Intermittent fasting is now one of the biggest buzzwords in the wellness world, but in 2013 – despite a growing body of studies backing it up as an effective tool for losing weight and living longer – it was almost unheard of to the general public. If you’re in need of a refresh, Mosley’s original 5:2 method, as detailed in his book The Fast Diet, involved restricting calorie consumption to just 25% of your calorie needs, two days a week, and eating normally (or “feasting”, as he referred to it back then) the rest of the time.
On the surface, it seems simple: consume less calories, and you’ll lose more weight. But intermittent fasting comes with a whole host of health benefits. Research shows it can help the body repair its cells, and could cut your risk of breast cancer, bowel cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart attack and stroke. It can reduce your blood pressure, improve your sleep, boost your sex drive and may even help fight dementia. Then, there’s the significant and sustainable weight loss (Mosley lost 19lb in the first 12 weeks on the diet and has since kept it off). He, along with countless others, also claim the fasting days have made them more aware of what, when and why they eat, helping them to make healthier choices and savour every meal, even on their ‘off’ days.
And now, it looks like the diet is even easier to stick to. Sharing his updated 5:2 plan in the Mail on Sunday last month, Mosley revealed he’s put a few new “clever” and “science-backed” twists on the original plan. Firstly, the recommended calorie intake for fast days has been pushed up from 500 to 800 – balanced out by the fact he now suggests eating a balanced, Mediterranean-style diet on both fasting and ‘off’ days (no more “feasting”, then). And secondly, he suggests using no more than five main ingredients to create the calorie-controlled dishes.
According to Mosley, this means fast days are “easier than ever” to shop for and prepare. “It’s also handy if you’re watching your wallet as well as your waistline,” he adds. He’s created 22 new recipes for his revamped diet, which you can find each week in his Mail on Sunday column and on Mail Online. With the likes of porridge with banana, yoghurt and toasted seeds for breakfast; prawn and ginger patties with rice noodle salad for lunch; pea, ham and lentil hotpot for dinner; and even sweet treats such as berry choc-chip crumble all on the menu for one fast day, it’s pretty impressive stuff.
As with any weight-loss plan, Mosley advises readers always see their doctor before embarking on his new 5:2. “Seek medical advice if you have a history of eating disorders; are taking prescribed medication; have a significant medical or mental health condition; or are pregnant or breastfeeding,” he says, adding that those who are under 18; are very lean or underweight; are recovering from surgery; or are generally frail shouldn’t go on the diet.
Dr Michael Mosley’s tips for following the new & improved 5:2 diet…
It’s very simple: for five days a week you don’t calorie count, then for two days a week you cut down your calories to 800 a day. Your Fast Days can be consecutive or you may prefer to split them – whatever works for you. You’ll get much more benefit out of intermittent fasting if you switch to a low carbohydrate, Mediterranean-style diet both on the days when you’re fasting and when you’re not. That means more olive oil and nuts, as well as plenty of eggs, full-fat yoghurt, oily fish and vegetables. Make sure you fill up on protein and veg on your fasting days. Protein is very satiating and you can eat a lot of vegetables for very few calories.
ON FAST DAYS:
Follow the Mediterranean principles outlined below, restricting your Fast Day calories to 800, either by using the recipes in this week’s pullout or taking them as inspiration to create your own. For some people this will mean just having two meals a day; for others, it could be three smaller ones.
EATING THE MEDITERRANEAN WAY:
Cut right down on… Sugar, sugary treats, drinks and desserts. That includes most breakfast cereals, which are usually full of sugar, as well as most commercial smoothies.
Minimise or avoid… Starchy carbs – meaning the white stuff: bread, pasta, potatoes and white rice.
Switch instead to… Wholegrains including bulgur (cracked wheat), whole rye, wholegrain barley, wild rice and buckwheat. Brown rice is OK. Legumes such as lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas are healthy and filling, too.
Focus on high-quality protein… Including oily fish, prawns, chicken, turkey, pork, beef and eggs (and vegetable sources including soya, edamame beans, Quorn and hummus). Limit processed meats such as bacon and salami to no more than a couple of times a week.
Eat more healthy fats and oils… As well as oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), include more olive oil on salads and vegetables. Use olive, rapeseed or coconut oil for cooking. Use butter for spreading and seasoning and avoid margarine. Full-fat yoghurt is good and cheese in moderation is fine.
Eat plenty of different-coloured veg… Ensuring a wide variety from dark leafy greens to purple beetroot and bright red and yellow peppers. Add flavourings such as lemon, butter, garlic and chilli. A splash of olive oil on your veg improves the absorption of vitamins.
Avoid too many sweet fruits… Berries, apples and pears are fine, but limit tropical fruits such as mango, melon and pineapple. Go easy on the bananas.
Drink plenty of fluid… If you don’t drink enough fluids then you may well develop headaches and constipation when fasting. How much is ‘enough’? The magic figure that is often quoted is 2 litres or eight cups a day. Tea and coffee count towards this.
Watch the alcohol… A large (175ml) glass of red wine contains about 120 calories. No need to give up entirely, but a couple of days a week without is good for your health as well as your waist.