For several months now I have been using a diet called the 5/2 – mostly to maintain my weight and fight against mid-life gains. The way it works is really simple – two non-consecutive days a week I only get a total of 500 calories, which is like nothing. (Did you know that just 10 Peanut M & M’s are 100 calories?!!!) The other 5 days I can eat “normally” which probably means different things to different people, and for me usually involves indulging to make up for my two hungry days. Most weeks my low calorie days are Mondays and Thursdays. So today is Thursday, and let’s just say I’m a little crabby and not much fun to be around. I love to eat and greatly miss it when I am deprived!
So does it work? Studies have actually shown that this rhythm often results in overall weight loss, and I can attest that it has helped me drop a couple pounds in the last several months and keep it off. I am not sure it would be useful for those who need to lose a lot of weight. So physically, I think it has been good for me.
But the other benefit has surprised me. I wake up on the 500 calorie days, and immediately feel a sense of sadness. This has driven me to identify with the hundreds of millions of people on our planet who wake up every morning, - EVERY MORNING! - knowing they will not have enough to eat. The hungry do not know what it is like to feel ridiculously full, to choose from an overwhelming number of options in a restaurant or grocery store. Mothers of hungry children agonize every day about how to feed their family, and often sacrifice their own food for the little ones. There is no variety of food in impoverished communities – whatever they have to eat is usually the same every day.
On my low calorie days I am not only inclined to being crabby, but I also have less energy. I imagine what it would be like to live every day without the necessary fuel for physical activity, without the boost that healthy nutrients give our bodies and our minds. How lethargic and unmotivated would many of us be if we lived with chronic hunger? When I feel a stomach pang on my low cal days, I frequently offer up a quick prayer for those in extreme poverty, and deepen my gratitude for the wonder that my needs are so abundantly met for food and shelter.
Vanity led me to the 5/2 diet. But there have been even greater benefits for my soul. I don’t recommend it for everyone, but for me, there has been some good learning. As I write, only about 10 more hours until bedtime. I’m already fantasizing about breakfast tomorrow morning!