Recently, while reading a popular women’s magazine, I came across an article promoting the ‘2 day fast diet’. A nice catchy headline, sure to sell magazines but what exactly is the message that this is getting across? Are we, as the media, and the health and fitness industry, promoting the right things? Is this actually healthy?
The ‘2 day fast diet’ is an excerpt from a book the magazine has published called ‘2 day a week diet’ which promotes the intermittent fasting diet. The premise behind this way of eating is that 2 days per week food is severely restricted to 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men. The remaining 5 days, dieters can eat as they like, although recommendation is made to not overeat and make up for the spared calories from the previous day. The way this article has described and promoted this diet are my areas for concern.
For starters, the headline on the cover of the magazine reads ‘Try our 2-Day fast diet’. Is this not just implying that by following the instructions you will lose weight fast, in just 2 days?
And then the article itself is hidden away in the recipe section of the magazine, just after the little mango cheesecakes and roasted summer fruit crumble. Turn the page at the end of the article and you are greeted with summer treats – coconut custard mille-feuille and smash and grab ice cream cones. How cruel is the media world?
This article actually makes no mention of the rotation of 2 fasting days with 5 days of normal consumption over each week, instead emphasis is just made on the calories which should be consumed on the fasting days. It is worrying that anyone could pick up this article, skim read it and get the idea that losing weight is simple, just drop your calories to 500 per day, every day, and magically you lose weight. 500 calories is less than half of the calories the average female body requires just to live through the day, without adding in any movement, serious brain function, or even the digestion of food. This value of calories is not enough to live on long term, and not at all the idea of intermittent fasting. If this article was promoting intermittent fasting correctly, there would be high importance placed on the days of normal food consumption as well as the days of fasting.
It is easy to imagine that the next step is to reduce calories further if weight loss isn’t as expected or results are wanted faster. This is just simply sending the body into starvation mode, burning off the muscle and reducing the metabolic rate further in the hope of saving the dieters life. Framing a diet in this way reduces food to a calorific value and creates a fear of food. No one can enjoy eating when they are just thinking that the apple in front of them has a numeric value contributing to their size. This is teaching women that consuming seriously low calories is both a recommended and a healthy way to lose weight when really this is unhealthy and over the long term can cause serious harm to the human body. I fear this just leads to severe eating disorders and an unhealthy relationship with food.
My next concern is the quality of the food consumed. The only considerations made in this article are the calories consumed. This forgets to consider the makeup of those calories – be they fruit and vegetables providing natural carbohydrates and copious amounts of vitamins and fibre, or meat providing protein, fats and essential minerals like iron. And the 5 days of non-fasting are seen as a reprieve, free days to eat as you like. This doesn’t encourage a healthy lifestyle of great food to boost the health and well being of the body. But then health and wellness doesn’t sell magazines.
I believe it is not just a reduction of food quantity that is important, and crucial, for weight loss and health improvement, but also an increase in quality and awareness of the nutritional value of our food. Rather than teaching that less food will make you lose weight, let’s focus on increasing vegetable intake, fresh meats, raw nuts, fruit and eggs. Let’s keep food simple and teach people so they not only understand but also enjoy the food they are eating. I see it as my duty to help people to stop dieting and start enjoy good, healthy, nutritious and tasty food which will help them achieve their goals in a lifelong, sustaining manner and leave them feeling amazing, vibrant and full of life.
Forget the 2 day fast diet. Start living a healthy lifestyle and enjoying food.
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