, as it’s much easier than doing a diet every day. I stopped as I needed to lose weight more quickly as am planning to have a baby but will definatly do it again for the health benefits. I think it is sustainable and I could do it long term.

How much weight have you lost doing this diet?

I lost 4lb and put 2lb back on so lost 2lb over 2 weeks.

Did you experience any health benefits other than weight loss when doing this diet?
No, not that I am aware of.

 

What dieters say… A man’s point of view:

Why did the Fast Diet appeal to you?

I saw the Horizon programme on BBC 2. I have believed for some time that fasting could be beneficial to health, the programme listed the benefits and backed them up with scientific research, this prompted me to start the diet.

Did you experience any side-effects when completing the fast diet?

No

What do you think the pros and cons of the diet are?

Pros- I find the diet works for me

Cons- The con, which is true of all diets- they are difficult to follow

How long have you done the diet for, do you think it is sustainable, could you do it long-term?

Three weeks, I believe the diet is sustainable, if you have the will-power to continue with it.

How much weight have you lost doing this diet?

6lb

Did you experience any health benefits other than weight loss when doing this diet?
No other noticeable health benefits.

 

What the NHS says…

The UK National Health Service posted an article about the diet on its website, citing limited evidence for weight loss in humans, and a lack of good evidence for increasing lifespan, improving cognitive decline, and prolonging life in humans in real life (as opposed to animal and laboratory results). The conclusion was: “compared to other types of weight loss programmes the evidence base of the safety and effectiveness of the 5:2 diet is limited. If you are considering it then you should first talk to your GP to see if it is suitable for you”.

 

My conclusion…

Research continues on fasting, and until there is more solid evidence on the best way to fast as part of a healthy diet, I would think carefully and consult your doctor on whether the 5:2 diet is suitable for you.

At the end of the day, the basis of ‘the Fast Diet’ is good old-fashioned calorie restriction. We all know if we want to lose weight we need to eat less, eat healthier foods and exercise more. I believe one of the main reasons the fast diet is so appealing is because it allows us to eat the foods we love but know are bad for us.

However, if you eat healthily and increase your activity levels, there is no reason why you cannot treat yourself occasionally.

I believe that the minute we place ourselves on a ‘diet’ we are setting ourselves up to fail, a ‘diet’ suggests a short-term change.  We should place more emphasis on eating and cooking healthier foods and living a more active lifestyle for the rest of our lives.

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3 Comments to “The Fast Diet”

  1. Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I in finding It truly useful & it helped me
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  2. I blog quite often and I really appreciate your content. This great
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  3. I think that you’re completely right! In weight loss there are so many ways to fail losing weight! My method was an anti-diet program, eat stop eat; I’m verry happy with it!

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