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!