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?

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!



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’ 🙂

5:2 Blog Launch (time to get this show on the road!)

Well, I’ve had this domain for quite some time and didn’t get around to doing much with it. I find myself answering more and more questions through Twitter, Facebook and the forum these days and while the latter are great, Twitter does somewhat limit the length of my replies and I can’t help but feel it would be nice to write a bit more.

So, here I am with my very first proper blog!

As you can see I’ve started to fill it out with some articles/answers about common 5:2 questions. I’ve got so much more planned but I may as well open this place to the public first or I’ll be sat at my desk for weeks writing everything up before anyone sees it.

So, what is Come Fast With Me?

In part it will be a something of a journal of my 5:2 experiences including things I cook up, recipes and interesting 5:2 diet/Fast Diet articles I find, 5:2 news from the forum and especially the Progress Tracker stats which are proving to be quite interesting. I hope to answer some of the more common questions which are raised time and again as well as sharing any tips I pick up along the way.

I’ve been doing 5:2 for almost a year now and I wish I’d started this blog sooner – so much to write up still. I feel like I could write a book.

So, what’s coming next on Come Fast With Me?

Well, there are a few more common questions I need to write about as well as a few of my favourite Fast Day dinners to add. I want to get together a fairly comprehensive list of 5:2 diet articles found in the online media and when I feel like it I may write what I think of them 🙂 Next up I think will be an article about my top tips for newbies to the 5:2 fasting diet.

Why “Come Fast With Me”?

I was chatting with a friend who was thinking of trying 5:2 and she suggested to me that if we were both doing it, we could do ‘Come Dine With Me’ fasting nights where we try to make a tasty (maybe even fancy!) three course dinner within our fasting day 500 calorie allowance. I love that idea and I’ve already got some meal plans to perfect and add to the site. Fasting doesn’t have to be boring food or lonely either – fasting dinner parties could be the next big thing! I’d love to do a Come Fast With Me book but haven’t a clue how to get started and would need some suitable foodies on board to get enough recipes together. I thought something like that would be a fantastic way to raise more money for Foodbank. Now I’ve put the idea out there someone will probably steal it, but as long as the money goes to charity it’s all fine with me.

A new 5:2 Diet blog :)

Well, I’ve been doing the 5:2 diet for some 10 months now, and running a successful 5:2 Fasting Forum for almost half that time. It’s been a bit awkward setting up extra info pages on the forum site and so I thought I’d start a separate 5:2 site/blog for ease of updating & adding new pages – think of it as a sister site to the forum.

I’m not sure if I’ll be blogging here as such or just posting up interesting articles and static pages. We’ll see how this develops over time I guess!

Still a bit of tidying to do here, like replacing the default images and updating the footer text. I should try to sort out some kind of logo in the same vein as the 5:2 forum header too. All in good time! I doubt anyone’s even reading this as yet, being unfinished and not yet submitted to good old Google.