The rise of the 5:2

It’s all the rage, and I feel as though I am jumping on an already slightly hackneyed bandwagon. But actually, we’ve been planning this for ages – ever since the doc told me my cholesterol results were too high (again) and suggested I give it a go, and, in an unrelated move, Mr C topped the scales at his weightiest ever.

What am I on about? The 5:2 diet. In the unlikely event that you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s simple. You eat normally 5 days a week, but calorie restrict on 2 days of the week. By calorie restrict –  you’re looking at about a quarter of your normal energy intake. It’s never this straight forward – everyone’s metabolism is different – but on average this would be 500 cals for women and only a little bit more for men.

There are said to be multiple advantages – weight loss being the unintuitive main one – including reduced cholesterol. I say unintuitive, because you’re allowed to eat normally the rest of the week – and could be said to catch up on the calories missed on those days. Apparently this doesn’t matter – the important thing is that your system is kick started into a new direction. Curiously I can’t find much online that goes into detail as to how this actually works, scientifically – probably haven’t been enough studies yet. Anecdotally though, it seems to. There is this rather good review from the NHS website in the UK, which echoes my feelings about the lack of scientific detail. I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who does know more.

But anyway – you can read all that stuff elsewhere; my aim is to tell you how the process felt to me personally.

And the answer initially is – nervous. I’ve never really been ‘on a diet’ before; not in the traditional tabloid sense anyway. Everyone has a diet, I’m good with that, but the concept of restricting food intake in order to reduce weight? Nup. I’ve steadfastly refused to bow to image related dieting over the years and frankly I love my food far too much to not eat it. The closest I’ve come to dieting was implementing the FODMAPs regime – and again, that was for health reasons. My opinion has not changed! But I am overweight, my cholesterol is too high and I’m not getting any younger – all of which, combined with the medical profession apparently green lighting this way of eating – has contributed to giving this a go.

So, dream holiday to foodie-heaven Italy over, I started meal planning last weekend. First off, we decided a) we both had to diet on the same days, for sanity b) it was easier to have set days of the week to do this and c) Tuesdays and Thursdays worked best for our respective schedules, as we didn’t want to be dieting over the weekend. Step one – done.

Secondly; how to split those precious calories out. One big, relatively normal meal? Or 2 smaller ones? 3 really eeny weeny ones?? I realised that I was really quite reluctant to do this and had kept coming up with excuses to not start (right up to the wire!) and on thinking about it quietly, it dawned on me that specifically, I couldn’t stand the idea of not having an evening meal. Getting home from work and….nothing. No food, then bed. Horrid. So that was a must. I also believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I know how cranky I get – and how ravenous – if I skip it. So there we were, up to 2 meals already.

Then there’s that yawning gap in the middle of the day; I look forward to my lunch pretty much as soon as brekkie is cleared away. Could I cope without? Err…no. Not mentally at any rate. 500 calories divided between 3 meals then…tricky!

Breakfast was easy. I have porridge every day, and checking the calories for porridge oats revealed that as long as I had it without sugar or milk, I was home free. 140 cals – tick! The other two meals – not so much.

Googling ‘5&2 diet recipes’ was a jolly good start though. Plenty of stuff out there that’s already been calorie counted for you as long as you don’t deviate from the recipe (which is going to be a challenge all of its own for me!). Whilst I fully intend to do my own thing and experiment as time goes on, I wanted to make it relatively easy for myself and so we started our diet with stuff someone else had worked out in advance. I also decided to aim for about 600 calories for me, for the first couple of weeks – OK, it’s a bit of a cop out, but it allows me to ease into it, get my brain in the right place and do 3 meals without too many problems. Besides, nowhere can I find anything explaining why it has to be 500 calories (for women), and not 400, or 600 for example.

Day 1:

  • Breakfast – sachet of oats, mix of water and skim milk, coffee with about 2 tablespoons of skim milk – all up approx. 200 calories
  • Lunch – roasted broccoli soup  – 200 calories
  • Mid afternoon snack – lite raspberry jelly, with 6 raspberries – approx. 10 cals
  • Dinner – mixed bean burger, 200 cals., roasted mixed veg 120 cals
  • Cups of tea = approx 40 cals

Total for day 1; a rather dismal 760 calories and thus technically a fail, I suppose. Actually, I don’t see it as such; it made me painfully aware just how little 500 calories is and hey ho, it eased me into the process. First day over!

Day 2:

  • Breakfast – sachet of oats, water, coffee with about 1 tablespoon of skim milk – approx. 150 calories
  • Lunch – tuna bean salad – 180 cals
  • Mid afternoon snack – aeroplane lite jelly – approx. 10 cals
  • Dinner – one pot middle eastern eggs 225 cals

Total for Day 2: a much more respectable 565 cals!

Dinner on day 2 inspired by Gypsy Eggs – though not having half the ingredients to hand – unusually for me I hadn’t prepared! I swapped lots of extra veg for the refried beans (courgette, pepper), I used turmeric, cumin, coriander, preserved lemon and heaps of fresh parsley instead of smoked paprika, and used low cal haloumi instead of chorizo. Delish! I will give those gypsy eggs a go though…

I found I was pretty hungry mid afternoon both days, and that this was the worst time of day for me. I was really glad of the lite jelly – normally I’d never eat that stuff; all boiled hoof and horn and e-numbers. But it was a sweet, practically calorie free treat, cheered me up and was actually rather filling in it’s own temporary way. I also haven’t found that I’m craving more food the next day – bonus!


5 thoughts on “The rise of the 5:2

  1. Week one down. Congratulations. It is the hardest. Those pesky hunger pangs seem to subside once you get used to the 5:2 pattern of eating. It really does get easier the longer you stay with it and is incredibly flexible and forgiving if you slip up. After three months I still feel fabulous the day after a fast day. Almost euphoric. Perhaps that’s what keeps me going. .

    • Wow. Euphoric eh – that I am looking forward to! I’d describe it more as relieved so far…I really am not a natural dieter. It is however making me think harder than I have for some time about how to make my food more interesting without using fat or calorific foods. Which is interesting in itself. Thanks for the support!

  2. Wow, so interesting. Did you see the show on SBS? The dr fasted and recorded all the results. It was fascinating the impact it had on his health

    • Yes absolutely! That’s exactly what drew it to our attention. My doc had also suggested fasting a couple of days a week and I’m sure that’s what she was referring to. I’m really hoping it has the same effect on me that it did on Michael Mosley!

  3. Pingback: Green split pea and roasted pumpkin soup | lefthandedchopsticks

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