If I had a pound for every person who has recently told me they are following the 5-2 diet (also known as the Fast Diet) , I would be a rich lady! But not quite as rich as BBC presenter Michael Mosley is undoubtedly becoming as a result of the latest dieting craze. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Lopez have apparently joined the thousands of people following this diet regime.
If you are one of the few people who are not familiar with this diet sensation – let me enlighten you……..
Although Intermittent Fasting is not a new concept, the 5-2 diet became an overnight sensation as a result of a BBC programme presented by Mr Mosley last year. The program claimed that by severely restricting the calories we consume for 2 (non-consecutive) days each week, we would lose weight, and enjoy many other long term health benefits. The other 5 days a week have no restrictions and it is encouraged that we can eat normally.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? That is because, as with all other diet phenomena, it almost certainly is too good to be true.
Despite the claims made in the programme, the general medical consensus is that there is not actually any firm evidence for the long term benefits on our weight, or the health benefits of intermittent fasting, when compared with other ways of cutting down what we eat. Most of the scientific studies backing up the claims have been done on rats or in laboratories, and the truth is we really do not know what the impact of following this will be long term on people. We do however know that eating only 500 or 600 calories a day can reduce energy levels, lead to headaches and dips in blood sugar, in addition to potentially leaving participants starving hungry for 2 days of the week. This diet claims to be a long term way of eating, but who wants to be hungry for almost a third of their life?
But this is not the main issue I have with this way of eating.
I spend a lot of time helping people to improve the relationship they have with food. Most of this problem is due to negative messages from the diet industry, and the subsequent guilt surrounding food, which makes eating more about emotion than nutrition and hunger. The 5-2 diet may encourage a starve/binge pattern in some people. Indeed the author of ‘The Obesity Epidemic’ Zoe Harcombe shares my concerns – she said in a recent article in the Independent “I used to eat like the 5:2 diet in my teens and early 20s and it was called bulimia.” If we follow this diet as parents, are we therefore being good role models for our children? I think not. Do we want to teach our children to eat in a controlled fashion 7 days a week, or virtually starve themselves 2 days a week and potentially eat more the rest of the week?
This goes for any ‘fad’ diet – think carefully about the messages you are sending your children by following a potentially unhealthy eating pattern. The 5-2 diet is this year’s ‘big diet sensation’ – I wonder what it will be next year?