The Vagenda

Fuck This Fucking Fasting Diet, Seriously

 
 
 
Whenever a magazine that the Vagenda has been featured in does something wrong, we sort of feel honour bound to declare a relationship before we take to the task of savaging them (or in this case giving them a disappointed telling off) So here goes: The Sunday Times Style, well, they gave us a double page spread and they let us wear masks in the pictures, proving that not only are they a women’s magazine willing to cover a blog whose bread and butter is taking the piss out of women’s magazines, but they also have a fairly high tolerance for letting young women dick about wearing the cardboard face of Kate Middleton. So they seem pretty cool at the Sunday Times Style. 
And I’ll admit, I quite like them. I’m a bit of a fashion geek, and its one of the few Sunday supplements that truly indulges that (what? You think I’m going to get my fash fix from the lefty diversity of the Observer ‘All Ages’ section? Bitch, please), with a bit of irreverent sniping and posho-worship thrown in. I suppose I sort of see it like a kind of mini-Tatler. Being the unmannered, oafish daughter of a single mum on benefits, I know its not really for me; it’s for the upper-class broads, but I love it anyway. Plus, as I declared earlier, the Times has been very, very nice to us. Surprisingly so. Indeed, they initially took far more interest than the ‘feminist left-wing media’.
But (and herein lies the nub), when one of our contributors who had battled eating disorders admitted that she had often used the Sunday Times Style for ‘thinspiration’ when she was anorexic, and I wasn’t surprised at all. Like Vogue, the other thinspiration bible (although they’d hate being called that, you can’t deny that its page adorn kitchen cupboards across the county, next to biro scribbled admonitions ‘Sophia don’t eat’- I’ve seen it with my own eyes), it’s full of pictures of skinny women. But in terms of the damage women’s magazines do, I’ve always seen Vogue as pretty far down the list compared with say, Grazia (declaration of interest: I used to intern at Vogue) or Cosmo or Glamour (likewise the awful Glamour). Say what you like about it, but they don’t feature diets, and it’s pretty hard to sustain a large amount of anger at a picture of a skirt when a Grazia hack is yelling at you  to ‘TAKE YOUR BUTT TO BOOTCAMP’ (though believe me, I’ve tried).
Sunday Times Style, however, does feature diets, and this is what was getting all up in my grill yesterday while everyone else was furious at kindhearted empathy-machine Julie Burchill declaring her love for all humanity regardless of what they do with their genitals, in the Observer. Suffice to say, this ‘fasting diet’ article in the STS had me making the kind of facial expressions you’d see Dear Julie making at a ‘Free Palestine’ meeting. Namely: WTF? I don’t understand this.
I first heard about the ‘Fasting Diet’ at our literary agency’s Christmas party, when one of the girls I was talking to declared that her office had become an extremely unpleasant place to be since half the inmates started doing this 5:2 diet, where for two days a week they eat practically nothing, and for the rest of the time stuff their faces. As someone who is genetically predisposed to have to eat every couple of hours lest I become an Angry Woman, being holed up in an office with a load of hungry lasses is basically my worst nightmare, even in the beatific environment that is publishing.
I got the need to eat from my mama, and I knew from a young age that if she didn’t top up her energy reserves that I’d slowly start to see her facial expression change, kind of like that scene from an American Werewolf in London (0-Angry in 30 seconds), before she blew her top and yelled GIVE ME A BISCUIT NOW in the middle of a supermarket with everyone watching.
It’s important to eat for a multitude of reasons, not least because if you don’t, you eventually die. Considering the fact that we have what is essentially an anorexia epidemic in this country, I am extremely disappointed with the STS’s decision to publish a guide to fasting yesterday. Before my grandfather died, he was a Sunday Times subscriber, and every weekend he would save the STS for my teenage cousin. It was like a little thing that he did for her, without fail, because he knew that she loved it. In fact, teenage girls in general love the STS. Teenage girls also have a propensity to go anorexic (thankfully my cousin is fine, but I know others who are not). One teenager I was talking to, who went to a private London girls’ school, said that five girls in her year had been sectioned for mental health problems, another had committed suicide, and many, many more had succumbed to anorexia. This isn’t a pretend problem guys, this is real.
The Sunday Times has a circulation of just under one million, which means that it will have entered quite a few houses at which teenage girls are resident yesterday. At least some of those girls are going to be feeling fat and will have picked up the STS and had that validated for them. How many of them will have gone to school hungry this morning because a national broadsheet newspaper have told them it’s a great way to lose weight?
And all because it worked for some chump on BBC Horizon.
Here are a few excerpts from the STS article. You can make up your own mind as to whether it counts as thinspiration:
- ‘take two days off eating every week and the pounds will disappear’
- ‘The idea is that you restrict or totally eliminate calories for part of the week; the rest of the time you can eat what you like. And yes, you will still lose weight, and lots of it. It’s the ultimate “have your cake and eat it” solution.’
- ‘The funny thing is, they may cook bacon, eggs, sausages and toast, but when they sit down to eat it, they often say they can manage only about half of it. If you are constantly snacking, you feel like you’re always hungry. Fasting teaches you what it really means to be hungry and what it means to be full.’
- ‘If you are having more meals, be very careful about measuring exactly what you eat. Don’t guess. People don’t realise how calorie-dense certain foods are. You can blow 100 calories in less than a minute, which, in this scenario, is not good.” When starting off, Varady suggests that if you want to eat twice a day, eat half of a ready meal for lunch and save the rest for dinner.’
- ‘If you find a valid reason why — despite craving it — you don’t really like cake, then you can focus on that,” suggests Jane Ogden, professor of psychology at Surrey University. Think about feeling bloated and full afterwards or how sugary icing might make your teeth hurt. “I don’t want to eat cake because I don’t like it” then becomes a viable mantra.’
- ‘attach greater meaning to what you’re doing than simply losing weight for its own sake. ‘
- ‘set up a system of immediate rewards. For example, if I get through the next two fast days, I can buy a new lipstick or treat myself to a massage. If I stick to four fasts, I can buy that new pair of shoes. Obviously, do not use food as a reward.” A less expensive but surprisingly effective system is to buy a pack of gold stars and put a kids-style reward chart up on the wall. “It sounds daft, but it does work, because you have a visual reminder of your progress.’
- ‘It’s going to be obvious if you’re eating too much on nonfast days, because you won’t be losing any weight. So, in the initial stages, keep a log of what you eat and how much weight you’re losing.’
- ‘you must learn not to be afraid of hunger. When was the last time you were properly hungry? I know nutritionists bang on about the importance of breakfast, but I’m with Joanna Lumley on this one: why wake up Annie appetite before you need to?’

 

 
- ‘There is something addictive about waking up feeling hungry.’
 
- ‘You get a kind of psychological high when you fast’
- ‘After two days of not eating, your stomach shrinks, so you don’t want to eat more.

 

 
Oh, and starving yourself two days a week apparently also holds the cure for cancer, depression, and Alzheimers.
 
Would you want your teenage daughter reading that? 
 
Last week, we did a talk at the IPPR think tank, where we were asked about policy recommendations. I’m starting to think that perhaps we need some proper strict fucking guidelines about inciting behaviour with potentially damaging health implications. Because it isn’t just the Sunday Times, (seriously, sort it out guys, we quite liked you) it’s everywhere. And it needs to stop now. 
 
P.S. If you’re reading this and thinking ‘oh, that sounds good actually, I might try that’, know this: doctors still maintain that the best way to lose weight and keep it off is through a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise. Not only does it work, but it also stops you becoming the grumpiest and most unreasonable person alive, not to mention loneliest, because you’ll have no friends. And really, what’s the point of being skinny if no one wants to hang out with you because all you talk about is how many calories your cocktail has in it.?

33 thoughts on “Fuck This Fucking Fasting Diet, Seriously

  1. I really hate all of the media attention these fad diets get, and this one is particularly dangerous as it is ‘apparently’ underpinned with some genuine health benefits. My daughters are 8 and 4 and I have a deep seated fear of anorexia. The stuff the eldest comes home with that has been picked up from her school mates has clearly come directly from their mothers who jump from one diet fad to the next; and it never ceases to shock me just how much these grown-ups go on and on about what should and shouldn’t be eaten and muffin tops etc.. in front of their children – do they not realise!!!??? We really need to do something about this, I feel quite helpless and unsure where to start, so keep on with the good work and I will read everything for inspiration. Oh and yes, we got the STS yesterday – I’ve not read it yet and will now bin it before the daughter lays eyes on it…thanks for the warning.

  2. I think this article is a little oTT I am not a big fan of STS, mainly because it comes from the Murdoch stable, but whatever it is, it ain’t a teen mag. It is aimed at women. Adult women. With minds and an ability to rationalise. The fact that tennage girls read this stuff is secondary. If, as a parent, you feel that this is not material a potenitally vulnerable 13 year old should be reading, make sure she sticks to Bliss or Bunty or whatever the kids are into these days. (Although I think in a world where you can acess ‘thinspo’ after three seconds on Google, controlling reading material in the home is like trying to douse a forest fire with a teaspoon.) Anyways, my ma and pa started doing this after watching Horizon and my dad has lost two stone (which he really needed to lose) and feels fitter and healthier. If you watch the Hoizon programme it makes for interesting viewing. Studies (other than the presenter’s own unscientific one) have shown that this diet results in lower cholesterol, body fat, and blood pressure. All good if you’re overweight and looking to stave off hear disease and stroke. Loads of Sunday supplements have sections devoted to wine – do we shout “censor!” because there might be alcoholics, or potential alcoholics, in the room? Or when we see recipes for double chocolate fudge cake do we burn the offending mag for validating and encouraging the obesity epidemic? No. Because we hope that the majority of adult readers think ‘that looks like a nice cake to have on a special occasion’. Or ‘Dan and June are coming over, I’ll get that wine for our lovely lamb supper’. Anorexic models, fad diets, fetishising illness are all component parts of a complicated mental illness, but we cannot censor publications every time they publish something that might get into the wrong hands, that might tip a teenager over the edge of insecurity into mental illness. It’s impossible, and wrong. This particular diet has some genuine positive results to back it up, and if you are a little overweight it may well be an optoin if you are informed and otherwise healthy. So let people make that choice. Sheesh. That was long.

    • Although this article focused on teenagers, women of all ages, as well as men, are able to develop eating disorders too, and by buying into this thinspiration culture, STS could be doing real damage.

      With all due respect, I don’t really care whether your dad lost two stone or not (and it seems to have completely coloured your argument) Most NHS doctors will still tell you that this diet is not a healthy way to lose weight, and unless you keep it up for life, you will more than likely pile the pounds back on, so don’t expect your dad to keep that 2 stone off forever.

      There is a link between the media and anorexia, as many sufferers will tell you. Yes, it is a complicated illness, but articles that fetishise hunger are a contributing factor, certainly. This one did.

      I think the censorship argument is kind of a red herring. If the medical consensus is that something is really bad for you, newspapers and magazines have a duty not to glamorise it. Report on it, sure, but make it balanced. This article wasn’t balanced, so it’s hardly ‘letting people make that choice’ is it?

    • This is just another case of the media taking sound scientific findings and sensationalising them to gain readers. Whilst studies show that intermittent fasting can be beneficial in reducing IGF-1, glucose and cholesterol in obese/at risk individuals with weight loss as a nice side effect it is often wrapped in a load of pseudo-science/psyche bullshit which gives drivel like this fake credence.

      Statements like – ‘You get a kind of psychological high when you fast’

      ‘After two days of not eating, your stomach shrinks, so you don’t want to eat more.’

      ‘This will detoxify your blood’

      ‘Fasting lengthens your lifespan’

      Make me shudder.. Says who STS? Where are the references to scientific studies that support the crazy claims you are making? Oh yes, thats right, THERE ARE NONE….

      Did anyone see the property supplement from the times this week too? Bachelor vs bachelorette pads- apaz men don’t have kitchens and girls cover everything with throw cushions, I think I will be changing my sunday paper from now on..

  3. I agree with Fearisthemindkiller – There has been a lot of interesting research about evolutionary nutrition/diet and the fact we have evolved as a species to face periods of excess and periods of starvation. Granted, I’ve not read the actual text that the STS included on the diet. Here’s some more info about IF (intermittent fasting) and women: http://www.paleoforwomen.com/shattering-the-myth-of-fasting-for-women-a-review-of-female-specific-responses-to-fasting-in-the-literature/

    I’m with the above commentor that we cannot censor publications because of ‘what ifs’. Rather, shouldn’t this be a place to critique, disseminate and further knowledge?

    My diet would possibly be called a fad diet, (paleo or caveman diet) which incorporates some of the principles of the 5:2 approach. However, prior to making my decision I did a lot of research, made my decision and feel better for it.

    As a person who grew up in a household with people who had ‘disordered’ perceptions of food, it isn’t just the media that causes these mental illnesses, its all sorts of things like family background and social context. So rather than demonise a diet because of the ‘starvation’ aspect or because it’s not quite in line with current thinking, also consider that knowledge is built through lateral thinking and challenging the norms. Not only that, but censorship help lead to fetishing food or diet. Provide the alternatives, explore the underlying science/understandings and open up the dialogue.

    I’m perhaps more on the OCD end of the spectrum, and follow a paleo diet (without intermittent fasting (IF) – as there is other research about women and fasting and messing up the whole hormones thing). I like the way I eat because it makes me feel better – to some it sounds downright stupid, unethical and a heap of crock. However, since on it, I’ve maintained my weight, slept better and can focus better on it. Some people find IF really helps them and if it does, why should we challenge it?

    • I’m sorry, but I just find this comment depressing. I find basing modern lifestyle choices on what cavemen were supposedly up to dubious at best, not least because no one really knows much about pre-historic peoples at all. The NHS website has a good summary of the inherent problems surrounding the research pertaining to the ‘caveman diet’: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2008/05May/Pages/Cavemanfaddiet.aspx which I would suggest anyone who has read the above comment who is considering this fad diet read carefully.

      I really do think there is an argument for censorship, or at least tighter regulation, especially where magazines and newspapers are using dodgy scientific findings to glamorise dieting. More balanced reporting is certainly needed.

      • Guys, if you’re thinking about doing the caveman diet, please don’t listen to some of these commenters. I just checked out the links they’re posting briefly, and the paleoforwomen stuff really does seem a bit like a cult. Plus, you’re never going to get non-biased info about the Paleo diet from a site called Paleo for Women! As I keep saying, the NHS is the best source of information that we have: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2008/05May/Pages/Cavemanfaddiet.aspx

        I hate to have to say this, but any comment posting unverifiable ‘science’ that could have a potentially damaging effect is just going to get deleted. The comments from the two girls above who used to be anorexic have made me even more convinced that this is the right thing to do. After all, there’s a whole internet out there if you want potentially inaccurate dieting information! xx

  4. Lots of things to react to- yes the STS isn’t aimed at teenagers, but if it’s in your home with a nice flashy picture on the front (who can resist those rollerblades?) and a promise that it can help you lose weight, it may as well be. I’m in my twenties and read this with my Angry Analytical Feminist brain, but even now my Immature Brain is telling me to put down my couscous and lentils for the day. Immature Brain is even starting to reason that, if not eating two days a week can help ‘the pounds disappear’, what about three days?
    The Horizon program did show this diet in a particularly good light, but emphasised that it helped in particular those later on in life- so not so good for teenagers, who still need energy for all those growth spurts. My parents considered taking the diet on. But considering the STS cover image, this seems to be aimed more at my generation than my mother’s.

  5. Thanks so much for this important article you guys. What the fuck are The Times thinking. This shit is anorexia in the making. Ridiculous and upsetting.

  6. I get that these fad diets are bad.. but I have heard nothing but success stories from people who have done this diet (parents of friends – I’m 19). Plus, it really lowers life threatening effects of obesity such as cholesterol.
    And if anything, if a diet works… surely, we should be encouraging it given the obesity stats of the UK (especially women).

    Also, you discuss this article as if you don’t eat for the two days – on the 2 days you eat 600 calories, and the other 5 you eat whatever you want so its not like you actually stop eating.

    I completely get how gendered and rubbish these ads for diets always are (people would be much better off simply eating healthier and exercising more), but the truth is women in the UK are much more likely to be obese than men and as feminists we should be encouraging women (as well as men) to achieve better health.

    • you need a systematic review to quality appraise all the evidence.

      They conclude that ‘Findings to date from both human and animal experiments
      indicate that ADF may effectively decrease the risk of CVD,
      whereas results from animal studies suggest a protective effect on
      cancer risk. In terms of diabetes prevention, animal data suggest
      a beneficial effect, but human data have been equivocal.’

      But there is no control group ‘However,it is important to note that the human studies examined in this review are limited; they all lacked control groups and used short trial lengths.’

      Basically the review is saying, the evidence base is not trustworthy to make any conclusions on this diet!

    • JenKat, women are not more likely to be obese than men – the latest figures (which you can find here: http://www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/opad12) show that equal numbers (26%) of men and women are obese, while 42% of men and 32% of women are overweight. Men have been statistically fatter for a number of years now. So, “as feminists”, shouldn’t we be pointing out that, actually, weight is more of a male issue?

  7. Great article.

    I sat incredulous reading some commentators above validating a diet that has not had any significant clinical study undertaken or peer review. In addition to which our bodies are no longer the same as they were thousands of years ago – it’s called evolution…….

    The simple fact of the matter is that eating properly + exercise = healthy body. The sooner people accept that fact and stop looking for quick fixes the better off we women will be, and the daughters of tomorrow. THERE IS NO QUICK FIX.

    There is a very strong case for regulation in this country, not so much censorship which is a bit extreme. But definitely regulation, and that should apply to all forms of advertising in relation to food, every single article published in every single magazine or paper in relation to diets and no more publishing of “cook books” etc. by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow et al (my personal pet hate are celebrity cook books. Please!)

    • Needless to say, whatever the pros and cons of fasting techniques on health, the way that it is presented in the STS is appalling. I found this

      ‘attach greater meaning to what you’re doing than simply losing weight for its own sake.’

      especially grotesque.

  8. Those “tips” sound exactly like what I used to do when I was anorexic. It saddens me that they can be published as a diet when they should be published as warning signs for a disease.

  9. Oh, shit. Yes, STS, waking up hungry is totally addictive. So is fainting after the morning shower – it’s like getting drunk, but without the disgusiting, dirty, fattening calories! And falling asleep immediately after going to bed, because you have no energy whatsoever. And not menstruating for years? What a relief!
    It’s not only cake that you don’t really like. It’s food in general. Think about how exhausting it is to chew it, especially when you haven’t eaten a thing for the last two days.
    Indeed, fasting is more than losing weight. It’s a way of life. And of death.
    Kind regards,
    The recovering anorexic

  10. This whole article is a bit extreme in its language but it actually seems to be based on a diet developed for the prevention of breast cancer (check out genesisuk.org). Which doesn’t seem to attach a creepy pro-ana message, rather a nice lose-weight-and-help-prevent-cancer message.

    I’m on it. And as a dyed in the wool fat chick, I can tell you its easy enough to not feel like starving (if you like cottage cheese, that is). I hate that it feels like I’m promoting this (tbh, I love being fat, just want to hit the healthier side of fat) but I fear the intermittent diet is getting a bad rap. Hideously worded article aside, isn’t encouraging ‘normal’ eating 5 days a week actually quite a positive message? I dunno, I’ve ignored the diet stuff for years, my view might be skewed.

  11. This sounds like a diet designed to send someone like me into full psycho mode (I’m another angry hungry person).

    Learn to cook so you can control whether you use olive oil or lard, for example, and so you can get plenty of fresh vegetables in there – so much cheaper than ready meals for a start. Get onto eBay and buy some walking boots (off some numpty like me who bought the wrong size, doh!), then find a dog that meeds walking, for a shelter, or a neighbour, or indeed your own dog if you are in a position to care for one. Me and my canine sidekick covered five miles in the snow last night without even realising – he needed a run, and I wanted to see the snowy fields, so off we went. Pretty soon, you’ll feel better, get fitter, have a bit more money as a result of buying fewer ready meals, and you’ll feel happier as a result of getting outdoors, and the chances are you will lose weight but that will only be a side effect and not the main event, because it just won’t matter so much any more.

    This is my experience, anyway.

    Also, is anyone else going right off Joanna Lumley? Annie Appetite? I ask you…

  12. So true! Fasting can’t possibly be healthy, dieting should be about eating healthily every day and regular exercise and thats it. If the STS are going to insist on reporting on the latest fad diet then, as this article points out, they should not be using emotional, damaging, unscientific language like ‘you get addicted to waking up hungry’. Thats what people with eat disorders do! It is glamourising hunger. I hope the talks with the IPPR go well.

  13. The Horizon programme itself was pretty shocking in its lack of presented evidence. It was basically based on the presenter’s experiment with not eating. He did look at some small studies but they is no solid evidence of anything, the whole idea of not eating for two days a week as improving health is a new area of research. Michael Mosley himself sounds like he’s had a history of issues with food and self image. He says in the documentary “ooo you’re whippet-thin so you must be doing something right”. He equates skinniness with healthiness.

    Yes, this kind of nonsense promotes yoyo dieting, eating disorders, and anorexic thinking. The argument (above) that adult viewers can decide for themselves what is wise is also clearly bunkum. Half the country seems to be struggling with obesity, the other half from anorexia. The majority of people are permanently on some form of weight loss diet and hate their bodies. Sad to see the BBC supporting the downward spiral.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01lxyzc

  14. As someone with hypothyroidism and formerly an eating disorder, I have to say that a watered-down version of this diet works for me (as in, I have days where I naturally graze and just drink a lot of liquids and other days where I eat like a pregnant, pre-hibernation grizzly). However, I don’t ever limit what I eat or try to “thinspire” myself away from the fridge. I just naturally follow what my body wants me to do and this kind of eating does give me the energy that I really need, without me ballooning as people with hypothyroidism can do. Another way to speed up metabolisms is a spoon of coconut oil a day, but the media obviously won’t jump on that because a)it’s disgusting and b)it involves ingesting something.

    What I got from the Horizon programme was that people should just think about their eating habits more – what and how much they’re eating – to see if they could make it healthier. I think there absolutely is a tendency to over-eat in the West and there is obviously a problem with obesity, which is worsened by the vast range of readily available junk food. Additionally, the rising rates of breast cancer in Japan since US-based fast food was introduced into their diets is a scary reminder of how even a country with a formerly exemplary diet and good health can be so easily swayed by convenience and cheap, processed food (especially corn syrup).

    In light of that, there is a clear need for positive encouragement for normal eating from the media, food that tastes nice and that you can eat a lot of, and that isn’t made from a sick pig’s ball sack with cheese in a can. STS have taken an article that could have been a consideration of what Western eaters can learn from other parts of the world and how we can eat healthier while still loving food, and just written an affirmation of an anorexic’s mantra. Disappointed.

  15. Re: the diet, I can’t speak. Although my first Ramadan (in a Muslim country, reasonably easy when everyone else is doing it…) was interesting. But, re: some of the comments about censorship above, I think what what we need is not censorship, per se, but some kind of legislation to ensure that all published items (newspapers, journals, books, cookbooks, adverts, UK web content) if they are proposing to talk about health or medical issues (of which diet/eating is both), should have to prove their claims based on proper, peer reviewed scientific evidence.
    Of course, the diet and food industries will never let the Government go that far, but we can dream…

  16. As an archaeologist, I wish the prefix palaeo had never been attached to a fad diet. I’ve seen friends with eating disorders hide behind branded ‘fashionable’ diets; an acceptable public face to conceal serious and complex issues. Fad diets provide short-term solutions and fat profits for ‘nutritionists’.

    In the industrialized, post-war, over-populated, first world that I would assume the majority of readers live in, we can only speculate about past eating habits from bone and tooth analysis. To keep it brief, the palaeolithic period began 3.4 million years ago, coming to an end 10,000 years before present. This is a vast period of time. Our ancestors survived the Pleistocene ice age, not blessed with developed living environments – homes, supermarkets, organic farms – so it is little wonder that a nomadic, often dangerous existence produced lean bodies. They existed in a non-productive economy, completely unrealistic and unsuitable to sustain and uphold the population levels of today.

    It is also perhaps worth pointing out that whatever health benefits this diet might provide, the majority of people in the UK alone cannot afford organic food, grass-fed meat, and wild-caught fish. No matter how much scavenging and foraging goes on.

  17. There’s a lot of fairly inaccurate information in this article, and since I partially agree with it I feel I should clarify a few things first. For starters (get it?), you don’t eat “nothing” or “take a day off eating” on a fast day. 500 calories is fruit for breakfast, a soup for lunch and a veggie burger and pretty much unlimited salad (THE BEST KIND OF SALAD) for tea. Secondly, you don’t “eat what you like” on the other days. You eat the number of calories required for you to maintain your current weight. For most women that’s about 2000 calories.

    What I do agree with is that the “fast and feast!!!” rhetoric that the media are using to discuss the 5:2 diet is pretty dangerous. Millions of people voluntarily fast around the world for plenty of different reasons and they seem alright, for the most part. The way the media is talking about this, and the tone of a lot of 5:2 “advice sites”, is incredibly worrying. Good sources will say straight off the bat that people who have struggled with eating disorders, body dysphoria or other self-image issues should steer clear of it; they will highlight that you must track your calories and make sure you’re getting the right amount to eat on your normal days; and they’ll advise drinking plenty of water and getting lots of sleep. Unfortunately, tabloids have spun this into exactly the diet you’ve described here – go whole days without eating, stock up on cake and éclairs the next day. That is dangerous and it does encourage bad habits.

    I see both sides of this argument, but I wanted to clarify that the diet doesn’t take you to the extremes that the tabloids would have you believe. I’ve been on it and found it fine, but I’m a decent cook, which does help regulate food intake anyway. I wouldn’t recommend it to somebody who mostly ate ready meals, as your health is about more than just your calorie intake.

    Quite frankly, the NHS article you’ve quoted basically says “we don’t really know, we tried searching on Google but we couldn’t come up with anything definite, maybe just have some fruit?” which is just as questionable as the pseudo-science knocked out by advocates of 5:2.

  18. Honestly, this diet is working for me, and it’s the first one that has – because I could comfortably do this forever. I had scary high blood pressure, and it’s now reading as normal, plus I’m losing a steady 1-2lbs a week while only dieting two days. (Dieting, not starving.) I’m thrilled with it. I love your site, but we’ll have to disagree on this one!

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