Diet du Jour: “The 5:2”
I’m one of the proud remaining subscribers to The New York Times. Not just the online version, but the real paper version…the one my kids will talk about someday the way I talk the shiny red rotary phone that hung on my family’s kitchen wall when I was growing up. Every Sunday morning after starting the coffee, I shuffle outside to grab the biggest and best edition of the week, which I proceed to religiously sort into the order in which I like to read it: Styles, Travel, Business, Review, Main, Magazine, the rest.
This was the scene yesterday, and as I plowed through the paper I came across lots of wellfesto-y articles. I learned what a 22-22-22 is in an article called The No-Limits Job (it’s — yikes — a 22-year-old willing to work 22-hour days for $22,000 a year)…there was a nice article about the raging work-from-home debate written by a CEO who requires her team to be in the office three days/week…and the Review section featured an article about “Walking the Country As a Spiritual Quest.” Lastly, and finally getting to the point of this post, page 12 of the Styles section introduced me to the latest fad diet: “The Fast Diet,” also known as the “5:2.”
The diet’s one and only redeeming quality is its simplicity. Eat food for five days. Fast/eat very little for two days. Repeat. This diet is all about intermittent fasting (“Eat the World Wednesday” meets the Master Cleanse). The book, which has topped Amazon’s British bestseller list since its release in January, is written by a medical journalist and a food + fashion writer who based it on experiments Dr. Mosley (the medical journalist) ran on himself and captured in a BBC documentary called “Eat, Fast and Live Longer.” Following a regimen of five normal days and then two days limiting caloric intake to 500-600/day, Dr. Mosley lost 20 pounds in nine weeks and decreased his glucose, cholesterol, and body fat.
I’m happy for Dr. Mosley that he’s had some success. And I’m in no position to question his science (if you are, please pipe up). But I am in a position to comment on what the book’s success says about our society, and the first thing that comes to mind is WTF. Does “not eating” for two days a week sound normal — or good — to you? People continue to look for quick fixes to improve their diets (or just lose a few pounds), despite the fact that we know they’re not sustainable. They choose fad over function. And along the way, as books about when and how much to eat take shelf space away from books that talk about what to eat and how to make it special and meaningful, I’m fearful that we’re losing sight of how to know and trust our bodies’ own signals about what tastes and feels healthy.
And lastly, as a mother of young kids, this books makes my stomach hurt. We live in a world where eating disorders run rampant…where people look for excuses to avoid food or eat too much…where power dynamics with food can matter more than taste and nutrition…and where food represents pain and not joy. I don’t want my kids (or anyone I know, for that matter) to grow up with “5” days and “2” days. I want them to grow up with flavors and colors and moderation and health. I want them to grow up loving the experience of sharing food people with people they love. And it’s up me to set an example, which means that things like the 5:2 are not in the cards. No lunchless lunch dates for me. Just plain old real food.
What do you think of the 5:2? Have you tried it? Would you try it? What’s your take on fad diets in general?