What you DO, not how you DIET

January 25, 2013 — 8 Comments

The “Fast Diet”, also referred to as the “5:2” diet seems to be all over the UK media at the moment, accompanied by both very positive reviews, and expressions of concern about the dangers of encouraging anyone to fast.

I had this diet described to me as “fast for 2 days (actually, limit calories to 500/600 per day), and eat what you like for 5 days”. The man behind this is Dr Michael Mosley – and he made a television programme all about it, so it must be infallible. Apparently he found evidence that, aside from weight-loss, the Fast Diet is also associated with a range of other health benefits.

I have grave misgivings about any suggestion of ‘eat what you like’, because it seems to suggest that nutrition is unimportant. In other words, there’s an awful lot of ‘food’ around these days of very limited nutritional value. The idea (not Dr Mosley’s, I’m sure, but possibly widely-held nonetheless) that it’s okay to eat crap for 5 days, and then severely restrict your calories for the other 2, sounds like a recipe for very poor nutrition. And food, after all, is meant to nourish us, not simply supply us with calories.

I can’t help but listen to news items about diets without my Paleo-biased brain shouting “It’s what you eat, not how much or how often, that matters”. I’m also trying not to be a 197693_3967280097068_451202589_nfundamentalist about food. I do get a little stressed over vegan parents raising their babies as vegans. Equally, it would take very strong evidence (that I’ve seen no trace of) to persuade me that being vegetarian is as healthy (never mind sustainable) as being omnivorous . At the same time, occasional rants about soy products aside, if someone feels that the way they eat is the best for them, what business is it of mine? None, of course.

Back to ‘diets’. The biggest problem that I can see is that they always appear to be temporary. I may well be wrong, but I doubt that Dr Mosley is proposing that anyone follows the 5:2 ratio for life. This is why I really like the way that I’m eating these days (and why I’m always a little baffled by people asking me if I’m “still doing that diet”) – it’s great because it feels totally sustainable. I choose, generally, not to eat certain things, that were amazingly easy to give up. That’s it. Again, I’m trying not to evangelise.

I was exposed to another idea today (courtesy of Paleo Solution podcast episode 167), attributed to Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit. It seems like a brilliant approach to body composition, health, and (probably) any other outcome one might desire from a diet. Essentially, set yourself some athletic goals that will really stretch you. The podcast mentions double-bodyweight back squats and a couple of other outlandish strength/gymnastic goals, but we can all figure out athletic achievements that will stretch our individual capabilities. Perhaps it’s mastering the entire Super-Advanced Reformer repertoire, or doing “Romana’s Mat Challenge” 4 times in a row, if Pilates is your thing (though I think a more profound strength challenge would be best). Maybe it’s preparing to climb Kilimanjaro for charity. The point is that, if your goal is sufficiently challenging for you, doing what it takes to reach it will inevitably involve eating appropriately, and making positive changes to your body composition. No 5:2, no GI, no Caveman, no South Beach, no Atkins, no Blood Type (and on and on and on and on)

Perfect! Nourish yourself to achieve amazingness, and enjoy the combined side-effects of better health, and the body composition you’ve dreamed of.

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8 responses to What you DO, not how you DIET

  1. 

    Did you see the programme mike?

  2. 

    I personally think you are right.but at the same time i agree to eat for 2 days 600 calories only and the rest of the week maintaining a good health diet and not eat crap food.I was fasting myself for 2 days(600 calories only) and then the rest of the week maintaining a good diet rich in vitamins, minerals,carbohydrate only before 5 pm,lots of fruits and plenty fish.Fasting for 2 days had a positive impact on my psychology and the habbit of overeating snacks..even do my snacks were maid of rye bread and cheese.
    what do you think?

    • 

      Thanks for reading Marta, I think there’s a lot of interesting ideas around the notion of IF (intermittent fasting), and it certainly seems to fit with a paleolithic hunter/gatherer template, if that’s what one’s into. If it works for you then that’s fantastic. I wasn’t really trying to critique this particular approach……

  3. 

    Well it’s common sense that if you eat like a pig on one
    day, next day you should eat less in order not to gain weight. Or
    should I say, it should feel right that you eat less, so that you
    give time to your body to process yesterday’s food. It seems to me
    that this is what it’s all about in this diet, teaching common
    sense principles to people who are out of touch with their bodies
    and their digestive processes. Which in the longrun is only taught
    through experience rather than following a diet plan. It should
    feel better not stuffing yourself for days in a row. But on the
    other hand I know many people who feel a sense of comfort when they
    are stuffed, and it’d take a lot to let go of that feeling. Anyway,
    just thinking out loud here.. Let me just add, I love the word
    Paleolates!

  4. 

    I like your thinking and agree it’s about balanced meals
    and a moderate quantity and not giving up food or parts of that
    balanced meal. My experience is that diets are temporary and create
    unsustainable weight loss without an accompanying exercise
    regime.

  5. 

    So let’s get this right shall we? You have heard about the 5:2 diet, but haven’t read the data or watched the documentary and yet you write an article about it in which you are more than a little sceptical? May I courteously suggest that you do some research on the subject before rushing to print?

    • 

      Thanks for reading Neil. I’m guessing that your comment is motivated by having had success with the 5:2 diet. If that is the case then congratulations, that’s great. I fear that your enthusiasm/support for the 5:2 diet may have caused you to miss the point – calories are simply a measure of energy, what matters is the nutritional value of food. I believe that any ‘diet’ that implies otherwise is fundamentally flawed.

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