I wanted to share some information on the 5:2 fasting approach because it’s something I have got a lot of benefit from personally and also find that as I work with my weight loss coaching clients and break their emotional connection to food, it’s a great tool for seeing fairly rapid and permanent changes.
It is however something I feel is often misunderstood. It’s become quite a buzz word in the diet world and the latest trend – with some restaurants even offering 5:2 compatible meals. I think this is just crazy!
5:2 is badly named. It is not really diet and shouldn’t be treated that way in my opinion
What is 5:2?
The 5:2 approach was ‘invented’ by Dr Michael Mosley who takes a very pragmatic, research based approach to many health issues (he showed how effective HITS is as a way of exercising)
He studied many different approaches to fasting as part of his research into the benefits of fasting : 7 day fasts, alternative day fasting and a few others before he came up with the 5:2 approach.
He measured everything he did medically.
What’s the idea behind it?
The theory is that fasting is how we evolved. We would catch a beastie and have a couple of days of scoffing. We would then have quite a few days of living of berries and the bare minimum. Because this is how we evolved, our bodies are evolved to cope with this. On the fast days our bodies go into repair mode. They eat the stored fat, the normalise the saturation of our cells of things like blood sugar and they repair damaged cells. This allows us to eat ‘normally’ for the remaining days because our body is working optimally.
In his studies he wanted to know if you could get the same benefits of fasting without going to extremes like 7 day fasts. He wanted an approach that fitted into every day modern life.
He came up with the 5:2 approach.
Here’s how it works
1. You eat normally for five days. Even if you eat about 25% more than normal it’s still ok.
2. You fast for two days (not necessarily consecutive)
3. A fast day is a quarter of your normal calories split into 2 meals (for women this is 500 calories, for men 650)
4. The fast day calories are not a quota…they are split into 2 meals (breakfast and dinner usually) because the intent is to keep your metabolism active (i.e. not go into starvation mode where your body shuts down) but not give it enough for the energy it needs. This means it eats through the fat and repairs cells.
Stomach rumbling on a fast day is a good thing. Getting through to mid afternoon without feeling hungry is not necessarily a good thing as it may mean your system has shut down. He found doing this approach fitted in with his daily life and also gave the same benefits as ‘full’ fasting. It reduces risk of diabetes, helps you lose weight very effectively and does other things which they haven’t fully researched, to mental function.
So how do I do it?
I do it my own way because I understand the science from reading his book. I fast from dinner time until dinnertime. I have totally normal dinners. I find this works as well for me as full day fasting.
I don’t worry about how precisely I meet the calories. I will probably have a salad for lunch with eggs or chicken and balsamic dressing. I usually don’t bother with breakfast but if I do it’s a banana. You can have a couple of boiled eggs and a small slice of toast with them for lunch if you want.
I never eat in between the 2 meals – I don’t even lick my fingers! My dinner is normal so I can go to dinner with friends etc. My husband can’t really tell when I’m doing a fast day!
If my stomach rumbles I smile because I know it is working.
You can eat normally on a fast day and since I re-tuned my behaviour around food with with a slimpod, my ‘normal’ eating truly is normal.
I could not have tried the 5:2 approach a year ago. I was still very much emotionally connected to food. I ate as an act of rebellion. As a child I was starved. For me every time I ate something nice it was an “up yours” to my parents. Of course I was giving the power to them every time I ate to rebel against them! But that emotional connection was cleared so now I have the freedom to choose to do what I want with food.
If you feel that your relationship with food is habitual rather than emotional then the 5:2 Fast diet may be for you. A good way to test it is to try a fast day – if a bunch of emotional stuff comes up when you try then you are best clearing that out of the way first. If it is just difficult because you are hungry – then that’s a good thing and the benefits to health and weight make it worth sticking to in my opinion. It is an approach you can easily fit into your life. You can choose any day to be a fast day so you can even decide on the morning of that day to fast.
Whatever you do, I highly recommend reading the book first. Understanding what you are trying to achieve can stop you treating it like a diet and more like a lifestyle choice.