Following a strict diet for just two days of the week is a far more effective way to lose weight than trying to calorie count all the time, researchers claim.
They found that women who stuck to fruit, vegetables and lean meat for two days a week while being allowed to eat as much as they liked on the other days lost nearly twice as much weight than those who were dieting constantly.
Researchers at the University Hospital in South Manchester put 115 women volunteers on one of three diets.
The first involved sticking to just 650 calories a day for two days of the week, including cutting out carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and potatoes and all fatty foods. For the other five days they could eat as much as they liked, although they were encouraged to stick to healthy foods.
Women on the second diet were also banned from carbohydrates for two days of the week but they did not have a specific calorie limit. They could also eat as much as they wanted the rest of the week.
The third group followed a standard weight-loss diet which involved sticking to about 1,500 calories every day and avoiding high-fat foods and alcohol.
After three months the women on either of the two-day diets had lost an average of 4kgs - nearly twice as much as those on the full-time diet, who lost just 2.4kgs.
Michelle Harvie, of the Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Centre at the university, says there seems to be a "carry over effect" on the two-day diet, meaning the benefits continued on the days when the women ate normally. She says women seemed to continue eating healthy options even on the five days when there were no restrictions.
"What we found was that they naturally ate less," she says.
- THE DAILY MAIL