Here’s my take on healthy eating: 5 days a week, eat a healthy diet. 2 days a week eat whatever you like! Seriously – ice cream, pizza, donuts, sausages, chocolate and whipped cream are all ok on this diet, as long as you eat them on your ‘feast’ days.
The 5:2 diet, which is a form of Intermittent Fasting, means eating only 500 calories on fast days, two days per week. This was shown to promote weight loss and good health, on Horizon (Eat, Fast, Live Longer 2012-13). Rather than a twice weekly deprivation, Intermittent Feasting promotes twice weekly devoted indulgence.
There have been no studies done as to whether Intermittent Feasting helps you live longer, because I only came up with it last month. I present it, not as a model healthy diet, but as an alternative to an unhealthy diet. For those like me, who go through periods of healthy eating but then slide easily into a piece of cake per day, this diet could well be a sustainable idea for eating healthier. It’s certainly a good way to stay happy.
I came up with the idea of Intermittent Feasting after watching world record breaking competitive eater Furious Pete on YouTube. Despite consuming vast amounts of food at once, one day per week for his eating videos, he eats healthily the rest of the week, keeps fit and stays trim. I wondered if this principle (toned down) could work for me, a hardened sugar addict. I repeatedly give up sugar, usually only lasting a few weeks before cracking, and then quickly slide back to a cake per day, or worse, a dessert with every meal. I wondered what would happen if I simply decided I could have as much sugar as I wanted, 2 days a week? No wait! What if I could have as much of any food I wanted, 2 days a week.
After only a month, the results have been very interesting and very positive.
When’s the last time you really ate as much treat food as you really wanted? On this diet, if you’re someone who always wants a second donut, why not eat three? Chances are, you’ll finally have your fill and not want any more for a while. What’s more, if you only get to eat this food twice a week, you’ll want to really enjoy it. No more mindless munching – get the most out of every bite. I’ve loved playing out my food fantasies one day at a time, and once fulfilled, they fade. At this point, I personally can’t imagine wanting fried chicken or pizza ever again.
I haven’t found it hard to stick to healthy food on my other five days. It’s easy to say no to a cookie on a Tuesday, if you know you’ve got a special fry up followed by chocolate fudge cake to look forward to on Wednesday. I’ve only been at it a month, but so far I do seem to be losing weight, probably because overall I’m eating fewer cakes and sausages.
My feast days are Saturday and Wednesday, but they are moveable (as long as they are not consecutive – I tried this and it made me feel rubbish). I moved one to a Sunday for a friend’s birthday party, because I wanted to be able to join in by eating party food and cake. This is another advantage – I can maintain a healthy diet without being derailed by a social engagement. Previously I’d eat healthy for a few weeks, then be fed a cream tea at a friend’s house, remember how much I love jam and completely give up on the diet because I couldn’t accept a future in which I didn’t eat jam. With my new diet it’s different. Because I know I can have jam again in a few days time, it’s easy to keep eating healthy.
“Wait a minute,” I hear you cry, “aren’t you just living for those two days? Doesn’t having Feast Days make you want to eat that food every day?”
Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Unhealthy food, especially sugary stuff, tends to cause a blood-sugar roller coaster, which doesn’t feel pleasant. Even though I like the taste of junk food, alternating healthy days and Feast Days has shown me just how much better my moods are on the days I eat healthily. Only Intermittent Feasting has given me this insight, since previously I’d eat healthy for a few weeks, forget how bad I used to feel eating junk food and go back to it. Then I’d forget how good I used to feel eating healthy, and so lack the motivation to try again.
My ideas for feasts are getting less extreme because I’m getting more and more turned off by the prospect of sending my blood-sugar haywire. At first, I was eating Frosties for breakfast, a chinese buffet lunch and whole cake for dinner, but now have settled into choosing one big meal with dessert.
So my fantasy foods are slowly getting healthier. Then guess what? Yesterday was supposed to be my Feast Day, but I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t feel like it today either. Can’t think of anything outrageous for tomorrow, I’m just looking forward to my porridge. I imagine that in time, I’m unlikely to want as many as two feast days a week. I never thought I’d ever turn down cake because I didn’t feel like eating it. What an unexpected result.