• With Dr Mosley’s delicious calorie-limited meal plans
By Dr Michael Mosley For The Daily Mail
Whether you were waiting for New Year to really galvanise yourself into losing weight, or you’re under doctor’s orders to shift a few pounds, my NEW 5:2 could be just what you need.
When I first wrote The Fast Diet with journalist Mimi Spencer, back in 2012, millions around the world fell in love with the idea of losing weight by ‘being good’ for two days a week and eating normally the rest of the time.
Many people found it easier to diet this way, rather than with the standard ‘slow and steady’ method. I originally put together the 5:2 diet after talking to scientists about the potential health benefits of intermittent fasting.
I decided for five days a week I would eat healthily, and on my two fasting days I would cut down to 25 per cent of my normal intake — around 600 calories a day (500 calories for women, who have lower daily calorie needs). I was amazed by how effective 5:2 proved to be. I think one of the main reasons people swear by it is down to its flexibility. Unlike many other diet plans, you don’t have to give up eating lots of food groups (such as carbohydrates) or buy expensive ingredients. In fact, it will save you money!
This early version of the 5:2 diet was, I think, pretty good. However, the science of nutrition and health doesn’t stand still, and over the past six years there has been a wealth of fascinating new research into different forms of fasting and intermittent dieting. That’s why I’ve made some changes to my original 5:2 plan to make it easier to stick to. It also gives the option to start it with a fast-track 800-a-day regime. Follow it and hopefully you’ll boost your mental and physical health, as well as lose a few inches from your waistline.
In Saturday’s Mail, I launched The Fast 800 diet with a 32-page magazine packed with tasty, healthy recipes, many created by my wife, Dr Clare Bailey. Today, I will focus on the core 5:2 element of my new, improved plan.
Every day this week I will reveal more about the health benefits of the multi-faceted approach of my Fast 800 plan, featuring nutritious recipes created exclusively for Mail readers.
A whole new 5:2
As I explained in Saturday’s magazine, on my new plan you can choose whether to fast track your diet and spend two weeks (or more) on 800 calories a day, or ease in more slowly instead.
If you choose the 5:2 route, you will pick two days in each week to ‘fast’ on 800 calories, then eat an abundance of delicious Mediterranean-inspired food on the remaining five days. The key to both approaches is the idea of consuming 800 calories, which studies have shown is just the right amount to trick your body into a fasting state, without being so low you end up wishing you weren’t dieting at all.
On your ‘fast’ days, you just need to keep an eye on your calorie intake. You can choose to have either three small meals per day or two larger ones (skipping breakfast or dinner) as long as the total calories add up to 800.
I’m also urging you to try Time-Restricted Eating (TRE), where you eat within a shorter time window.
Studies also show if you extend your night-time fast to 12 hours or longer, and crunch your eating time into fewer hours, you can reap even more of the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
So, if you start on the fast-track 800 calories a day plan, I advise you eat those calories over a 12-hour window (say between 8am and 8pm) and then go 12 hours without food. Stick to the plan and you could lose up to a stone in three weeks.
But if you decide to do the NEW 5:2 and restrict your 800-calorie days to two days per week, I think it’s a good idea to apply a little extra TRE, and eat within a ten-hour window (say 8am to 6pm, or 11am to 9pm) on your fast days.
If it seems easier, this can mean skipping breakfast and enjoying two slightly larger meals rather than three small meals.
For the 800-calorie fast days, you can use the low-calorie recipes in this series. On other days, you can eat normally but healthily, sticking to a Mediterranean-style diet low in carbohydrates and refined sugars, without having to count calories. On this version of the plan, you could lose 1-2kg a week.
Rapid weight loss used to be described as ‘crash dieting’, but the research now shows it can be safe and sustainable. In fact, people who lose weight quickly are more likely to keep it off.
You can stay in this fast-track phase for up to 12 weeks — but if you have any medical problems, check with your GP beforehand.
This diet is not suitable for under- 18s, or if you’re breastfeeding, pregnant or undergoing fertility treatment. Neither is it for those who are underweight, have an eating disorder or psychiatric disorder, have had recent heart problems or uncontrolled heart disease or high blood pressure.
Check with a doctor if you are unwell or recovering from significant surgery, or have diabetes, retinopathy or epilepsy.