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The 5:2 Diet—Legit Or Another Quick-Fix Weight Loss Trick?

Five cheat days and two “hangry days,” game?
by Anne Mari Ronquillo | Jul 23, 2016
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Before he donned polished suits and basked in the warm studio lights of late night TV, Jimmy Kimmel was best remembered for The Man Show. He was a veritable bro who was heftier and who chugged beers with Adam Carolla. Recently in an interview, he talked about a calorie restrictive diet called 5:2 which he has been on for several years that helped him lose weight.

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Beyoncè and Miranda Kerr are among some of the celebrities who are reported to have been following this diet, which is impressive. But since most of us are not performing on stage or walking down runways, we’ll just have to look to a more relatable celebrity like Jimmy Kimmel. When he’s not telling parents to prank their kids on YouTube, he’s starving himself for two days a week. He said that this keeps his body guessing and actually prolongs physical life here on Earth.

Sound like another celebrity fad diet? You be the judge!

5:2 means you "fast" for two non-consecutive days in a week while eating normally for the rest of the five days. You are supposed to limit caloric intake in those two days to only 25 percent of your usual recommended 2,500 or so daily calories. This 600-calorie day means a cup of cereal for breakfast, an apple for lunch, and a steam-bake-grill ensemble for dinner, which only a saint would have the patience for after starving all day.

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It sounds like a lot of numbers are involved which makes the diet sound legit on the mathematical front. But what about the science of it all? According to nutritionist Dave Clark Sison, the 5:2 diet, otherwise known as the Mosley diet, follows the eating pattern of intermittent fasting. It originated in the UK before spreading to Europe and the USA.

Sison explains that the idea of intermittent fasting that fuels the 5:2 diet is adapted from early humans’ feast/famine schedule, in which tribes would rely on the results of the hunt. This model surely normalizes and justifies the pangs of self-inflicted hunger.

He confirms that the calorie deficit on days that you fast forces the body to use up its stored energy, thereby contributing to weight loss. Kimmel mentioned that exercise wasn’t part of his regimen and that he relied primarily on the 5:2 diet to achieve his desired weight. This makes sense as working out during a low-energy day sounds horrifying, let alone unhealthy.

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According to Sison, being on this regimen should make one be more careful about working out as the fluctuating energy levels of the body would make exercise trickier.


Weight loss despite no exercise? This is right up my alley. Let’s do this.

It sounds like you have five cheat days and only two “hangry days” so it couldn’t be so bad, right? Hang on, biggest loser.

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Before you join the #52Mafia and post your 600 kcal meals on Instagram, you have to understand the risks. Sison warns that while the short-term implementation of the 5:2 scheme on your person might satisfy your desire to lose weight, habitual fasting is not ideal to be practiced regularly. Not to wax poetic, but weight loss does not a healthy man make.

Some of the reported side effects include irritability, dehydration, and bad breath. Doesn’t sound like too much of a party.

“We have recommended energy and nutrient values for individuals belonging to different life stages,” says our nutritionist, which could be translated to: this diet is not safe for everyone. He adds that it is still best to consult health professionals before undergoing regular fasting.

Risks aside, many followers of the 5:2 diet have emphasized an overall change in the way they eat. According to The 5:2 Diet Book, the calorie limit enables a person to be more aware of what he eats, thereby picking better, healthier food options.

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Despite the many testimonials we hear from the 5:2 Mafia, the fact remains that no clinical research has been done on the 5:2 diet to support the claims to overall improved health. It ultimately is still a fad diet, aimed at weight loss, but made itself an amalgam of fad diets past by throwing in add-ons like longer life and disease prevention.

Dave Clark Sison, MSc, RND is a Former Professor of Nutrition and Nutrition Clinic Director at the Philippine Women’s University, Manila. He is currently doing private practice and consultancy.

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