Saturday, 8 June 2013

The 5:2 Diet - Two Weeks In

On Tuesday Jo gave us a summary of her first 8 days on the 8 Hour Diet. It's been going well, and she has seen some good weight loss (600grams in 8 days) without too much difficulty.

Therefore, I thought it about time I stepped up to the plate and told you about my first two weeks on the 5:2 Diet.


If you haven't already, check out my full post on what the 5:2 diet is all about. But for those of you too lazy to click back there, here's the overview:

5 days a week you can eat anything you want, and 2 days a week you eat 1/4 for your calorie requirements, so roughly 500 calories for girls and 600 for boys. 


This all started because I had reviewed the 8 Hour Diet, but wasn't prepared to do it myself. A friend was over for dinner and said that if  I wasn't interested in the 8 Hour Diet, I should look at the other big intermittent fasting diet at the moment, the 5:2 diet. There and then we grabbed out the laptop and did some research. A diet where most of the time I get to eat absolutely anything I want guilt free, huh? Sounded pretty good to me.

So I started the very next day (can't do too much thinking about these things). It was a Thursday.

My First Day:
It was a pretty easy start, since I was running late for work anyway, so skipped breakfast.

By mid-morning I was starting to feel a bit rumbly, but managed to quell the noise with some (carefully measured and entered into MyFitnessPal calorie counter) milky tea. Totally worth the 30 calories.

Then came lunch. One of the great things about writing a fitness blog is that you can try all these bizarre things and just tell people you are 'doing research'. So luckily for me I had no problem at work, I just explained that I was testing out this fad diet for the blog (so much better than trying to hide that you are on a diet, and just really, really want to eat a plateful of kelp, or you like drinks with lemon and cayenne pepper in them). I actually had a large bowl full of oats made up with water, which I liberally sprinkled with cinnamon and then added a level teaspoon of brown sugar.

Turns out that 60grams of a oats makes really quite a large bowlful and in winter is a really good meal to keep you going. Though a lot of people do not understand the wonder of hot porridge as a lunch choice. However, once informed, the girls of my work happily joined in discussions on the pros and cons of the diet.

The afternoon wasn't too bad. It wasn't brilliant, but totally doable. (Disclaimer: I've done quite a lot of different types of fasting for religious purposes over the years, so I did sort of know what to expect, and also that whatever whinging my body is doing, it can last at least 24 hours without food.)

For dinner I had what I had actually planned to have anyway: a Lean Cuisine (or one of those) microwave meal of Lamb Hotpot, which came in at 250 calories.

I sat down and ate it slowly while watching the documentary Eat, Fast and Live Longer, which is the foundation for the diet. I highly recommend doing this on your first fast day, as it makes you feel all empowered and like you are changing your world for the better. Afterwards I spent a little while working out what I would eat tomorrow when I could have anything I wanted, and then went to bed with just a few rumbles.

The Next Day:

Woke up feeling really good and not starving. I had decided I would get a hot breakfast from the fast food stand at the station, and splurged out and got an egg and bacon sandwich and a chicken skewer. Have to admit, the chicken skewer was one of the greatest things I had ever tasted. At work I then finished of the bacon and egg sandwich and felt really quite sick for eating way too much.

Yup, after even one day of fasting, your stomach contracts so you are satisfied with much less. Score!
I also found myself craving salad! Don't ask me why. So I had a salad for lunch. Someone had brought in homemade biscuits and I happily scoffed as many as I wanted with a smile on my face.

At the end of the day, I sat down and did the maths:

If twice a week I eat 500 calories, and the rest of the time I should eat 1800 calories, then on my feasting days, I can eat (1300x2)/5 =  520 extra calories and still maintain my weight, so that's 2320.

I then added up absolutely everything I had eaten that day, when I had eaten everything I wanted to, and found that I had actually only eaten just over 2000. Now I know that on some days I can eat more than that (especially when KFC beckons) but it was still looking pretty good.

Second Fast Day:

Got round to the second fast day and it was a whole lot easier. Partly this was because I knew what to expect, but partly because I also prepared and cooked better. For breakfast I sauteed a cup of mushrooms and two cups of spinach leaves in vegetable stock, and roasted a tomato with basil. Quite a lot of food, less than 100 calories. I also added 25grams of cooked oats to give me some filling to keep me going.

Only problem on the day was that Mum came down to town to take me out to lunch. (I know, what a waste of a free lunch!)

'Surely you can eat this?' She said, pointing to the avocado and creamy dressing salad.
'No, I really don't think I can.'
'How about this?'
'No, not that either.'

If I had been able to plan for it, and had rearranged my calorie intake it would have been better. However, in the end I did find a vegetable, oxtail and freekha soup which apparently came to only about 200 calories. For the win! Add in a diet coke and I was a happy girl.


And for those of you wondering, yes you can still exercise on a fast day. On both my Sundays I fasted and did my long run for my half marathon training. The key, I think, is to do aerobic exercise, long and slow, rather than high intensity. Last Sunday I did my longest run yet (13kms) and ended up burning twice what I had eaten for the whole day, with no adverse effects.


So, the big test for me is the weightloss. Yes, yes the health benefits will be great, but they don't show up as much in someone my age unless I was at risk already. It's when you get into your 50s+ that the health benefits really kick in.

Unfortunately, I didn't actually weigh myself just before I started as I didn't own my own scales. I had planned to run to the gym on the first morning, but ended up being late for work so couldn't.

As you might know from following my half marathon training posts, I had started around 77kgs, and over a few weeks worked my way down to about 75kg (I got a great reading one day, then realised it was actually because I had used my parents' scales which were not the same as the gym ones).

However, over the next few weeks, where I paused my training and had a lot of family birthday parties, mother's day, fish and chips etc, I had crept back up to 77kgs. The last time I had weighed myself (just a few days before my first fast) I had been about 77.6kgs.

After the first week I dropped down to 75.6kgs. That is pretty good, but I felt I was only just getting back to where I had been, so wasn't super excited.

After the second week I dropped down to 74.4kgs, breaking new ground!

I have now bought myself a set of scales, and I weigh myself most mornings to see how it all works.  (Not generally recommended, once a week is totally fine, it's just for scientific research purposes I'm doing it everyday.)

The morning after your fast day the scale will read ridiculously low, partly because you will have emptied your gut without filling it up, and also you need to be careful of dehydration. The next day it will have jumped up around 0.5-1kgs, which is a bit despiriting, as you think that it will just keep going up and up.

However, the next two days after that, even though you continue to eat whatever you like, it starts to creep back down again. It won't hit where you had been on a fast day without another fast day, but it definitely keeps going down.

Now, I have been warned that you get the most weightloss in the first two weeks, and then it slows down. However, it is totally worth doing even just for 0.5kgs a week.

Conclusion So Far?

Last Friday I was out for work drinks and I ordered a bowl of wedges and was chomping away. One of the girls was like, 'Hey, you can't eat that, you're on a diet!' Cider in one hand, wedge in the other, I waved it under her nose and said 'It's exactly because I'm on a diet I can eat it! It's when you don't do anything you can't justify the extras!' And happily went back to munching with a sigh and a grin.

Feeling totally justified in having that second piece of cake on my feasting days completely make up for any hardship of fasting two days a week. And during the fast, just smiling and saying 'I can have that tomorrow' makes all the difference over other diets.

Therefore, currently it has my thumbs up. It makes the rest of your life happier, I appear to be losing weight, the fast days become easier and it is fun trying to get as much food in as possible for 500 calories (this also encourages you to eat veggies as they are the best way to fill up your plate for less).

I have become a little bit evangalistic about this diet, to the point that my family are trying it! They weighed themselves on the 1st of June, are fasting Tuesdays and Thursdays, and are going to weigh themselves again on the 1st of July. Also, luckily for me, my dad had his cholesterol taken just before he started, so we can see if the diet makes any difference (though he was pretty good to begin with).

The most important thing, I think, is to work out delicious meals for 500 calories. I usually try for two smaller meals of about 125 calories each (30 grams of oats and then some sauteed veggies for example) and then one bigger meal of 250 calories.

Anyone got great low calorie recipes they want to share? 

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