I don’t know about you but the endless British winter was not particularly kind to my waistline. In a bid to fight the freezing temperatures I added an extra layer to my body happy in the knowledge that my winter coat would hide any extra padding! But with summer finally upon us I knew something had to be done if I was to get anywhere near my favourite bikini, so I jettisoned all my biscuits in the bin, (ok a couple might have found their way into my mouth en route), and embarked on the diet du jour – the 5:2 fast diet.
With everyone from Benedict Cumberbatch to Miranda Kerr giving it a whirl I presumed it would be a breeze and that I would look red-carpet worthy in a week or two. Described as the diet for foodies, it consists of two non-consecutive days ingesting only 500 calories or less (good luck with that) and the other five to eat as you wish – it sounded almost two easy.
The first morning I bounced out of bed feeling confident in my fasting abilities – that is until I weighed out the yoghurt I had decided on for breakfast! Being a serial snacker I had decided to divide my 500 between three meals (150 for breakfast, 150 for lunch and 200 for dinner) to keep me from reaching for my famously sweet-filled in tray or secret chocolate stash in my desk drawer at work. Unfortunately 150 calories of yoghurt is rather less than I imagined and it barely touched the sides. Come 1pm and many cups of fruit tea later I was beside myself with hunger and my 147-calorie tuna salad was a welcome relief. The lack of a pudding however was difficult to deal with as was declining a cupcake for a colleague’s birthday. I finished my day with ratatouille (on it’s own, nothing with carbs comes anywhere close to being 200 calories) for dinner and then wished the evening away dreaming of all the bad foods I could eat the next day.
Each fast day – I did four in total – got harder and not easier as Mimi Spencer and Michael Mosley suggest in The Fast Diet. And by the end of number four I was in such a foul mood I snapped at an unsuspecting commuter (totally out of character – I’m usually just a tutter), and once home with a banging headache and feeling dizzy my resolve broke and I scoffed a sugar-filled snack.
Ok so credit where credit’s due – it’s a pretty fast diet – I lost three pounds with just four days of dieting – hurrah! I also feel less sluggish and my skin has never been better, which is probably down to the fact that a 500-calorie diet does not allow for much sugar, which is the mainstay of my usual daily intake. I’ve also had my eyes opened to the fact that there’s way more calories in foods I deemed ‘healthy’ and since I started I’ve been much more conscious of my portion sizes. That said, this is not a diet for super sweet munchers like myself. The side effects of existing on so few calories twice a week were not fun and I’m not sure my boyfriend was a fan of my mega mood swings! And as for the promise that the diet can lengthen your life… I’ll have to come back to you in about 60 years on that one!
I am a serial dieter – believe me, I’ve done them all – WeightWatchers, Slimming World, Slimfast, Dukan, Cambridge, Cabbage Soup, South Beach, Harcombe – you name it, I’ve tried it (mostly with very limited results…). But ever the optimist, I’m always keen to try the newest fad (I will lose that last half stone), and the 5:2 diet is certainly the latest trend. Everyone in the office is on it, and even Pizza Express are advertising their latest menu as one you can eat on this diet…
This is probably the simplest diet I’ve tried. The ‘science’ behind this says that it’s better than standard calorie restriction for maintaining lean body mass. By fasting for two (non-consecutive) days, you don’t ever fast for long enough to send your body into starvation mode, where you begin to store fat in anticipation of a lack of future food. Compared with a normal calorie-controlled diet, it also means that there’s no time to get demotivated and break the diet, as, for the majority of the week, you eat what you want (within reason), anyway.
There are lots of sources online to find low-cal recipes that work on this diet. I like the ShapeUp Club app, which is a great way to keep track of what I’m eating. The big shock was in the limited amount of food that 500 calories will ‘buy’ you. On day 1, I managed an apple and banana, yogurt and cous cous – and I was 20 calories over. On my second fast day, I created a delicious and low-cal Bruschetta for lunch – only 160 calories in total. Most of the 5:2 plans advocate missing breakfast, but I think that’s hard to do if you’re at work – instead I missed dinner on my fast days, choosing an early night instead.
This diet had some unexpected side effects. Not having to prepare, cook and eat dinner freed up lots of time, which is a great way to gain back some extra hours for wedding planning. Missing meals twice a week also cut my grocery bills right down… again useful when there’s a wedding to budget for. Finally, all the early nights (where I chose to sleep instead of eating dinner) meant that my eyes are also looking fresher and brighter, another unexpected benefit! Once you reach your desired weight, you move down to a 6:1 diet, with six normal days and one fast day, which sounds brilliantly easy…
There are some downsides too. Between working lunches and dinner with friends, finding two days in the week to fast can be difficult. You also can’t exercise on the fasting days, and I really missed the gym on those days. On the days immediately after my fast, I’m hungrier than normal, and having to work hard to not overeat to compensate.
After only two weeks I’ve lost three pounds, and I’m finding it pretty easy to stick to.
Find out more
The Fast Diet: The Secret of Intermittent Fasting by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer, £7.99, amazon.co.uk