Extra support for new 5:2 diet fasters

As you may know, I run the FastDay.com 5:2 diet forum along with some lovely moderators, including a lady named Caroline…

Caroline has a brain the size of a planet (I kid you not!) and a heart of purest gold. She’s been fasting for years now and has had great success, as you can see if you read her 5:2 diet success story over at FastDay.

She’s been working on developing an online course called the “Fast Start Program“, along with the Ways of Eating team, which is a 6 week introduction to intermittent fasting/5:2/the Fast Diet for new starters (or re-starters!). I’ve seen the trial runs of the Program and can honestly say that even I – as an experienced long term faster – learned a lot from the Program, especially the excellent presentations she has put together. She does a great job of conveying her medical & scientific knowledge in way which is easy to understand and really relevant to fasters who want to lose weight & get healthier.

 

If you’re someone who needs a bit of extra support and structure in taking on new eating habits (or a ‘Way of Eating’ as we like to call it!), the Fast Start Program could be just what you need. It costs £40 for the six week course, which provides you with loads of great stuff – including a hotline for rapid responses, a chat area, drop in sessions, trackers & tools, educational content, regular emails and much more! By the end of the 6 weeks you’ll be well versed in the practicalities of fasting, the science behind it, a good knowledge of the body’s nutritional needs to name just some of the areas covered. It’s all been really well organised and the feedback from other users has been great, as you can see on the Fast Start reviews page.

If you, or someone you know, is thinking about starting the 5:2 diet and needs something a bit more organised to guide them into it, the Fast Start Program starts every other Thursday for new fasters and you can sign up on the Ways of Eating site here

(note: you don’t have to live in the UK to take part as the course is done online and the drop in sessions are not essential to completing the Program)

 

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I nearly died (or, “An unplanned break from fasting”)

No, this isn’t just one of those headlines designed to suck you in and then it turns out to be lies, damn lies. I am a survivor.

I want to explain where I have been the last 10 months. I’m sorry I haven’t posted here for so long.

I thought 5:2 was a life-changer. Well, yes, it has changed my life. I wasn’t feeling particularly like I needed any other life changers anytime soon but that’s not how life works and this year has been quite a rollercoaster for me.

Shall I start at the beginning, or just sum up? To hell with it, if starting at the beginning could save someone else’s life.

I’d like to point out at this moment – and before you go jumping to any conclusions – that fasting has had nothing to do with my near death experience! If anything I suspect it may in part have been responsible for my survival. This post has nothing at all to do with fasting, but is the story of my experiences this year.

Many of us will have heard the phrase “pulmonary embolism” and know it’s something medical. But how many of us actually know what one is, what causes it, what impact it has and what the odds of survival are? Well, now I do.

It started just after Christmas last year, or at least the noticeable signs of it did. The first time it wasn’t too bad. I woke up and pulled the bed back together – suddenly my heart was racing and I couldn’t breathe. I had to lie down. It felt a bit like an asthma attack but the racing heart was new to me. After a few minutes to calm down, I went downstairs to do some more chores – I changed the cat litterbox, or at least I tried to. The same thing happened again. I spent the rest of that day on the sofa, hardly able to talk for lack of breath and with my heart racing (thank you hubs for buying me a lovely Withings Pulse activity tracker for Christmas, this little device has also played its part in my still being on this earth). By early evening I was fed up and decided to go to the doctor. This was actually quite tricky as we lived down a lane and had to walk a way to the car – I’d barely even made it down our short hallway to the bathroom during the day. I made it and the doc (not my usual one) told me it was a chest infection and gave me antibiotics. That’s their answer to everything. I remembered that I’d been aware of my heart pounding in my chest (palpitations) for a few weeks on and off, so he also recommended I be tested for a thyroid problem.

The next day I wasn’t feeling so bad, and got on with my life. The blood test came back clear and I busied myself preparing for our house move.

Then, the bad news started to roll in. Problems with the move. My cat had untreatable cancer. My husband’s job security was looking sketchy. Not the best time in my life I have to say. One morning I went to get breakfast and as I came back up the stairs I started to experience odd symptoms. I can’t even recall now in what order they came exactly. I couldn’t breathe. I was gasping like a fish and it hurt. I was hot, very hot. I took my dressing gown off. I felt sweaty, sick and shaky. I blacked out. This was just before work so I think it must have been around 9am. I didn’t make it to my desk until almost 10. When I came to, on the floor at the top of the stairs I was shivering – freezing. I pulled my dressing gown back around me and dragged myself to the bed to lay down. A few minutes later as I felt better I went to my desk to get on with work. I gave my mum a ring to tell her about my strange experience. She likened it to panic attacks she used to have in her 30′s and promptly turned up with some Rescue Remedy and kind words. She told me I looked grey. I said I felt fine, which I did, aside from my racing heart. I rested for a while in the afternoon and later my husband helped me upstairs. He tells me it took me about 20 minutes to get up the stairs, I had to keep stopping. By the time I got to the top I felt sick again and came over sweaty. He rested me against the toilet in case I was sick and went to get me a glass of water. When the hot flushes passed he helped me get to bed and I spent the evening lying down just trying to breathe. It was horrible. I wasn’t up to cooking and instead he got us a chippie. Most unlike me, I had no appetite at all and barely ate anything. It seemed too much to have to eat AND breathe. I think we debated calling the NHS helpline but decided to wait until morning.

Morning came, and with it a resting heart rate of almost 140. Yes, 140 – on waking. Lying down. That’s not right. It should be 50-70, if not lower. I didn’t sleep well and as soon as I woke up I looked up the details of our local walk-in GP as it was a Saturday. Hubs dutifully took me down there and I struggled my way to the car, and then from the car to the hospital. I felt like a 90 year old, I was walking so slowly. Actually I think a 90 year old would have beaten me hands down. My heart did ease off a bit at that point, I guess knowing someone medical was going to check me out calmed my nerves a bit. I told the doctor how I was feeling – the racing heart, how it felt like the physical sensations of anxiety but that I wasn’t feeling anxious in my head. I explained about my current life stresses, but that I had them all in order mentally and wasn’t worried about them really. The doctor was great (I thought), she did an ECG and talked to me about panic attacks and how to breathe through them. That might have saved my life too. She couldn’t give me the meds she wanted to because of my asthma. She did however put me on a nebuliser (it didn’t help) and gave me some lovely, lovely sleeping pills. My O2 saturation was checked and though a little low she wasn’t worried. She said the stress was affecting my asthma as well as my body in general and told me to come back the next day and see how I was.

I slept like a log that night. I met a hamster wearing a beret, he was drinking a strawberry milkshake at some posh milkshake bar. He seemed pretty down to earth for such a strange looking fellow in a pretentious establishment. That’s how good the sleeping pills were! Or maybe it was the lack of oxygen.

My heart wasn’t quite so racy the next day and I didn’t struggle so much to move around. The doctor was pleased with my progress and left me to get on with life. I dosed myself up nightly on the pills and munched on Rescue Remedy pastilles during the day to calm my ‘anxiety’. This was the week just prior to our move and let me tell you that packing up to move house when you are seriously ill is not an easy task. I can’t thank my mum enough for coming to help with it. I had no strength. I had to sit to pack, I checked my pulse before and after I did anything, if it was below 100 then I would get on and do things. It was never below 90. It took ages to calm from the usual 135. My husband had to move all four of our fish tanks to their temporary homes with friends and family all by himself, I felt so guilty not helping when at the time we thought it was ‘just anxiety’ and that I should really be physically capable. We finished packing around midnight before the move and thank goodness we hired a removal firm to do the heavy lifting.

Moving day came and went. We got to the new house, we unpacked. There was no internet connection for a week, so I did a lot of unpacking and moving of furniture by myself while my husband was at work. We had new furniture delivered, which the driver needed me to help unload! I went on to assemble it. I wasn’t feeling that much better in terms of strength or breathing but my heart was a bit less racy so I just got on with it all and assumed things would get back to normal. We moved the fish tanks to the new house together and I think this could have been the beginning of the end. I was knackered from moving tanks & heavy pails of water & rocks. I had errands to run so went out to town and rushed around to get everything done. I woke up the next morning with my heart rate sky high again. Oh no.

I felt guilty taking a raincheck from our plans with friends that night, it seemed like an excuse rather than a reason. I just wasn’t up to it. I spent the day on the sofa and read about ways to slow your heart rate. I  attempted to submerge my face in cold water to provoke ‘the diving response’ to slow my metabolism and heart rate. That didn’t do anything. I tried breathing techniques. I fussed the purring cat (rest in peace, sweet Phoebe). Nothing helped. It was Monday the next day and I decided to go to the doctor as my heart was still racing in excess of 130 when I woke up. I called my mum to take me to the doctor as I could barely get downstairs much less walk to the GP surgery 5 minutes away. I think the people who saw us must have thought mum was really poorly. We walked so very, very slowly and even that was difficult.

This time the doctor (the third one) got it right. He noted that I could barely get two words out without having to stop to breathe. He listened to my chest, he tapped my back and told me to say “99″. An ECG followed and then we were told to go straight to A&E. He said it was faster if we drove than waited for an ambulance. I didn’t really consider at this point just how touch and go this might have been, I was just relieved that something was being done.

A&E were waiting for me and saw me immediately. I felt like an awful queue-jumper. Any Brits reading this will know what I mean, we’re nothing if not good at respecting queue order! The day in A&E was a blur of concerned doctors faces, big words, CT scans, X-Rays, horrible amounts of blood tests, injections and ultrasounds. I had a pulmonary embolism – blood clot on the lungs. A big one. Actually, multiple. On both lungs. It wasn’t good. They considered using a thing called a ‘clot buster’ on me, which apparently they told me they only do in life & death situations due to the high risk of stroke (I have since been corrected, it is also used in less touch & go situations, if it can potentially prevent lasting organ damage). In the end they opted to pump me full of anticoagulants and keep me in for the week.

I’ve never stayed in hospital before. Time goes so slowly and they feed you too much! Puddings with lunch and dinner. It was delicious and such a treat not to have to cook. I can highly recommend the food at Dorset County Hospital. I was there until the end of the week – went through plenty of tests on a daily basis and woken through the night to check my blood pressure, O2 levels and change my drip etc. Quite an experience. They wouldn’t let me walk anywhere, I was wheeled to the toilet and wheeled back to my bed.

I left hospital with a bag full of Warfarin (Coumadin) and some Clexane (Heparin) needles along with the expectation of returning to normal the next week now I was treated. How wrong I was.

Well, I did get back to my desk the next week and started to catch up with my work but life was, and is, anything but normal.

It’s now been almost 8 months and I still struggle on a daily basis. I couldn’t fast for months, I could do very little physically for the first few months. I regained weight. People brought me cakes and chocolates. We ate a lot of takeaways and processed food because I had no energy to cook. I had to cut back on my vegetable intake due to the meds. Life is so very different for me since I survived the PE. One of the most frustrating things is the fact that it is an invisible illness. I look OK from the outside, you wouldn’t know I’m unwell. I can’t even make it back up the hill to my home. I can walk to the doctor now but I have to get a lift back (I don’t drive). I don’t get out a lot. My days are spent working (I manage around 4-5 hours on a good day), resting (around 3 hours) and preparing dinner. I don’t have the energy to do much else. If I overdo it one day I pay the price physically the next day – difficulty breathing, chest pains, numb arms, racing heart. It’s not pleasant.

But, I’m alive. I like to think that the weight I lost through fasting helped me to survive. My heart was under so much strain that they were worried it wouldn’t recover. I dread to think what might have happened if I had still been at my heaviest when this happened. I’m not happy about the weight I’ve regained, but I am fasting again. I seem not to be losing really, but at least I’m not gaining anymore. I don’t know if Warfarin affects my weight or not.

So where did all this come from? Well, the jury is still out. I have my last (I hope) consult with the haematologist in a couple of weeks and he’ll have the results of my blood test then. Initial results suggest I have a genetic clotting disorder which tends not to manifest until this sort of time of life. He thinks I’ll be on anticoagulants for life. I hope I can lose this weight again and that one day I’ll be able to walk up the hill unassisted. It’s funny how much we take for granted.

I could write so much more about how my life has been affected by this condition, but as I need to save some energy for more work & for making dinner, I’ll link you off to an awesome blog post by another PE Survivor who has described it so well.

Next Monday, October 13th is World Thrombosis Day. A day to raise awareness for blood clots. One in three people will die of a pulmonary embolism if it isn’t diagnosed and treated. Know the signs and if you are worried that you may be affected, persist in seeking an accurate diagnosis. If I hadn’t persisted with the doctors I would be dead.

Want to know what a pulmonary embolism looks like? Here’s one of my CT scan slices. Imagine I’m lying down and you’re looking through me from the feet up. The big black areas are my lungs. The circled grey blob is one of my bigger clots. Yeah, that’s not nice is it?

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dinners_curry

“Murgh Moog” – Indian Takeaway Style Curry Sauce (166kcal per portion)

The husband of a friend of mine is a chef at an Indian restaurant and some years ago we did a recipe exchange – I showed him how to make my awesome chocolate fudge cake so he could serve it for dessert in the restaurant and he taught me how to make my favourite dish from his menu.

Using the basis of his recipe it’s possible to make all sorts of tasty restaurant style curries, although you may need to buy in some store cupboard ingredients to start off, these will last you for many a delicious curry! This is one I make for feed days and after adding up the calories I realised it could also be a Fast Day dinner! The whole family will love this one and the recipe serves 4 people. The below mild to medium curry recipe is a favourite among us and our friends and has been given the name Murgh Moog, murgh being ‘chicken’ (we usually serve this with chicken) and Moog being me :)

The recipe involves preparing two bases for the curry and then the cooking stage.

 

Ingredients for Onion Gravy Base

  • 250g white onions (100kcal)
  • Water
  • Good pinch of salt

 

Onion Gravy Curry Base (this one has some curry powder in it)

Onion Gravy Curry Base (this one has some curry powder in it)

 

Method for Onion Gravy Base

  1. You’ll probably want to prep this ahead of time as it takes a while – but is well worth it!
  2. Roughly chop the onions (I tend to chop them in half, then each half into quarters) and put them in a saucepan.
  3. Cover the onions with boiling water and add the good pinch of salt.
  4. Optional: If having this on a non fast day, or if you’ve got enough calories to spare, you might like to add a little splash of oil to this mixture or a teaspoon of curry powder. It’s not essential though and the recipe works well without.
  5. Put a lid on the pan and heat gently for around 30-45 minutes until the onions are well softened and there’s not lots of water left (remember to check on them regularly, you don’t want them to dry out).
  6. Remove the mix from the heat, remove the lid & allow to cool.
  7. When the mixture is cool, use a blender to blitz the mix to a fairly thick, oniony mush.

 

Ingredients for Curry Sauce Base

  • 200g naturual yogurt* (140kcal)
  • 1tbsp mint sauce (13kcal)  – yes, I do mean like the jars of mint sauce you use with a lamb roast!
  • 1tbsp (35g) tandoori paste (32kcal)
  • 1tbsp (35g) tikka paste (42kcal)
  • Half tbsp kashmiri masala paste (42kcal)
  • 15g garlic (22kcal)
  • 15g ginger root (12kcal)

 

Curry Sauce Base

Curry Sauce Base

Method for Curry Sauce Base

  1. Measure the natural yogurt into a bowl and add the various sauces and pastes, stirring well.
  2. In a pestle & mortar, grind the garlic and ginger into a paste.
  3. If you do not have fresh garlic and/or ginger you can substitute with a couple of teaspoons granules/powdered forms of each instead.
  4. Mix around two thirds of the garlic & ginger paste into the yogurt spice base.
  5. Leave this mix to stand a little while as the flavours will start to infuse in the yogurt.

*I always recommend using full fat yogurt as the fat is what helps bring out the curry flavour. If you prefer to use low fat please make sure it’s not one with added sugar and other nasties. There are low fat yogurts out there with no additives which are much better for you! A greek yogurt may give you a thicker creamier curry whereas a tangy natural yogurt will give an added zing to the flavour. Experiment and see what you like best!

 

Right, now your onion gravy is prepared, your curry sauce base has stood for a little while and now you’re ready to start cooking!

 

Ingredients for Curry Cooking Stage

  • 50g white onions (20kcal)
  • 1tbsp oil (120kcal)
  • 1tbsp ground mixed spice
  • 1tbsp granulated sugar (45kcal)
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes (77kcal)
  • Fenugreek leaves Chopped coriander [cilantro] – leaves & stalks

 

Method for Curry Cooking Stage

Chop the onion to whatever size/shape you prefer the pieces to be in your curry. I like mine quite chunky!

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion and ground mixed spice, stirring well.
  2. Next add the tin of chopped tomatoes and continue to fry this as it absorbs the spices.
  3. Add the remaining garlic/ginger mix you prepared when making the curry sauce base.
  4. Add the onion gravy base and stir well. Add the curry sauce base and stir well.
  5. Add the sugar and fenugreek leaves and stir well.
  6. Continue to cook the sauce gently until it reaches your preferred consistency, adding the chopped coriander right at the end.

2013-10-04 18.46.50 2013-10-04 18.47.34 2013-10-04 18.48.50 2013-10-04 19.13.54

 

2013-10-04 18.51.12

Tikka or Tandoori Chicken cooked on skewers adds a real takeaway feel to this dish!

Now you’ll want to add any meat or vegetables you may have prepared to complete the dish. For a fast day I will measure out the portions of sauce first and then add the meat. I normally use chicken, prepared in the oven on skewers, around 100g of chicken (a small breast) per person should be enough. I slice the breast down the middle lengthways, mix all the chunky strips of meat with a little tikka paste or tandoori paste and then put them on skewers in the oven for around 20-25 minutes. You can leave out the paste on a fast day, it’s not essential, although it doesn’t add many calories when spread around all the portions of chicken. On removing the chicken from the skewers I chop each sliver into 3-4 pieces so it looks like the meat from a curry house – it’s got the colouration on the outside, the right shape and even the hole in the middle!

So, we’ve got around 166kcal of sauce with 114kcal of chicken for a total of 280kcal. That leaves you with 220kcal for a side dish – you might want to have some kind of rice (boil with a little turmeric & cinnamon, maybe add some peas!) for that authentic Indian meal, some Indian style cauliflower rice for a low calorie low carb alternative or maybe you just want to mix in lots of tasty veg (spinach is great!) or whip up some simple saag aloo by boiling a calorie counted portion of potatoes in turmeric and gently frying off with some spinach. I’ve got an awesome bombay aloo recipe but it’s not really fast day friendly. I’ll see if I can adapt it one of these days!

Once you’ve got the basics of making a curry in these three stages it’s easy to mix and match your ingredients to make experimental curries – a little more of this, a little less of that, maybe try using a different flavoured oil or putting some chilli powder in with the onion gravy when you cook it. The possibilities are endless and mostly fall within the same sort of calorie range.

 

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festive fasting

Tips for Festive Fasters

First of all folks my apologies for not having blogged in such a long time. Life has been really busy in recent months as we’re in the process of selling our house & will be moving in the new year and on top of that I’ve had work coming in from all angles giving me relatively little free time. But never mind, I’m here now!

Last Christmas was my first during this new way of eating and I was delighted to come out half a pound lighter after the two weeks of festivities! I didn’t feel hard done by or like I’d missed out, I ate like a pig on my feed days (but see tips 2 & 3) but did make sure to do my 2 fasts a week, more or less ;)

For many of you this festive season will be the first for you while fasting and you may be wondering how to deal with it. I’ve got a few simple tips you can bear in mind to help you through and I hope you’ll find them helpful.

 

1. It’s only a couple of weeks out of a lifetime!

This is exactly what I tell people who are going on holiday or have special occasions coming up. 5:2 is a long-term change to your way of eating. It’s flexible and has to fit around your life, not the other way around. So if there’s a week or two where fasting isn’t going to be possible or even if you feel like a bit of a break from it, it’s not the end of the world. You’ve got the experience and know-how to get back on the wagon and do it again. You know that a short break doesn’t mean all is lost as it’s actually only a few fasts, as opposed to a couple of weeks of dieting (for example the typical daily calorie restriction diets) that you’ve missed out on. So don’t fret if you can’t fast. I saw a great quote on Facebook the other day, sorry I forget where or who wrote it – “It’s not what you eat between December and January that matters, it’s what you eat between January and December”. So very true!

2. Listen to your body – your eating habits have changed as have your tolerances and cravings.

Those of you who have been fasting for a few months or more will probably have noticed by now that your eating habits have changed. You may be inclined towards smaller portions or bulking meals out with lovely nutritious vegetables. You may well be craving less junk and learning that certain foods only lead down the path of making you want more of them – sugar begetting sugar for example. You’ve possibly also found that you simply can’t manage large quantities of rich foods any more, that your body will complain to you if you have too much of this sort of thing and that the unpleasant after effects (‘rapid transit’ as we sometimes call it at the forum) and stomach pains are enough to remind you not to indulge like this again. Use these to your advantage, enjoy your festive treats but listen to your body and don’t go so far as to cause yourself physical discomfort. If you do it once, you’ll certainly remember why you should try not to do it again. I know that’s true for me!

3. Modify your fasts to fit and consider meal substitution.

If you can’t fit in a normal fast day due to social commitments over the holidays, you can try modified forms of fasting. There is of course the option of going with 16:8 fasting – a feeding window of 8 hours each day and a 16 hour fast (including sleep) between them. This basically amounts to skipping breakfast. Many 5:2ers are using this for maintenance or have naturally slipped into it for their feed days due to lack of hunger in the mornings.  Another option to consider is what I call a ‘half fast’ if you’re a faster who normally goes without until dinner. Fast until dinner as you would usually but allow yourself a normal dinner, particularly if it’s a day where you’re expecting a big dinner/meal out etc. This can enable you to enjoy a good social meal without going overboard on your daily calorie intake. To be honest on my fast days last Christmas I probably fasted on more like 750 cals, even allowing myself a couple of chocolates within that. Well, it was Christmas after all ;) Another thing I did over Christmas to keep my calories down while still  enjoying the festive feasting was to swap meals out for treats on occasion. This is something I do in life generally anyway – so if you fancy that slice of cake with a dollop of cream, have it but do so instead of your lunch (and add a piece of fruit or salad for nutrition). Make sure you have a nice healthy dinner bulked out with veg (note: leftovers cooked up as bubble and squeak make a nice low calorie, filling & nutritious meal!) to get the nutrients you need and it seems to balance out all right. Obviously this is not a way to eat each and every day but an option to keep your intake more balanced instead of being excessive.

4. Plan to be flexible :)

Go into the holidays with the best intentions – know what your plan is if you intend to try to fast, decide which days and what you can eat, but don’t feel bad if the plans change. My plans are to fast on Christmas eve – I will have more like 600 cals, in the form of fillet steak, home-made wedges, veg and a little cheese sauce. I did it last year (it was delish!) which in turn meant I didn’t feel capable of overloading my tummy the next day but I could still enjoy a healthy sized meal (without the bloated, stuffed feeling which gives me no pleasure). I’ll also aim to fast on December 27th prior to family visits that weekend and while I aim to fast December 30th it may or may not happen depending on family commitments – and that’s where tip 3 comes in to play :) Being organised and having good intentions can help you keep on track, but remember even train tracks can change with the pull of a lever if needed. Don’t worry if you have to pull the lever.

5. Don’t aim to lose, aim to maintain…

It is said that over the festive period most people will gain around 7lbs (which means they’re probably eating about twice as much as their body needs!). Don’t aim to lose over the festivities, you don’t want to feel deprived or like you’re some kind of martyr to your diet. 5:2 is about being able to enjoy food still remember! So, aim to maintain – or at least not to gain more than a pound or two (which you know you can shift again pretty quickly when your feet are firmly back on the 5:2 wagon in the new year). If you can fit in some fasts or half fasts you should be able to keep your calories relatively balanced and come out the other side of the holidays seeing the same sort of numbers on the scales as before. Don’t feel disappointed if it’s up a little, you know how to lose it and Christmas comes but once a year :) Don’t be hard on yourself, we’re all our own worst critics when we should be our biggest supporters.

6. Eating all day every day feels weird and may make it less easy to get back into fasting!

Or at least, it does to me since I started 5:2. Hubs and I had a holiday earlier this year and I didn’t fast at all. It felt strange, being used to having two days a week where I only eat dinner but finding myself eating meals throughout the day each day. When I got back from holiday my first fast felt just like my very first fast ever – headaches, grumpy, hungry – I’ll admit it was a struggle and took a few weeks to get back into the routine. How quickly the body forgets! I also remember last New Year it was difficult to get out of the habit of nibbling sweet treats during the day when I got back to work. I’m so glad I kept at my fasting last festive season so at least the fast days themselves weren’t difficult and I only had to get my feed days back under control.

7. You’re always welcome at the forum :)

Feel free to stop by the forum over the festive period if you need a bit of support, a giggle or just want to remember what a lovely community you’re a part of – we’ll be around to support, encourage and bring festive cheer!

 

Remember, whatever you do over the holidays, however you choose to fast – or not – it’s not the end of the world. Enjoy yourselves, be mindful and remember there’s a new year coming and a healthier, happier you to strive for. This Christmas I’m around 9kg less than I was this time last year, despite all I ate over the holidays last year. Don’t be hard on yourself, don’t be a martyr. You know what you’re doing and are in control now, there’s nothing to fear about the festivities :)

 

Happy holidays everyone!

 

 

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dinners_lasagne

5:2 Diet Lasagne Recipe (300kcal per serving)

Yes, another carb-tastic meal, but at this time of year as the weather gets colder there’s nothing more comforting. I still believe 5:2 has to be sustainable in the long term and that means not totally removing entire food groups from your diet! Carbs on a fast day may not be the best idea but it won’t kill you and this is a meal you can share with your family & friends.

I used to make this with Quorn mince, but have now realised that what with adding so much oil and beef stock to make the mince edible, I might as well be using real beef mince! I’ve also taken to using a cheddar cheese sauce in the lasagne to add a good cheese flavour without the need to put excessive cheese on top, or so everyone I’ve made it for seems to agree.

Ingredients

  • 400g extra lean beef mince (500kcal)
  • 8 lasagne sheets (600kcal)
  • 500g jar Bolognese sauce (220kcal)
  • Colman’s cheddar cheese sauce (310kcal when made up with 300ml semi skimmed milk)
  • 10g crushed garlic (10kcal)
  • 100g chopped onion (40kcal)
  • 100g mushrooms (15kcal)
  • 80g baby plum tomatoes, halved or quartered (15kcal)
  • 2tbsp tomato puree (30kcal)
  • 15g finely grated mature cheddar cheese [or 20g grated mozzarella] (60kcal)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Mixed Italian herbs
  • Fresh basil

Total: 1800kcal for 6 servings (300kcal per serving)

 

Method5:2 dinners_lasagne &_salad

  1. In a saucepan, gently cook the beef mince until it starts to release some fat (not that there’s much in the extra lean variety).
  2. At this point, throw in the onion and garlic and allow this to cook in the fat while the beef continues to brown.
  3. When the beef has browned make a ‘well’ in the middle of the saucepan and add the baby plum tomatoes so they can cook in some of the fat.
  4. Once the tomatoes have had a couple of minutes to soften, add the chopped mushrooms, some Italian seasoning, the tomato puree and stir to coat the meat in the tomatoey goodness!
  5. Now the beef is coated in the tomato & herb mix add the bay leaves and the jar of sauce, allowing the mix to reduce down.
  6. Towards the end of cooking add the fresh basil to taste and season if desired.
  7. Make up the packet of cheddar cheese sauce according to the instructions. I tend to add an extra 50ml or so of water to make it go further for no extra calories.
  8. In a square ceramic dish, place two sheets of lasagne side by side to cover the bottom. Add about a third of the Bolognese mixture (don’t forget to remove the bay leaves!) and a layer of the cheese sauce. Now use three sheets of lasagne to begin the next layer, adding Bolognese and cheese sauce above. Repeat the above and top with the grated cheddar cheese and a sprinkling of mixed herbs.
  9. Bake in the oven at around 200 degrees for half an hour.

The lasagne is usually best prepared in advance so it has time to solidify a little, making it easier to cut & serve (re-heat in microwave).

Measure into 6 equal slices for a real fasting day treat!

I serve this with either a large side salad or some home made potato wedges (180g potato for around 135kcal) & peas (80g for 60kcal). You could add a side of garlic bread to bulk this meal out for the family.

If you’re planning to have salad with this and can afford some extra calories in the lasagne, I’d suggest adding an extra 100g of the beef mince, more mushrooms and a couple of extra tablespoons of tomato puree.

Enjoy!

 

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160kcal Ratatouille with Potato Wedges & Sausages (total 500kcal)

Well folks, it’s been a while since I blogged and for that I’m really sorry. I’ve been so busy with work that I’ve tended to avoid anything computery in the evenings! Time to get this blog going again now eh?

Here’s one of the dinners I’ve been enjoying on my Fast days over the last month. It’s a simple recipe which I batch cook it and freeze in portions. The recipe is based on one from the Good Housekeeping cookbook, but adjusted a bit to lower the calories and bulk it out.

Ratatouille

  • 60ml olive oil (492kcal)
  • 240g white onion (96kcal)
  • 10g crushed garlic (14kcal)
  • 250g aubergine (63kcal)
  • 370g courgette [zucchini] (63kcal)
  • 290g mixed peppers (60kcal)
  • 400g tinned tomatoes (148kcal)
  • 2tbsp tomato puree (30kcal)
  • 2tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1tbsp chopped basil
  • 1tsp thyme

Method

Chop the aubergine, courgette and peppers into chunks (I like to vary mine in shape and size!). Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion & garlic gently for a few minutes. Add the aubergine, courgette & peppers and fry for a few minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, puree and add some salt & pepper. Cover the pan and leave to simmer for around 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid add the herbs and allow the sauce to reduce as desired.

I find the above makes 6 good portions of 160kcal each.

At such a low calorie count there are plenty of possibilities for sides with this dish! My preference is for Tesco meat-free sausages in the Mediterranean flavour, they are just 174kcal a pair if shallow fried, so I like to think they’re a little less when brushed with a tiny amount of olive oil and cooked in the oven! So, that’s about 330 calories, now what else to have with it? You could have cous cous, 170kcal will get you a rather large portion of it! Or you could have…

 

Garlic & Herb Potato Wedges

  • 5g from a packet of Garlic & Herb Wedges Seasoning or you could make your own with breadcrumbs & garlic powder (15kcal)
  • 160g baby potatoes (135kcal)
  • A few drops of olive oil (20kcal)

These are also a quick and easy (but tasty & filling) side dish. I know, I know, carbs aren’t a great idea for a fasting day – but this way of life has to be sustainable in the long term & I like my carbs. I don’t have them every fast though. Just chop the baby potatoes into quarters to make your wedges, brush with a tiny amount of olive oil and toss in the 5g of seasoning (believe me 5g is plenty, it goes further than you’d think). Put on a pre-heated baking tray in the oven at around 180° for 25-30 minutes depending on the thickness of your wedges. I usually cook my sausages alongside them to save on washing up ;)

So there you go, 160kcal ratatouille, 170kcal sausages and 170kcal of potato wedges making yet another yummy 500kcal fasting day dinner, which doesn’t feel at all like diet food – enjoy!

Wish I was having this tonight now, but I’ve run out. Fasting day Fry-up for me again tonight, with extra beans!

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Fast Day Fry-Up (under 450kcal)

There’s nothing I love more than a filling, tasty Fast Day dinner which is quick & easy to make and doesn’t feel like diet food. After debating another nice summery salad tonight I’ve decided to go for this yummy fasting fry-up instead.

It couldn’t be easier!

1 Warburtons Sandwich Thin, toasted (100kcal)

A few sprays of Frylite (3kcal) or a few drops of oil brushed around the pan if, like me, you’d prefer it to taste right and aren’t too strict on your calories, +/-10% is fine with me!

2  medium eggs (160kcal)

3 slices lean pork loin ham (56kcal) I use Tescos sweetcure pork loin, delicious!

80g baby plum/cherry tomatoes (24kcal)

110g baked beans (100kcal)

I fry the eggs in minimal oil and when they’re almost done I chuck in the sliced ham to make it more ‘bacon-y’ and the little tomatoes to warm & soften them. Microwave the portion of beans for about 60-90 seconds when the eggs are almost ready and get the sandwich thins in the toaster at the same time.

Quick. Easy. Yummy. Filling. It may not be fancy, but all that protein will stay with you for longer.

…and calories to spare – so you can add 2 more pieces of ham, 200-300g (raw weight) white mushrooms (yuck! not for me!), another 60g of beans or swap a piece of ham plus those extra calories for a nice grilled or oven baked quorn sausage.

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No More Elephants in the Room – 5:2 Fast Dieters lose over 10 tonnes!

Over 5,000 members of the 52fastdiet.co.uk forum have been tracking their weight-loss progress on the 5:2 diet using the site’s unique progress tracker, and the combined total is now in excess of an impressive 13,800kg. That’s the equivalent of two elephants! The average rate of loss per dieter is 0.5 kg per week, and although all shapes and sizes are ‘losers’, the data reveals a great deal more information about how well different types of dieters (men vs women, younger vs older etc) are doing.

The progress tracker was designed by web developer Mariska (Moogie) Taylor.

“Anyone who wants to try the 5:2 diet can register at the free forum and enter their own weight data over time to see their progress graphically. Then they can compare with other members who have chosen to make their progress charts public,”  Moogie explains. “But on top of that we have anonymised and combined the data to give overall statistics. Because the 5:2 diet has only become popular recently, the evidence base for its success has been lacking. We now have a substantial and consistent set of data – albeit self-reported – which demonstrates that this way of eating really works! As we are all getting smaller, the data is getting bigger, and it no longer seemed right to keep it to ourselves, so we’ve made it public.”
While some may remain sceptical, Moogie is hoping that this new evidence will encourage more people to give the 5:2 diet a try.

 

“Some find it easier than others, but that is where the forum comes into its own: we have hundreds of posts every day – there are people who have been following 5:2 for many months and there are complete beginners, and it’s a very supportive place. So you can get advice, compare notes, celebrate your personal weight-loss achievement or pour out your woes!”

“To be quite honest I never expected my forum to take off. I just created it in January 2013 because it was what I was looking for and couldn’t find elsewhere.”

Mariska (Moogie) Taylor (forum admin)
About the 5:2 diet
The 5:2 Diet/’The Fast Diet’ is a revolutionary new way to lose weight and get healthier, pioneered by Dr Michael Mosley in BBC Horizon’s “Eat, Fast and Live Longer” documentary in August of 2012. Since then it has become an internationally best-selling book (‘The Fast Diet’, co-authored by Dr Michael Mosley & Mimi Spencer) and has spread rapidly from the UK to Europe, America, Canada, Australia and many other countries. The diet involves dramatically cutting calorie intake on two days of the week (to 500 calories for women, 600 calories for men) but eating normally on the other five days.

“I’ve spent just about my whole life hating my body and trying to lose weight. I have almost always been on one diet or another, but I’ve never kept the weight off in the long term. Since
starting 5:2 a year ago I have now lost 0ver 3 stone (20 kg) and have gone from being clinically obese to having a normal weight. More importantly, this way of eating feels quite sustainable, and once I have reached my target (not long now!) I am sure I can follow a milder form of this diet indefinitely to maintain my weight – as many of our forum members are already doing!”

Mariska (Moogie) Taylor
About the 52fastdiet.co.uk forum

mm tweet
The 52fastdiet forum was started after Moogie tweeted Dr Mosley shortly after the launch of his book in January 2013 and asked if he was planning to set up a forum – and if not, could she do it? He replied with two words “DO PLEASE”. (This tweet can be found on his twitter timeline on January 10th to the twitter account @MoogieTaylor). Moogie promptly purchased the domain 52fastdiet.co.uk and went about setting up a forum. She soon developed a Progress Tracker system to allow users to track their weight loss progress with 5:2. The forum has really taken off, gaining over 10,000 members since it launched in January, over half of whom are using the Progress Tracker system. At any given time there are at least as many unregistered guest users browsing the forum as registered users, and even up to five times as many. It’s become a really lovely community full of helpful advice, tips, support and encouragement. The progress tracker collates the data from all the users to create the forum-wide stats that are now available for public view.

 

 

Big thanks to Caroline & Dominic at the forum for helping me put together this ‘Press Release’ :)

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52 weeks on the 5:2 Diet (or ‘How to change your life in a year’)

Wow, doesn’t time fly?

I can hardly believe that this time last year I was over 23% heavier than I am now and really struggling to shift anything.

One year ago today was my first 5:2 fast day, just a few days after ‘Eat, Fast and Live Longer’ aired on the BBC. What a difference a year makes! My first fast, while successful in the sense that I managed on 500 calories without chewing my own arm off, was a something of a failure in all other respects – I hadn’t planned it as well as I’d thought. I embarked on my fasting journey knowing that I could easily eat breakfast late into the morning, and decided it would be easiest to skip breakfast, have a good sized lunch (‘to last me all day’) and a cuppa soup for dinner. Getting through until lunch time wasn’t much of a problem, I drank plenty of water to keep me going and had a delicious jacket potato with beans & some salad for my lunch – rather more substantial than my usual lunches. I was then ravenous all afternoon (strange, I thought) and by dinner time I was very much looking forward to my 100 calorie cuppa soup while hubby chowed down on something rather more dinner-like. One sip of the cuppa soup told me that perhaps spending several years in the larder had left the soup in something less than prime condition and I hastily poured it down the sink. Right, what else was there in the cupboard which might fill me up for those kind of calories? Not a lot to be honest. I measured what was probably the tiniest bowl of cornflakes known to man with perhaps all of a tablespoon of milk. It may not have been much, but it was nothing short of a banquet to me that evening! I survived through to morning and was pleased to note a loss on the scales the next day.

shame

Fast forward a year and my fasting method has changed somewhat, going right through until dinner time with only water, then enjoying a 250-500 calorie dinner. It seems perfectly normal to me now to have a couple of days a week where I don’t eat much. Actually it seems really strange having too many feed days in a row! For example, this week I’ve had to fast Monday & Wednesday instead of the usual Monday & Thursday – so Wednesday felt like Thursday, yesterday was Friday and now somehow I’m still working today?! Yes, I’m a creature of habit!

So, what’s changed in the last year as a result of the 5:2 diet?

I now love water

For a long while I struggled to drink plain water, it didn’t seem to quench my thirst. I mostly drank juices for some years, then swapped to squash for the sake of calories. After my very first fast day of drinking nothing but water I fell in love with the clear stuff. I tried a glass of squash and it was just too sweet! I’ve barely touched a drop in the last year.

I’m a lightweight

No, I’m not talking about having lost weight, I’m talking about booze! Yes folks, previously I seldom experienced hangovers and could get away with a reasonable amount of drink without feeling at all delicate the next day. These days a single glass of wine is enough to get me merry, two and I’m liable to notice an achy gut the next morning. I haven’t gone as far as 3 in a long while – at least not full strength stuff. I love low alcohol wine now – it tastes good, has less calories and I can enjoy a couple of glasses without feeling unwell. I don’t know whether this is more down to 5:2 or the weight loss. I guess it takes a bigger dose of tranquiliser to take down an elephant than a gazelle, so I suppose it takes more booze to bring down obese Moogie than healthy Moogie. It’s that or my body now tries to tell me off for consuming things which are in essence toxic.

I’m healthier!

Yes, as per my previous point I am happy to report that I have gone down from a BMI of almost 32 (obese – how did that happen? Oops!) to around 24.5 – in the healthy weight range for my height. I’d like to lose a little more to get into the mid healthy range – but Obese to Healthy in one year ain’t bad! I’m now over 20kg lighter than when I started and fitting back into size 10/12 clothes, when this time last year I was bulging out of my 16s and heading towards an 18 for the first time in my life. Goodness only knows how much body fat I’ve lost, I didn’t have a measurement for it when I started but since January I’ve gone down over 5% according to my scales and am in the upper healthy range for my age & gender. I’m on my way to getting fitter too so I can start toning up my slimmer self.

I look at food & hunger differently now

5:2 has certainly made me more in tune with my body’s needs compared with its wants. I’m more inclined to give myself smaller portions now and if my eyes are bigger than my belly then I will leave food on the plate. I don’t enjoy most processed foods anymore – I don’t want a chicken kiev & chips or all that ‘beige food’. If hubby wants it, that’s his choice but want to taste some real nutrition in my food these days. I’ve come to love my veggies and will bulk a meal out with them. My carb intake has naturally decreased a bit too, though I still love my potatoes, rice & pasta I feel better for eating salad or veg so focus on those and protein too of course. I’m so much more aware of what will satisfy and fill me up. Yes, there are times when I do overindulge – but I soon regret it (no, I don’t mean emotionally, I meal the physiological response/reaction) and that gives me a good reminder not to do it again anytime soon ;) Again, I see this as my body’s way of telling me I’ve overdone it. It’s funny, I find hunger so easy to ignore now that I think my husband’s a right wuss any time he moans he’s hungry and has to eat immediately.

Mealtimes? What are those?

I don’t really stick to set mealtimes/eating patterns anymore – with the exception of my fast days which are easy with just one meal. If I don’t feel hungry when I wake up then I don’t have breakfast, I’ll eat it later when I actually feel hungry. My body soon tells me if I’ve eaten just for the sake of it or because it was ‘time to eat’. Likewise if I’m not hungry at ‘lunchtime’, I don’t eat then, I’ll wait until I actually feel hungry. This has relieved me of the problem I’ve had for many years of not knowing what to eat for lunch. I always ate because it was ‘time to eat’. Now I wait until I’m hungry and I can get a feel for what my body needs. If I know dinner is going to be a bit late that day I can fill up on protein to keep me going for longer, or if I know dinner is going to be carb-heavy I balance it with a good pile of salad or veg for lunch. Sometimes I’ll just have a yogurt and fruit. I try to give my body what it needs or is really asking for. If there’s a piece of cake calling to me then I might on occasion have that instead of my lunch, or just that and a piece of fruit. No, it’s not something that would be good to do every day but it’s surely better than having it as well as lunch and overstuffing oneself?

I’m not alone

I’ve never wanted to go to a slimming club, I can’t stand the idea of groups and being weighed like that. I don’t even like the idea of group exercise, I guess I’ve always been more of a loner at my computer! However through 5:2 I have met so many wonderful people and learned a great deal from them at the forum. It’s lovely to get such support, praise & encouragement from my fellow dieters and to be able to share the same with them. At the forum we’re all equal, we’re all on the same journey together. I can’t believe I’ve been running the place almost 7 months already nor that it has reached over 10,000 members in this time.

No more guilt

Knowing that I can now manage my weight and control my food intake better I no longer feel guilty about eating foods which on most other diets would be classed as forbidden, ‘Syns’, naughty etc. I certainly still enjoy cake, chocolate (mostly dark these days, milk is too sweet) and biscuits regularly, but it’s part of an overall more balanced diet and I know I needn’t feel bad for enjoying those things. I feel free to enjoy my food.

I feel so much happier

For me I think this is one of the most important benefits of 5:2 – I feel so much happier in my life. Not only because I have a much better figure and can walk confidently with my head held high (and even showing a bit of skin!) but because I feel in control again. I’m enjoying all the foods I’ve always enjoyed, plus I’m enjoying lots of healthier foods which I wasn’t keen on before – and all the while, I’m losing weight. It’s been win-win all the way.

 

whatadifferenceyear

So, that’s how my life has changed after a year of 5:2 fasting, but where do I see myself this time next year? Why, in a bikini & hot pants of course! I hope to be another stone lighter and maintaining by then. I’m not sure how I plan to maintain, I guess I’ll be experimenting to see what works. I’d like to try keeping to 2 fasts a week but perhaps with a larger dinner so I can cook the same for both of us. That’s still a while off though and until then I’m happy to keep losing slowly & steadily while enjoying my food.

What I’d also like to be saying this time next year is that I have a better knowledge & understanding of diet, nutrition and the basic biology that goes with them. I’ve learned a lot from folks over at the forum and have found myself watching more documentaries about food and diet. I plan to invest in a couple of beginners books to expand my knowledge and hopefully be able to offer a bit more useful info & advice to members at the forum, other than just my own experiences from this way of eating.

 

Never have I kept to a ‘diet’ so long and loved it so much. I’ve certainly never had a diet change the way I think about food in this way. 5:2 really has been a life-changer for me, I hope it will be for you too.

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5:2 Summer Treats for in the Heat!

Just a quick blog today I’m afraid, got the in-laws coming over for dinner tonight and need to get prepping soon.

I’ve had a number of messages in recent weeks from folks struggling a bit with their fast days over the summer holidays – with their kids at home and enjoying all those delicious summer treats. Your fasting days should not be days you feel you have to suffer! You too can enjoy treats on your summer fast days if you plan ahead a little.

So, without further ado, some low calorie ideas for lovely summer treats you can enjoy with (or without!) the kids while you’re doing the 5:2 diet.

 

Homemade Ice Lollies

Quick to make, but they’ll take a while in the freezer, you can make fruity ice lollies from squash for just a few calories. If you find them too weak try using watered down juice instead for a bit more flavour (but watch the calories). Certainly less calories and far less cost involved than in your typical ice cream van’s lollies. Try adding some fresh berries for a bit of extra natural sweetness.

 

Hartley’s Sugar Free Fruit Jelly Pots

Now, I’m not into diet foods or ‘light’ products, but these are a great little treat to keep in the fridge. At less than 10 calories a pot you can enjoy a few of these on your fasting days for a fruity, filling treat. The kids’ll love them too! Or, you can mix up your own jelly from their jelly blocks and add in fresh berries (most which are generally pretty low cal, around 25-30 calories for 100g, with the exception of blueberries, 70 cal per 100g) or low calorie fruits such as mandarin segments (34kcal per 100g) to make it even more enjoyable.

 

Mixed Berry Fruit Salad with (or without!) Yogurt/Meringue

Nothing screams “Summer” moreso than a delicious fruit salad. Opting for plenty of low calorie fruits & berries you can have a nice big bowl full for minimal calories and really get that summer feeling. Top with a spoon or two of your favourite yogurt for a real treat, or crumble half of a meringue nest on top for a mere 26 calories! You should be able to have a good serving for around 100 calories.

 

Sorbet / Frozen Yogurt Cones

Ditch that high-calorie ice-cream and try a bit of sorbet in the summer! It’s refreshing and tangy and a scoop comes in at on average around 90kcal. Put it on a proper ice cream cone for another 20 calories and feel like you’re having an ice-cream with the kids for less than half the calories! There are also a lot of frozen yogurt ranges available now or ice-cream yogurt mixes, a scoop of which could come in at as little as 40-70 calories and would be fabulous mounted atop a 20 calorie ice cream cone.

 

Angel Delight Lollies – home made “Mini Milks”

This is one I’ve yet to try but am now really keen to – even for a feed day! Angel delight can indeed be frozen and enjoyed as low calorie alternative to ice cream. The sugar free varieties come in at around 1kcal per gram (with a normal made-up Angel delight serving size being around 90g) so weigh up the amount you’re putting in your lolly moulds and keep them small & sweet! If you’re using a fruity Angel Delight why not try making it with fruit juice instead of semi-skimmed milk and add in some fresh chopped strawberries to lower the calories and add more goodness. How about chocolate Angel Delight made up with orange juice for that Terry’s Chocolate Orange taste? I’m going to give this a go when I get the shopping in at the weekend!

 

Well, I hope some of these ideas help you through your summer holiday fasts with the kids :) Do bear in mind that sugary fruits & treats may make you feel more hungry (but sometimes it’s worth it!).

Don’t forget if you’re careful with your calories you can finish the day off with a delicious fasting burger & salad for dinner – though you’ll need to leave out the cheese and reduce the dressing or salad size to account for the tasty snacks above! Well worth it for enjoying some summer feeling treats with your family.

 

 

 

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