……and Does the 5:2 Diet Work?
“Only 30 percent (or less) of how we age can be attributed to genes.
The remaining 70 percent is determined by our lifestyle choices.” – Steve Holman, author of a book I highly recommend to all my Active Ageing clients – “Old School New Body”. Do yourself a favour and check it out.
Unfortunately, simple lifestyle choices tend to be the root cause of most of our modern day health problems. But fortunately, these can be stopped and often, even reversed.
Enter the fields of weight loss and exercise……I know, for many they are dirty words but believe me, they are the answer to your health and longevity. We just need to find some more palatable options for you.
And that’s why so many people ask me about the best way to lose weight.
So, I thought I should take a look for you at the one diet I am most asked about and has ridden a huge wave of popularity for a few years now.
But just before I do, let me make one thing very clear…..people who have been following me for some time will know I am a non-believer in diets. Mainly, because in the long term, diets don’t work.
I say this because these days there are so many crazy money making schemes enticing people to lose weight by way of some new fangled diet instead of people identifying the behaviours and thought patterns associated with their eating habits that are in fact causing their weight and diet problems.
My thinking is, we should learn to develop a healthy relationship with food and beverages and this approach doesn’t include dieting because relying on the latest diet to lose weight puts you in a high risk area for developing other related eating disorders which only worsens your situation.
I have observed, from what a number of my clients have told me about their weight problems, that food, and its over-consumption, is often a symptom of some much deeper issue or disease.
So my advice here is, please go and seek professional advice rather than listen to all the other “would-be” experts you happen to come across.
Kate Swann, a Melbourne psychologist I know and respect, specializes in eating disorders and weight loss and has co-written a book called “Do You Really Want to Lose Weight”. I have read it and it is excellent – it goes into the psychology behind why you may be having so much trouble losing weight and has lots of case studies of real patients and how they succeeded with their weight loss journey.
Kate says, “Unwanted weight is the SYMPTOM that you’re overwhelmed by how you’re feeling. And when you feel overwhelmed, you start to think irrationally.”
So you can see, I haven’t sold you out on this one I just wanted to give people my observations on the 5:2 diet as it is the one weight loss diet I get asked about the most and has actually worked for a few people I know…….but it’s important to note, they did make corresponding long term lifestyle changes to complement the 5:2 diet.
So here is ALL You Need to Know about the 5:2 Diet for Weight Loss
My first observation, and this view hasn’t changed in years, is that burning the fat doesn’t require a long-term lifestyle change but keeping it off does.
I gained this information from 17 different people I have worked with, both male and female, who all tried the 5:2 diet with varying degrees of success – seemingly, just like most other diets, so I am going to address this subject in the near future with some serious solutions……so stay tuned.
To add another perspective, LiveScience in their article “Why Don’t Fad Diets Work” said, “People must be wary of so-called ‘lifestyle changes’ that are actually diets. A true lifestyle change will not require rigid rules and drastic measures.”
So when thinking about making some lifestyle and environment changes, keep this in mind as well; your body can only digest so much food in any given day – the rest you eat simply turns into fat. That’s the problem we all have to contend with from OVEREATING.
What is the 5:2 diet?
Wikipedia tells us, “The 5:2 diet, or fast diet, is a fad diet which stipulates calorie restriction for two non-consecutive days a week and unconstrained eating the other five days. A form of intermittent fasting, it originated and became popular in the UK, and spread in Europe and to the USA.
The diet became popular in the UK after the BBC2 television Horizon documentary “Eat, Fast and Live Longer” written and presented by Michael Mosley was broadcast on 6 August 2012.
The diet has enjoyed media attention and celebrity endorsement, but sceptics and some dieticians have categorized it as a fad diet.”
Be that as it may, the popularity of this style of eating is still riding high across the globe and is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.”
For a more detailed overview watch this interview with the man himself, Michael Mosley. It is well worth the 16 minutes of your time to hear his views.
As you will have gleaned from the video, the 5:2 diet is a simple form of intermittent fasting. For five days of the week, you eat a normal, well-balanced diet, and then for two days you restrict your intake to 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men. These days must be non-consecutive for best results.
How does the 5:2 Diet work?
By eating so few calories two days a week, you are essentially fasting.
Fasting is seen as an incredibly effective way to lose weight, because cutting your calories down intermittently as opposed to doing so all at once doesn’t shock your body into starvation mode, instead it puts it into ‘repair mode’.
Whilst starvation mode causes your metabolism to slow down and store fat, repair mode restores damaged cells – a process which uses a lot of energy, and therefore burns fat.
What are the benefits of the 5:2 Diet?
The 5:2 diet doesn’t have a huge celebrity following for no reason. Although it sounds difficult to eat so few calories on the fasting days, the benefits people have told me about are definitely worth it.
For example, many people tell me the diet has improved their concentration and that they have a lot more energy. By allowing your body to go into fasting mode, theoretically you are also giving your digestive system a break, which helps you to speed up your metabolism for the days when you are eating normally.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of all, is how easy it is to maintain.
Because it’s only two days a week that you are restricting yourself, it’s a lot harder for life to get in the way. Have a dinner date? Move one of your fasting days to accommodate it!
But as I mentioned earlier, you can’t just eat rubbish for the other five days.
What are the cons of the 5:2 Diet?
One of the main issues I have seen with the 5:2 diet is the misconception that you can eat whatever you want on the five days you aren’t fasting. For a number of people I have followed this is where they have fallen down.
Restricting your calories two days a week will not wipe out five days of eating takeaways and chocolate and drinking large bottles of Cola or beer!
“It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.” – Michael Pollan
It is really important to eat healthily on your normal days, making sure to stick to the daily average of 2000 calories for women and 2500 for men.
One of the other cons of this diet is that it definitely takes some getting used to.
For the first few fasting days some dieters I know have reported feeling dizzy, sick and fatigued.
Although this is only temporary, for some people it is too much of an inconvenience.
If you have tried other diets or you don’t want to commit to a full time, gruelling diet but want to see some good weight loss results then I would give the 5:2 diet a go.
From what my successful weight loss clients tell me it takes a little bit of time to get used to, especially in the first few weeks, but if you’re willing to stick it out, stick to clean eating on the other five days then you’ll certainly see some good results.
The majority of people who have had success with the 5:2 diet have all told me that what you have to eat on the 5 full eating days is what makes or breaks the amount of weight you lose .
One couple in particular who went on the 5:2 diet some three years ago have maintained the weight they lost in the first twelve months. This is because they learnt to change their lifestyle rather than the diet although the 5:2 was the motivation they needed to clean up their eating and drinking habits.
You don’t have to eat as though you are living in a monastery……just be sensible.
Some Diet Tips to Help Keep You on Track with the 5:2 Diet
Counting calories is not something most people want to do to lose weight. It is boring, takes a huge amount of time and is very inconvenient with our fast paced lifestyles. But it is good to have some idea of what is good for you and what is bad for you when you are trying to get rid of a few kilos of belly fat.
By knowing that a 125 gm punnet of blueberries contains 87 calories and a medium banana has 105 calories plus a host of other beneficial nutrients then you will soon come to grips with the fact that a large fries from Maccas is not what you should be snacking on because it comes in at 510 gms of calories, 24 gms of fat, 67 gms of carbs and 6 gms of protein.
When you consider how many calories you should eat per day to lose weight and you can learn to recognize the approximate food values of what you are stuffing into your mouth then you are well on the way to controlling what you eat……..that then means, meaningful weight loss.
Here’s a handy little table for you to keep in mind…….calories are made up of macro-nutrients and the nutrition labels on the side of your packet/box measure these in grams. So, one gram of each macro-nutrient yields the following number of calories:
1 gram of Protein = 4 calories
1 gram of Carbohydrate = 4 calories
1 gram of Fat = 9 calories
1 gram of Alcohol = 7 calories (one stubbie of full strength beer contains 153 calories and a shot of whiskey has 105 calories)
In a nut shell, successful weight loss simply means eating less, especially processed foods and alcohol. Try looking at it like this……….”refuse it, and then you don’t have to lose it”. It really works.
If you need some more help with your meals then check this out: 19 Healthy Dinners Under 500 Calories That You’ll Actually Want To Eat.
And just the other day while researching for my 10 best recipe sites article I came across something really interesting for your low calorie days. Recipes for 7 days of healthy 500 calorie dinners that are all balanced for the three macronutrients – carbs, fats and protein.
5 More Weight Loss Ideas to Ponder
1. From the New York Times: 95% Regain Lost Weight. Or Do They?
The new research on successful dieters will disappoint those hoping for a magic-bullet solution; most had simply eaten less, and healthier, food, and exercised regularly. But judging by their accounts, it is entirely possible for people without the resources to hire personal trainers and chefs to accomplish permanent weight loss.
The experience of Russell M. Lomando, 47, of Brooklyn, was probably more typical of the people in the study.
”You just have to change your lifestyle,” he said. ”You just have to have the will power to do it.” But that is not necessarily easy, he conceded. ”You just have to weigh the choices. Do you want to become healthier?”
2. Here is another interesting video for you – How to stay healthy: Michael Mosley, All About Women 2016. How the latest research is making us rethink what we need to do to stay healthy.
3. If you think the 5:2 Diet is for you but would like a bit of extra help and encouragement along the way then you might like to join the closed group on Facebook.
4. And for all you men out there this is the best Weight Loss and “how to change your lifestyle” book I have read in years. From well-known Australian writer Peter Fitzsimons and written in true down to earth Aussie style, “The Great Aussie Bloke Slim-Down” is more than worth the price. Moyra, my dear ‘long suffering’ wife has read it too and she loved it……once she came to grips with Pete’s colourful Aussie writing style (Peter is obviously married to another journalist and not a senior English teacher, like me :-)).
It is an entertaining read as well as an informative weight loss guide telling exactly how Peter lost 42 kg off his own large frame. He reckons if he can do it then so can you. I’m inclined to agree with him.
5. The best results I have come across from people doing the 5:2 diet are those who include some form of regular exercise in their overall lifestyle program.
Many of you will have read weight loss is 75% to 80% diet and the balance exercise which, from my experience, is pretty much true. But, there are numerous other important benefits attached to exercise other than the weight you might lose so whatever you do……don’t stop exercising.
Aussie doctor Peter Dingle whose views, research and ideas I also greatly respect, authored this article: Exercise for Weight Loss.
It is highly relevant reading when combined with what I have addressed here as it discusses the connection between exercise and diet, why exercise alone doesn’t cut it when looking to lose weight plus the Doctor uses a number of related research studies to exemplify his point of view. Some essential reading I feel.
And here is another interesting article I found recently in The Huffington Post which I also recommend you read…..it tells you “Why Exercise Alone Isn’t Enough to Prevent Weight Gain“.
And just before I go, here is another observation I have made over the years that I’m sure you will find useful in your weight loss journey.
Weight loss and fitness is a lot about finding out what works for you.
We are all different so just because your best friend did one program and it worked well for them it may not be the best fit for you…….so be prepared to experiment until you find the sweet spot.
Even though the basics of weight loss are pretty much the same for most people there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
People have physiological and genetic differences that may need some fine tuning for optimum results so be prepared to experiment to find the best results for you. And that will mean keeping track of your progress.
Keeping track of your progress does not have to be something like “War and Peace”. Just keep a weekly note of your weight and measurements of the neck, chest, waist at the navel, hips at the widest part, thighs and arms at the biceps.
It is also a good idea to keep a few notes on your food consumption…..e.g. what changes you have made to your diet, what foods you may have dropped and new foods added, quantities and how you are feeling with the changes. You will find it very useful information to have three or four months down the track.
Give it a try and good luck with your weight loss journey.
Cheers – John – your Active Ageing Mentor and Coach.
P.S. Help a friend to better health and fitness…….like and share. Thanks.
P.P.S. Here’s 4 excellent weight-loss resources for you to learn more about the dangers of Cancer associated with excess belly fat and how intermittent fasting using the 5:2 diet can greatly help reduce the risk: