Discover the revolutionary new 2 Day Diet
Devised as part of a medical plan to lower the risk of breast cancer, this new approach to eating may be a lot easier to stick to than conventional diets and it could give you real health benefits, too. By Anne Montague
● How it works
● The science behind it
● What to eat
● Success stories of women who've tried the 2 Day Diet
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All diets work – initially. The problem is sticking to them! Too often the weight goes back on as fast as it came off. And it’s not just a question of fluctuating dress sizes. Being overweight is linked to a number of health problems, including cancer, and yo-yo dieting just makes things feel worse. Anyone who has dieted successfully knows it’s not just about willpower. There are physiological reasons why, after a period< of dieting, the body becomes more resistant to losing weight. And it was by pondering how to get around this problem that Dr Michelle Harvie devised this revolutionary new approach to weight loss. She came up with the idea as a tool in the fight against breast cancer. In a trial involving 100 women, those who tried the 2 Day Diet lost as much weight and achieved the same health benefits as those who followed a traditional, full-time, restricted 1,500-calories-a-day diet. ‘We’ve shown that losing weight and restricting calorie intake both reduce the risk of breast cancer, but many women find a seven-days-a-week diet difficult. We wanted to find a way to make it easier for them to lose weight and help protect themselves,’ says Dr Harvie.
When her BMI crept up to 26, Gillian Haddock, 47, signed up for the 2 Day Diet, and she followed it to lose a stone. ‘Although I wasn’t massively overweight, I’d stopped keeping an eye on what I ate and I weighed nearly 11 stone. For me, the attraction was to do a diet that still allowed you to go out for a meal at the weekend.’
She found the beauty of the two-day approach was its simplicity. There are no special foods to prepare, no weighing or measuring, and no complicated calorie counting. For two consecutive days of the week – your ‘milk days’– you consume the equivalent of two pints of semi-skimmed milk, four portions of vegetables and one portion of fruit, at least two pints of other low-cal drinks and a multi-vitamin and mineral tablet. The diet is designed by dieticians, nutritionally balanced, and many women have found it surprisingly easy to stick to. On the two milk days you only consume 650 calories, but on other days eat sensibly – keeping to around an 1,800-calorie Mediterranean-style diet for the rest of the week. Because this is only slightly less than the normal recommendation for the average woman of 2,000 calories a day, you should hardly notice any difference.
Gillian had tried other weight-loss plans but says she was thrilled to find a diet that completely fitted her lifestyle. ‘I picked Monday and Tuesday as my milk days – I’m a professor of clinical psychology and those are my really busy days when I hardly have time to eat anyway. I found that drinking lots of milky coffee really filled me up. I would have coffee for breakfast, another at 11am and then my fruit for lunch. I saved all my vegetables for the evening to have as a casserole or soup. I never felt really hungry, although by the end of day two my concentration started to suffer. But knowing it’s only for two days – and not constant deprivation – makes this diet so much easier for me to do. And by the third day you don’t feel like going mad – you just enjoy eating normally. This is the ideal diet for me as it’s so simple – it doesn’t take any planning or thinking about and I could still enjoy my weekend. I easily lost the stone and I’ve kept it off. I still use the principles of the diet if I need to – if I overindulge, I’ll follow it with a light day of milk, vegetables and fruit.’
Although this approach doesn’t suit everyone, 45% of the women on the trial who followed it lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for at least a year. ‘We had many women on the trial who were serial dieters, and we found that this approach was a great alternative for them,’ says Dr Harvie. ‘We’re now doing further research on alternative intermittent diets that may be even easier to maintain than the 2 Day Diet.’
You might think after two days of eating very little that you would approach day three feeling absolutely ravenous. ‘In fact, most people didn’t overeat on day three – or for the rest of the week. Psychologically, if you’ve worked hard for two days you won’t want to spoil it by overindulging,’ explains Dr Harvie.
Some people in the diet trial did complain of feeling hungry on milk days, but so did those on the calorie-controlled diet. And after six months of following the 2 Day Diet, women had lower levels of leptin, insulin and C-reactive protein – all associated with breast cancer. Concerns about the risks of prolonged very low-calorie diets – when you burn muscle instead of fat – don’t apply in the same way with this diet, as you’re only doing it for two days.
You can expect to lose at least 1lb a week and possibly up to 2lb using the two-day approach. The length of the diet really depends on how much you have to lose. Professor David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum, says he welcomes anything new that works: ‘The link between obesity and increased breast cancer risk is compelling, and we know sticking to a diet every day can be hard for many people. So any diet that is nutritionally balanced, which this is, and makes it easier for women to lose weight is welcome.’
The 2 Day Diet is based on milk, fruit and vegetables – the milk provides protein, calcium and other essential nutrients, and helps fill you up, while vegetables and fruit provide fibre, nutrients and bulk.
On the ‘milk days’ you can only consume the following:
● 2 pints of semi-skimmed milk or the equivalent in yogurt or cottage cheese
● At least 2 pints of other low-calorie drinks such as tea, coffee, herb teas, sparkling water, flavoured sparkling water, sugar-free or no-added-sugar fruit squash, plus diet, sugar-free or no-added-sugar fizzy drinks
● 1 portion of fruit
● 4 portions of vegetables or salad
● 1 combined multi-vitamin and multi-mineral tablet
If you don’t like milk, you can substitute each third of a pint for:
● 1 x 200g pot Mullerlight yogurt
● 2 x 120g pots diet yogurt
● 150g low-fat or 2% fat natural yogurt
● 100g whole milk natural or fruit yogurt
● 100g low-fat plain fromage frais
● 100g cottage cheese
Ingredients are limited, but there are plenty of ways to add interest and flavour: make creamy vegetable soups; add spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg to hot milk; whip up a fruit smoothie or blend cold milk with ice cubes and strawberry flavouring or vanilla essence.
So why should this eating plan work for you when others have failed? It’s not just about the calories. The psychology of weight loss is just as important – if not more so – and plays a key role in whether a diet works for you.
And that’s where this approach may be a winner. ‘After eating so little for two days, you would expect to want to overeat – but this doesn’t appear to happen,’ says chartered psychologist Linda Blair. ‘The probable reason is that, by day three, you know the worst is over. We don’t do anything in isolation – we compare. So, after eating so few calories for two days, it feels very satisfying to have three times that much for the five days that follow. You don’t feel deprived in the way that you might on a full-time diet.’
Blair thinks the diet may also help change your eating habits: ‘It teaches you to eat differently. On the low-cal days, the bulk of the food matches the number of calories it contains. You aren’t eating loads of high-cal things, which tend to be small and not to fill you up, and give you a false idea of how fattening food is. Plus, on the other day you are focusing on a healthy Mediterranean diet. Two days of calorie restriction may also make you eat more slowly as you want to make the food last. So, over time, you teach yourself self-control and a different way of eating that helps you to eat less.’
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