We live in a society where everything is wanted and everything is wanted immediately. People are constantly looking for those immediate results, a quick fix, something FAST. So naturally, we have “The Fast Diet” on the rise. The Fast Diet, more commonly known as the 5:2 diet, works like this:
5 days of “normal eating” – in essence, eat as you please. Pick up an extra dessert. Or five.
2 days of fasting where calorie consumption is reduced to a mere 500 calories for women, and 600 calories for men.
The 5:2 Diet is also the parent of the Fast Beach Diet – or a more updated version of the 5:2 Diet. The Fast Beach Diet is an intensified version of the 5:2 Diet and focuses on short-term dieting with a promise of a 12 pound weight loss in six weeks. The difference is that even on the non-fasting days, dieters should still slightly moderate their eating and incorporate more exercise. Additionally, and as the name suggests, the six week diet is meant to be implemented in the spring and early summer months to get ready for a “beach body”. Mimi Spencer, author of the Fast Beach Diet and co-author of the Fast Diet, also states that her diet can be used as a “primer” or even “boot camp” for the 5:2 Diet. In essence it’s a way to give you that extra push and get you ready to use the 5:2 Diet on a more long-term basis.
There are definitely some blaringly obvious pros and cons to these diets, but let’s go through a more complete list.
You choose your own schedule. You get to decide on what days you will eat freely, and what two days is best for you to fast. You don’t even have to repeat the schedule week after week. You can change up your two restricting days each week. The one thing to note however, is that your fasting days should never be done consecutively.
Never give up any social events to avoid food. It can be hard sometimes to hang out with friends when you’re dieting. Going out means exposing yourself to more temptations, but with the 5:2 diet, that may never have to happen.
Finally, never give up your favorite foods, period. The biggest and most obvious bonus.
The 5:2 Diet encourages use of your BMI to determine what caloric intake is most appropriate for you. BMI is an unreliable tool for weight loss. Dietitians and most healthcare professionals will agree that using the BMI alone is not sufficient enough to create a weight loss goal. In fact, the 5:2 Diet official website actually warns individuals to take the BMI calculation with “grain of salt”.
The diet has an eerie similarity to binge eating. Granted not every dieter will binge eat on their non-fasting days, but for those who easily take instructions on to face value – it’s a great possibility. The 5:2 Diet claims that their form of fasting and dieting is much easier to comply with, but it may encourage a poor mindset where individuals will believe it is perfectly fine to fast for just a few days and resume eating a copious amount of unhealthy foods and calories.
Eating at a caloric intake as low as 600 can be very dangerous, which is why the 5:2 Diet experts don’t encourage the two fasting days to be done consecutively. However, even done for just one day, this restriction can be dangerous. This small amount of calories can be easily consumed in one meal, so anyone partaking in this diet will have to be very careful of how to spread those calories throughout the day. Moreover, you have to be careful on what days you choose to fast. Weekends are undesirable, as most people go out to eat and don’t want to think about limiting their food. Weekdays can be just as hard – you need much more than 600 calories just to perform everyday tasks. If you’re going to work, you can expect your thinking process to be slightly slower, and perhaps your mood will go down too.
Bottom line: It’s a major plus that you are able to continue eating your favorite dishes. I’m a firm believer of never asking a future patient or client to give up their favorite foods and beverages (unless, of course it is a true life threatening risk) – everything in moderation, right? Right. Now, choosing the five days to eat as you please and then another two to restrict your calories? Not so much moderation there.
Overall, there is no evidence-based information to back up the effectiveness of these diets. Any diet that restricts calories and eating as extreme as these two diets will of course have its results, but not always good ones. However, let’s try to modify this diet a bit.
Let’s say you continue eating as you please for those five days, and then two days with restriction – but NOT focusing on the number of calories. Instead, on those two days, let’s replace your favorite, but not-so-healthy, dish with a healthier one. Then in a few weeks, let’s turn those two days into three or four days. Then the next week, five days, and so on.
Going cold turkey is hard. You’re familiar with a certain way of living for so long – it’s hard to give that up right away, and that’s okay. Instead, work your way up little by little. At the end of the day, you’re still doing SOMETHING. Just remember to keep going and you will get to that goal.
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