Weight loss. Is starving the answer?

There are many myths and half truths when it comes to diets. There’s even one about starving yourself. Recently I’ve had a few people ask me about something called the 5:2 diet. The diet requires you to eat a sensible diet for five days of the week. Then you limit your intake to only 500 on the remaining two days. It claims amazing results and is backed by some people that appear to know what they’re talking about. sounds great right? Err…

DOES IT WORK?

It’s claimed this diet can have beneficial effects on inflammation and insulin levels as well as fat loss. It has even been featured in a BBC2 Horizon documentary presented by health journalist Dr Michael Mosley. He lost nearly a stone in a month. A book on the subject has been an Amazon best seller.

So, you might think it sounds like the perfect way to lose weight. However this regime has drawn criticism from nutritionists. Many believe any weight loss on the diet would not be sustainable and claim it could even trigger eating disorders.

‘The idea that you have a very restricted diet on your “fast” days and can eat whatever you like on your “feed” days isn’t something I’m very comfortable with,’ says Zoe Harcombe, author of The Obesity Epidemic book. ‘I did this during my late teens and early 20s. It was called bulimia. My biggest concern is that it’s an approach that could encourage disordered eating in people who are prone to that sort of behaviour.’

While every dieter will be used to hunger pangs, the side-effects of such an extreme calorie restriction can be even more unpleasant.‘The body does its best to get us to eat,’ says Zoe.  ‘So if you’re only eating a quarter of the calories you need, you can expect to experience symptoms associated with low blood sugar. Anything from feeling light-headed and having shaky hands to feeling irritable and lacking concentration.’

IS IT REALISTIC?

How long do you really think you could keep that up for? You might be able to do it for long enough to lose a few pounds but could you eat this way forever? I don’t think I could even manage one day on 500 calories. My go to girl on these matters is registered dietitian Nichola Ludlam-Raine.‘Basically the weight loss happens through an energy deficit. So losing 3,500 kcal over two days to lose a pound a week is the same as eating 500 kcal less a day (over the whole week).’Now which one of those do you think sounds easier to do in the long term?

CAN YOU STICK AT IT?

There’s a long list of well documented benefits to this way of eating but success with any weight loss programme is based on sustainability. Unless you continue to eat in this way permanently it’s not going to help to keep your weight off permanently. The only way to lose weight and keep it off for good is to change your lifestyle habits. There’s a quote I keep returning to time and time again.

ANY TEMPORARY CHANGE TO YOUR DIET OR LIFESTYLE WILL ONLY GIVE YOU TEMPORARY RESULTS.

SO WHAT’S THE ANSWER?

It’s actually quite simple. Eat real food and not products made from food. Stick to a balance of healthy carbs, protein and fats and keep treats as treats. Don’t eat too much and don’t eat way too little. Most importantly, change your habits. You can radically improve your shape and health by just accumulating healthy habits.

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