The 2-Day Diet: A New Way to Beat the Diet Trap?

There are a lot of diets out there, and if you’ve ever been on one, you know that things usually go well for a while, then, blam, you find yourself losing interest instead of losing weight. Once the weight creeps back up, you try another diet, and another.

This vicious circle is what led two British breast cancer prevention specialists, Dr. Michelle Harvie and Professor Tony Howell, to develop an approach to dieting that would be easier to stick to. They seem to have succeeded with The 2-Day Diet. Heavily research-based, the plan is pretty simple—you eat a strict low-carb, high-protein diet two days a week and follow a standard Mediterranean diet for the other five. In a study the authors conducted, 70 percent of 2-day dieters were still on the diet after three months compared to 40 percent of those on a seven-day diet.

In The 2-Day Diet, Harvie and Howell also report impressive health benefits of the diet. In addition to losing more weight than 7-day dieters, 2-day dieters lost a higher percentage of fat compared to muscle, lost more inches around their waists and had a 25 percent greater improvement in insulin function, which helps reduce risk of many weight-related diseases.  

What’s also reassuring about this diet plan is that was developed as part of the authors’ research on how weight loss affects health and risk for breast cancer.  Here, in an excerpt from the book, they explain what’s happening in your body—behind the scenes—when you gain and lose weight:

What happens to your body when you lose weight?
While you are losing weight and feeling and looking healthier, major changes are taking place in your body. Your blood pressure and levels of harmful blood fats and hormones are all reducing, while favorable ones are increasing. These changes pave the way for a longer, healthier life. Eating too much will cause changes at the most fundamental level inside your body cells, leading to damage that increases your risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and even early death. Eating less can halt and even reverse that damage.

What happens when you overeat and gain weight?
If you are overfed, then your cells will be too—and overfed cells don’t work properly. When you take in more food than you need, levels of the hormones insulin and leptin rise in the body and send a barrage of messages to the cells, telling them to grow and produce lots of new cells. But when cells are putting all their efforts into growth and producing new cells, the lysosomes work less efficiently and the essential maintenance gets neglected, so waste builds up and damage fails to get repaired.

If this happened to your car, it might carry on functioning for a while, but it wouldn’t be long before it was off the road. When it happens in your body and you have increasing numbers of poor-quality cells that are not repairing damage and getting rid of waste, it becomes the starting point for many diseases, including cancer.

Overeating is also bad news for your cells’ power plants—the mitochondria. They decline in number, become damaged, and stop producing protective antioxidants. Like a worn-out battery, they start to leak harmful “oxidizing” substances, which can damage the cells and surrounding tissues. This damage causes inflammation, which if unchecked can lead to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

As well as overfed cells becoming dysfunctional because of the barrage of signals they receive from hormones, overeating actually triggers certain genes in the cell to be switched on and others to be switched off. A recent study published in the journal Diabetologia found that just five days of feeding healthy young men a high-fat, high-calorie diet caused detrimental changes to their cells by switching on genes associated with inflammation and cancer. By contrast, other studies have shown that eating less and eating the right sort of foods—one example being resveratrol, the protective antioxidant found in fruits (especially grapes) and peanuts—can actually reverse these damaging changes and “switch off ” the harmful genes.

What is playing out in your cells when you overeat is similar to what happens to your body as you get older—so eating more than your body needs effectively speeds up the clock and ages you prematurely.

What happens when you cut calories?
Restricting your calories and losing weight helps to reverse the cycle of damage described above and gives your cells a spring cleaning. Levels of insulin and leptin fall quickly (within 24 hours) when we eat less, so their signals that drive the cell to grow reduce, and cells can put more effort into staying in top condition, repairing damage, and removing waste. Damaged old mitochondria are removed and new ones are produced that make more antioxidants, helping to reduce the inflammation in the cells and surrounding tissues. Lowering calorie intake also increases the number of waste-disposal units (lysosomes) and makes them more efficient at waste disposal. These rapid effects within 24 hours of dieting is one of the key reasons The 2-Day Diet has the potential to offer health benefits during the two restricted days each week.

To learn more about The 2-Day Diet, visit

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'The 2-Day Diet' by Dr. Michelle Harvie and Professor Tony Howell
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