When I first blogged about this (see 5:2 diet), I had just begun to inflict it on my husband and our hapless long-stay visitor, as well as my poor, unsuspecting clients. It was the early days and my enthusiasm knew no bounds; I forced us all to eat broccoli soup for lunch AND supper – why complicate it? – to the point that by week three the visitor stayed out, my husband’s temper was teetering on murderous (of me) and my clients were just bemused and hoping this was all a horrible media joke.
Hmmm, not sure about this, I thought. Although I have to say my husband had lost 6lbs, I had lost 4lbs and the two clients who managed to stick with it also lost several pounds, significantly reducing their blood pressure.
But clearly it simply wasn’t sustainable in that form, for several good reasons.
We all dreaded the fast days and Sunday nights ended with a feeling of impending doom, knowing that Monday was coming, and even worse, we had to do it again on Wednesday!
I felt much colder on those days; actually being cold is good for weight loss as you burn fat to warm yourself and there is a theory that central heating has played a huge part in the obesity crisis. Nevertheless I don’t like being cold.
I was constipated on those days, which also affected the other days and I am a bit bowel-obsessed. I like a good daily clean out.
It really affected my sleep. This actually does make sense biologically as there is a relationship between insulin (released when we eat carbohydrate), serotonin, our ‘feel good’ brain chemical, and melatonin, our ‘sleep’ hormone. This also probably explains my husband’s increasingly short temper.
You may ask why didn’t I just give up and write it off as another fad diet? Well, I actually do believe in the science behind it, and I am especially interested in the other health benefits, rather than just the weight loss. I am a sucker for anything that has the words anti-aging attached to it; I am at an age where I do want to have good skin for as long as possible, I want to stave off cancer and I especially want to stay mentally OK for a bit longer! And I can see why this diet works; it just makes sense.
And for my clients with PCOS, fibroids and endometriosis it makes masses of sense because of the relationship between these conditions and the hormone IGF-1, a ‘growing’ hormone which is reduced dramatically by this diet. So for these clients I think it is a good thing. I am also using it with my male clients with high levels of abnormal sperm or DNA fragmentation, especially if they are over-weight because of the switching on of DNA repair mechanisms. But not for those about to embark on IVF where high protein is recommended for egg production and IGF-1 may be useful for ‘building’ more eggs. It depends on my client’s individual needs here.
So, I had to make another plan. And now there are the books, coming thick and fast, But incredibly useful in that they have recipes and calories all done for you.
- The Fast Diet by Dr Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer
- The 5:2 Diet Book by Kate Harrison
- The 5:2 Diet Recipe Book by Jacquline Whitehart – probably the most useful.
So here is my guide to making the 5:2 Diet work for those of you struggling like me.
- Decide on the days in advance; just factor them into your weekly schedule. We do Monday (always a bit of a relief after the weekend) and either Wednesday or Thursday. But sometimes it doesn’t work and it just has to be one day and frankly that will have to do if it is to be sustainable. I also think it is better to be out of the house and in a normal routine.
- Decide how many meals suit you. Michael Mosley had breakfast and evening meal, others saved up all their calories (500 for women and 600 for men) til the evening, and others grazed throughout the day. Personally I think the latter two are not great, research has showed that our bodies are not good at coping with late eating, and constant snacking means insulin levels are permanently elevated. I find it easier to eat three meals. But if you are not a breakfast fan, do ‘brunch’ and evening meal.
- Soup is brilliant for lunch. Studies have showed that soup makes you feel fuller for longer. Pret a Manger often has soups that are between 150-200 calories. I still do have my green soup for lunch as it is only 80 calories.
- To get around the constipation problem I take (well, gag down) 1 tablespoon of psyllium husks (from any health food shop) morning and night in water, at 16 calories each. I just factor that in. Plus plenty of water. Fizzy water is also good. And herbal teas like fennel or a fantastic Chinese tea I have found called Amachazuru Five Leaf Tea available loose or in bags online from China Life. And my morning cup of tea with semi-skimmed milk (10 calories) – I can’t do without that.
- Add spices and herbs, ginger and garlic and especially chilli to your food; it really makes it more interesting and warming to eat.
- Bulk out your meal with salad; cucumber, watercress and celery have virtually no calories.
- Eat warm food in this weather.
- For me eating some carbohydrate in the evening made all the difference to my sleep.
- Find a menu of about 6 evening meals that you like and can rotate.
- Go to bed earlier; you will be less tempted.
Some meal ideas
- 30g porridge, 80 cals, made with water plus 25 blueberries, 25 cals = 110 cals.
- A boiled egg 77 cals plus a Rude Health Multigrain Thin 23 cals= 100 calories.
- Green soup = 80 cals or Pret cream of mushroom soup 148 cals
- 50g low fat cottage cheese 45 cals, 2 Ryvitas 52 cals and an apple 60 cals = 157 cals.
- Frozen cod fillet baked 72 cals, red lentil dahl 100g cooked 120 cals, no oil just ginger, turmeric, garlic, cumin, 20 cals plus above salad 10 cals = 222 cals.
- Smoked haddock fillet baked = 90 cals, on a bed of wilted spinach 200g 50 cals and a poached egg on top 77 cals = 217 cals.
Try Miso soup as a snack. Clearspring 17 calories.
You can calorie count everything by googling it, and there are apps to put on your phone.
But the most wonderful thing about it is the excitement of the day after; I have never looked forward to my normal boring breakfast so much!
As yet I am not looking 10 years younger, but my husband is leaner, meaner and fitter and back to the weight he was at 22. Temper, still on the short side! And the wife of one of my male clients with high DNA fragmentation who was doing it has just found out she is pregnant naturally as they are just about to embark on their 2nd ICSI cycle.
So just maybe there is something really good about this way of eating after all.