(Last Updated On: 11th February 2020)

Diet crazes come and go, but one that seems to have hung around for a while is the 5:2 diet. Reportedly loved by celebrities including Miranda Kerr, Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow, this diet promises to help you lose weight without depriving yourself every day. But what exactly is the 5:2 diet, how do you follow it and, most importantly, does it work?

What is the 5:2 diet?

The 5:2 diet works through the process of intermittent fasting. You eat normally for 5 days of the week, and then fast on 2 of the days. On your fasting days, it’s recommended that you take in no more than 500 calories, while on your remaining 5 day you’re encouraged to eat the recommended allowance of 2000. 

Why do people like the 5:2 diet?

The 5:2 diet appeals to people who struggle to stick to diets or weight loss programmes that require daily calorie counting and discipline. On the 5 non-fasting days of the diet, you can essentially eat whatever you like. Of course, this should still be a sensible diet – and definitely not an excuse for 5 days of binging – but little treats such as crisps or chocolate can still be enjoyed in moderation the majority of the time. 

This eliminates the feeling of deprivation that many dieters experience, and also helps to keep motivation up. People on the 5:2 only have to cope with 1 day of extreme dieting at a time, and can be happy in the knowledge that the following day they can eat as normal. 

Is the 5:2 diet healthy?

While fasting or starving yourself is not usually recommended as a method for weight loss, supporters of the 5:2 diet claim that fasting in this way for 2 days actually has plenty of other benefits on top of shedding pounds. These include limiting the chance of developing Alzheimers, heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. 

Side effects from fasting can be quite horrible, especially for people not used to eating such low amounts. These can include headaches, dizziness, low moods and lack of energy. However, if you plan your 500 calories ahead of time and spread your food throughout the day to ensure your blood sugar levels are kept stable, many people find that they can find fast relatively easily. 

What can I eat on fasting days?

500 calories may not sound like much to live off during a day, but there are some foods that are excellent for this sort of fasting. Low-calories foods that will keep your energy levels up include soups, eggs, nuts, fish, yoghurts and small pieces of lean meat. Whether you choose to use your 500 calories on 2 small 250-calorie meals or 4 or 5 low calorie snacks throughout the day is completely up to you. 

If you think the 5:2 diet may be of interest to you, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Never run your 2 fasting days consecutively
  • Drink plenty of water on your fasting days to keep you hydrated and feeling fuller
  • Prepare your fasting meals in advance so you know where each calorie is going
  • Avoid strenuous exercise on your fast days, as your energy levels will be lower