The 5:2 Diet

We all know there are plenty of diet options out there, and more than likely you’ve tried more than a few yourself. As a trainer I’ve come to realize that the most important thing that will determine a diet’s success or failure is whether or not you can actually stick with it. If you can’t actually stay on the diet long enough for it to work, what’s the point?

With that said, the real question becomes what diet can you take on that is not only easy to stick with, but also makes sense? The good news is that there are quite a few options that will work. The bad news?

There are also plenty of diets that are simply a waste of your time…

There is a solution though, so read on.

Most people out there – and this may apply to you as well – fall into one of two camps, I’ve found.

It’s more than likely that one of following descriptions fits you:

1. You’re extreme about dieting and go for it when it comes to trying a new diet plan. Or, maybe, you use pretty much the same eating approach each time, but you cycle through being on it and being off of it. The key is every time you diet you push yourself for a set period of time. Maybe you get consistent results or maybe you don’t, but you’re consistently trying to improve.

2. You’re not really into the whole dieting thing, or maybe you’re just not “good” at it. Eating in a disciplined or controlled (read: restricted) manner isn’t fun for you or maybe it’s even downright horrible.  You’re not good at it so you’re not really motivated to keep trying this whole “dieting” thing, because you think past experience equals future results and you’ve always struggled in prior attempts at changing your eating patterns.

No matter what camp you fall into, a good eating plan that can work over a longer period – or be easier to stick with in the short term – is still likely going to be more effective for you than some crazy fad eating plan.  Trying something where you eat cabbage, or avoid carbs like the plague, or increase your fat, or add butter to your coffee, etc. isn’t going to be the answer.

It’s great for people who are strict dieters that may need something a little less strict (camp 1), and it’s also ideal for people who have trouble with the tough diet plans that often set them up for failure (camp 2).

And that’s why, along with a few other eating approaches, the 5:2 Diet might be something worth trying.


Enter the 5:2 Diet – What is it?  

If you’re thinking about giving the 5:2 diet a go, here’s the basic breakdown of how it works: you eat mostly what you want for five days of the week, and then you restrict your calories quite a bit 2 days out of the week.  The reason this can be effective is that you end up achieving a calorie restricted state while also keeping some normalcy to your current eating plan at the same time.

One way to approach this, of course, is to eat a normal amount of calories Monday through Friday and then do the restriction on both weekend days.  This can work, but can also be difficult for some people.

If you think you might have trouble reducing your calories for two days in a row, you can change the “location” of your days during the week and try a calorie reduction on Wednesday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sun (as an example – you can pick whatever days work for you).

In comparing the 5:2 approach to intermittent fasting and other approaches, it’s important to keep in mind that the goal isn’t to eat like a pig on your “normal calorie” days.

Yes, you can eat in a fairly unrestricted way on the five days where you’re not required to reduce your calories, but the more you control the amount and type of food that you eat here as well, the easier it will be to get results.

Just like with intermittent fasting, the 5:2 plan works because the calorie restriction creates a fat burning environment where even normal eating outside of the restricted period can still yield weight loss.

But, again, depending on how much weight you want to lose or how quickly you want to lose it you also want to be aware of not splurging too much and deliberately overeating on the days the plan allows for more flexibility.  This is why I advocate not doing the two restricted days back to back for some people: if you end up wanting to splurge on big calorie meals too much as a result of feeling deprived for two days straight, this can backfire.


Conclusion and How to Make it Work

With the 5:2 Diet the goal, like with any other diet, is to get consistent sustainable results.  This is why I always advocate finding something that works for you.  Or, sometimes, you just have to find something that’s pretty close and modify as needed.

The approach with the 5:2 plan is no different.

The typical 5:2 diet requires you to eat a normal amount of calories on the five unrestricted days and then eat 25% of that amount of calories on each of your two reduced calorie days.  For some people this will work great, and for others reducing their calories that much may – especially at first – be a bit tough.

Try to find the optimal approach for you, which may be slightly different than these ratios.  Depending on how hardcore of a dieter you are, or if you typically struggle, your mileage may vary.  Either way, this plan may be a good change of pace for you no matter your history with food and diets.





2 thoughts on “The 5:2 Diet”

  1. Thanks for this~
    I like the 5:2 idea that you’re not totally dropping everything for a completely different diet path. I think failure to stick with a regimen frequently hinges on an underlying resentment we could be holding about “giving up” all the things we love to eat. That makes it doubly difficult to stick to!
    Of course there are some things health-wise that make more sense to give up and we need to be honest about those…but this 5:2 plan provides an intermediate stepping stone for the possibility of a more expanded plan later on.
    It’s just easier for most of us to accept 5:2 😊than 0:7 !! 😳
    As you said: try…then adapt. Find what works for you.

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