Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Chews-day: 5:2 diet- its not for girls.

This is the first in a series of posts on diets and food!  5:2, intermittent fasting, IF, The Fast Diet- it has many names but they all stand for the same regime.  For 2 days each week you reduce your calorie intake drastically, while maintaining a 'normal' diet for the other 5.  These 2 days must not be back to back.  To put it into perspective, men are normally advised to eat 2400 calories while women, being generally smaller, are advised to take around 2000 calories.  On the 2 fast days men are advised to take 600 while women are told to eat 500.  This could equate to 2 very small meals i.e. a couple of eggs for breakfast and a small piece of fish with a few vegetables for lunch or dinner.  It is NOT recommended for under 18s, pregnant or breastfeeding ladies, those trying to become pregnant, type 1 diabetics, anyone already underweight.  You should always consult your doctor before making radical lifestyle changes.
Photo taken from the diet website link

I saw, yet another, article on 5:2 in a magazine today.  This magazine was aimed at young women.  This saddened me as I don't think 5:2 is something women should enter in to without doing research.  Certainly not young, young women.

The point of this diet is that, in the western world, we are able to get food (and unhealthy refined foods) at any point.  Our bodies normally regenerate when hungry, but this function has been slightly tampered with in modern world.  Therefore 'controlled starving' yourself kick starts the brain into survival mode.  It's a diet that reprogrammed the body- starting with the brain.  It is supposed to have benefits for blood pressure, fighting Alzheimer's, reducing fats stored in the body and much more
One recipe off my blog a while back... woops!

It has become popular mainly duet to several instagram/twitter pictures of fat men who have 6-packs after taking part in the diet.  Most seem to say they *just* did 5:2.  Sound good? Hold your horses... there are a few things you might want to think about.  Especially if you are a girl....

  • There have only been a few legitimate clinical tests.  More importantly these tests have only used a few people- mostly MEN.  They are attempting to source more results through wider test cases. 

  • While there are some very promising results from initial test subjects, there are been no long term studies into the effects of 5:2.  How does it affect your health long term?  Do you need to keep this diet up for life?
  • Worryingly initial indications seem to be towards the improvement of men's health, with little attention paid to women.  
  • With a little digging I found that women could have quite serious side affects from the 5:2 diet- including loss of fertility, hair loss, thinning of nails, dullness of skin, terrible mood swings, insomnia and disturbed sleep patterns...
  • (Incidentally disturbed sleep and insomnia carry their own risks but that is a different post!)
  • Those that claim to have reduced clothing size and cultivate a 6-pack without doing ANY exercise (and just 5:2) are probably lying and have had to Photoshop their Pinocchio noses back to normal size on the photographs.  Diet and exercise work together.  There is no quick (and lazy) fix. 

Upon reading further into this diet, it appears that, if you are female then this type of diet could make your body shutdown and conserve resources.  This is what happens to those with eating disorders as their bodies.  As food and nutrients are withheld, the body stops non-vital functions (periods, making nice glossy hair, making strong nails etc) in order to maintain essential functions for as long as possible.  Men's bodies are programmed to fight and put up with periods of low food as they 'go out hunting and gathering'.  Lets face it, most men go bald anyway and they don't carry babies so they don't have as much to loose!  Women's bodies do a lot, and the outside reflects what is going on internally.  Some sports coaches love this diet for their athletes and I can see how it could hold many benefits depending on your goals.
Marzipan fruit is healthy, right...? It is fruit after all ;)

I'm not saying this diet definitely doesn't work.  I'm not saying it does work.  I'm saying that if you are a woman and hoping to have kids one day, then it's worthwhile doing some research.  If you are beyond kids then this probably wont matter as much but it is still worth researching.  In all cases, it is worth talking to your doctor and monitoring your health very closely.  Please don't take magazine health at face value and find yourself with health issues later on.

I wont be taking part in the 5:2 diet.  I might be sticking my neck out here, but I don't think it is something I will ever do.  (I'm not afraid to eat my words!) Personally I'd rather eat healthily and in a controlled way, than drastically yo-yo between eating lots for 5 days and eating minuscule amounts on 2 days.  I've always been told to 'eat breakfast like a king, lunch like Prince and evening meal like a pauper' i.e. a large breakfast, medium lunch and small evening meal.

For more information, please visit the NHS (link), the 5:2 website (link) or just visit plain old Google and ask it about female 5:2 experience and test cases.

Are you doing 5:2?  Do you know anyone who is talking part?  Do you eat large meals or small ones?  Are diets and good or bad idea.  I'd love to know your thoughts :)


  1. From my understanding the days were you restrict the calories is kinda similar and I have never heard anything bad about fasting nor experienced anything bad, so I can't see the difference? Forgive me if I'm wrong.

    The only thing I can think of in regards to people suffering from hair loss, thinning of nails, dullness of skin, terrible mood swings ect it could down to not getting the right nutritions. Some may think that because they have a set number of calories they can just use those calories to consume junk food or unhealthy foods. Again sorry if this is a sweeping statement.

    1. Hi Aaliyah, I'm not entirely sure what length of fasting you are talking about, but for this it's 24 hour fasting (where you can eat the reduced intake during that 24 hours). However it appears this needs to be kept up over a long duration of time which differs to most other fast diets I have read about (i.e. you fast for 1 days to purge the body, then start taking juices and solid foods).

      I think there needs to me more research for this type of diet/lifestyle change- especially with regards to women. I'm not sure on the lifestyle choices or ages of the women that reported problems, but certainly if the women are very young (and still growing) then this type of diet could have some bad effects.

      Thank you for your comment :)

  2. I don't like fasting diets because of the risks involved. I'm a horrible eater as is (I don't even eat 2,000 calories as my body can't take that much!), but I generally follow eat when you are hungry and eat what you want in moderation. If you follow that, you can definitely eat whatever you want. My diet is definitely grain-based but with meat, cheese and I'm expanding into more fruits and veggies.

    One thing here in the US that I think is flawed is the FDA food pyramid. It's outrageous! 6-11 servings of grains, 3-5 servings of veggies, 2-4 of fruit, 2-3 of dairy, 2-3 of meat, fats/oils/sweets sparingly......IN ONE DAY, each day and no mention of exercise (and you should see the portion sizes! OMG!) Who can eat all of that?! No wonder the waistline here is huge. And we're taught that in school! Nope, I'm European. I eat European portion sizes!


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