If you read my last post on my all my best diets, you're probably here to find out more about my favorite one. It's called the 5:2 Fast Diet. Just so you know, I'm not being paid by them or anything like that. I just love it! And I know that at some point almost everyone I know will want to lose weight. And there are a lot of diet ideas and fad diets around, so it's good to know when there is one out there that might work for you! And this one really works for me.
First let me say, I'm not an expert. And unlike my last two diets, I didn't even read the book for this one. So forgive me if I get the details wrong. But what I know is that the 5:2 Fast Diet is based on the idea of intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting means you vastly reduce your calories (though in this case you still eat) a couple of days a week and eat normally the other days. Specifically, this diet calls for you to eat 500 calories a day (600 if you're a man) 2 non-consecutive days a week and to eat normally for 5 days a week. Hence the name: the 5:2 Fast Diet.. If you're Muslim or Mormon, your idea of fasting is more like nothing to eat, no food or drink, during the set period of time. This is not a complete fast like that. The fast days are highly restricted calorie days. But The 5:2 Extremely Restricted Calorie Diet just doesn't have the same ring to it.
The background is that as early humans, we were hunter/gatherers. There were times of plenty and times of scarcity. Early humans would hunt and catch an animal and feast for a day or so. And then food would run out. They would eat berries and roots for a day or two until they caught meat again, and then they would feast. Over time, our bodies began to expect there to be times of feast and times of famine. And as long as the times of famine weren't long, our bodies wouldn't freak out. In fact, in preparation for the extra calories needed to hunt, our bodies would ramp up our metabolism, burning stored fat! Modern-day dieting tends to use long periods of calorie restriction. This either causes starvation mode (where our body begins to store fat thinking that we will soon starve if it doesn't) or our bodies burn up muscle for calories. The 5:2 fasting diet uses our biologically embedded reaction to short bursts of food deprivation by burning fat on the lean days and not hoarding it when food is plentiful.
So, what are the nuts and bolts of it? You eat 500 calories two days a week, not in a row. And on the off days, which are 5 days a week, you eat normally. This doesn't mean pigging out. But it does mean you don't restrict. You try to stick to a "normal" diet of about 2000 calories (women. men = 2400). It leaves this up to you, but I also recommend NOT exercising on the diet days. There's no need to, and it'll just make you hungrier. There are 5 other days of the week you can get your exercise in.
I first heard about this diet from Big Daddy, who had heard about it on NPR. I told my mom about it, and then promptly forgot about it. Well, I guess my mom decided to try it because a month later my mother, who has a super hard time losing weight (and has to diet for weeks to lose a single pound) told me she had lost 9 lbs in a month! Naturally I was intrigued. So I put it to the test. I was a little hesitant to eat 500 calories. The thought of it brought me flashbacks to the horrors of the HCG diet. But I was desperate enough to give it a try.
And what do you know? Not only did it work, it wasn't hard at all! I lost weight and didn't gain it back eating normally 5 days a week. (That was the biggest shock to me. I fully expected to lose weight the first fasting day and then gain it all back by the next fasting day. But I didn't!)
I think the key to doing the 500 calorie days and not suffering is three-fold:
1) Prepare ahead of time by buying low calorie foods that you will eat. If you don't have the low cal foods on hand, you will eat what IS on hand and you will fail. (This also means hide/throw away anything that's going to sabotage you).
2) spread the calories out throughout the day. So instead of 3 square meals like I did on HCG (with no fat and only certain veggies and fruits), I'll eat smaller calorie items every hour or so, and what I eat isn't nearly as strict as HCG. Here's a sample of a diet day:
1 hard boiled egg - 75 cal.
herbal Chai with 1 TBS lowfat milk and Truvia. 13 cal.
1 clementine - 35 cal.
1 Coconut light yogurt - 90
water - 0
1 serving Beefy Mushroom Soup - 60 cal
1/4 cup mixed vegetables - 30 cal
Crystal Light - 0 cal.
1/2 apple - 35 cal
1 Baby Bell cheese - 60
1 diet Mt. Dew - 0
1/2 bagel thin - 50 cal.
3 slices mesquite roasted turkey breast - 25 cal.
1/2 cucumber - 12 cal.
1/3 cup raspberries - 20
= 505 calories
Yes, it's light eating. But it's not starving. And the biggest thing is KNOWING IT'S JUST ONE DAY! And that tomorrow I get to have a cinnamon roll for breakfast if I want. Or a bowl of popcorn. Or a couple slices of pizza. I cannot tell you how liberating that thought is! And besides, you can do anything for one day, right???
3) The other thing I think really helps is to eat at least 1 thing you really like on your fast day. For example, I like cheese. Cheese is pretty high calorie, but a little cheese isn't too bad. I can have a Baby Bell for 60 calories or a Laughing Cow wedge spread on a cucumber. I also like green olives, turkey breast with some Laughing Cow cheese smeared on it, raspberries with a drizzle of dark chocolate, and coconut light yogurt. So I make sure that I leave one of those for the time of the day (usually about 3-4 pm) when I'm really craving something yummy. I also drink a LOT of water. If I drink 8 oz of water with every meal, it helps me feel fuller.
So how have I done on this diet? I lost 5 lbs the first month. I know that doesn't seem like a lot. But I had reached the point in my dieting career (i.e.getting old!) where nothing seemed to work, and where no matter how much I exercised (3-4 times a week), and no matter what diet I tried, I just wasn't losing any weight. Well, I finally lost weight! And it was pretty easy. I I won't lie-- don't love the fasting days. But I LOVE the 5 other days of normal eating. For me, the constant food restriction over the last 10 years has left me with a very guilt-ridden relationship with food. Before this diet, I couldn't remember a time when I could eat something somewhat decadent without feeling horrible afterward. Emotionally horrible. Like food was my enemy and I was going to have to fight against this enemy I couldn't get away from for the rest of my life. It's an awful feeling I'm sure a lot of you know too well. So this diet, which has allowed me to eat normally on the off days (without gaining the weight back in between!), was so incredibly liberating I can't even describe it.
I have lost 2 more lbs since then, and I'm now back down to 5-6 lbs lower than when I got married, only 1 lb above my Super Awesome Dream Weight!
I still give myself the safe zone (a 3 lb range to stay in). As long as I am within that range, I don't do 2 days of fasting. I'll do 1 day, or I'll do 2 days of restricted eating, but more like 700-800 calories (which seems so easy now). And that's enough to keep me in the safe zone. And the other days--fried chicken, fries, pie, ice cream, chips and guacamole, even pasta, something I haven;t eaten guilt-free for over 10 years! Of course I don't eat all these things on the same day. But an occasional extravagance doesn't cause me to gain weight like it used to, and I actually get to ENJOY it and not feel guilt-ridden about it. THAT alone is worth so much to me.
I know dieting is a very individual thing. For some people, serious calorie restriction just isn't an option. It's too terrifying, too hard, brings up bad memories, makes them shaky, weak or moody. But for me, the relief and joy of UNrestricted eating 5 days a week is well worth the 2 days of restriction. And I feel like it's healthy too. Like my body was made to eat this way. Like my body instinctively understands what I'm doing and everything just clicks.
So, that's my story of the 5:2 Fast Diet. You can buy the book on Amazon. Or read more about it here. But feel free to ask me any questions if you're curious about anything I haven't mentioned.
Thanks! And good luck with whatever diet you try!