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When it comes to losing weight, there are so many diets and fads out there, that it can be hard to pick just one and have it work for you, but in 2012 a new diet plan promised not only that you would shed the extra pounds but also live a healthier and longer life. Isn’t that something most of us want? To live a long and healthy life in a fit body? The 5:2 diet promises just that – and with (some say) little effort on our behalf! Sounds too good to be true? Read on to find out more.

Eat, Fast and Live Longer

On August 6th 2012, the documentary that would change many people’s lives: Eat, Fast and Live Longer aired on the British channel BBC2. Reporter Michael Mosley researched intermittent fasting and its connection to cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Fasting is defined by eating little or no food whatsoever and has been connected with religion practices, but new researched showed we can adopt fasting practices that could help us live longer and healthier lives. In his documentary, Mosely interviewed researches and underwent an absolute fast for two days which lowered his blood sugar and cholesterol levels which were in a danger zone for a man his age and weight to normal levels. Full fasting isn’t for the weak of heart, so he sought a more successful method of fasting and he found it: 5 days of normal consumption of food and 2 (nonconsecutive) days of partial fasting (500 calories maximum per day for women and 600 calories for men). The results were amazing. He lost 20 pounds in two months on the 5:2 diet and his blood sugar and cholesterol dropped to normal levels.

Michael Mosely

Why is that? Scientists have long known about the connection between strict calorie restriction and prolonged life. There have been animal studies that gave amazing results and there are even a handful of people who are doing this in today’s society; people who are consuming way less than what it is recommended, under the strict supervision of doctors, with results worth investigating. Apparently, calorie restriction doesn’t only help in prolonging life, but it also has an impact on how we think and act. It’s all about evolution and how human beings used to eat. 150 000 years ago, humans would put immense amounts of time and energy in a hunt – they had, what is called, the feast/famine plan. There were no three meals a day, but around three large meals a week with very little nibbling in between. Hunger would sharpen the mind and allow the hunt to have a higher rate of success. The constant availability of food is a brand new thing in the larger time frame of evolution and people haven’t adapted so well to it (see the obesity epidemic and new diseases linked to it).

In medical terms, intermittent fasting appears to reduce levels of the IGF-1 hormone in the blood. This reduction forces the body to send its cellular repair “team” where it is needed, thus protecting us against heart disease, cancer and premature aging.

What do you eat?

But what do you eat during fast days? 500 calories for women and 600 for men doesn’t sound like a lot of food, and frankly it isn’t. A typical fast day breakfast could consist of an omelet made from two egg whites with just a couple of drops of olive oil (50 calories) or maybe a medium banana (100 calories). For lunch you can have 100 grams of chicken breast (160 calories) with some steamed broccoli and for dinner a bowl of vegetable soup with little or no oil . Some people choose to eat three small meals a day, while others save all their calories to be consumed at lunch or in the evening. You could try both and see what best works for you.

The main concern is that it might be quite difficult for people to eat so little for an entire day. Some have no problem with dealing with the hunger pangs, while others may experience dizziness and intense cravings. The motivation behind choosing this diet might affect the result. Would you want to do it for health reasons? Do you simply want to lose the weight? You could even do it for religions purposes. Celebrities such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Jennifer Lopez and Liv Tyler are giving the 5:2 diet a try and if this is something you think would want to try too, take a look at the diet’s website for inspiration and support. Remember, talk to your physician first if you want to try it!