Yesterday was tough, but then, the first day of a diet always is, isn’t it. Notice, I didn’t even bother to put a question mark after that first sentence, because the bald truth is: the first day of any diet is bloody hard – especially if you’re only limited to 600 calories. Yes, I said 600 calories. God love my poor wife, she had the misfortune to be born a woman and so she was only allowed 500 calories. What’s that? Basically, that amounts to a thimble-full of nettle soup, some shredded lettuce seasoned with salt water, and the core of one apple.
Ok, well, it wasn’t that tough, we survived. This new regime is all part of the “post summer blowout,” something of an annual affair for me. Every summer I end up in Europe – I know, dreadful life – and of course that means really great food and beverages. I always over-indulge, but then I always know that when I come back to the States, I’ll have to diet for a few months. Believe me, it’s always been worth it.
Right now I’m about 20 pounds overweight, which will take me between 10 and 12 weeks to lose. This summer however, I learned of a new diet by Dr Michael Mosley. His book, “The FastDiet” has become a New York Times bestseller and I was lucky enough to hear him interviewed this summer on the radio in Ireland. Needless to mention, I was very impressed. His diet, Intermittent Fasting, is predicated on the notion of “no pain, no gain,” which seems a bit harsh, but bear with me for a minute here. Every time you exercise, you tear your muscle fibers. Upon healing however, the muscle fiber comes back stronger. Think of pruning a plant for better bearing.
This principle is applied now to dieting. Some “shock tactics” are applied, namely fasting. Not total fasting mind you, just partial. You see, what you do is twice a week you drastically reduce your calorie intake. For a woman this is a daily allowance of 500 calories and for a man, it’s 600 calories. However, for the other five days, you simply eat what you want. That’s why it’s called the 5:2 Diet. Five days of eating normally and two days of dieting.
Most people, including myself, immediately assume that on the days you’re not fasting, you’ll overcompensate for the days you’ve fasted. But, research has shown that while this does occur with some dieters, the vast majority are not that stupid. On your non-fasting days, you eat what you want, but of course, in the back of your mind is the notion that you’re on a diet, so sub-consciously, you tend to cut back, if only just a little. And that’s all that’s needed you see. On the non-fasting days, you’re not supposed to diet, but most people tend to keep an eye on things, even though you don’t have to.
The book is fascinating and not only does he spell out in detail the science of fasting, but he also gives you suggestions and recipes for a month of 500 calorie a day meals.
In the first 24 hours, both the wife and I lost three pounds, each. But, as you well know, it’s how we’ll fare in the medium and long term that’ll really count. I’ll keep ye posted.
Brian O’Nuainain is a native Irishman who currently lives in Bossier City. He is also owner and operator of Across the Pond and Beyond, a company that organizes international vacations. You can reach him at acrossthepondandbeyond.com.