Intermittent fasting is a popular diet which includes limiting calorie intake to one quarter of your normal intake on selected fasting days There are different types of intermittent fasting like the 5:2 diet.

So in simple terms, you eat a lot less for two days a week and you eat the foods you normally would for the other 5 days. Usually there is at least one day’s gap between the two fasting days – fasting on Monday and Wednesday, or Tuesday and Friday.  Generally, when somebody consumes less calories and maintain the same exercise levels, they will usually also lose weight.

For many people once they start fasting it makes them more aware of what they normally eat on a daily basis and leads them to make healthier choices. Not only does the 5:2 diet help you lose weight, there is lots of scientific evidence that shows that fasting helps the body and cells in the body to repair themselves. The purpose of this diet is twofold, firstly to lose weight and to keep the weight off for the long term  and secondly to improve general health.

There are numerous long term scientific studies of intermittent fasting that support it and the health benefits achieved.  Most people cannot stick with diets for the long term, as either the diet is too hard to follow, or mentally the individual simply gives up. On a non-fasting day you can eat whatever you want, though people should always try and eat as healthily as possible. For fasting days you have do dramatically reduce the number of calories you consume health doctors suggest to avoid “processed carbohydrates like white bread, pasta and rice and also cut out sweets, desserts, steaks, and other high calorie foods.

 During fasting you can eat sensible portions of vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables, smaller portions of lean meats, fish or eggs,” soups, salads dressed with vinegar and herbs and replace sweets with fresh fruit and drink lots of water. When preparing food, it is always better to bake, roast, or stem meat and fish, rather than fry in fat.  With drinks, you can also drink herbal tea and black coffee, but try to avoid anything that affects blood sugar or insulin levels such as sweetened drinks or carbonated drinks like coca cola.. Usually on a fast day, to maximise benefits, it is better to have 2-3 small portion meals spread during the day so your hunger pangs don’t get too bad. There are pros and cons of any change of lifestyle and diet.  The 5-2 diet has the following pros and cons:  The positive effects of this diet are that it is adjustable and I think this diet is good because it gives people a choice when to fast, which days you eat normally and how to split your meals on fasting days Fasting can be planned by eating very small portions across breakfast, lunch and dinner or just having one or two main meals. Because on non-fasting days you can eat whatever you want , this means that you can eat normally for five days each week.

As you only have to diet two days of the week and you can always eat normally the day after a diet day, it’s much easier to stick to the diet and not only does it improve health benefits, for example many studies have shown intermittent fasting reduces insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity. but it also improves your mental health and many people on the 5:2 diet say they have more energy for work and other things they have to do. On fasting days you need to make sure that whilst limiting calories that you chew your food carefully and make sure it’s really nutritious.The positive effects can be seen in the many successful stories of people who have lost weight and kept it off as opposed to those who lose weight and put it straight back on afterwards.  The other health benefits which occur due to the body healing itself better through fasting are discussed in the scientific section. The negative effects of this diet are limited, and although this is a very effective diet, it does have some negatives.  For example, some people over eat on non-fasting days to make up for fasting days.

This can make the fasting days pretty pointless if the rest of the week is super unhealthy. Another negative is that you may have less energy on a fasting day. This diet does not address exercise and fitness which is an important part of healthy living. It’s also not suitable for teenagers and younger, pregnant women, people with an eating disorder and those people who need insulin.Fasting and intermittent fasting has been tested on mice extensively and has been found to extend their lifespan and also “healthspan” – the time they live without catching chronic diseases.  Intermittent fasting has also been shown by Dr Michael Mosley, author of “The Fast Diet” to improve blood glucose levels. One unexpected benefit of intermittent fasting is the effects on allergic diseases such as asthma and eczema (dermatitis) which affects about 10% of people in Europe and the US.

Further studies have shown that in a test of 4 groups – people doing intermittent fasting, people doing intermittent fasting and moderate exercise, people just doing exercise and people doing nothing, that the people doing fasting plus exercise dropped the most weight and had the best improvement in cholesterol levels. Dr Mosley’s conclusions are:”Our bodies respond to fasting in a way where they look to heal themselves when stressed.”Fasting makes you healthier and stronger, or as they say “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger” (Hormesis). The benefits of fasting are:- Weight loss; a reduction of IGF-1 (the reducing of risk of some age-related diseases like cancer); the body repairs that begin because of fasting “stress”; a rest for the pancreas which improves insulin sensitivity and reduces risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease; and improved mood and mental well-being.References:”The Fast Diet: Lose weight, stay healthy ,live longer By: Dr Michael Mosley & Mimi Spencer.


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