Intermittent fasting: the 5:2 diet

 Since Dr Michael Mosley put it to the test on BBC's Horizon programme in August 2012, the 5:2 diet has been steadily gaining in popularity.

How it works is that across seven days you eat normally for five days and on two non-consecutive days you stick to 500 calories (600 if you're a man). The 5:2 diet is also known as intermittent fasting. 

As long as you don't binge on your 'feast' days, and make sure you stick to the calorie limit to your 'fast' days, many Mumsnetters say intermittent fasting has helped them lose weight, without the usual diet-related misery.

Very low-calorie diets usually come under fire from doctors as being bad for you and bound to fail: your body responds to restricted calories as if you're in a famine and your metabolism slows down, then once your calorie intake goes up, your body stores the energy as fat.

But the science seems to show that two days of fasting, non-consecutively, doesn't trigger this response and so you don't get locked into a demoralising fat-off, fat-on cycle. 

Fans of the 5:2 diet like its simplicity and flexibility. You can be veggie, vegan or omnivore. And if something unexpected comes up and you need to swap your fast day, you can. It also helps to ensure you have the recommended two alcohol-free days each week.

Tips for getting through fast days

Adapting to your fast days takes a bit of getting used to at first, with side-effects including grumpiness and, more obviously, feeling famished.

Here are tips gleaned from Mumsnet Talk for not making a meal out of your fast days:

  • Plan ahead so you know which days you're fasting on (and plan your menu)
  • Hot drinks will suppress your appetite, but remember to include milk in your calorie count
  • Soup, soup, soup! Some instant Miso soups are fewer than 20 calories
  • Avoid carboydrates, especially starchy foods like pasta and bread, which will make you feel hungrier later
  • Choose foods that take time to eat, and are bulky and low calorie, like vegetarian stews
  • Exercise can suppress your appetite and passes the time if you feel extra hungry
  • Remind yourself as you eye the biscuit tin that tomorrow you can eat what you want


Fast day food tips

  • MisoI recommend Marigold bouillon powder for fast days. It makes a really filling hot drink at 12 calories a cup, which I have when I'm bored, hungry or cold, and it stops me from thinking too much about food. I also don't associate it with food, while I struggle to have tea or coffee without wanting a biscuit to go with it. KateRuggles
  • Salad is great to fill you up and to bulk out meals, remember to still check the calories though. SchroSawMummyRidingSantaClaus
  • Make every meal as tasty as possible. Add chilli, fresh coriander, parsley and mint, lemon or lime juice, gherkins, garlic, mustard, black pepper, soy or Worcester as these all perk up your meal no end for very few calories. Laska42
  • Hellmanns do a 'lighter than light' mayonnaise, 10 cals per tbsp and it actually tastes great. SchroSawMummyRidingSantaClaus
     

What Mumsnetters say about following the 5:2 diet

  • It's so easy! All the energy and concentration is limited to two days per week - so simple. ErikNorseman
  • You can eat junk if you want to, drink wine or not, do low carb if it suits you, have restricted eating times or not. catsrus
  • We're not used to being hungry mostly, but it really is manageable once you stop fearing it. I'm always amazed that the morning after a fast day, I'm often just not hungry. Laska42


Fast day recipe suggestions

There are a surprising number of delicious recipes you can make that are relatively low in calories. We've got nine mouth-wattering meal ideas to get you started.

Last updated: 07-Jan-2015 at 11:58 AM