Pioneering method of losing weight or too good to be true? Manchester health experts debate the Two-Day Diet

By James Scott

An unorthodox weight loss scheme called the Two-Day Diet is being launched by a South Manchester-based research dietician – yet health experts are warning of the dangers of quick-fix diet fads.

The Two-Day Diet even claims to reduce breast cancer risks, however health advisors have told MM that those wanting to lose weight should focus on long-term changes to diet.

Developed by research dietician Dr Michelle Harvie, of Wythenshawe’s University Hospital Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention team, the Two-Day Diet was created alongside Oncology Professor Tony Howell.

The routine combines two days of dieting, plus five days of healthy eating, and claims to be the only clinically-proven intermittent diet more effective than traditional methods. 

The book is based on 12 years of research and Dr Harvie is thrilled to provide an evidence-based response to all the recent hype around intermittent dieting.

“It is so exciting to be publicising a breakthrough diet, which seems to work and makes dieting much easier,” said Dr Harvie.

“It’s also a fantastic opportunity to spread an important health message and help to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

 “We know that losing weight can prevent and ameliorate these diseases so the excitement is the potential increase in health that an ‘easier’ diet might produce.

Dr Harvie teamed up with Professor Howell 17 years ago, with their mission to find ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer through lifestyle change.

By studying over 30,000 American women they found those losing over five percent of body weight reduced their risk of breast cancer by about 25%. 

Tests showed the two-day diet was easier to stick to than the continuous Mediterranean-style diet they pitted it against, resulting in twice as much fat loss.

Although Professor Howell admitted the process was not always plain sailing, he insisted they are proud of their commitment to help improve people’s health.

“It hasn’t exactly been enjoyable, because it has meant a lot of hard work and we had to do it whilst still performing our day to day research!” said Professor Howell

“The real enjoyment is looking back to the time we decided to attack the problem and our success in devising clinical trials showing the two-day approach is superior in many ways to continuous dieting.

“We are particularly excited by its success because the Two-Day Diet may have wider public health implications simply as, it seems, more people can stick to it.”

Despite the diet claiming to be easier, more efficient as a weight loss manual, and proven to help prevent disease, it has still drawn scepticism from dietician experts.

Dr Anna Robins, a nutrition, diet and exercise expert from Salford University, stressed weight loss is achieved through eating well and exercising regularly on a long term basis. 

“There is no short term fix to a healthy lifestyle and long term weight management,” said Dr Robins.

“From my perspective the two day diet is yet another attempt at a ‘diet’ which ultimately means restricting calories in order to lead to weight loss.

“There will always be people who struggle to eat well on a long-term basis, and of course struggle to incorporate physical activity into their lifestyle.

“But both of these aspects, with help from experts in the area, need to be incorporated into one’s lifestyle for good.”

Despite admitting any diet leading to weight loss is positive, Dr Robins insisted fundamentally long-term lifestyle change is achieved through exercise and healthy eating.

“It is of course always good news to hear that certain diets lead to weight loss,” said Dr Robins. 

“However I am always sceptical to some extent as it is far better to learn and understand what a healthy balanced diet is and make lifestyle behaviour changes to incorporate into one’s life long-term.

Lucy Turnbull, a British Dietetic Association spokesperson, explained the Two-Day Diet has its drawbacks as well as benefits, and is not a guarantee of success.

 “One of the drawbacks is some people may over-eat on the non-fasting days to compensate for their calorie restriction on fasting days, and ultimately end up eating more calories in the week than usual.

“Severe calorie restrictions on the fasting days may cause feelings of hunger, weakness and fatigue, and thus be difficult to stick to.

“But knowing that the next day you can eat what you want can help people stick to the reduced calorie goal.”

However Ms Turnbull admitted alternate-day dieting can be easier to stick to as people can plan their fasting days around their social and family life.

“People who follow alternative day diets or intermittent fasting diets feel more motivated because they do not feel constantly deprived as on a traditional diet plan,” said Ms Turnbull. 

UK Woman of the Year 2009 nominee Dr Harvie has received her share of accolades, including the 2005 British Dietetic Association Rose Simmonds best published research award.

And she remains positive her diet plan can be followed with ease, adding hunger was not a problem for her when she tested the routine.

“The diet may sound difficult, however it’s actually easy for most people to follow,” said Dr Harvie.

“Personally, I do a lot of exercise, love carbs and have a huge appetite!

 “I’m currently doing one day of the diet per week and I don’t feel hungry on my diet days.

“You get used to it so easily, I’m a true believe that a lot of ‘hunger’ is in the mind.”

Dr Harvie was also quick to issue her deep gratitude for the hundreds of women who were tested in a series of randomised controlled trials.

“We would like to thank enormously the large numbers of women who agreed to enter our studies,” said Dr Harvie

 “Their self-sacrifice has helped produce what may be an important advance in the history of dietary intervention.”

All author proceeds from The Two-Day Diet will fund Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention, the UK’s only charity dedicated to the prediction and prevention of breast cancer.

Picture courtesy of Motivi Fashion, with thanks.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles