Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Diet #39, the 5:2 diet

Hopefully, no one's noticed that I've taked a MAMMOTH break from this blog. Most people fall off the diet wagon eventually - I lasted 39 weeks, at least. But this week, I suddenly find myself with some time on my hands and some weight on my hips, and it's time to get back on the diet wagon!! 
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 is on it, friends, colleagues, school mums - 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. For two days a week, you eat no more than 500 calories, and eat normally on the remaining days. 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 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 (recipe: 3 x pumpkin seed ryvita, cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar). Most of the 5:2 plans advocate missing breakfast, but I think that’s hard to do if you have a full day – 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 all the extra shit I like to cram into my life. Missing meals twice a week also cut our food bills right down… 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 running on those days. On the days immediately after my fast, I’m hungier than normal, and having to work hard to not overeat to compensate.

After two weeks I've lost four pounds, and I’m finding it really easy to stick to. So much so, that I don't want to move onto diet 40...

This week, 52diets is loving the Cabbage Patch Kids, who turn 30 this year. We were lucky enough to be invited to their 30th birthday party (on a Sunday morning, in Hamleys), and I hope that they're the next retro/vintage craze... and that someone buys me one for my birthday!

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