Intermittent fasting - why 5:2 works for me

I have been practicing “Intermittent Fasting” (IF) for several years now and in general I find it to be worthwhile and beneficial, even aside from the growing evidence that it may prolong life. As a way to maintain weight, my experience is that it is sustainable and does not seem to negatively impact my health. I’ve tried several different approaches, including partial daily fasting like “16:8”, where you essentially try to fast every day and have as many hours in-between a last and first meal as you can - 16 hours fasting, and an 8 hour eating window. What I’ve found to work best for me is called “5:2”, which is more truly “intermittent” and involves 1 or more very low calorie days (~500 calories) in a given week. Typically it’s 2 days/wk of 500 calories a day, and 5 regular days, hence “5:2”. But you can also do 6:1 or even 4:3. It’s not ideal to have more fast days than that, as far as I’m aware.

Although I do practice IF, I actually eat very normally otherwise. In fact I love food, and I believe my IF practice actually allows me to enjoy it more in certain respects. I go out to eat semi-regularly and really enjoy eating meals with people. I don’t limit myself very much in what I eat on non-fast days, which allows me to more fully enjoy my meals, indulge if and when I want to, etc. And my fasting practice actually makes all of that more sustainable by helping to rebalance calorie intake and keep my weight in check, among other things.

I’ll elaborate more on why this works well for me in the future, but for now here’s a quick outline:

  • Fasting takes discipline, which is easier for me to exercise in a sustained way through a single day, than to have to do so for some period of hours every day
  • I love breakfast food, so skipping breakfast (a typical 16:8 practice) is not that appealing to me
  • Sharing meals is also important to me, and I don’t want to have to always skip some particular meal and essentially never be able to eat with friends before a certain hour
  • 5:2 is more flexible than 16:8, you can easily move your fast days around as-needed or add or remove them in certain weeks if necessary
    • If a friend invites you to a meal tomorrow unexpectedly, you can easily accommodate it if you want
  • I have developed special, 500 calorie meals for fast days which I actually look forward to and don’t eat at any other time
  • It’s actually easier to eat vegetarian on fast days, so this creates one or more easy meatless days every week, helping me with personal sustainability goals

I know that for some people a strict routine is more important than flexibility. 5:2 is obviously compatible with that, as well. But my intention in writing this is more just to make those who are more like me aware that Intermittent Fasting can be incorporated into your lifestyle fairly easily and flexibly.

Also just to mention it, I don’t personally experience much of the mental clarity or other benefits some people claim to have with fasting, but this didn’t happen with 16:8 either. I can understand that if one does feel that way, then a more regular fasting habit might actually be more enjoyable and beneficial, e.g. if it feels like it contributes to focus and productivity as well, or something. But I’ve never found that to be the case, and if anything I am have as many days that seem a little distracted or “off” when I’m fasting as I do days where I feel particularly focused and “on”. Which is to say, it seems about comparable to regular days, for me. :wink: