Being a fan of fad diets and on a constant quest to quell my ever expanding butt, I figured I give this diet a go. I mean I am a fan of food, a huge fan, but when I am working, (read: writing) I can be guilty of forgetting to eat. Hunger always feels to me like a bit on an inconvenience when I am hammering away on my keyboard in the thick of a story or article. I tend to wait until the very last minute before I have to leave and retrieve my children to inhale a ham and salad on wholegrain sandwich. This isn’t so good. I usually get quite hangry by the end of the day and when I am hangry it is not pretty.
The idea of intermittent fasting has become quite fashionable lately. But as well as being a good way to manage diet and lose weight it also has medical benefits. Dr Michael Mosley of the book The Fast Diet explains: ‘Studies of intermittent fasting show that not only do people see improvements in blood pressure and their cholesterol levels, but also in their insulin sensitivity.’ So basically, 5:2 = a healthier you.
Considering my propensity to forget to eat I thought how hard can this whole thing be? So I foolishly decided to give it a go, planning to note my findings in a diary. And considering my propensity to get hangry, I am probably not the best candidate for this assignment. But, never the one to get in the way of a good story I decided to be a good sport and give it a go.
The rules: I will partake in the 5:2 diet for four weeks. I will fast on Tuesdays or Thursdays every week unless a sickness or social engagement requires me to change those days. If that be the case I will fast on Monday and Wednesday. On non-fast days (known as Feast days) I will eat 2000 calories. I will eat healthily but not sparingly - I will even eat some dark chocolate on non-fast days. At least once a week I will have a treat meal, like cake or ice-cream. I may also eat some chips. I will not give up or cop out until I have completed the month as so I can make a sound judgement on the 5:2 diet. I will exercise most days but as advised I will limit my exercise to light walking on fast days, gradually increasing it as the weeks go on and the fast days become easier. I will calculate all of my meals using the My Fitness Pal calorie counter.
Right. Here we go.
As if my body knew something was up, I woke in the night with a jolt. I needed to pee. Damn. I reluctantly got up and emptied my bladder then stumbled blindly in the dark back to bed. Then I lay in bed wide eyed at looked at the ceiling. I was awake. My stomach started to rumble. Noooo! You are not allowed to be hungry yet! I had a plan for my first fast day. I was meant to sleep in as long as possible (children permitting) and then have a cup of tea (English breakfast with milk) and then somehow put off breakfast until it was completely necessary. But now I was awake and starving. I tossed and turned for what seemed like hours until I woke up, sun shining, birds singing, Lover-Man gone to work. I discovered the kids were already up and watching T.V. Bless them for letting me sleep in I thought as I discovered we were almost late for school! I managed to drink my tea which made me feel half human, as I slid lunch boxes into bags and brushed teeth. It wasn’t until we were at the kindy gate that I felt the first stab of hunger in my gut. It was a slow throb in the bottom of my belly. Some people are fine with skipping breakfast, I am not. The throbbing grew and grew, slowly making its way up into my chest, then my throat jaw and head. My head began to ache. Time for mummy to go now! I sang calmingly to my three year old, assuming I’d be met with the usual, Ok bye Mum, as he ran off. It did not come. Instead, on the one day where I was quickly wilting he replied: no, you stay. Oh god. Not today. After an hour he finally let me leave, by which point I felt like I was made of paper. I zipped home and downed a large glass of water (meant to help trick you belly into feeling full: doesn’t work) and set an egg to fry in the pan, with no oil. I washed a butt-load of lettuce and set it on the plate with my fried egg. I sprinkled some salt and pepper on it and quickly demolished it all like a starved stray dog. Once the plate was empty I put my fort down and licked lips. My stomach still growled, it wasn’t satisfied. I’m sorry, I said to my grizzling stomach, that is all we are allowed.
I visited Mariana, I drank three cups of tea, I wrote, I sang Taylor Swift songs, all the while I thought of food. French fries. I never think of French fries but today I cannot stop thinking of them! The salty goodness. Tomorrow I want French fries, and according to the diet, I should be able to have a few. But is this really that good? Normally I wouldn’t eat them but because I am so hungry today I may end up eating them tomorrow just cus I can. Hmmm. Potentially if I had just eaten normally today I wouldn’t feel the need to binge tomorrow. Interesting. Maybe if I eat my usual breakfast tomorrow I’d be so satisfied that the thought of French fries will have abated.
Interestingly I am finding it quite easy to write slightly (ha!) hungry. My brain is in hyper drive and the words are pouring out me, my fingers can’t keep up. Though I keep meandering away from the page in order to google things like: Good 5:2 fast recipes and 5:2 books.
Oh god I can’t wait for lunch. Today lunch is veggie soup. Four more minutes until I can eat. I have never been so excited to eat soup in my life!
Ate the soup. Still hungry. Can’t wait for dinner.
I at my dinner at 5pm in a stupor: Tuna and four bean mix (no oil). Then I drank lots and lots of carbonated water in an attempt to fill my belly up with gas. It worked! I did not start to feel hungry again until around 8pm when I had my last cup of English breakfast tea for the day. At 9am I went to bed, I figured all that will come of staying up is pining at the pantry and the onset of a nauseous hunger.
As I lay in bed waiting for sleep to come and I noted: I haven’t had any headaches, I haven’t felt sluggish or tired at all today. These things are usually a daily issue for me. I am regularly drowsy and exhausted but today aside from the constant hunger I was actually quite alert and chipper. How was this possible?
Day 2: Feast Day.
After dreaming of food all night I woke up in the morning with not the slightest of hunger pangs. My desperate need for French fries had also abated. I CAN EAT I told myself. But now that I could, the pressing urge had passed. I drank my morning tea and ate my natural oats with blueberries, natural yogurt and cinnamon, slowly and completely in control. I thought I’d be a rambling maniac, desperately scoffing toast and fruit and demanding bacon, but I wasn’t. Somehow food had lost its appeal.
At the pool I did feel slightly weak as I swam laps but it didn’t stop me. I kept a steady pace and didn’t feel tired or out of breath.
The joys of food returned with morning tea when I downed two wholegrain crackers with beetroot hummus and avocado. Yum. Food is delicious. I am much more grateful for food today.
I am finding that even though today is a feast day I am much more aware of what I am eating and the calorie counts of food. I hope this doesn’t make me start avoiding fats cus as we know fats may be more calorie dense than other food but they keep you fuller for longer and are super good for you.
But nightfall I was starving, even after eating a normal meal of bacon and veggies. Could it be carryover hunger from the day before?
Also, my big toe has started to hurt. It began as electric pains in my toe joint. They wouldn’t last long but they were nasty, causing me to scream in pain when they struck. As the evening wore on the pain got worse. What is this? I wonder so logically I hit up Dr Google to see. Gout? Could this be gout? My foot wasn’t swollen or red. Wait a minute it is a little red, I discovered after close inspection of my larger toe joint. After checking a 5:2 FAQ section it appears that in some cases fast can aggravate gout, but more so in longer fasts but usually fasting can help to relieve gout as poor diet and obesity are two of the main causes. Well this has successfully made me feel very fat and unhealthy.
Here we go again. Another day of hunger. While I am not looking forward to it the second day of fasting is not really too daunting. My plan for today is to try to delay my first meal as long as I can.
I started the day with my usual cup of tea but this time I added a teaspoon of coconut oil to it in an attempt to quell my hunger for longer. It worked! By 10:15 after a light half hour of spinning, I was still not starving!
My toe pain seems to have abated. Perhaps it wasn’t gout after all.
By 11:45, after quite a lot of writing, I finally broke. I needed food. A boiled egg and a bowl of veggie soup. While it wasn’t the best food I’d ever eaten it did the trick. I ate slowly. Even though I was hungry I wasn’t ravenous.
Interestingly, my sugar cravings have reduced. And today I have not had one thought of French fries. Until now. But to be honest, the need for them is nowhere near as serious as it was on the first day.
For dinner I plan to have some chicken, spinach and a butt tonne of leek soup.
I read about leek soup in the book – French women don’t get fat. They don’t get fat cus they know how to starve themselves with style. A bit like 5:2 really! If a French woman over-indulges, she goes on a soup fast, and by soup I mean boiled leaks. Mmm, mmm. Why leaks? Well I guess they are very low calorie and also fibrous meaning they fill you up better than other non-fibrous veggies.
I am so productive when I am hungry! It is crazy! I written over 2000 words of fiction and at least 1000 non-fiction, exercised, been to the store and I still have over an hour before I need to leave to retrieve my kids. Amazing! Perhaps the food I eat normally makes me sleepy and lazy?
After my dinner of spinach and chicken salad I was still starving. My hunger took on a sinister and evil feeling. I hated my family. I hated everyone.
I went to bed early cus I was hungry and miserable and my knees hurt. It felt like my body was eating away at my weakest points, namely my knees and elbows. I tried to read but my mind keep straying from the words and instead listing all of things I would eat for breakfast. Muesli, toast, cups and cups of tea. Fruit. Lots. Lots and lots of food.
It was a long night. I could not sleep. I tossed and turned. After the youngest child woke me at 6 I got up to eat. I ate my oats and nuts slowly. Oddly they tasted like dirt. It was an effort to down them but I did. But I was full. There would be no elaborate breakfast for me!
At 830am I was determined to eat more. After all, I could! I smeared a piece of vogel’s with Pic’s peanut butter and took a bite. Blissful. Delicious. But I could only just finish it. Afterwards I felt uncomfortably full.
All day I had the best of intentions. I planned to eat a lot. I just couldn’t. The thought of eating to excess made me feel sick. Even when I did eat I got full really quickly. I just managed to reach my daily amount of 2000 calories before collapsing into bed, lethargic and bloated. Some odd part of me was looking forward to the next fast day. I was dying to be hungry again.
Saturday. More eating. So much eating. Three year old's birthday parties have the best snacks and I ate my fair share. It felt odd to be able to eat party foods on a “diet”. But I did. I left feeling very full indeed.
Today I watched a documentary about intermittent fasting made by one of the leading authors on the subject. It helped me to realise I am not just doing this to shrink my butt, it is also doing great things for my health too.
Just for fun I measured myself today. OH MY GOD. How it is possible I don’t know, but after only one week on the 5:2 plan I have shrunk. Two cms from my bum, five cms from my waist, three cms from my belly. Wow. Incentive.
Today I wanted to fast again. Crazy I know. But after a weekend of eating “normally” I realised just how bad my “normal” weekend eating is. Glasses of wine, fish and chips, chocolate biscuits, ice creams at the beach, milky coffees, chippie snacks with a movie at night. No wonder my butt has outgrown my skinny jeans.
But today is not a fast day because tomorrow is best suited. Tomorrow it is on and I can’t wait. Am I going crazy?
Day 8: Fast day.
I am getting the hang of this. Today I woke had a cup of tea and went about my business of getting the kids dressed fed and out the door. I did not feel hungry at all until about 9am when I ate my boiled egg (oddly delicious). Then I headed off to get my hair done. I pretty much sat and did nothing all day which is probably why I wasn’t very hungry. I ate a carrot at one point when I felt a little growly in the tum and had a cup of tea. By 2pm I was hungry. I drove home with food on my mind. I ate a bowl of mimosa soup which left me feeling equally as hungry but less like I was going to die. For dinner I had some chicken, spinach and mixed bean salad. I felt fine until about 945 when I got a little hungry, so had a shot of milk and went to bed. This is getting my easier!
Woke up today with not the slighted twinge of hunger. Crazy! I weighed in after breakfast and discovered I have lost three kilos! In just over a week. I think I like this diet.
Yesterday I wasn’t so hungry so I didn’t make any huge plans to eat today and to be honest I am not really that interested in food. I know perfectly well that there is a pot of ice cream in the freezer, but I don’t really care. Odd. Very odd.
Today was meant to be a fast day but both kids are sick. The big one learnt about why we do not touch hot elements shortly after they have been used (and just after you have been told “it’s hot, don’t touch it”) and the little one woke up at 5am with a spurt of projectile vomiting. Curses. Sadly my first thought was not of the 2000 words I would not be able to write today, but of my intended fast day. Could I fast with both children home? I asked myself. Simply: yes but logically it would not be wise emotionally. But this meant I would have to fast tomorrow – Friday, when the little one is home. Do I skip a day?
No! I will not skip a day! I will not let the little people win! Today I will fast! Even with the three year old at home and grumpy from a day of vomiting yesterday! I will do it!
I skipped breakfast and headed to playgroup where I sipped tea and salivated over the date and walnut loaf. After much deliberation I ate the tiniest slice which I calculated at around 45 cals (!) Probably not worth it but it was delicious! I tried to busy myself with my son and his games. Started to feel a little faint after pushing him up and down the path in his toy car for 15 minutes. I then convinced him to play play-dough with other kids while I made polite chit-chat with other parents and tried my hardest not to talk about how hungry I was.
As the day wore on I became a little grumpy. It is one thing to fast alone when all you need to do is write, it is very different to do so when you are a mum-servant to a grumpy three year old. Fasting I have decided, is not an activity I should ever do around my children again!
Today I went off to my writing group. A monthly group meeting where I am the youngest by 35 years. In hindsight I should have fasted today. Sitting down all day listening to people read their work is much easier to be hungry for. But seeing as I wasn’t fasting I could happily eat the snacks on offer. But I am becoming much more careful with what I eat. Even on feast days. The boys all wanted fish and chips tonight but I couldn’t do it. Not only are they void of any nutrition, they are also incredibly high in calories. I haven’t been monitoring my feast day calories that closely but just becoming aware of calorie intake by counting a bit on my fast days is making me much more aware of the energy in food. I am starting to realise that I was probably eating far too much high calorie food before. Even though I was exercising regularly, I was eating far too much crap. And for some reason I didn’t even realise.
Fasting again. Yay. After a weekend of eating a lot it feels great to fast! I have noticed that I need to be a little careful with my feast days. On Sunday I ate some chocolate gelato during a stroll along the waterfront with my family. It was delicious. I only had a kiddie cone cus I am learning to have small treats and it was more than enough. However it did not agree with me. I was selecting fresh veg from the market when I felt it. The horrid gurgle of impending diarrhoea. I just made it to the toilets in the nick of time!
When I got home I did some googling. Diarrhoea the day after fasting is a common issue amongst 5:2ers it seems. Especially if you indulge in a high fat treat. It kind of makes the concept of the diet less appealing. What if I hadn’t made it to the loo in time?
I am really starting to get the hang of this fasting thing. I find it much easier to just not eat for as long as possible in the day, then I eat a bean salad with spinach and tuna or chicken or soup. If I can manage to, I go till dinner without eating, if not I have two meals a day. I drink tea a few times a day but as one cup is only 7 cals (according to My Fitness Pal) it’s fine. I actually really enjoy fasting! I know, crazy. When I first started I was not a fan, now it feels really refreshing, like I am giving my body a break. It is also helping me to see what foods are not agreeing with my digestive system – like high fat dairy with added sugar and too much wheat.
Feast Day! Even though today is a feast day, I find I am way more conservative with what I eat. In the past I’d go to play group with my son and go hog wild with the morning tea. If there was cake I have at least two pieces. Now, I savour one piece. One piece seems like a feast when you’ve been living on rabbit food the day before.
According to my new 5:2 book by Kate Harrison it pays to calculate your personal daily calorie requirements to make sure you are not over eating. Some people actually have to eat even less that 500 calories on a fast day and 2000 on a feast day, according to their age and level of daily activity. You can calculate yours here.
My jeans are looser! Much looser. I have to hike them up all the time. These jeans were tight on my when I started. The jeans that I bought just after having child number 2 cus I was sick of my maternity jeans but still too fat for anything else. The jeans I almost threw away a year ago because they were far too big. The jeans that became the only jeans that would fit me after I lost focus of my eating and ballooned out. I hate these fucking jeans. When I can fit my smaller jeans comfortably I am going to burn these bloody jeans in a ritualistic fashion in the back yard!
During the week my eating is much better. I fast on my fast days, then eat cautiously on my midweek feast days, the weekends however are the problem. There is so much food available! My in-laws make the most amazing home-made burgers so I eat one and then sometimes another one. They are so good, filled with lean beef and bacon and salad. The only downside to them really is that the goods are encased in a delicious doughy bread roll. Not the smallest bread roll either. My biggest challenge is to stop when I am full. Sometimes I am full when I am not ready to stop eating. My husband eats chips during the movie on a Saturday night so I eat a few. They are yum so I eat a few more. Little things here and there add up. I have discovered that I am not a one biscuit person. Husband opens a packed of macaroons on a feast day. I have three. Three! I would never have thought about it before. But now I am. I am not strictly counting, but I can’t help it to a point. Maybe because I don’t want all my fasting to be in vain. If I go too wild on my feast days it could undo my hard work on a fast day.
I was curious after a Saturday when I definitely went over my 2000 feast day calories, can I exercise my way back to my 2000 calorie limit? Can I undo the bad I have done? I went onto many 5:2 forums to ask this question and got many different answers. The real truth is: yes and no. While the 2000 cal feast day is based on your level of physical activity and age, it is already taking into consideration you exercise, so exercising doesn’t buy more calories, so to speak. But, if you have fallen off the wagon one day, then a bout of good hard exercise can’t do you any harm! I swear by light exercise on fast day to regulate appetite and I save my feast days for my hard workouts.
I think the most important thing is not to worry too much about the feast days. If they start to feel restricting, then the 5:2 way of life loses its appeal.
I can’t believe I have been doing this for almost a month! Where has it gone! It is so odd. When I started this I told myself: you only have to do it for the four weeks to see what you think and to share you findings. It was that line that got me through the first few fasts. But now with only two days to go, I have no intention of stopping! Oh no! And the great thing about this way of eating, is that you can have some time off. The school holidays are coming up soon (as is Easter) and seeing as my boys will both be home for two weeks I don’t think I will be fasting. But as soon as we’re back to routine, boom, back into it. It is also very nice to know that I can have my Easter eggs and 5:2 too!
Day 32: Still going!
Today I am bit down in the dumps. Not sure why. All I want to do is get into bed and pretend the whole world does not exist! I don’t want to do anything, which is ridiculous cus I can pretty much doing anything considering today is a kid free day and NOT a fast day.
Perhaps I am disheartened at my weight loss? Possibly. I can’t remember what I was at when I started but I am still roughly only 2 kgs lighter than I was a whole MONTH ago! My waist and bust are still shrinking, as is my belly, but my butt is proving stubborn.
Before I started 5:2 I didn’t feel that fat, but now that I have become more aware of things I have also become more critical of myself. I guess before I was blissfully ignorant, now I know that I am overweight on the BMI index of fatness which makes me feel shitty. No longer can I ignorantly consume far too many bickies, now I know that I shouldn’t, even on a feast day. Why? Because I am overweight. Which is unhealthy. Sure, I could still eat them, but will I enjoy them? Not really. I know too much.
When I started 5:2 I told myself I would not become obsessed. I vowed not to get to picky on feast days and refused to count calories on those days, only the fast days. But as the numbers on the scale have stagnated, I have gotten a little carried away. But how can you silence the truth? When you know that eating all those cakes adds up and could push you past your daily limit of food, can you really tell that voice in your head to shut up?
Supposedly according to Kate Harrison, writer of The 5:2 Diet Book, it is marathon and not a sprint. It takes time but after a while you will see the results and because they have taken time to be seen it also means you are more likely to stick to the 5:2 way of eating. The whole point of the diet is that it is a sustainable way of living. What’s the point of eating cabbage soup for three months if you are just going to go back to how you were eating beforehand? Sure you may lose weight, but will you keep it off? Probably not if you go back to old habits.
Maybe I am also a bit down heartened because Kate herself happened to be my exact current weight (and height) before she started the diet. She writes in her 5:2 diary: How did I let myself get so fat! I am the fattest I have ever been and I hate it!
I am also the fattest I have ever been (not pregnant) and now I hate it too. Before I didn’t really care that much. Or maybe I did and had pushed it away into the ‘I don’t care’ part of my brain? Perhaps this is all part of the process?
So I guess I just need to stick it out. That’s why I am not stopping. Four weeks I said originally, not enough. To truly see the results of the 5:2 diet it needs to be done for much, much longer. It’s not really a diet, it’s a way of life!
On the 5:2 FB group started by Kate Harrison, most people who lose the most weight are the ones who stick at 5:2 for over a year. So I guess the trick is to stick at it.
Tomorrow I fast again.
It has been a few weeks since I wrote a diary entry on 5:2. I ate a fair few eggs over the Easter weekend but then desperately needed to fast on Easter Monday. My body needed it.
I had two weeks off of the diet over the school holidays, just after Easter. I just couldn’t manage the hunger with two crazy little boys at home trying to kill each other. After the holidays I got back into it sporadically, but taking a week off here and there due to feeling a bit fluey.
My eating has totally changed. After discovering through 5:2 how badly I was reacting to sugar and wheat I have cut them both from my diet. Gluten completely and sugar as much as possible. Since doing so I have lost even more weight. I have continued to practice 5:2 as well but as I no longer over indulge in foods that make me feel gross I don’t have that strong urge to give my body a rest.
As the weeks go by and more weight comes off I still find myself wanting to fast. I don’t know why. Perhaps cus I know it will help me lose weight. Even more so now that my feast days aren’t filled with junk food!
Since I started this experiment I had no intention of continuing after the intended 4 weeks, but I have lost 5kgs: 9cms from my belly, 6cms from my waist and 4cms from my bum. It happens very slowly, but it does happen.
5:2 is not a crash diet. I see it more of a way of life or an appetite regulation tool. It may not be something you do every week but if you find you’re overdoing it, have a fast day.
Personally, I plan to do two fasts a week until I reach my goat weight – a weight where I feel healthy in my body, no more back or knee pain. And then I plan to practice occasional fasts, when my body tells me it needs a rest.
Remember, slow and steady wins the race.