What is the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet?


The 5:2 Diet/'The Fast Diet' is a revolutionary new way to lose weight and get healthier, pioneered by Dr Michael Mosley in BBC Horizon's "Eat, Fast and Live Longer" documentary in August of 2012. Since then it has become an internationally best-selling book ('The Fast Diet', co-authored by Dr Michael Mosley & Mimi Spencer) and has spread rapidly from the UK to Europe, America, Canada, Australia and soon no doubt the rest of the world!
Let's let's start with what the 5:2 diet isn't!

There are several common misconceptions about the 5:2 'diet'.

It is not a 'diet'...
5:2 is a new way of eating for life. It's easier to stick to than many other 'diets' as it's only ever one day at a time and only two days a week.
It is not a 'quick fix'...
Weight loss is slow and steady although often starting with an initial larger loss. Those with more weight to lose will generally find their weekly loss is higher than those with less to lose.
It is not 'starving' yourself...
You can eat a good amount of food for the 500-600 calories allowed, and it's only 2 days a week. You won't starve!
It is not 'eat as much as you like' 5 days a week...
A lot of folks have misunderstood a key point of this way of eating. It's "eat what you like" as in no foods are forbidden, it's not "eat as much as you like". So, you can have that piece of cake and not feel guilty, you can have dinners out and takeaways.
But remember that if you overeat on a daily basis you are obviously not going to lose weight or get healthier even with 2 days of calorie restriction.
Okay, so what is the 5:2 diet?

The 5:2 intermittent fasting diet is a simple way to reduce your calorie intake over the week without making yourself feel deprived and as if you are constantly on a 'diet'. So many people diet only to get fed up of the constant restrictions and feeling guilty over 'treats' - this makes many diets difficult to stick to in the long term and more often than not any weight lost will be regained, often with extra weight. Yes, some people do manage to stick to these other eating plans and keep the weight off - but most of us do not want to go without our favourite foods forever.

With the 5:2 diet, you simply have 2 non-consecutive days a week where you eat only up to a quarter of your recommended daily intake of calories. For men this is usually around 600 calories and for women around 500 calories. It's simple - go to bed on a feed day, wake up and consume no more than 500/600 calories for your fast day, go to bed, wake up and eat as normal. So, you're only 'dieting' 2 days a week - some people call these days 'repair days' or 'very low calorie days' instead of 'fast days', as it is not technically fasting. You can split your calories however you like on your fasts, whether you want 1 large meal, 2 medium sized meals or 3 smaller meals. The other 5 days are often called feed days or feast days - but be careful not to take the term 'feast' literally, it is only meant in terms of the lifestyle mimicking a natural state of 'feast and famine', the 5:2 diet is not an excuse to binge!

It's simple, and easier than you might think. The idea of fasting can sound daunting, but once you learn that hunger is only a fleeting feeling and can soon be quelled with a drink of water, black tea or coffee, it just gets easier and easier. You'll probably also find your tastes in food change somewhat, when you realise how good your lovely filling veg and protein taste on your fasts and how good it makes you feel! The first few fasts when starting the 5:2 diet lifestyle are probably the hardest, but after that you'll find it's easy to incorporate 5:2 into your life and most fasts will be quite easy and something you may well look forward to.

Many naturally slim people have always eaten in this way - you may wonder how your skinny friend seems to be able to eat like a horse when you go out to dinner together - well, it's probably because there are also days where that friend doesn't feel particularly hungry and doesn't eat much. Those of us who aren't gifted with this seemingly natural ability to balance our food intake find that copying this method in the form of 5:2 is really useful in not only helping us to lose weight but also regaining our control over food and our appetites.

You won't starve. You won't need to feel guilty about eating the things you enjoy. Yes, you can still eat cake!

What other lifestyles allow you to eat as normal most of the time and still lose weight in the long run?

You don't have to buy fancy branded diet foods to follow this lifestyle. There are no subscription fees, no meetings, no-one judging you or your progress. You'll probably find you actually save money as you'll be eating less two days a week. What have you got to lose by trying?

So can anyone do the 5:2 diet?

Fasting is not recommended for the following types of people:

  • Type 1 Diabetics
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • Women trying to get pregnant
  • Anyone who has or had an eating disorder
  • Under 18's
  • Anyone who is currently underweight (BMI of under 18.5)

If you have any doubt as to the 5:2 diet's suitability for you please consult your medical practicioner before beginning.

If you'd like to know more about the 5:2 Diet, feel free to post your questions on the forums and be sure to check out the 5:2 Diet Frequently Asked Questions for lots of helpful information.

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