The 5:2 Diet (AKA The Fast Diet)

As usual, I am way behind the times. My aunt told me about this diet while I was visiting England this past summer. A friend recently shared that her daughter and her husband have both lost significant amounts of weights using this plan. The Fast Diet, written by Dr. Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer, is not a new book; it came out originally in 2013. And fasting is certainly not a new concept in the field of weight loss.

I've written several blogs about fasting in the past. (I went back and reread them to make sure I cover new ground here, even if this concept is less than new.) I even tried intermittent fasting, although it's been a few years, and I'd completely forgotten I gave it a go back in 2012.

If you are a fan of the whole Paleo lifestyle--eating and working out like our ancestors--then fasting should fit right in with your plan. There is nothing more "natural" or "ancestral" than fasting. Back in the old days, there were times when food was scarce. Winters meant doling out the preserved food in the pantry, little at a time, to make it last until spring. Hunting for food meant there might be times where nothing could be caught. People had to be able to cope with hours, days, and possibly even weeks when little or nothing was available to eat. And we are built to endure these times.

More than just endure, in fact. Fasting has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer. By reducing inflammation of a cellular level, fasting reduces the chance of diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's--all diseases linked to inflammation. Cleansing happens at a cellular level when we abstain from eating.

But don't worry. The 5:2 diet does not encourage long periods of starvation! Quite the opposite. This diet takes the concept of fasting and simplifies it so that absolutely anyone can do it. The diet is flexible, forgiving, and so easy, I think I might even be able to handle it.

Basically, you select 2 days per week to "fast." However, during those "fasting" days, you are allowed to consume 500-600 calories. (500 for women, 600 for men.) Because the calorie count is kept so low, you will reap most of the benefits of pure fasting. But eating a small amount might feel more doable than a complete fast. On the other 5 days of the week, you are free to eat as you please. If you desire a treat, that's perfectly acceptable. As long as you don't go hog-wild and replace all the calories you missed out on during your fast day, you will lose weight on this program. And you will gain in many other ways!

This diet has been thoroughly tested on both men and women. A group of 200 women in one study lost an average of 8 pounds of body fat over the course of 2 short months on this diet! Now 8 pounds may or may not sound like a lot to you, but this is not an 8 pound weight loss--this is body fat loss. And quite impressive! (Not water weight, not muscle loss!) This is the ideal for dieting: fat loss without muscle loss. As we all know, muscle mass is crucial for maintaining your metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the more calories (and body fat) you tend to burn.

The Fast Diet contains a vast Q&A section where you will definitely learn all your need to know about how to implement this diet. In addition, there are photographs of possible fast day menus and recipes for all the meals included. The foods you are encouraged to consume on fast days are nutrient-dense, mainly protein and veggies, along with some fruits. Caffeine is fine, but alcohol is definitely discouraged, along with all empty calories. When you are only eating 500 calories in a day, you want every single calorie to count!

During the month of December, I will be experimenting with The Fast Diet. I may just try intermittent fasting again (eating during an 8-hour window) or the 5:2 plan. I'll be sharing my discoveries with you along the way. Anyone interested in joining me?