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.
Her 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.
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.
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.
*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.