10 September, 2013

5:2 - I have a bone to pick with you

If you haven’t heard the words ‘5:2’ at some point in 2013, you either move in a very different world to me or you have a disease which omits numbers out of conversations. What would that be like?
‘5:2’ has meant many things in the past – the ratio of working days to weekend days, 5 minutes before the hour, my height. But 2013 changed the meaning of these 2 little numbers FOREVER. Now 5:2 refers to a diet. The latest fad diet which people are trying in order to shift weight and still eat whatever they want most of the time. Hmmm, I think I have a problem with this already.

What do we know about 5:2?
The 5:2 diet involves fasting for 2 days out of 7, and only consuming 500 calories in each of those 2 days. The other 5 days you eat pretty much what you want. The idea is that you only have to choose 2 days a week in which to avoid bad foods and eat with real restraint, which is more realistic for busy, social people. By fasting twice a week, you can eat what you like on the other 5 days and still lose weight.
I have so many issues with this concept, but to sum up...

What has years of eating taught the human race?

  • ·         Eating little and often and consistently keeps the metabolism up
  • ·         Starving yourself causes the body to become weaker
  • ·         Starving yourself causes the body to panic store fat when you do eat normally again
  • ·         Extreme fasting can cause women to lose their period and jeopardise future child bearing  
  • ·         Starving yourself 2 days a week makes you a miserable sod
  • ·         If you under eat one day, you will crave more food the next day to over-compensate
  • ·         Eating anything in moderation is fine – i.e. you can eat bread, you just only need one slice, not a loaf

Does the 5:2 diet tick any of those points?
Like with Atkins or any of these trendy diets, they don’t last, inevitably at some point normal service resumes, you get back into normal habits and before long all that starvation followed by over-compensating was for nothing. Any weight you might have lost will come back on as your body panic stores fat. Hands up if you were doing Atkins 10 years ago and looked slinky? Hands up if you are still successfully doing it now and currently sporting your dream body?

It’s not rocket science
More than the physical effects of this diet, what it probably doesn’t warn it’s disciples about is how utterly miserable the other areas of your life will be. Constant craving and obsession over what you cannot eat on your fast days, followed by guilt and over-indulgence on your normal days.  That’s a recipe for a good mood salad. I have come into contact with several people doing the 5:2 diet, and most of them have become increasingly irritable and in all honesty, not sustained any great weight loss either. They are sending their body into panic on a regular basis, which is likely to pay havoc with their hormones and their bellies.

Even if the 5:2 has enabled you to lose weight and eat freer, my point is that it simply isn’t a healthy mindset or attitude towards eating. Weight isn’t the only reflection of how healthy you are, yes it can be an indicator when something is wrong, but what about all the other things that matter? Our mood? Our energy levels? Our insides? Nutrition that fights toxins and disease?

In times when strong is considered the new skinny, when we are more conscious than ever about our health, when we have more access to insightful technology and science that allows to really understand the science behind food – in 2013 for goodness sake – why are real, grown adults following this fad? WHY is the 5:2 diet catching on? HOW are people possible thinking this is a healthy, maintainable lifestyle? I for one certainly wouldn’t want to stand here knowing that for 2/7 days, 29% of THE REST OF MY LIFE, I would be starving. And more than likely become highly unpopular.

I know how irritable I get if miss a meal and if the people I have come into contact with who are following 5:2 are anything to go by, I would expect to become rather difficult to be around. Moody, tired, sensitive, snappy, forgetful. These are all repercussions of not eating well. That’s 29% of the rest of your life spent hungry, tired, irritable, day dreaming about pizza, loathing people with a sandwich while you munch on your allocation of carrot, losing friends at a fast rate.

Yes it has been likened to the 'Caveman' diet, when people were slender and e-numbers weren't an issue, but guess what? We aren't cavemen anymore. We have adapted to fridge-freezers and ovens, we have welcomed international cuisines into our diet, and it is very rare that we go out and hunt our own boar anymore, we are too busy.

“The tortoise wins the race”
Never was a truer word spoken than in the world of dieting and weight loss. I have got some really inspiring friends who have lost weight, like REAL amounts of weight, through eating 3 healthy meals a day and exercising more, but keeping to a lifestyle which is practical and maintainable. And which doesn’t encourage starvation. I applaud those people, as they have really put the work in and they deserve the fact that their weight will be much more likely to stay off FOREVER.

The result may not be as quick as simple starvation, but if you really want to lose weight long-term? Put the effort in. Get off your bum and run round the block. Swap your pies for salad wraps. Do that and you won’t need to starve 2 days out of 7. And your body will be so much happier and will still get all the nutrition it needs, every day. And so will those who have to put up with your mood swings! You got to put the effort in if you want to see change.

There are no shortcuts in health, and there is certainly no such thing as free lunch. The sooner we accept that and stop hoping some pill made from some random new flower will miraculously just rid us of all our fat or that a diet of syrup in water is the answer (mmm, nutritious),  the better for everybody.

Life is for living, life is for enjoying, food is for eating without pressure or guilt. Believe me, I understand the struggles with self control and balance when it comes to food, I have been there. So I am going to save you the effort and time and say take it from me, eating consistently, normally, every single day of your life, with the occasional blow out/treat day (and by occasional I mean once a month have a pizza, not every Saturday and Sunday eat everything you can possibly see – this will ONLY undo all the good work you have put in Monday –Friday) will make you infinitely happier.

Before I finish, I must state I am not a nutritionist or a dietician, or even a scientist. So feel free to ignore me or challenge me. Let the debate commence! But I will also state I am a real human girl who knows what she sees and who has learnt through trial and error what healthy means, who has bounced back from chubville (also known as wine-weight), who has bounced back from anorexia, and found a way that works for her. Weirdly, it’s the way most people have been doing it for years. That way is NOT 5:2. That way is ‘normal’, healthy, common sense eating.

*Read more about the science behind this diet, and why it is particularly bad for women*

1 comment:

  1. This post is spot on! Two friends are on this 'diet' and when I see them weighing out tiny portions of broccoli and blueberries to the nearest milligram and going to bed early because they can't stand to be so hungry, I do worry the obsession to count calories will spiral out of their control!


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