I’ve never been on a diet before. I’ve always had the firm belief that they don’t work, and that if you want to change your body you need to change what you do with food and exercise permanently and be happy about those changes. A diet makes me think of having to constantly watch myself, calorie-count and feel guilty about wicked deliciousness. That’s just not for me. And a diet seems to have a beginning and an end, which doesn’t help much in the long term. However, after watching Eat, Fast and Live Longer my husband and I are trying the 5:2 diet. Let’s face it, it’s really hard to watch that doco and not try the 5:2 diet.
If you’ve missed the details of this pop-culture-embraced fad (let’s be honest), the idea is that on two days a week you cut your calories to a quarter of your daily allowance: around 500 for women, 600 for men. That’s basically it. If you lose too much weight, you shift to 6:1, with only one lean day.
There seems to be growing evidence that calorie restriction reduces unhealthy fat, enhances brain function, reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol, improves insulin sensitivity and lowers IGF-1. But, when I say ‘growing’ I should also say limited regarding wide scale human studies. Which makes us guinea pigs. Something I do like about 5:2 dieters I’ve seen online is their interest in having blood tests done prior to and during their dieting. Perhaps because many are turning to it with problems beyond weight-loss. Many people are finding and demonstrating positive changes this way, but ‘many’ does not mean all.
The first week I tried it was a big surprise, more for the mental effect than the physical. I was just shocked at how much food is around. It’s everywhere in a first world country. The house is full of it, even when you feel there’s ‘nothing to eat’. It’s everywhere you go and so many of our social gatherings are focused on it. I suddenly felt very humbled and a little appalled at how rich we are. I don’t mean this in a ‘holier than thou’ kind of way, because I did absolutely stuff all about this little epiphany, but it left me feeling pretty solemn.
Eating less made me realise that I needed less. We all need less, but it seems to be hard for us to shed the primitive urge to fill up while the going’s good, just in case finding food is a challenge tomorrow. Guess what? For middle class Australians, it never is. And that’s true for many of us. I think we all have a bit of that almost supernatural ability (so developed in me when I was pregnant), to assess any display of food and instantly locate the highest calorie item. That just makes sense from a survival perspective. It doesn’t really make sense when food is constantly plentiful.
We’ll see whether this ‘fad’ diet lasts for us. It’s going to be an interesting experiment.