5:2 Diet – Should You Do It?

Written by Mike Sweeney

Imagine being able to eat what you want, when you want, and only having to make minimal effort to stay lean and avoid becoming over weight. Sound good? That’s the premise of the 5:2 diet plan that took the media by storm in recent times. As with all new ‘fads’, people get caught up in the excitement created by the clever marketing and people forget to ask – is it suitable for everyone?

What Is The 5:2 Diet?

The idea is simple; eat your normal foods (in normal quantities) 5 days a week. Then for 2 days a week you eat roughly one quarter of what you normally would. This equates to approximately 500kcals for your average woman, and 600kcals for an average man. These very low calorie days are based on the premise of something called “Intermittent Fasting” or “IF” for short – which I basically under-eating for a portion of the day or week followed by normal eating – the 5:2 is just yet another variation of this theme.

So Does The 5:2 Diet Actually Work?

At the time of writing this article there is one study that supports the 5:2 – yes, it can actually work. What that study also showed was that it had no special benefit above and beyond eating a normal – slightly calorie restricted – diet (Harvie et al. 2011). Both groups lost similar amounts of weight and had similar improvements in health!

So if the 5:2 diet works, should everyone be doing it? The answer to this is most definitely not! What the 5:2 diet does, is give everyone another option for restricting energy intake which is ultimately what’s required to lose unwanted weight. If you have a healthy relationship with food, are highly motivated and don’t mind feeling hungry for long periods of time then the 5:2 may be an option for you.

On the other hand, you should not follow the 5:2 diet if you:

– Have irregular eating patterns/habits
– Regularly under eat followed by over eating (binge eating)
– Feel out of control around food
– Think about food compulsively even when not hungry
– Tend to eat past the point of feeling full

When we get too hungry we tend to make poor choices and this behavior can be amplified in people with poor eating habits that are also struggling to manage their weight. Following a diet like the 5:2 can make all of these eating patterns/habits worse and may result in periods of severe under-eating followed by severe binge eating (yo yo dieting) – which is detrimental to physical and psychological health.

So If Not 5:2 – What Diet IS Suitable?

There is unfortunately no such thing as a perfect diet for everyone. We are all individual, have unique likes/dislikes and all react differently to different kinds of foods. If you are struggling with poor eating habits, irregular eating patterns, binge eating, yo-yo dieting or tend to eat past the feeling of fullness then you most definitely need professional input. Unfortunately eating disorders are poorly recognized in the current health care system and so it may be difficult for you to access the professionals you need. Insight Eating aims to fill this gap and is made up of dietitians and psychologists who have the theoretical and practical experience to help you improve your relationship with food and help you manage your weight in a healthful way without resorting to faddy extremes.

Link to study:

Harvie et al. 2011: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3017674/