If controversy and confusion caused weight loss, anyone considering intermittent fasting (sometimes referred to as IF) would lose weight just by reading about it.
Intermittent fasting is this year's most popular no-calorie-counting, no-fat-gram-counting, fast-track to weight loss diet. When I wrote about David Zinczenko's "The 8-Hour Diet" book earlier this year I had no clue how widespread the IF trend was about to become.
Head over to Amazon.com and you'll quickly find more than 100 books on the topic, each one slightly different; many with glaring similarities.
In a nutshell there are two main takes on intermittent fasting work. In Zinczenko's method, you go without calories for 16 hours a day, three to five days a week. To stay hydrated during those hours, no-calorie liquids, preferably water, should be consumed.
A second camp suggests that it's better and easier to nearly fast for two days, only consuming a few hundred calories (500 for women and 600 for men). The other five days of the week -- and here's the unbelievable claim -- you can eat whatever you want.
Common sense tells me that if you're a compulsive overeater who consumes 3,000, 4,000 or even 5,000 calories a day, the two fasting days won't make up for those five feasting days.
British author, novelist and journalist Kate Harrison has another take on that 5/2 diet and she explains it all in "The 5:2 Diet: Feast for 5 Days, Fast for 2 days to Lose Weight and Revitalize Health" (Ulysses Press, $12.95), and "The 5:2 Diet Cookbook: 120 Easy and Delicious Recipes for Your Two Days of Fasting," ($16.95).
In the first book Harrison explains almost everything you'll want to know about how this plan worked for her and can for you. She also shares a handful of recipes to enjoy on those calorie-restricted days.
Her cookbook, however, contains more than 100 recipes, along with 60 color photographs, to get you from sun up to sun set. Recipes like Eggs with Smoked Salmon (249 calories), Grilled Jumbo Prawns with Chili Soy Sauce, Mixed Bean Chili (270), Pasta and Chickpea Soup with Arugula Pesto (370), Glazed Chicken Wings (175), Biscotti (90) and Mango, Ginger and Citrus Sorbet (130) sure sound satisfying.
Oddly, she lists calories for each serving, but fails to include other nutrition information. I noticed, though, that limiting calories per serving to around 150 also limits fat.
Harrison also offers tips on how to select your two fasting days (such as not picking a day that overlaps with a big meal with family or friends), a chapter devoted to food and fasting tips and an A-to-Z ingredient inspiration list.
Harrison suggests other health benefits that could result from intermittent fasting, but there's no research yet to back up her claims. If you try Harrison's diet for weight loss and other health benefits arise, consider that the frosting on your lower-weight cake.
Try this recipe: Here's one of Harrison's low-calorie, fasting recipes.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.