The Five/Two Diet
As a method of weight loss and weight control, this easy solution of five/two pertains to a 7 day eating plan. Once you have reached your ideal weight, you transition to healthy baseline calorie intake every day. If you gain a pound, then you can transition back to the 5/2 plan. This is how it works:
• For 5 days a week, you eat a healthy diet based primarily on fruits, vegetables, a few nuts, a little olive oil, limiting pasta or rice to twice a week. Add limited whole grains to the mix, with low-fat meat, including salmon or other similar fish. Mirror your food selections with the Mediterranean diet like people who live along the southern Italian coast and Greek islands. Eating primarily fresh fruits, vegetables, and little saturated fat, they tend to live longer, in better health and with lower heart disease.
• For two days a week, eat very few calories, only 500-600. The two days must not be consecutive. Instead separate them such as Monday and Thursday.
Why not do the low calorie days together? Harsh calorie restriction can trigger what researchers call the starvation response. With starvation, the body revs up to store calories by lowering the metabolic rate and packing on calories when food becomes available. It is a natural process to maintain life.
Even though the two low calorie days are not true fasting, if they are consecutive such as Monday and Tuesday, your metabolic rate may be affected. Separating the days, combined with daily exercise such as walking is known to increase metabolic rate and calorie burn. — And, with exercise, you are unlikely to stimulate a starvation response. In fact, with a marked reduction in calorie intake and consistent exercise, you will lose weight.
British physician Michael Mosley, described the 5/2 diet in his book FastDiet in 2012. In a follow up study done at the Aston University in the UK, they found intermittent fasting (very low calorie days) more effective than daily calorie restriction and calorie counting.
Favorable findings included:
• Reduced weight
• Reduced inflammation
• Reduced blood glucose
• Reduced lipids (cholesterol)
• Reduced blood pressure
True fasting (consuming no nutrition) has been shown to lower weight, prolong life, lower blood glucose and lower cholesterol levels. However, fasting also lowers metabolic rate, something you do not want, because your body becomes very efficient at storing excess calories and weight returns.
Eating two low calorie days per week is usually safe for Type 2 diabetics. Those taking medications and insulin must consult their medical provider for advice and to help manage medication dosages when reducing calorie intake. In the end, with weight loss, some Type 2 diabetics can reduce or stop some of their medications. Or, for those with borderline glucose elevations, weight loss and the drug Metformin, may help ward off the development of full-blown Type 2 diabetes. Without interventions, most people with borderline elevation of blood glucose will evolve to Type 2 diabetes within ten years.
Pay special attention to your daily intake:
• Choose fruits over sweets for desserts.
• Exercise portion control. Avoid second helpings. Wait 30 minutes and see if you are really still hungry.
• Do your best to prepare low calorie meals such as turkey breast instead of hot wings or steak.
• Forget potatoes, pasta, gravy, cheese sauce and fattening salad dressing.
• If you are preparing meals, serve light calorie recipes and fruit for dessert.
• Take time to exercise
Note: If you are, pregnant, breast feeding or a Type 1 diabetic, following a Mediterranean-type cuisine is healthy but do not follow the very low calorie day recommendations. However, this is a heart-healthy approach for those with high blood pressure and heart disease, even those who have had bypass and stent procedures.
Betty Kuffel, MD