Ahh January. If there was ever a good time of year to try and kick-start a healthy eating regime, it's now. How appropriate that Dr Michael Mosley has chosen tomorrow to launch his new diet book. Clever man.
There are all sorts of faddy diets out there which most probably do more harm than good (the cotton ball diet, anyone?), but the general consensus amongst people who've tried the 5:2 diet - and then told the world online - is that this one is different.
So what exactly is the 5:2 diet? I hear you ask. Allow me to explain:
Also known as intermittent fasting, the 5:2 diet - originally tried and documented by Mosley - is actually (refreshingly) simple. For two non-consecutive days of the week you reduce your calorie intake to just 500 calories for women and 600 for men, but then you get to eat normally for the other five days. Easy peasy, surely?
Well, it's supposedly a great diet for food-lovers (like myself) as you don't have to give anything up. There are no rules as to what you can or can't eat, just the quantity on those two days. So if you wanted to eat one 500 calorie piece of cake on your fast day and nothing else, you could (I wouldn't though!). Or if you wanted to drink 35 cups of tea with skimmed milk to get your 500 a day you could do that too (but again, I wouldn't.)
The fast days must be utterly foul, but I suppose they're just about tolerable because you know it's only for one day, and you can eat what you like (within reason, I imagine) tomorrow. The 5:2 diet has caused a real stir in the health world because people are actually managing to follow it and see results.
My guess is that the reason it's gone down so well with so many people is that the majority of us struggle with willpower. We're feeble. Most people can't stick to their New Year's resolutions for more than a few days before giving up, yet the 5:2 diet doesn't seem like a daunting complete diet overhaul forever and ever, it's just a couple of days a week. Totally manageable, right?
However, the 5:2 diet isn't just about losing weight, oh no. Scientists have long believed in the health benefits of fasting such as increased lifespan, and reduced blood glucose and cholesterol levels. All good stuff then.
The oh-so-trusty people on the internet are generally raving about the diet. Many claim that it's transformed their lives for the better in various ways - people say they have more energy on the fast days and don't even feel like they want to over-indulge on the normal ones to compensate.
Once you realise you can tolerate feeling hungry, apparently it's fine. Mosley claimed that 'After the settling in period, it has become quite easy'. He's probably right, as when it comes to eating habits, I've found it's all down to routine.
Obviously, there are some concerns when it comes to the 5:2 diet. Some worry that it may encourage eating disorders, but then again you could say that about most diets (not to mention every film, advert, magazine and TV show we're shown in society today.) It's all about being sensible, as far as I'm concerned, which may be a life principle I follow a bit too religiously.
So could the 5:2 diet really be as great as everyone claims? I may just have to give it a try to find out. Watch this space...
The Fast Diet: The Secret of Intermittent Fasting - Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer is on sale from 10th January 2013
For more about the science behind intermittent fasting, read Dr Andrew Weil's article here