We are constantly reading about the latest celebrity fad diet and quick fix ways to lose weight in an extraordinary amount of time but how can we do this but make sure we still get the nutrients we need each day?
The 5:2 Fast diet is a diet followed by a number of high profile names, from ‘real food’ campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to health conscious A-listers Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce.
The structure of this diet is quite simple – for any two days of the week (eg. Monday and Thursday) consume fewer calories (500 calories for women instead of around 2000 calories/ 600 calories for men instead of 2500 calories). The ‘fast’ days focus more on protein-based foods and fruits/vegetables. The individual is then free to eat their regular unrestricted diet on the five non-fast days. The fast days can be moved around to suit a busy lifestyle. Because the duration of each fast is quickly over and it is possible to enjoy food with family and friends on non-fast days, this approach to weight management is reported to be quite sustainable by the majority of people who try it. Research has shown that the weight loss and anti–aging health benefits which come from this diet are related more to the changes which take place in the body as a result of fasting, rather than being linked to the reduction in calories on the fast days. These short fasts lead the body into a metabolic state which triggers repair and recovery at a cellular level. This influences various hormones which are circulating and the digestive system and related organs gets some time to rest, especially the pancreas, the gland which produces insulin in response to carbohydrates and sugar. This helps the body to become more sensitive to insulin, which is one of the most important aspects of not only weight loss but also reducing the risk of diabetes.
Secondly, through regular, short-term fasts, individuals report that on their ‘non-fast days’ they have better sense of control over what they eat, rarely eat out of boredom and have a tendency to choose foods which are more healthy.
Vital Greens’ in-house Nutritional Therapist Elspeth Stewart gives us some hints on how to survive those low calorie days and succeed at the 5:2 diet!
Surviving Fasting Days
- Lets face it, if you are only eating 500/600 Calories, it is inevitable that you will feel hungry at times. In fact, one of the key learnings from doing the 5-2 fast is becoming more aware of this sensation AND realising that it is OK to be hungry; that we don’t need to respond to every ‘hunger sensation’ by putting food into the mouth. Many 5-2 dieters find solace in the fact that a small meal will be coming in the next few hours and normal eating will resume the next day. This provides reassurance than the sensation of hunger is temporary and not a life or death emergency (though it can sometimes feel like it is!).
- By taking your serve of Vital Greens in the gap between meals you can ‘top up’ on essential nutrients and stave off hunger while only consuming 42 calories. Vital Greens provides 76 ingredients including B vitamins for energy, spirulina and chlorella for detoxification and Siberian ginseng for stamina and endurance.
- To maximise your sense of fullness think about choosing foods which give volume, protein and bulk/fibre. Protein takes longer to digest in the stomach and therefore gives the feeling of fullness for longer (meat, fish, egg, tofu, beans/lentils). Fresh cheese such as ricotta, cottage cheese, mozzarella or cream cheese will enable you to eat more in volume than other cheeses as they have a higher water content. Choose foods which are ‘nutrient dense’ such as vegetables, beans and legumes over ‘calorie dense’ foods such as grains (bread, rice, oats, nuts/seeds, tropical fruits). 100 Calories of broccoli, kale or green beans are going to fill your stomach more effectively than 100 Calories worth of white rice. Go for non-starchy vegetables and temperate fruits and berries with a lower glycaemic index over tropical fruits such as banana or mango which are often higher in sugar and therefore calories.
More ideas of foods to eat on these days:
- Brunch suits a plate to graze on – this might be an egg and some asparagus, some fruit with cottage cheese, some smoked salmon with a rye crisp bread and cream cheese. Stir Vital Greens into yoghurt to have with blueberries to give an extra nutrient kick.
- Dinner is usually the larger of the two and if prepping at home, you can be a little more creative: large salads with a range of non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens and some feta or mozzarella cheese; a chicken coleslaw with a Thai style or yoghurt-based dressing to keep the flavour up without the calories; a prawn stir fry with plenty of vegetables and only a small noodle portion (if any)
- A frittata is a great option for either meal – make with different vegetables at the start of each week and eat 1/5 for Brunch each day
The Fast Diet website contains plenty of free resources, inspirational recipe ideas and a forum to share questions and recipes.