There is always some new diet or other in the news and when you know something needs to change, it’s easy to hop onto the latest one.
The so-called 5:2 diet has been gaining popularity: this is 5 days of normal eating and 2 days of extreme calorie-restriction. There is some scientific basis to this because during limited starvation, the gut has time to repair and heal when it is not being bombarded with food.
However, we are actually experiencing fasting every night and without too much difficulty, we can usually extend this period from say, 7pm after the last meal of the day until a late-ish breakfast at 10am. (But note – that doesn’t mean skip breakfast either, it means eat the right breakfast so you have enough energy for the day ahead). That’s a 15-hour fast, plenty of time for gut healing without feeling wiped out for a whole day or weekend and taking part of the next week to recover. Personally, I’m definitely in the ‘enjoy every day’ camp, rather than ‘be a hero and just get through it’.
Starvation puts the body into a ‘fight or flight’ state, where it just closes down to preserve its energy sources in readiness for the attack of some unknown invader. It’s not going to give anything away easily, because this is a protective mechanism. Your metabolism slows down to match the available resources, you feel rubbish and you don’t lose as much weight as you expected to.
The 5:2 diet only addresses the state of your body right now – it doesn’t help you in the long-term, and if you have some unhelpful habits around food, you are just going to put that weight right back on again. It can also be quite dis-heartening to realise that, whilst you actually did lose some weight rapidly, the weight was not the fat that you wanted to lose, but muscle and water.
The solution to all this is to deal with people compassionately as human beings full of experiences and emotions and not just a big number on the scales. By addressing individual needs – whether this is underlying nutritional deficiencies, energy problems and imbalances, poor food choices or habits or even genetic disposition (yes, it can be in your genes, as you thought all along) then somehow life becomes a lot more positive – oh, and by the way, the weight gradually comes off!
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