Fast Diet 5:2 lowers IGF-1 apparently

Over the last year or so I’ve been on the “Fast Diet”. It’s also known as the 5:2 diet.

The well respected Dr Michael Mosley researched and presented the technique in a documentary shown on British television. He’s written books on it too, and details of the technique can be found on his official website

In his research he found that eating a lot less (or fasting as it were) lowered his IGF-1 level considerably. Hearing this I was hooked, so I thought I’d look into it a bit more and give it a try.

So what is the Fast Diet? In a nutshell it’s eating normally for most of the week, but on two days of the week you have only a very modest meal (less than 500 or 600 calories or so). The two leaner days are best not taken one after another. Research has found that people don’t tend to compensate and overeat after their “good” days.  The overall result is loss of weight. Once the target weight is reached then having a lean day once a week is sufficient as a maintenance to keep the weight off.

So has it worked? Yes. I’ve lost over four stones. That’s 56 pounds, or  25 kg. My waist has shrunk over 10″ (25cm). My BMI is now in the normal range (only just). Has it lowered my IGF-1? I don’t know as I don’t have the actual value from my recent test.

It’s improved my quality of life considerably. I’ve suffered from heartburn (acid reflux) for many many years and have been on Omeprazole (Prilosec / Losec). I couldn’t lie flat on my back without chronic heartburn, and had to sleep on my right hand side. Now I no longer have any acid reflux at all and don’t have any medication for it either.

My cholesterol levels have improved, my BMI has normalised and so my risk level reduced to a point where I am no longer on statins (atorvastatin). I used to suffer from the side effects of mild leg cramps on statins, but now I’m off them I just have my usual hip ache from time to time.

How difficult is it? It’s a bit tough for the first two or three weeks. Soon though you discover that the feeling of being hungry is usually just a call for being thirsty. We also found that you can have quite a monstrously huge salad with a lot of interesting tasty ingredients that keep us within the limit.

Our good days are Monday and Thursday. This works brilliantly for us. It’s quite easy to moderately over-eat on a weekend so it’s quite pleasant to have a lighter day the day after on the Monday. Having Tuesday & Wednesday as normal days works well with cooking perhaps a meal that carries over two days too. Then the Thursday lean day is upon us and then it’s back to normal again for Friday and the weekend.

When we were growing up as kids we’d quite often have certain meals on certain days of the week. So we’d have a roast dinner on a Sunday, then on Monday we’d have a curry made with the leftovers from Sunday. We’d have liver and onions on a Thursday, and then less often on Fridays we may have had Fish & Chips. That kind of thing. In school it was even more predictable. So in a way, us having two fixed days of what we eat doesn’t feel that strange, and in some way simplifies the food shopping considerably.

You should after all be eating the at least the amount of fruit and veg that you’d find in a salad anyhow, so in a way you’re just fitting in two in a week.

What about special occasions? If there is a special occasion and it happens to land on our good days then we just eat like everybody else. We don’t bother shifting the day or anything like that. There’s no point being silly about it.

Do we drink tea and coffee and alcohol on our lean days? We don’t drink alcohol on our lean days. We don’t drink sugary drinks or fruit juices on our lean days. We do drink tea and coffee with the usual bit of milk. I worked out once that a cup of tea or coffee with skimmed milk has roughly about 12 calories. So when we first started out, we subtracted about 100 calories or so off our meal to account for this.

What if you’re away from home on your lean days? There are lots of restaurants that sell lower calorie meals. If you can’t see the calories on the menu then ask them if they have them. Many have them on their websites. The thing is to just be sensible about it. Avoid junk food, avoid piling on sauces. Eat slowly, and stop eating when you feel full.

Do you have to have only one meal or can you split up the calories? You can do whatever suits you. My wife and I just found it easier to skip breakfast, go for a walk at lunchtime, and have an evening feast of a salad together in the evening.

Isn’t it a pain to count calories on your lean days? Yes, it’s a pain. That’s why we don’t bother any more with counting calories. We’ve found certain meal combinations that are below around 400-500 calories or so and just make variations on them each week without thinking too much about it. It’s easier then, and it’s suddenly not a diet it’s just a thing that you do. It becomes as routine as stuffing your face with popcorn when watching a film. Or something like that.

So can you still stuff your face with popcorn when watching a film? Yes. As long as it’s not on one of your good days. If you want to be naughty on your normal days then you can be, but you probably find you’re not obsessed with food like you would be if you were on a diet. But on normal days you can still have your pizzas, curries and fried stuff if you want to, but you probably find that you’ll be eating better stuff naturally anyhow. I make a homemade pizza every two weeks or so, we have a takeaway curry or chinese two or three times a month, and have chips (“fries”) now and again too. Most other times, the meals are healthy enough with a good balance of vegetables, and we snack on fresh fruit.

So there we have it. Live like a filmstar, have big meals and little ones spaced through the week. Just take a balanced sensible approach to it all and you’ll find it enjoyable and rewarding.

So give it a whirl. After all, what have you got to lose?