Understanding the 5:2 Diet

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People diet for all sorts of different reasons; to get ready for an important life event, after a long holiday or period of indulgence, or simply as part of their wider efforts to be healthy and stay in shape.

It’s no surprise then that trends in dieting take hold as people look for new and convenient ways to lose weight, using methods that are both effective and realistic. While many diets promise dramatic results, many are not sustainable and have the opposite effect intended when more weight is gained once the diet is over. Finding a solution that strikes the right balance is key, and if you’re looking for a new strategy the 5:2 diet is one worth looking into.

Intermittent fasting – also known as the 5:2 diet – came to the mainstream in early 2013, and in the last year has been one of the most popular and talked about weight loss plans in the UK. Part of its popularity stems from the fact it’s so easy to take up – simply put, the 5:2 is a calorie restricted diet. There are no special foods you need to eat or avoid, and it only requires you to limit what you eat two days of each week.

Finding a diet that’s easy to follow and maintain when life gets in the way is one of the reasons many people find diets like the Atkins difficult. While they may offer short-term results, it’s difficult to mold your lifestyle around a diet that restricts certain foods or has a complicated meal plan. If you’ve found similar problems with diets in the past, the 5:2 might be just the straightforward formula you need to kick-start your weight loss and help you place the focus firmly back on good health.

How it works 

The 5:2 diet is one of intermittent fasting. The basics are simple – dieters eat normally for five days out of seven and fast for two each week. On fast days, women should restrict their calories to about 500, while it’s recommended men eat slightly more, about 600 calories. On fasting days you can eat whatever you like and at any time of day so long as you don’t exceed the recommended calorie intake.

You can choose which days to fast and which days to eat normally, so if there is a special event coming up you don’t need to feel discouraged or worry that you aren’t following your new regime. Its simplicity is part of the appeal for many people – choosing a diet that fits into your lifestyle is key to staying on track.

Proponents of the diet claim other health benefits as well – early research suggests the diet can also have a positive effect on blood pressure, cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity as well. As with any weight loss plan it’s important to speak to your GP before beginning or if you have any specific health concerns you’d like to address through your diet.

Useful resources 

If you’re thinking of taking up the 5:2 diet you can find some great resources online to support and encourage you along the way. A great place to start is the 5:2 fast diet forum – here you can interact with others who are also working towards their weight loss goals and take advantage of the progress tracker where you can log your weight each week and set new goals.

Thanks to the popularity of the diet you can also read testimonials and first-hand experiences from people who have tried the diet and had success. The Guardian has published its list of feasts for fast days along with some tips and tricks, while the Huffington Post has put together a list of vegetarian recipes perfect for intermittent fasting.

For further inspiration, recipes and tips on how to get started, The Fast Diet website is another great place to look. The website supports the bestselling book by Dr Michael Mosley and is packed with tools to help you begin your own journey, and also provides some inspiration about the science behind the diet.


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18th Mar 2014
Thanks for voting!
To Uncle Nikolai, just to clarify Jan did not mention that the origins of 5:2 came from Muslims, instead that Muslims were advised to follow this routine 1600 years ago. This is very much the truth and is exactly what I said when I heard about the 5:2 diet.
Uncle Nikolai
12th Mar 2014
Thanks for voting!
The origins of 5:2 were nothing to do with the muslims. EastOrthodox church recommend to go vegan twice a week - on Wednesday , when Jesus was betrayed and on Friday, when He was crucified.
25th Feb 2014
Thanks for voting!
All diets require some will power - so does this one. But the 5+2 / Fast diet is simple & it works! You only need will power / count calories, 2 days a week (I chose Monday & Thursday). The rest of the week eat normally. I jiggled about with what & when I ate on fast days several times, until I settled on a regime that suited me the best. Yes hunger pangs / temptation can strike. BUT you can control it all by simply saying 'TOMORROW'. I can have it tomorrow! Fancy a chocky bicky, or slice of cake.......I can have it tomorrow! It's helped me on many occasions. I've lost weight / blood pressure down / cholesterol down. Go on, give it a go!
gordon murray
22nd Feb 2014
Thanks for voting!
I was recommended to try this by my gp when I was diagnosed with type2 diabetes, cholesterol of 5.6 blood pressure too high for the machine to measure and long term blood sugar nearly 80. My local gym refused to take me I case I killed myself on their premises, I was that unfit.
He told me my weight at 100kg was unhealthy for my height and age, 5'9" @ 52.

After a year on the 5-2 regime, I wouldn't call it a diet because I could eat whatever I wanted, I was down to 90kg, long term blood sugar 50, cholesterol 2.3, blood pressure 120/70, but no change in height.
In short from near certain heart attack or stroke I am now fighting fit; climbed Ben Nevis and walked Hadrians Wall coast to coast 84miles in 4days.

I am fond of my grub, I can undo a month of traditional calorie controlled dieting, feeling constantly hungry, in a weekend with one curry. The 5-2 on the other hand let me lose 1kg a day or 4lbs a week a stone in a month without any danger of putting it back on again.
22nd Feb 2014
Thanks for voting!
Thank you Gordon for sharing this .. you will inspire many others I am sure 🙂
22nd Feb 2014
Thanks for voting!
Hey, did some research into origins of this and was shocked to find Muslims were advised 1600 years ago to fast 2 days a week! It works! I have tried and lost 2 stone! Forget other diets this is easy and costs nothing!
holly loweth
9th Feb 2014
Thanks for voting!
Honestly just join slimming world if anyone wants to really diet. I've never felt so happy with myself and it's so enjoyable. i've lost 4stone in less than 2 years

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