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Aug 29

I did 5:2 intermittent fasting for a month, and even as a dietitian Im surprised – NEWS.com.au

Having read about it, researched it, and reported on it, dietitian Melissa Meier decided there was only so much she could say without having tried the 5:2 diet for herself. For a whole month, she calorie-restricted two out of seven days and let us know how she fared.

FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE

With so much noise around intermittent fasting (and me contributing a lot of it see here and here and here), I felt like a bit of a cop-out having never actually tried it. I saw absolutely no issue in reporting on the science, but theres only so much you can say when you havent experienced it first-hand. So, I set myself the challenge of trying intermittent fasting for a whole month, and this is what I found.

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INTERMITTENT FASTING 101

Before we dive in, Ill set the scene just in case youve missed the memo. Essentially, intermittent fasting is a way of eating that is more concerned with when you eat rather than what. There are a few different variations, the main ones being 16:8 (where you have a daily eight-hour eating window) and 5:2 (where you have two 500 calorie days per week and eat normally the rest of the time).

While its no more effective than a calorie-controlled diet, intermittent fasting is a proven weight-loss method plus, its been linked to metabolic health perks, protection from disease, and improved gut health, too. All in all, its a pretty exciting space in the world of nutrition. But, its not for everyone

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INTERMITTENT FASTING IS H.A.R.D.

I liked the idea of trying the 5:2 method. It only affects two days a week, so I didnt find it as intrusive or disruptive to the rest of my life as Id imagine other weight-loss diets would be and I think this is one of its main perks.

I was still able to go out carefree on the weekends and cook up a storm at home throughout the week as I habitually would (and even enjoy the occasional glass of vino), and I can report I did lose a couple of kilos in the process.

The fasting days, however, were certainly not easy. Theyre hard. Very hard, to be frank. I distinctly remember feeling like I wanted to eat my arm off in bed one night, and as a dietitian, I just felt there was something so innately wrong with this. Im all about eating mindfully and listening to your body, so this was somewhat of a moral dilemma for me, but I pushed through, all in the name of research

IT DOES GET EASIER

Fast forward a week or two and I felt like I had found my groove. My initial idea was to try and spread my 500 calories over three small meals a day so that I didnt feel like I was missing out but this quickly backfired.

An egg white omelette, a tasteless smoothie, and bland green veg and prawn stir fry later, I knew this wasnt the best tactic for me. Instead, I tried spreading my calories over two slightly more substantial meals and a snack, and this worked far better.

Although Im usually a breakfast-first-thing-in-the-morning kinda gal, on fasting days, I found it easier to push my first meal of the day (which was a piece of toast with light ricotta cheese and tomato, plus a milk-based coffee) back as far as I could to around 11am, have a snack of veggie sticks sometime in the afternoon and then an early dinner (usually veggie soup).

This helped me to actually fill up after meals rather than being constantly hungry, so food wasnt always on my mind.

For the majority of my month of fasting, I fasted on two non-consecutive days each week, and never on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays (that would be torture at least for me, anyway).

I dreaded the idea of doing two fasting days in a row, but thought for my last hurrah, I should give it a go just to see what its like. And the good news is, it wasnt nearly as hard as I thought it would be, but I wouldnt want to do it if I wasnt busy.

All in all, my month of intermittent fasting went surprisingly well, and Im pleased to report I now have a far greater understanding of the intricacies and challenges involved in the process. Although the incessant hunger pangs sucked, I think it was a valuable lesson in recalibrating my hunger and satiety cues, and to my surprise, didnt result in overeating on non-fasting days.

If youre struggling with the 5:2 diet or simply want to give it a go like me, the three best tips I can give you to maximise your chances of success are:

Of course, this is just my experience and shouldnt be taken as your call to try intermittent fasting if youre looking to lose weight. If youre in that boat, its essential that you seek individualised advice from a qualified expert who can assess your current diet and guide you through the process if appropriate.

There are some groups of people for whom intermittent fasting is simply not safe (pregnant women, children, adolescents, and people with diabetes, for example), and others who it just wont suit and thats perfectly okay. Losing weight is not a cookie-cutter approach, and whats far more important than following a fad diet briefly is finding your unique healthy eating sticking point that you can maintain, for life. Capiche?

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practicing dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition

This article originally appeared on bodyandsoul.com.au and was reproduced with permission

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I did 5:2 intermittent fasting for a month, and even as a dietitian Im surprised - NEWS.com.au

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