Dietitian Susie Burrell explores the positives of intermittent fasting and why lockdown is the perfect opportunity to try it.
Of all the diets that have emerged in recent years, intermittent fasting, which includes both the 5:2 and the 16:8 remains an incredibly popular dietary approach.
While weight loss may be a secondary benefit of fasting, indeed the relative ease and flexibility of both of these options makes it a good option for many, especially those who are also battling inflammatory conditions including insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
While there are pros and cons of both the 16:8 and the 5:2, the potential benefit of the 5:2 is that if you can follow it, the distinct periods of extremely low-calorie eating can be very effective in reminding us of how much we actually eat on a regular day, and what hunger really feels like.
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Now in regular life, consuming as little as 500-600 calories, on two non-consecutive days each week can be tough, but as many of us are spending a lot more time at home, here are some of the reasons now may be a perfect time to give the 5:2 a try.
It is a way to buffer overconsumption
If you have been eating your emotions in lockdown, you are not alone, with many of us finding solace via UberEats, gourmet meal deliveries, baking and plenty of wine. The down side of this is that we are likely consuming fat more calories than we need, especially if daily life is a lot less active.
One of the easiest ways to buffer these high calorie days and meals, is to also include a light day or two of eating each week. As the 5:2 suggests, followers consume just 500-600 calories twice each week, which means that a day of more indulgent eating can be followed by a light day of fasting, with a coffee, salad and soup.
Indeed, is has been shown that there are a number of metabolic benefits associated with just two of these low-calorie days each week.
It will kick start weight loss
While not specifically designed for weight loss, anecdotally losses of 1-2kg a month are commonly reported on the 5:2.
The significant reduction in calorie intake, even for just a couple of days is to associated with kick starting weight loss when weight has previously been stable for some time.
Physiologically this makes sense as the body responds very well to change and it appears that dropping to just 500 calories, even occasionally is a powerful way to get the metabolism pumping again.
Being at home makes it easier
There is no doubt that limiting calorie intake to just 500-600 calories a day is extremely tough. Not only are you likely to be hungry, but it will also mean that your daily coffee and snacks will likely need to be eliminated and you will have to go to bed with a tummy that is a lot emptier than usual.
Normal life, with its long work days, commutes and daily stressors is not overly conducive to this extremely calorie restricted style of eating. Many of us need our energy, and find we need to eat frequently to keep us fueled to power through the busy day. At the moment though, many of us have things a little easier.
We can sleep a little later, are not as distracted with other tempting foods and snacks at work and we can make our own low-calorie meals at home with ready access to the kitchen. If only for relatively ease, now is a great time to give a program like 5:2 a try.
It is something new
One of the reasons we may be feeling a little down and frustrated at the moment is that we are simply bored. The large range of daily stimulus we are exposed to is heavily reduced and we are sick of cooking at home, seeing the same people and not being able to do as we please.
While the 5:2 diet is relatively strict on two days each week, it is also a new way of eating to try. It creates an opportunity to play around with calories and see what you can fit into your 500-600 calories each day and could even be made into a challenge with friends.
At a time when we could do with a bit of fun and novelty, and when we also have the time to spend on this, it is a great time to give a new, evidence based diet a try, and one which may also help you shift a few of those lockdown kilos.
Susie Burrell is a dietitian and nutritionist and holds a Master’s Degree in Coaching Psychology. Susie is the resident dietitian on Channel 7’s Sunrise and has been a dietitian in Sydney for more than 20 years.
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