Surviving the 5:2 diet
I first got wind of intermittent fasting after Michael Moseley did that documentary about a year and a half ago. It was intriguing but shrouded in mystery; it only had Moseley as its poster-boy and there was very little online about how to follow it at home. Then Mimi Spencer got on board, a book was born with all the science explained, and a collection of recipes published. I was sold. It seemed like an easy diet for a busy gal. I had a career that involved client lunches, meetings with Hobnobs as standard, darting from suppliers to venues grabbing food on the go, and trying to fit in a social life too. It made conventional diets nigh-on impossible; calorie counting every day when you have very little control over what’s put in front of you meant I failed at every hurdle.
The 5:2 was a bit of a revelation if I can say that without sounding evangelistic. Simply eat 500 calories, two days a week, and the rest of the week is yours to eat normally. Tada! I could just pick the days I wasn’t committed to events or dinners. I first took it on in the summer of 2013 and I’ll be honest, it worked. I wasn’t crazy overweight at the time, just on the wrong side of the ‘happy with my body’ threshold, so I stuck to the rules and lost on average two pounds a week.
So why am I writing about the 5:2 diet now? After all this time, am I still not on the right side of that threshold? Er, no. I fell victim to easy-to-miss pitfalls and ended up gaining those pounds by Christmas.
After yo-yoing on the scales in 2014, it wasn’t until I watched the Horizon special about what diet is right for you that I thought about the 5:2 again. So here we go again. But this time I know the pitfalls and I’m here to share them.
- It’s all about mindset. I read a quote the other day that said, “since when do you let a cookie make decisions for you”. Too right! Don’t be tempted by that biscuit plate during a meeting; being tempted conveniently puts the onus on the biscuit and not on you… and I’m sorry to say, it’s ON YOU my friend! So be strong, pick your two days and stick to them.
- You will be hungry. As I write, I’m on a ‘2’ day, so I’m hungry. It’s 7.30pm and I’ve had a latte for breakfast, a cuppa soup and a banana for lunch, and some shredded chicken with green salad for dinner. OF COURSE I’m hungry! But early to bed for me – tomorrow’s a new day.
- Don’t overload on the ‘5’ days. It seems obvious to say, but this is a pitfall I fell into last time. The temptation (oh there’s that blame-free word again) to get a sausage bap for breakfast, snack on cake and get a takeaway the next day is a bit overwhelming, but do it at your peril. Overindulging on your off days just means you break even so you won’t lose pounds. My tip here is to calculate roughly what you should be having on your off days… here’s the official Fast Diet calculator.
- Be strict with your fast-day calories. If you’re following the Fast Diet like I am, women will have 500 calories on the ‘2’ day (600 for men). Other programmes might suggest a bit more for you, but no matter which one you do, try to stick closely to the limit; if you don’t, it’s not technically ‘intermittent fasting’ and therefore it won’t work (e.g. measure milk in tea if you’re heavy with it, and no – I mean it – no cheeky G&Ts… I fell into this pitfall too so I say this out of compassion for you).
- Maintain not gain! When you get to your goal (and you will – fear not), go wild, go crazy, celebrate. However, as with all diets, if you take your foot off the calorie-counting pedal too long, the pounds will creep back. And again, I know this from experience, they creep slowly and stealthily… and oh, hello there Square One! Michael Moseley and Mimi Spencer suggest you go for 6:1 to maintain the weight.
NB: I’m following the 5:2 and sharing my own experience of it but I’m no dietician. Doctors are the best source for diet advice, ok?!
Fancy sharing your 5:2 pitfalls and successes with us? Got any recipe tips? Feel free to comment below.