Read an Excerpt
why The 2-Day Diet works
If you are someone who has tried, and failed, to lose weight, or you’ve shed the extra pounds only to pile them back on again—this is the book for you. The 2-Day Diet is a brand new, research-based approach to weight loss that can work for you whether you’ve been struggling with your weight for years or have only just made the decision to lose weight. The 2-Day Diet is simple: you diet for just two consecutive days a week and eat normally for the other five days.
I have never dieted and successfully kept the weight off —before I tried The 2-Day Diet. In fact, I have always regained the weight and then usually extra, too. The 2-Day Diet is different—it’s a lifestyle change that I can actually live with. —Marie, 33
We have become used to diet experts telling us that if we want to lose weight, there are strict rules that we must follow every day. The 2-Day Diet approach turns all of that theory on its head. It’s flexible, it’s easy to follow, and it will make you rethink your approach to dieting and find a different way to lose your unwanted pounds.
The idea of escaping the day-in, day-out restriction of a seven- day diet regime—dieting for just two days a week and eating normally for the other five days and still losing weight—prob- ably sounds too good to be true. But it’s not: our weight-loss research over the last 17 years with dieters, many of them serial dieters, shows that this new approach really can work, even when everything else has failed. The 2-Day Diet has been designed by research dietitian Dr. Michelle Harvie, and, as well as delivering healthy, sustainable weight loss, The 2-Day Diet is nutritionally balanced to meet all your body’s needs.
Dieting on the two days was much easier than I had expected. I also found that I was much more mindful of my eating over the five normal eating days—I didn’t want to undo all that good work! —Lizzie, 24
You should not attempt The 2-Day Diet if you are a child, a teenager, pregnant, breast-feeding, suffering from depression, or have an eating disorder. The moderately high levels of protein in this diet may pose problems for anyone with kidney disease or anyone at risk of kidney disease. If you have diabetes or any other medical condition, or if you are taking medication, seek advice from your doctor before embarking on any diet and exercise program.
If you are overweight, your main motivation for dieting may be to improve your self-esteem by regaining your true figure. You will lose weight on The 2-Day Diet, but you will also improve your health, protect yourself against disease, and boost your energy levels. Research shows that losing even a small amount of excess weight (5 to 10 percent of your body weight) can help reduce your risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. What’s more, there’s evidence to show that losing weight with The 2-Day Diet has the potential to have even greater health benefits than those gained by using a daily dieting weight-loss plan, as we will explain later.
The diet trap
In theory, losing weight should be easy. Eat less, move around more, and the pounds should simply melt away. In practice, losing weight can be anything but easy. You might be able to lose a few pounds in the short term, but they soon creep back on again. Despite major public health campaigns and millions of dollars spent each year on diet products, the number of people who are overweight keeps on rising in almost all parts of the world, but particularly in the USA and UK. In 2010, 64 percent of American women and 74 percent of men were overweight. These figures occur alongside reports estimating that 108 million people in the USA follow weight-loss diets each year, spending $20 billion per annum on diet books, diet drugs and weight-loss surgery. A 2007 MORI survey found that the average UK woman spends 31 years of her life on a diet, yet British women are now the heaviest in Europe. British men don’t fare much better—66 percent are now overweight, positioning them as the second-heaviest in Europe. It’s clearly time for a new approach.
I can see and feel the weight loss, so I feel better about myself. I don’t feel so tired—I have so much more energy in the evenings. —Jane, 32
The story behind The 2-Day Diet
Our search for a different way to lose weight was driven by our work over nearly two decades with women diagnosed with, or at high risk from, breast cancer. We knew from our research and work done elsewhere that while being overweight signi- ficantly increases women’s risk of developing breast cancer, losing weight—even as little as 10 lb (4.5 kg)—can cut that risk by between 25 and 40 percent, compared with women who continue to gain weight, which is the norm.1 The problem is that losing weight—and keeping it off—is extraordinar- ily difficult. Typically the dieters we worked with had already made between three and five serious attempts to lose weight. However motivated they were and however hard they tried, less than half of them managed to shed the weight needed to reduce their risk. Many enjoyed amazing short-term success and displayed extraordinary willpower and determination, but, sadly, for most, the weight loss didn’t last.
case study: Anne
Anne’s story is typical. Anne was desperate to lose weight, know- ing that it was increasing her risk of developing the breast cancer that had already affected her mother, aunt, and cousin, and her chance of developing type 2 diabetes, which had affected her father’s side of the family. She had previously managed to lose 42 lbs (19 kg) at a weight-loss group over a period of five months. This must have involved her eating 900 calories less than she normally ate each day for five months—133,000 fewer calories in all! However, unfortunately, after all this effort, she regained most of the weight within four months.
Typically people stick with a diet for three to six months and lose around 14 lbs (6.4 kg) in weight. The majority of people—80 percent—then put most of the weight back on again, while the remaining 20 percent regain some weight but remain 8–12 lbs (3.6–5.4 kg) lighter than their pre-diet weight.2
So dieting isn’t entirely in vain, since it can prevent you from gaining even more weight in the longer term. However, the process of constantly losing and regaining weight is demor- alizing, can lower your self-esteem, and can undermine subsequent attempts to lose weight. As many dieters are only too aware, dieting is a constant drudge.
Thanks to The 2-Day Diet I feel less sluggish, less bloated, less tired after exercise, much healthier, and my clothes now fit more comfortably. —Honor, 45
The size of the problem
From 1950–1960 33 percent of adults in the US were overweight (defined as a BMI of 25 or higher) and 9.7 percent were classified as obese (with a BMI of 30 or higher). The latest figures show that 6 percent of women are overweight and 36 percent obese, while 74 percent of men are overweight with 36 percent obese. Very roughly you can think of it this way: one-third of us are a healthy weight, one-third are overweight, and one-third obese.
The US government currently spends as much as $147 million each year on weight-related problems, which could rise to $334 billion a year by 2018.
A recent study by Duke University Medical Center reported that overweight workers miss 12 times more work days than non-obese workers.
In 2006, the United Nations announced that for the first time, the number of overweight people in the world exceeded those who were undernourished, with more than 1.3 billion people overweight and 800 million underweight.
Why diet for just two days a week?
Our initial studies between 1995 and 2005 used the conven- tional dieting approach and asked our Dieters to cut down calories on all seven days of the week. It became clear that many struggled with this standard approach, as they found themselves constantly having to think about their diet and what they were eating. By 2005, intriguing evidence of “intermittent dieting,” where calories are restricted for some days of the week, with a normal dietary intake for the other days, had started to emerge from scientists working in the fields of cancer and dementia. Papers published in 2002 and 2003 described how animals in the laboratory that were placed on intermittent diets developed significantly fewer cancers and less dementia than their counterparts that were following standard daily restricted diets.5,6 Although these original studies involved animals rather than people, the findings got us thinking. Most diets expect people to cut calories every day of the week, typically eating 25 percent fewer calories each day and sticking to that regime. But what would happen if you did most of your dieting during two strictly observed days each week when you had around 70 percent fewer calories on these two days rather than trying to cut down by the usual 25 percent every day? Dieting for just two days each week could be a relief from the chore of having to diet every single day, which so many people struggle with. At the same time, two days is long enough to reduce your overall weekly calories, retrain your eating habits, and, crucially, it seemed to have the potential to be more achievable. Would this approach be easier to follow than a daily diet? Could it be a better and more effective way to lose weight?
So back in 2006 we started researching two-day diets with funding from Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention and two other cancer charities (Breast Cancer Campaign and the World Cancer Research Fund), all of whom wanted to find more effective weight-loss approaches to help reduce cancer risk.
The 2-Day Diet is a much more straightforward diet than any other I’ve been on. The two days “on” are easy
to deal with if you put in a tiny amount of planning, and doing it two days a week really makes you respect food on the days you aren’t doing it. I lost 5 lb (2 kg) in the first
10 days and I don’t have that “I’m on a diet” feeling.
Our first 2-Day Diet
The first 2-Day Diet we devised included two days of 650-calorie intake that only permitted milk, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, and unlimited low-calorie drinks such as water, tea, coffee, and diet drinks. The 650-calorie days were care- fully designed to ensure that the Dieters met their nutritional requirements. Our 2-Day Dieters followed this diet for two consecutive days each week, eating a healthy Mediterranean diet (see page 70) for the other five days. They were then compared with a group of dieters who were asked to reduce their overall calorie intake by the same amount as the 2-Day Dieters, but by eating a standard, reduced-food intake every day of the week. A total of 107 women took part.
What we learned
We were encouraged by the results from this study. There was some evidence that, although the results were not substantially different from standard daily dieting, a two-day approach might be easier for some people to follow and have the potential for weight loss.
After six months, 54 percent of the 2-Day Dieters and 51 percent of the daily dieters were successful and had lost at least 5 percent of their weight. The 2-Day Dieters who stuck with the Diet for six months lost, on average, 17 lb (7.7 kg) of weight, of which 13¼ lb (6 kg) was fat, as well as 3 in (7.6 cm) from their waists, and 21 ⁄3 in (6 cm) from their hips and bust. Some lost far more, with weight losses of 46 lb (21 kg) and dropping at least three clothes sizes. For daily dieters, on average there was a 13 lb 9 oz (6.3 kg) weight loss, a 10 lb 8 oz (4.9 kg) loss of fat, and a loss of 2 in (5 cm) from the waist and bust.
Moreover, two-day dieting appeared to deliver greater health benefits than the daily diet. Both approaches were beneficial, but our 2-Day Dieters had a 25 percent greater improvement in their insulin function than the daily dieters when we measured this five days after their restriction. They had a further 25 percent reduction during and on the morning immediately after their two restricted days.7 Insulin plays a vital role in regulating sugar levels in the body. Poor insulin function is a serious problem in modern life and is at the root of many weight-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and possibly dementia. A large waist measurement is also associated with a greater risk of many of these diseases, and our 2-Day Dieters also lost proportionately more weight from the waist than the seven-day dieters.
The intermittent diet approach could even be used for weight maintenance. Our 2-Day Dieters who lost weight switched to just one restricted day a week, kept the weight off, and maintained the health benefits for the 15 months of the study—importantly, they maintained the reductions in insulin and cholesterol they had achieved with the diet.
Our new, improved 2-Day Diet
Using the lessons we had learned throughout our original diet research, we developed The 2-Day Diet, which forms the focus of this book.
Predictably the main downside of our original 2-Day Diet was that the food choices were so limited. Many of the Dieters on the trial found that only being able to have milk, yogurt, fruit, and vegetables was hard to stick to, and only one-third of them were still following the diet by the end of a year. But we were so encouraged by the findings from our early research that we improved the Diet to include a greater variety of foods and included more protein foods to make the Diet more satisfying, filling, and easier to maintain long-term. Once again we tested The 2-Day Diet with two groups of women: one group doing the new, improved 2-Day Diet, the other a standard daily diet.