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  • Writer's pictureLouise Atkinson

Is 5:2 for you?

Updated: Mar 2, 2019

Why intermittent fasting can be tough for some and easy for others.

By Dr Meg Arroll and Louise Atkinson.

Michael Mosley's new 5:2 is being serialised (by Louise Atkinson) in the Daily Mail

As Dr Michael Mosley launches his new version of the 5:2 diet, there’s a buzz around the whole idea of intermittent fasting.

Certainly the past success of 5:2 shows restricting your food intake for two days a week, and eating more freely for the remaining five is a manageable weight loss challenge for many. However, some people find the idea of fasting more tricky than others.

We are all different in our approaches to food and eating, and there’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ diet plan, so how do you know if 5:2 will work for you?

The key to working out which diet plan will suit you best is first getting some sort of understanding of your own personal drivers and triggers. You can do this by looking at your own eating patterns and the ways you tend to think and behave when it comes to food.When it comes to losing weight, there is a strong psychological argument that it’s not so much WHAT you eat that gets you into trouble, but WHY you eat the way you do.

The way we eat is, in fact, governed by powerful psychological and behavioural drivers, many of which are subconscious and out of our immediate control.

Each of us has a distinctive set of eating triggers based on our childhood experiences, learnt behaviour, personality and unique physiology all of which might change and evolve over time depending on the lifestyle we chose.

For instance, someone with a tendency to be ‘all-or-nothing’ or very ‘black and white’ style of thinking might just find a fasting approach a breeze. Anyone who is results oriented and goal-driven in other areas of their life is similarly likely to be impressively disciplined about sticking to a restrictive plan for short bursts of time (particularly if it allows them the valve of rebellion on non-fast days). This could be one reason why 5:2 is so popular with men.

A fasting plan like 5:2 might appeal to super-busy types who feel they never have time to plan meals or sit down to eat healthily – particularly if they can grab a shake as a meal replacement when time is tight. But on the other hand, someone who has been brought up to eat three good meals a day and to clear their plate whether hungry or not, might wrestle with the concept of time restricted eating - at least initially – and worry that they will struggle to function without food readily at hand.

If you have a tendency to be an emotional eater who sometimes unconsciously uses food as a crutch in times of emotional stress or to soothe when bored, tired or lonely, you too might find the idea of fasting more of a challenge.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you should start looking for a different diet plan, but it shows the importance of self-awareness and psychological support.

Whatever your approach to eating, anyone hoping to embark on a new diet plan is well advised to put in a little more preparatory groundwork first to maximise the chance of success:

1) Download our kick-start workbook. This will really help sharpen your focus and motivation to get healthy and lose weight, and help you understand any subconscious factors that could be holding you back.

2) Take the Shrinkology Quiz to find which one of six Shrinkology types best describe your eating behaviours.

3) Buy The Shrinkology Solution which is packed with great advice to help you gain insight into controlling your own eating behaviours, plus type-specific psych hacks to strengthen your resolve and ensure weight-loss success.

TRY THIS: 5:2 cravings boost

One reason why the idea of 5:2 works for so many people is that we can all cope with a little discomfort for short periods of time. But you are likely to be at the mercy of cravings on fast days so make sure you have quick and immediate distractions to hand. If the lure of the biscuit tin seems overwhelming try sucking a slice of lemon. The sour taste will shock your senses, offering immediate (calorie-free) distraction.

No lemons? Grab a paragraph of text and read it backwards. This mental challenge is enough to jolt your thinking away from food.

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