Forget abandoning carbohydrates or detoxing. The new dieting craze sweeping Britain and taking off in the US lets people eat whatever they like — but only five days a week.
“The Fast Diet,” also known as the 5:2 diet, is the brainchild of TV medical journalist Michael Mosley and journalist Mimi Spencer. It allows people to eat what they want for five days, but only eat 600 calories a day on the other two.
Their book, The Fast Diet, has topped bestselling book lists in Britain and the US this year and has been reprinted more than a dozen times.
Mosley said the diet is based on work by British and US scientists who found intermittent fasting helped people lose more fat, increase insulin sensitivity and cut cholesterol, which should mean reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes.
He tried this eating regime for BBC television science series Horizon in an episode called “Eat, Fast, Live Longer” in August last year after finding out his cholesterol level was too high and his blood sugar in the diabetic range. He was stunned by the results.
“I started doing intermittent fasting a year ago, lost 8kg of fat over three months and my blood results went back to normal,” Mosley said.
Mosley said he had been amazed at the way the diet had taken off with a list of Web sites set up by followers of the 5:2 diet or variations of the eating regime to share their experiences.
Following the success of The Fast Diet, Spencer joined forces with dietitian Sarah Schenker to bring out The Fast Diet Recipe Book in April with 150 recipes containing under 300 calories.
Eating a 600 calorie daily diet — about a quarter of a normal healthy adult’s intake — could consist of two eggs for breakfast, grilled chicken and lettuce for lunch, and fish with rice noodles for dinner, with nothing to drink but water, black coffee or tea.
Mosley put the diet’s success down to the fact it is psychologically attractive and leads to a steady drop in weight, with an average weekly loss of 0.46kg for women and more for men.
“The problem with standard diets is that you feel like you are constantly having to exercise restraint and that means you are thinking about food all the time, which becomes self-defeating,” Mosley said.
Deb Thomas, 50, a management coach from London, said she has followed the diet for six months and dropped a couple of dress sizes. This has also inspired her husband to join her in fasting two days a week.
“It is such an easy diet to follow that fits into my way of life,” Thomas said. “You have a tough day of not eating, but you know the next day you can eat normally again and that keeps you going.”