Before we kick off on another round of Lighten Up Summer, I wanted to answer some commonly asked questions about the Lighten Up program, including who should consider doing it and why you might not.
WHAT IS THE 5:2 DIET?
5 days a week you eat normally and on 2 days you cut the number of calories you eat drastically. Your 2 very low calorie days are considered ‘fasting’ days. It’s a diet that relies on producing a calorie deficit to cause weight loss. The main difference between 5:2 and a standard type of low calorie diet is that a large deficit is achieved on 2 days a week, rather than a moderate daily deficit throughout the week.
HOW DOES THE LIGHTEN UP PROGRAM DIFFER TO OTHER PUBLISHED 5:2 DIETS?
I’d seen how this method of fasting worked and wanted to develop a version with delicious meals that still met the low energy criteria but felt like you were getting plenty of food. The food is one thing and I’ve had it confirmed many times that the recipes are delicious 🙂 but I think it’s the day by day content and activity that drops into your journey ‘that sets this program apart from all the rest. It helps people to stay focused and on track. It helped me through the journey as I personally experienced the highs and lows of this altered method of eating.
Why did I choose to develop a program incorporating 5:2 intermittent fasting?
I’ve witnessed it working well with people who enjoy food and don’t want to be on a diet 7 days a week, so it made sense. After almost 20 years of coaching clients, I understand how hard it is to abstain from food you like for any length of time. In a culture of abundance, moderation is not in most peoples’ vocabulary or behaviour and the idea of restricting our food intake to a fistful size 3 times a day, 7 days a week, 4 weeks a month, 12 months a year is counterintuitive when there’s so much food around us. It’s a lot easier, I think, particularly past the age of 50, to attempt a restricted energy intake 2 days a week, knowing on non-fasting days you don’t need to be so strict with yourself.
Can you eat whatever you like on non-fasting days?
Weight loss and health gains go hand-in-hand and should be considered in this way unless you have an eating disorder or you’re, unfortunately, ill. If you need to lose weight to improve your health, then it’s still important to maintain a healthy balanced diet on the non-fasting days. What you don’t have to do is count calories and you can still enjoy the occasional chocolate, ice cream or glass of wine. On the Lighten Up program you’re not given a meal plan for the non-fasting days, but you are set a weekly healthy eating challenge to attempt to stick to. I’d encourage you to choose recipes from The Greengrocer’s Diet for dinner on these non-fasting days although you don’t need to worry so much about the portion sizes.
Are we not all past dieting when so many diets don’t work?
I have a problem when I hear people saying that, particularly if the food he or she is eating has led to elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. These are all signs of poor metabolic health. When our lifestyle increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, I don’t think anyone should ever be past dieting. Diet is what we eat – good and bad. If we’re at risk of a life-threatening disease, I genuinely believe that it’s better to keep trying when you slip up time and time again, because on the days you succeed to eat well, you’re protecting yourself from further damage.
Why does the Lighten Up program include meditation?
Partly to distract you on days when you’re feeling hungry from fasting (LOL) but mainly to help people find comfort in something other than food. It’s really important to nurture ourselves. I hope this doesn’t sound sexist, but many women, particularly those over 50’s don’t hold themselves in high esteem. They’ve been so busy caring for others they’ve forgotten to care for themselves. Menopause kicks in and they feel less desirable and drop down another notch in self-worth. It’s hard to fix if you rely on external factors. Meditation, mindfulness, yoga can help instill a sense of inner peace. I am always searching for that which is why I added it to the course.
Can men do the program?
Yes, they can and in fact men, once they decide to do it, typically just get on and have great success. I’ve known quite a few men who have used the program to shift some weight before a hip or knee replacement. Give them the recipes and the shopping list and they don’t necessarily need to use the other content although the Ted talks, podcasts and information on age-related exercise is extremely useful.
Who should not do the program?
If you are on medication for Type 2 diabetes, I would seek medical approval before embarking on a 5: 2 500 – 600 calorie a day restricted eating program. Although you’re only eating this low energy intake 2 non – consecutive days a week, it may interfere with your medications so I would always check with your doctor. Also, I would caution anyone with an eating disorder against this style of intermittent fasting.
How much does it cost?
The program is $149 for 6 weeks and for that you receive your week’s fasting recipes, and daily content dropped onto your dashboard with a suggested activity for the day. Each week we explore a new challenge and topic ranging from psychology, breath work, how food affects the brain, exercise, and mindfulness. There’s a lot included. Once complete, the content is available for a further 6 weeks to allow you to revisit the content again, or, as some people do, continue fasting.
Do you recommend people continue fasting after the program?
That depends – some people make 5:2 fasting a way of life which is great if that suits them. I generally suggest to people trying to fast for the first time to progress from 6 weeks fasting to 6 weeks moderate eating and see if they can maintain the weight they’ve lost. If that takes them into a new season and they still want to lose more weight, they can pick up a pack of new season recipes and return to fasting for a further 6 weeks.
Is the content the same across each season?
The fasting recipes change each season, and apart from a few podcasts and Ted talks the content is pretty much the same. Once you see how much is in there, you’ll realise that isn’t a problem. It is so content rich and there’s always something new to learn. You’ll have to trust me on this one.
What about exercise?
Great question and part of the reason I have collaborated with Club Active the over 50’s exercise physiology and fitness clubs. Exercise is important mentally and physically. While fasting, one thing we don’t want is to lose lean body weight. Between 60 and 70 we lose more muscle that at any stage of life so strength training throughout the program is important but not during fasting days. Your exercise physiologist will help design a program to help burn fat and maintain muscle mass. The process can help boost the metabolism and improve metabolic health, which is what we talked about.
HOW MUCH WEIGHT WILL I LOSE?
Stick with the program and you should lose around 3 – 4 kg maybe more depending on how much weight you need to lose. What I hope you’ll gain are some lasting tools to help you make healthier choices down the track, plus a sense of inner strength, stability and calm. And maybe some muscle if you put the in.