Fasting or severely restricting calories to lose weight isn’t a new idea. However, it has gained attention again in the form of the 5:2 diet. The 5:2 diet is frequently presented as a great diet option for people who love food and don’t want to make extreme changes to their lives. On the diet, individuals are asked to limit their calorie intake (500 calories for women and 600 calories for men) on two non-consecutive days of the week. For the rest of the week, people can eat as they normally do; no restrictions necessary.
Can a diet that encourages people to limit intake, but not add any exercise, or otherwise change their eating habits be truly effective? Experts aren’t convinced. “A feast or famine approach promotes binge-eating and game-playing, and that leads to weight gain.” said Registered Dietitian Mary Hartley. The 5:2 diet may help people lose weight in the short-term, but isn’t likely to be effective over a long period of time, no matter what its supporters think.
Proponents of the diet feel that research done on animals proves intermittent fasting is an effective weight loss tool and has other healthy impacts on the body. Research shown in the documentary “Horizon: Eat, Fast and Live Longer” appeared to prove that intermittent fasting helped mice live longer, healthier and lighter lives. “Intermittent fasting is gaining some attention in the world of rat research,” Hartley said. “The process seems to help rats lose weight more easily, which makes sense because if calories are cut for two days out of seven, overall calorie intake will be less than if fasting did not occur.” Be that as it may, intermittent fasting in any form is not the way to go for a total lifestyle change.
“Any bizarre practice with rigid guidelines that you have to read in a book takes you away from connecting with your body, and that is a problem,” Hartley said. The most effective diet is one that encompasses a lifestyle change, meaning exercise and eating habits. Changing eating habits twice a week isn’t enough to create a sustainable healthy life. “The body prefers nutrient-rich, wholesome foods eaten in the right amount for you with consistency from day to day,” Hartley said. “Fasting is not more helpful than watching what you eat from day to day and I wouldn’t recommend it.”