Rachel Ray & The Fast Diet

The other day, I happened to be at the gym running on the treadmill while the Rachel Ray Show was on TV. I followed along via the subtitles and I’ve got to tell you, I was down-right outraged.

The Fast DietHer guest was Dr. Michael Mosley, co-author of The Fast Diet. He was promoting the release of his book in the U.S. and touting his diet. Similar to the Paleo Diet, the Fast Diet (also known as the 5:2 Diet) is based upon a premise of how our ancestors supposedly ate. In this case, the claim or idea is that our ancestors gorged on whatever food they could whenever they could and then starved until they were able to eat again. Following that eat-starve principle, in the Fast Diet you eat whatever you want five out of seven days and only eat 500 calories the other two days. In other words, you practically starve yourself for two days and then eat (anything and everything you want) for five days.

My Thoughts

You already know I’m anti-diets, but this one really takes that to a whole new level for me. I mean, are you flipping kidding me?! (There are a number of explicative words running through my head right now that I won’t repeat here.) What kind of message does this send?!

Here’s what kind of message this sends – that starving yourself (even if just for two days a week) is not only okay but encouraged as a means to lose weight. Period. Not to mention, this diet sounds an awful lot like a starve yourself-binge-purge bulimia cycle, only that the purging is starvation rather than exercise or vomiting.

How is this okay?!

To top it all off, and I kid you not, Rachel Ray wrapped up the segment by literally saying something akin to, “Now you have us all looking forward to not eating tomorrow! [Yay!!]”*

I was already huffing and puffing (and not due to my run), then I read that last comment and I almost wanted to take my shoes off and throw them at the TV.

The really sad part is that as I’ve been looking into this diet for this post, it seems that it’s all the craze these days, as is the book. It took Britain by storm (where it originated and was first released) and I fear it’s going to take the U.S. by storm as well.

The Debate

Of course, Dr. Mosley argues that there’s research evidence to back up the health benefits of the severe calorie restriction utilized in his diet. You can hear all about it in his BBC Documentary, Eat, Fast and Live Longer.

But, not everyone agrees. The UK’s National Health Service put out a statement cautioning against this diet and concluded:

“Due to the very real uncertainties about the 5:2, especially as little is known about whether it could be harmful to health in the long-term, most health professionals would recommend you stick to the tried and trusted methods for weight loss and disease prevention…” [Source]

Also not convinced about the research is Nutritionist and Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Keith Ayoob, EdD, who stated that: “[The Fast Diet] is anecdotal… based on his [Dr. Mosley’s] experience. That’s an opinion. I like to make recommendations that are based on good solid science and… we’re not there yet.” [Source]

Others warn against the potential risks of the diet. Director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, Dr. David L. Katz, stated that eating so few calories on the fasting days may be “dangerous” and slow down your metabolism. [Source] Moreover, the spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Karen Ansel, worries that the diet may lead to an over-consumption of “junk” foods and thus lead to “nutrient deficiencies.” [Source]

In my opinion, whether it’s based on solid research or not, I don’t really care. I wouldn’t support it or recommend it either way. To me, it creates a very anorexia-bulimia-binge-eating (all rolled into one) sort of relationship with food. I’d much prefer a mindful and intuitive approach.

But, that’s just me. I want to know – what are your thoughts on this diet?

*Unfortunately, I don’t know Rachel Ray’s exact words verbatim since I can’t find a transcript of the show and this part isn’t in either of the clips. But, what she said was something really close to that.

Clips of the Fast Diet segment on the Rachel Ray Show can be found here and here.

Source for The Fast Diet book cover photo

15 thoughts on “Rachel Ray & The Fast Diet

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  4. I like to look around at the different ideas and approaches out there and keep an open mind. One thing I know from experience is that there is seldom a consensus. Here is an article I thought was pretty good that presented some research done over the last several years that seuggests some possible benefits from the occasional fast. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the article.


  5. I saw this on Rachael Ray as well, and while I agree with you that it is encouraging a dangerous mentality, I feel it necessary to clarify a few things. Yes, they did repeatedly say “eat whatever you want five days a week” but when the guy started really getting into the details, he said you should eat as you normally would, not binge. When the audience member who tried it told her experience, she binged the first day and he said it doesn’t really work that way, and she agreed. Also, he stressed that it was important to still eat balanced and get nutrients on the fasting days.

    I’m not necessarily supporting the diet. I definitely think the way they hyped it at the beginning was misleading and a lot of people heard exactly what you did, which is unfortunate because it does make it sound like Rachael Ray supports bulimia. But I also feel that it’s important to let people know the whole story.

    • Hi Ruth! Thanks so much for chiming in. :) Great points and I agree – this doctor isn’t out-right saying his diet is a binge-starve diet (that would be quite disastrous for him). So, thanks for the clarification.

      I haven’t personally read the book, but I’m sure that in the details he advises you to eat “normal” / “healthy” on the 5 days of eating. However, the “eat whatever you want” does seem to be used at least in the marketing of this diet, which I think sends a mixed message at best.

      While the authors behind this diet don’t directly sanction a binge-starve relationship with food (and that’s certainly not the way they frame it to the public), I think that the unfortunate reality is that this diet indirectly lends itself such a disordered relationship with food.

      Thanks again for your perspective and input. It’s really valuable and adds so much to the discussion and this blog. :)

  6. As with all other diets, I don’t think it will work, and really does no one any good. On top of that, though, this type of diet can very seriously lead to diabetes. By starving yourself for 2 days out of the week, you limit the amount of insulin your body produces. By binging the next 5 days, it is also likely that your body won’t be able to produce enough insulin to keep up with the amount of food you put in to make up for the days you didn’t eat. Diabetes isn’t something to play with, and this diet isn’t either in my opinion.

    • Great insight & points you make. I didn’t even think about how this could impact someone’s blood sugar and insulin production. Thanks so much for chiming in! :) I love how you said it – this diet isn’t something to be played with.

  7. So i must admit that i tried the 5/2 thing for a few weeks and it TOTALLY did my head in! Like you suggested I just felt like I was taking a roller coaster into my previous life of having an eating disorder. I don’t see that this diet is good for people – I don’t think it helps people to have a ‘healthy’ way of looking at meal times and food. Lets face it – we live in the current world where binging and starving are true problems – why encourage it?!?!?!?

    • Sandy – thank you, thank you, thank you for your input! It’s so interesting to hear from someone who’s actually tried this diet. Your insight and experience is so valuable. You bring up a great point – I can absolutely see how this diet would be really triggering for someone who’s had an eating disorder in the past. It essentially mimics the eating patterns/habits of the various eating disorders. So glad you gave it up after only a few weeks! :D

  8. ugh! Just typed a huge comment and lost it. Anyway, the best diet is the one that works for you. With that being said, I really don’t know how this could work for anyone.

    • Ugh, I hate when that happens! I’m so sorry you lost your comment. :( Thanks for your persistence. I really appreciate hearing your perspective. I totally agree that different things work for different people. For Dr. Mosley, it apparently worked for him. But, that doesn’t mean that it should suddenly (especially without proper research) be disseminated to everyone as if it’s a one-size-fits-all. Though, that’s the billion dollar diet industry for you, I guess.

      The biggest beef I have with this particular diet is how blatantly it promotes disordered eating tendencies under the guise of fancy language like “intermittent fasting” etc.

      Anywho, enough of my ranting. ;) Again, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and sorry about your earlier comment.

  9. They’ve talked about this and other fasting diets on Doctor Radio. The show I listen to is lead by a bariactic surgeon who works with obese patients. They don’t support this diet but also ackowledge that different things work for different people. They tend to be more favorable of the diet that just has you fasting from 7

  10. I’m not the biggest Rachael Ray fan in general, but I think I just lost any respect I had for her. This so-called “diet” is an awful thing for anyone to promote, but it’s especially terrible that it’s someone whose career was built on food and cooking. I can understand advising to cut calories within reason to lose weight, but starving yourself is NOT the answer. Ever. The last thing we need in this country is a “health professional” (how can this man seriously call himself a doctor) essentially promoting anorexia. I’m disgusted.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! To some degree, most diets promote some form of restriction, but for this one to so blatantly promote not eating (practically) for two days out of the week and call it “fasting” instead of what it is – starvation! – I just find it ludicrous. Even if some of the research is showing that severe calorie restriction can help us live longer, I’ve always been one of those that feels I’d rather live a full, happy life (even if it is shorter) than an unhappy, restrictive long one.

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