The 5:2 Diet

To 5:2 or not to 5:2 that is the question

The diet is fast becoming the nation's most popular weight-loss option praised in women’s magazines and news programs but how does it actually work and will it keep the Kg’s off?
First of all we need to establish what exactly the 5:2 diet is, other than being the newest in a long line of fab diets. It follows the principle of a caloric restriction diet where 5 days are ‘normal’ days albeit a little more healthy and 2 ‘fast’ days where you are restricted to only 500 calories (2090kj). In a whole it sounds quite simple and yes there is (limited) research supporting the premise of low calorie days and weight loss but the challenge comes in sticking to the diet plan.

Limiting dietary intake to 500 calories (think two eggs and some mushrooms (no toast) for breakfast, then 60g of poached chicken or fish and a little side salad for lunch and dinner) is quite a challenging process even for the nutritionally competent, so it will be significantly more difficult for those unaware of how many calories are actually in what they’re eating. In reality instead of consuming small portions from nutritionally whole food groups people will opt for nutritionally poor options such as coffee for breakfast and lunch and a slice of pizza for dinner to fit under the 500 calorie restriction. The weight may come off but the principles of a well-balanced nutritionally complete diet have not been established; Hence the weight (plus some) will pile back on within 3 months of returning to a ‘normal’ eating plan.

Calorie counting in itself is a time consuming activity and in general clients with weight problems have most commonly found themselves in a non-ideal weight range from a lack of organisation and understanding of basic nutrition principles. Therefore adding calorie counting and restrictions is only going to require a significant more amount of planning, expenses that are the obstacle to begin with.
On the flip side, those able to stick to the limited caloric diet will find success but time could also be spent in  by avoiding the whole 5:2 process by cutting down on some excess caloric foods on the 5 ‘normal’ days and re-distributing them to the 2 ‘fast’ days and alas be following a normal healthy diet that has all foods in moderation.

Weight loss can be achieved by a simple reduction in 200 calories (836kj) each day (one less coffee, cutting out soft drink, decreasing portions at dinner, skipping that Tim Tam at morning tea) and to me this sounds much more simpler than fast days, calorie counting and running the risk of putting your body in a ketogenic state. Not to mention the issue of developing a negative relationship with food and poor lifestyle role modelling for children. If you’re looking to make some dietary changes or decrease the waist line try the following tips:

  • ·         Consume a minimum 1.5L/d of plain water
  • ·         Have at least 2 fruits per day (1 with skin)
  • ·         Ensuring lunch and dinner are ½ made from salad or vegetables
  • ·         Limit alcohol to 4 alcohol free days per week
  • ·         Avoid skipping meals

The 5:2 diet may be the fad right now but no doubt we will see it go the way of the Atkins diet 10 years ago, Zone 5 years ago and Alkaline diet 1 year ago disapproved, damaging to long term health and just too difficult to stick to. Focusing on small achievable changes will go a long way in establishing healthy lifestyle practices and improving your health in the long term.