Controversial ‘fast diet’ instructs two days of fasting a week

Hilary Hagerman
Shine On

“Is it possible to eat well, most of the time, and get slimmer and healthier as you do it?” reads a question from The Fast Diet’s website.

The "fast diet" is an extreme diet that’s all the rage in the U.K. and is now taking hold in North America.

It's creators, Dr. Michael Mosley and journalist Mimi Spencer, launched their book The Fast Diet in the U.S. in late February.

Also known as the 5:2 diet, the formula is fairly simple. Basically, for five days a week, you can eat whatever you want. That means no food is banned, so you don’t have to worry about scarfing down a piece of pie or a massive burger.

On the remaining two days (non-consecutive, advise the writers), you eat a quarter of your recommended calorie intake. That’s 600 calories a day for men, and 500 for women.

Both authors swear by the diet.

“This was Michael’s method for improving his health and losing over 20 pounds in 2012,” Spencer writes. “I followed his plan, and dropped the same amount, losing two dress sizes and four inches from my waist measurement in the process.”

“I am fitter and healthier, more alive than ever,” the 45-year-old mother of two tells the New York Post. “I have never felt better.”

Some people are jumping on this bandwagon because it allows them to live their lives the way they want.

“I can eat pizza and drink wine, and eat cheese, and have Christmas and a birthday,” Tara McLaughlin tells ABC News. She sings the praises of the fast diet, having lost 36 pounds in seven months.

According to ABC News, researchers across the United States have found numerous benefits to severe calorie restriction, including decreased risk of cancer, increased life expectancy and improved brain function.

This isn’t the first controversial diet plan that involves fasting. One of the most popular is the cayenne pepper diet, also called the lemonade diet. For a period of 10-40 days, the dieter’s only source of nutrients is a lemonade made from fresh-squeezed lemon juice, purified water, grade-B maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Megastar Beyonce says she lost 20 pounds on this extreme diet in just 10 days – but it’s also landed people in the hospital.

Understandably, some experts are skeptical about the fast diet, saying it could easily lead to a cycle of binging and starving.

“[Dieters will] think they can eat carte blanche those other five days,” says Joan Salge Blake from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“Where is the change in behavior to learn how to keep [the weight] off?”

But according to McLaughlin, her appetite is now reduced, preventing her from overeating on days she’s not fasting.

And the authors say even though nothing is off-limits, dieters shouldn’t go too crazy.

“I wouldn’t suggest going crazy hog-wild,” Spencer advises. “Maybe some people do that, because they go: ‘Whoop whoop, I’m free!’ but that’s probably not a benefit in the long run.”