Losing weight again! 5:2 Plateau broken after 2 months

Well, I must have Friday brain because I simply couldn’t think of a decent title for today’s blog entry. Oh dear, I seem to have given it all away in a single line!

The dreaded plateau

If you look at my 5:2 weight loss charts you’ll see that for the last two months I’ve been on something of an frustrating wibbly wobbly journey between 66.8-67.3kg. Don’t ask me what that is in lbs, I’ve always weighed myself in kilos due to the old Dutch rule my dad taught me “Your ideal weight is your height, less 1 meter”, i.e. if you’re 1.64m tall then 64kg is ideal for you. Seems to hold true to some degree, or at least for me. Much of my adult life (when not hideously overweight) has been spent at around the 64-66kg mark which I can usually maintain at reasonably well.

My goal weight – at least the first of my goals – has been set at 65kg, a nice round number and hopefully a somewhat less round Moogie. It’s hardly surprising then that as I have neared this weight the losses have slowed down rather. Things weren’t helped by an indulgent holiday in May just prior to my birthday (along with which, of course, came more indulgence) when I didn’t fast at all and in fact probably consumed close to double my daily needs at a guess! I got home and decided not to weigh for at least a week so as not to shock myself. After a week of fasting I was still about 4lbs up on my pre-holiday weight, thankfully this came off relatively quickly but since then I have been on something of a plateau and starting to get a little annoyed with it. I’ve had brief plateaus before – a few weeks here and there but this was getting silly.

Excuses, excuses?

There seemed to be a reason each week that it wasn’t really changing or had gone up a teensy bit – a friend’s birthday, family occasions, that accidental but oh so delicious tub of chocolate fudge brownie Ben & Jerry’s… I checked my TDEE against what I was eating and realised I was probably more or less breaking even on my calories – not good for weight loss. My own stupid fault then?

Move it!

Okay, so that was the couple of weeks explained and I decided that rather than cutting back on my intake, I’d try to increase the calories I burned. Now, I’m a desk monkey by trade – I live on my arse most of the day and due to the atrocious weather in the early parts of this summer unfortunately this continued into the evening most days. Probably not wise! I read a little bit about NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis – a fancy way of saying get off your bum once in a while and move about you lazy woman) and decided to give that a go. I set an alarm for every 20 minutes and when it went off I got up and moved around for a minute or two, or worked from a standing position (not so easy with a sitting down style desk) – it felt like it was doing something and for that weigh in I came down just a little bit. Unfortunately with a big project on for work it wasn’t going to be easy to keep stopping my development every 20 minutes every day so I decided to introduce a different form of exercise.

I invested in a folding exercise bike since space is a bit limited at home for something like that and began with it on the lowest setting for all of about 10 minutes a day. Over the next few weeks this setting increased a bit and the time spent on the bike was a minimum of 20 minutes, usually more and sometimes as many as 45 minutes depending on how engaging the TV I park it in front of was ūüėČ I fully expected to only maintain for a couple of weeks as fat hopefully turned to muscle which we all know weighs more. Calories out were certainly higher than calories in and after a few weeks I was surprised that the scales still weren’t shifting on any permanent basis. Still the same half kilo fluctuation for a full 7 weigh ins, argh. I wish I hadn’t gone so mad on holiday, but the food was so good! You’d think that sitting in the boat in the middle of a lake in the pouring rain would be conducive to fasting, but believe you me this is far from the case. A packet of ‘boredom biscuits’ is essential in these circumstances, no nibbles from fish so instead we satisfy ourselves with nibbling biscuits. Sometimes crisps.

A normal experience?

During my time at the forum I have read various stories of plateaus lasting anything from a few weeks to a couple of months – and it seems in most cases they do resolve themselves with time. It’s as if the body just needs a bit of time to catch up with itself and register that it has a new ‘normal’ weight before it is willing to lose any more. I don’t know if there’s any scientific basis for this, but I’ve been trying to go with the theory that as long as I wasn’t overeating over the course of each week the weight would eventually start to come off again.

Diet mashup?

I toyed with the idea of mixing in some other diets as I know some members have used the Atkins ‘Attack Phase’ to kick start things or have tried adding in extra fasting days (4:3 instead of 5:2), low-carbing etc. – but none of these quite sat right with me. I love 5:2, I trust 5:2 – it has worked for me for the best part of the year and I had to trust that it would continue to do so. I didn’t want to have to try other diets, for me 5:2 isn’t a diet, it’s a way of life and I love it because I don’t feel like I’m restricted. I want to be able to depend on this way of eating to look after my weight in the long term without the need for restricting myself in other ways. I love carbs, that isn’t going to change and 5:2 for me means I don’t have to change that. Yes, I eat more veg & fruit now, more healthy choices in general but don’t you dare take away my potatoes, rice & pasta!

The reality

So, what have I done? Well, I’ve continued the exercise biking, no point in stopping now as I could certainly do with toning a bit now I’m near my goal. I’ve continued to eat well (and by well I don’t just mean healthy but also enjoying cakes, biscuits, takeaways etc.) and enjoy my food on my feed days. Maybe I’ve been a little more mindful of calories but if so it’s certainly not been a conscious effort. Truth be told if I kept a food diary I don’t think my noted intake would have changed drastically between the start of the plateau and now. Even in those more indulgent weeks with social occasions I tried to balance the intake as best I could.

Background

On average just prior to my holiday in May I was losing around 250g/half a pound a week – a noticeable slowdown from the prior half kilo/1lb losses but acceptable due to the minimal impact 5:2 has on my life compared with the daily grind of calorie restriction – for which suffering I would hope to enjoy greater weekly losses. In the few weeks leading up to the holiday I had started experimenting with liquid only (up to 50 calories in the form of a low calorie cuppa soup) fasts once or twice a week to try to increase the losses, although this didn’t seem to really make any difference (see my progress chart for April – note the couple of week plateau late March/early April was due to being poorly, coupled with wedding anniversary & hubby’s birthday celebrations!). On returning from holiday and all that overeating I found my next fast was much like my very first fast and couldn’t/didn’t want to stick to a liquid fast. Since then I haven’t bothered at all with liquid fasts and have gone back to 200-500 calories on my fasting days.

Fast forward… (‘fast’ – get it?!)

Imagine then my delight this morning when I weighed in to find I had lost an entire kilo compared with the same time last week. Just over 2lbs in a week! I can’t really explain it – any changes I’ve made in a bid to get through this plateau were started weeks ago, I’ve no idea why it would suddenly kick in now. I can only assume that it’s been nothing to do with them really but what I have gone through is a natural phase of adjustment after such a long time eating this way and when approaching my ‘usual’ weight. I can confirm that my water/body fat % has fluctuated as minimally as my weight, but today the fat has dropped noticeably.

Almost as pleasing as having broken through the plateau is the fact that I have now lost over 20kg on the 5:2 diet and shrunk down to around a size 12!

jeans1614b

 

Other 5:2 Diet Plateau-ers

I don’t seem to be alone in this prolonged plateau followed by a higher than average loss, others on the forum have reported the same (although some can put it down to changes they have made). Here are a few related topics if you’re interested:

¬Ľ Hooray! I’m off the Plateau!

¬Ľ Finally!!! 7 Week Plateau Blown Away

¬Ľ Off that loooooong 7-week plateau!!

¬Ľ Plateau broken….hopefully

¬Ľ Finally broke through Plateau !

…and one of the forum’s most popular topics, courtesy of Caroline:

Why do the scales show an increase when I’ve been so good?

 

Stuck?

So if you’re experiencing a 6 week+ plateau on 5:2, be patient and just give it a bit of time. If you want to feel like you’re doing something, check your TDEE just to be sure you’re not overeating and try to move a bit more if you can – it may just be enough to shake things up and get the weight loss going again! Try not to get frustrated, just keep reminding yourself that you are essentially maintaining your weight while still eating the foods you enjoy most of the time. Isn’t that in itself an achievement to be happy about? Give it a few more weeks and things may well get going again.

We’d love to hear about your 5:2 plateau experiences at the forum to improve our understanding of when and why they may occur and what can be done to help people break through them, if anything. It’s free to register at the forum and there are hundreds, nay – thousands, of friendly folks there to chat with about fasting and more.

 

20kgsugar

Top tips for 5:2 diet newbies & first time fasters!

One of the most common questions which I’m asked by newbies to the 5:2 Diet via Twitter, the forum, Facebook and email is “got any tips?“.

Indeed I do! I’ve been doing this for close to a year now, and these are the things I would say are most important for first time fasters when embarking on their first 5:2 diet fasting day.

1. Don’t be afraid!

This¬†seems to be¬†a really common feeling among first time fasters – fear. What are they afraid of? Usually, hunger. Around the world people live with hunger every day and survive, really there’s no need for anyone in a developed nation to worry about eating rather less a couple of days a week. Hunger is not something to be afraid of even if it is something of an unknown to many of us. We’re so used to just eating something the minute we feel peckish. People seem to think that hunger will just get progressively worse if not fed, but as Dr Mosley described on Eat, Fast and Live Longer, hunger comes in waves. It passes. It’s really nothing to be afraid of and when you learn to accept hunger and ignore it there is a certain kind of smugness one can enjoy at the sense of control this gives you over your body’s urges. Don’t be afraid, be proud of yourself for what you’re doing and what you’re going to achieve through it. A bit of willpower goes a long way and ‘dieting’ just twice a week really¬†can change your life.

2. Drink Water. Plenty of it.

Did you know that more often than not, what we think is hunger is actually thirst? Most people don’t drink enough clear fluids. On a fasting day water really is your friend.

Feeling hungry? Have a glass of water Рit will fill you up or quench that thirst you mistook for hunger!

Feeling tired? You’re probably dehydrated. Have a glass of water!

Got a headache? You may be dehydrated. Have a glass of water!

Noticing a theme here? Water is great. For the first few months I drank so much water on my fast days that I was up and down to the loo like a… um… person who has drunk too much water. With time, you learn to deal with the hunger and the other minor side effects tend to fade too – and with that your water consumption will probably decrease too.

3. Plan your fasting day meals

In the early days of fasting the last thing you want is to be going out food shopping trying to find what you’re going to eat! Decide ahead of time how you plan to spend your calories and stick with it. Buy things in advance, and if you don’t think you can face cooking on the day you can even prepare meals ahead of time. I love to batch cook some of my 5:2 dinner favourites and have a freezer full of yummy things like Quorn Bolognese, chilli, ratatouille, lasagne and more! While processed foods aren’t generally recommended in a healthy diet, you may find it easier to simply buy in a quality ready meal¬†or two for your fasting days, no need to cook or count the calories – just bung it in the microwave and voila! Instant calorie-counted meal. Too many calories in the ready meal you want? Use half of it, bulk out with steamed veg (another¬†pre-calorie-counted¬†microwavable delight) and save the other half for another day. Simple!

3. Keep Busy!

Few things make a fast day more difficult than a day where there’s nothing to do. Time drags by and makes it seem difficult, particularly if you are used to eating often. Keeping busy on your fast day will make it go by more quickly and of course be more enjoyable! The more time you spend doing other things the less time you’ll spend thinking about food. Believe me a lot of newbie fasters will spend a great deal of time thinking about food – and fantasizing about the amazing breakfast they want to have the next day! Oddly enough come the next morning most of us find we’re not the ravenous fiends we expect to be and are happy to have a normal breakfast. If you’ve got nothing to keep you busy on your fasting day, why not have a good old read around the 5:2 forum and join in some of the conversations there? It’s a great time killer and you’re bound to pick up some great tips & advice about this way of eating as well as making some new 5:2er friends to support you on your weight loss journey! Alternatively why not go for a walk or do some¬†exercise? You may well burn more fat while fasting and somehow it feels really good to break a sweat on a fast day. Actually, it’s a great way to distract from the hunger too. Spend your lunch break at the gym or have a walk around the block!

4. Don’t eat until you’re really hungry.

This is something you’ll probably have to adjust to over time, since you may not really know what hunger feels like beyond the usual peckish feeling. The longer you can wait before you eat, the longer fasting period you get in and the more time your body has to try to burn off some fat reserves. On top of this a great many of us at the forum have reported that the moment we eat something on a fast day, we start to feel hungry. It’s often easier to go without rather than kick starting the appetite and because of this a lot of Fast Dieters choose to save the majority of their calories for their evening meal. You can have a really good meal for around 500 calories and it’s well worth waiting for.¬† There’s an interesting topic about ‘The Hunger Switch’ at the forum which you might find useful. Remember the 5:2 diet is really flexible and you may need to experiment a bit to find out what works best for you in terms of dealing with hunger, when you need to eat and what sort of foods work best for you on a fasting day.

5. Headache tablets – don’t have them? Buy some!

Yes, a lot of people find they get headaches during their first few fasts. If a glass of water doesn’t fix it, don’t be afraid to take some headache tablets. Just make sure you check whether they’re okay to take on an empty stomach – aspirin based¬†pills¬†are a no-go, but paracetamol should be fine. Headaches can also be a sign of withdrawal symptoms, most often from sugar or caffeine. Sugar is something you should try to avoid on a fasting day if possible as it often makes you more hungry, caffeine on the other hand is fine and will help keep those withdrawal headaches at bay. Just remember black coffee and black tea are calorie free but if you’re adding sugar, sweeteners or milk you need to count those calories!

6. Don’t overload your tummy the next day (listen to your body)

Okay, so strictly speaking this isn’t for your first fast day, but it’s an important one. I’ve noticed people reporting tummy pains the day after their first few fasts, or a sudden dash to the toilet after eating (someone at the forum referred to this as ‘rapid transit’, which tickles me!). This generally¬†doesn’t mean something is wrong and in my experience it is usually a case of overloading your stomach with food after a fast. Maybe you ate breakfast even though you didn’t feel hungry (you’ll soon learn not to do this!), maybe you had a normal sized breakfast but your body only needed a small one. Maybe you just needed to wait until mid morning before your first meal. There’s a lot of conflicting information online about whether breakfast is really as important as it’s made out to be. There are arguments on both sides but I would say that one of the greatest things about 5:2 is how it gets you back in tune with your body’s needs. If your body has complained about something you’ve put in it, learn to listen. Feed it at a different time, feed it less, feed it something else. Work out what it needs rather than what you want and go with that. You’ll be glad you did ūüôā I almost never have breakfast before 10.30am these days and quite often it’s nearer lunch time before hunger actually kicks in. For years I’ve eaten breakfast because it’s what we’re told to do, but I seldom actually woke up hungry. But that’s an article for another time methinks!

 

Well those are my top 5:2 tips, but I’m sure there are plenty more that other Fast Dieters can offer you! There’s a whole thread of 5:2 tips & advice at the forum which you can read here.

There was also a video on YouTube with some great advice for newbies, unfortunately it seems to have been taken down Рhowever the site which posted it still includes the article which went with it, which you can read here.

And don’t forget – it does get easier!

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 ūüôā 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.

How do I do the 5:2 diet / The Fast Diet?

It really is very simple! These are the ‘rules’ of the 5:2 Diet/The Fast Diet. There are only two and they make it really flexible.

  • You fast two days a week, ideally non-consecutive days are easier for most but you can do consecutive days if necessary.
  • A fasting day is this: wake up, consume no more than your calorie allowance (600 calories¬†for men/500 calories for women), go to sleep. Wake up and eat as normal the next day.

Yes, that’s it! The rest is up to you.

This is the ultimate in flexible diets Рafter all, a diet should fit around you and not the other way around! So, you can pick and choose your days each week based around social or work commitments as needed. If you prefer you can choose two days and stick to them each week, just swapping things around if other events crop up.

As for how to spend your calorie allowance, well that’s up to you as well! Some prefer to split it into several smaller meals, The Fast Diet book recommends having a breakfast and dinner but many of us at the forum have found that as soon as we eat we just feel more hungry and instead have opted to save the majority of our calories for a nice big dinner. You can eat well on a 500-600 calorie dinner! Plenty of non-starchy veg are ideal with a nice side of low calorie, low fat protein such as chicken, lean ham, fish or egg. I’ve written a post about what to eat on your fasting days too, you can find it here.

Remember that you do not have to consume the entire calorie allowance if you prefer not to. Sometimes I make a huge salad for around 250 calories and that’s more than enough to fill me up and keep me going. Some people prefer to stick to liquids only on their fast days, although the number of calories will depend on the liquid. I wouldn’t recommend a liquid only fast for beginners!

Some of us prefer to start our fast after dinner the night before our fasting day, but this is by no means mandatory or essential. It may save you a few calories over the course of the week and get you out of those bad habits of evening snacking though.

So, a typical 5:2 fasting day lasts around 36 hours – from dinner the night before until breakfast the day after.

2pm-2pm Fasting – a 24 hour fast?

There has been some confusion over the duration of the fast as technically it is only one day, but this does not mean it is only 24 hours – there is a sleep either side of the fasting day, making it nearer 36 hours. In The Fast Diet book Mimi Spencer mentions a 2pm-2pm “24 hour fast” as an alternative however this is rather confusing and somewhat misleading as those who have tried to fast with this method have found the weight loss to be minimal. The problem seems to be that with this method the calorie deficit is reduced as most would have a lunch before starting their fast, then fast through until a late lunch the next day. This in effect replaces only a dinner and breakfast with 500 calories of food rather than a whole day’s worth. If you are going to try the 24 hour/”1 sleep” method be advised that the weight loss will be slower than with the original method unless you remember not to have two lunches! Ideally you should have lunch, do your 24 hour of fasting and then not eat a meal again until dinner time (I suppose you can get away with a healthy¬†afternoon snack to break your fast).

How I came to be on the 5:2 Diet

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 – general healthy eating; cutting out the ‘bad’ things for months on end; SlimFast; Adios diet pills; Rosemary Conley; nothing but salad for dinner… I’ve never kept the weight off in the long term and throughout my adult life have varied between 56-86kg. I could never keep to any of those ways of eating in the long term, and being a self confessed lazy cow I’ve always avoided exercise. I could make the excuse of how difficult I found P.E. at school due to having asthma and not being diagnosed with it or given an inhaler until I was in my teens and that it put me off, but we all make too many excuses for why we got fat. I’m just lazy and I love my food.

I slimmed down to a size 8 when I found myself in a particularly stressful time with an overly controlling man but when the situation changed for the better I soon started to re-gain the weight I had worked so hard to lose. In hindsight having regained some of it was probably a good thing – my relationship with food was bordering on an anorexic way of eating and obsessing over my ‘10,000 or more steps a day’ plus exercise regime. Meeting my now-husband led me to relax and indulge in food again. I maintained at around 65kg for a few years but it slowly started to creep up. We got married almost 2 years ago and at that point I had ‘only’ hit around the 72kg mark – another stone. Christmas seemed to be the main problem, I’d overindulge and get used to it, eating too much for a couple of months after.

After the wedding I was so fed up of trying to control my weight (I lived on salads for about 4 months before the wedding to make sure I’d still fit in my dress!) that I decided not to care. I decided I was fat and that was just how I’d always be, so I may as well accept & enjoy it.

I enjoyed it a little too much, giving up on weighing – well the batteries in the scales had died anyway – and just buying bigger and bigger clothes. Last summer I had to buy something nice to wear for a meal out and it was while in the changing rooms I took a good look at myself and how I was bulging out of size 16 clothes. The thought of having to try on an 18 for the first time in my life was a major shock and I decided to get some batteries for the scales ASAP.

The scales were not kind to me. I took a guess at ‘just under 80kg’ and was devastated to step on and find myself almost a stone off the mark, 86kg. The most I’ve ever weighed. No wonder I couldn’t undress happily in front of hubby anymore and no wonder it felt like my backside was following me around.

Enough was enough, I decided to lose the weight.

So, I started doing everything I’d normally do to lose weight. Daily exercise, albeit on the old exercise bike for 30-40 minutes and a much healthier diet, less treats & snacks. Move more, eat less, eat healthier. That had always worked in my 20’s when I set my mind to it.

Over a couple of months doing this my weight varied between about 84-86kg. I’d lose a bit and then regain, nothing seemed to keep it off and whether I tried more exercise or less food it simply wouldn’t budge. I got quite low with this and due to a few other issues I’d been having I went to see the doc. I wondered if I might have a thyroid condition (several family members do) or perhaps be pre-diabetic. There had to be something which could explain the lack of weight loss. The doc did a dozen or more blood tests, and although no major conditions turned up (to my relief!) it did look as though I’d had a virus for some time and the doc thought this could explain why I couldn’t seem to shift the weight with what I had been doing. I decided just to let my body recover and to try the diet & exercise again once I was 100%.

When I was back to normal I started the regime again, with little effect. It was around this time I spotted an article on the BBC News website about the forthcoming Horizon documentary. It sounded interesting and I made a note to watch it. I’m so glad I did, it has changed my life.

After watching the documentary I decided to try the 5:2 diet myself, despite the lack of human tests – I had nothing to lose, but weight! I opted for Mondays & Thursdays to allow me to fill up on a good roast on the Sunday evening and so my weekends would be free for social occasions. I started the first Thursday after the documentary and was really excited about it. I’m a very stubborn (or determined, depending on how you look at it :)) girl and that has made it easier for me to stick to going without food when I’ve decided to do so. My first fast day wasn’t very well planned, I had decided I’d be best having a larger lunch and a cuppa soup for dinner. Well the lunch was fine and filled me up, but by dinnertime was ravenous and the old cuppa soup I’d found in the cupboard did not taste right at all! I didn’t have much else in the house which would fit my remaining 100ish calories, so I opted for what was probably the tiniest bowl of cereal ever – perhaps a tablespoon? with a tinier splash of milk. Each flake was a banquet, eaten singly on the smallest spoon I could find. I wasn’t full, but I wasn’t starving and stuck with it the rest of the day. Being in the habit of weighing every day I hopped on the scales the next morning as was delighted to see I had lost some weight. I forget how much, I didn’t keep track of it early on. I couldn’t bear to write down the numbers which had been so shocking to me.

My subsequent fasts were much better planned, with lunch & dinners of around 250 cals each. Skipping breakfast was easy and I filled up on water most of the day. It seemed so easy, and although I kept restricting my calories on my feed days in the first couple of months, I soon learned that I didn’t need to. I couldn’t manage as much anyway and tended towards healthier choices, but was able to have treats and not only not gain weight but more importantly not feel guilty about it!

Within 3 weeks I had lost around half a stone and my family were starting to notice. After 6 weeks a stone was gone and I started to notice the loss was slowing down a bit. With hindsight it may just have been ‘that time of the month’ which seems to play with my weight a little. Nonetheless I decided a change was necessary and I opted to switch to having just 1 meal a day on my fasts, in the evening. I’d save enough calories for a low cal hot choc or slim-a-soup at lunchtime. This meant I’d be going around 24 hours with 0-40 cals, and it did indeed seem to give the loss a bit of a kick start again. By Christmas I’d made it back to my wedding weight and decided to keep fasting over the festive period, being that Christmas eating was usually my downfall.

Admittedly my Christmas fasts weren’t so strict – I didn’t stop eating after dinner the night before and I probably allowed myself more like 600-650 cals, including some chocolates during the day. In the first week I lost 1lb – I was amazed! In the second week, which involved far more indulgence in all the edible presents received, I regained most of that pound. But, overall I came out quarter of a pound less over Christmas than before. I didn’t feel like I’d missed out at all, I’d eaten like a pig most of the time and my fasting days actually seemed a welcome break from all the chocolate and fatty things.

The 5:2 diet made my jeans fall down!
My size 16 jeans were soon too big for me thanks to the 5:2 Diet!

It took me a few weeks to get back on track with my feed day eating – so many cakes & treats left from Christmas I was probably nearing 2500-3000 cals a day on feed days. The weight loss was slower but steady, around half a pound to a pound a week. I’ve now cut out that hot choc/soup from my fast days and have a 400-500 cal dinner instead. Usually my dinners are fairly normal looking in size content ‚Äď chilli, bolognaise, lasagne, ratatouille, a light roast with loads of vegetables, chunky veg soup. I don’t really feel like it’s diet food, and I’ve not cut out carbs at all.

I still eat plenty of treats on my feed days, and we must average a takeaway or dinner out a few times a month, not to mention when we have friends over and I cook up a feast! The weight continues to come off at around a pound a week, some weeks I might stay the same and the next I might lose a little extra. I don’t mind it being slower now. I fell out of my size 16s months ago and my 14s are falling down now. I need to go jeans shopping soon to try some 12s! I’m smaller than I’ve been in years and yet eating all my favourite things. I feel so much better in myself – no restrictions, no guilt, continued loss. My flabby bits that used to catch on each other when I bent over have gone, my eczema is improved and my asthma is better in general. I sleep better than I have in years, and my skin looks great. Weight is coming off from places I want it to come off from – I’m not losing my boobs as much as usual!

I feel happy and I feel like I could keep living this way forever. Never has a way of eating been so easy or so beneficial. Roll on next fast day – and next weigh day!

How The 5:2 Fast Diet Forum began with just a tweet…

Having been quite an early adopter of the 5:2 Diet (later to be known as The Fast Diet thanks to the book of the same name by Dr Mosley & Mimi Spencer) in August of 2012 I eventually started looking online for other likeminded souls. I guess my friends in real life were getting tired of hearing my evangelical babbling about the wonders of the 5:2 fasting method and I just wanted someone else who understood that I could talk with!

Towards the end of the year I discovered a number of Facebook groups about this amazing way of eating, some of which were more active than others. It was through these groups that I found out about Dr Mosley’s then forthcoming book and placed my pre-order right away. I couldn’t wait for it to arrive and to be able to share it around once I’d read it. Actually to this day it’s still out on loan.¬†Not that it matters, you really don’t need any books to do 5:2, all the info you need is out there free of charge (much of which can be found on the forum!).

With the launch of The Fast Diet book came an official website, minimal but something at least. Many of us on the Facebook groups had hoped for a forum as the now quite busy groups were getting harder and harder to follow due to the volume of posts Рand important information was getting lost down the page all too quickly due to the nature of Facebook groups in general. A forum was needed in order to better organise the information and allow it to be found more easily.

Several of us tweeted the good Doctor about this need and his responses indicated that he didn’t intend or have the time¬†to set up a forum. As a web developer myself with forum admin experience and some spare server space kicking around I offered my services. The two-word tweet I received in response would prove to be yet another life changer (the diet itself being the first of course!) for me from Dr Michael Mosley.

mm tweet

I tweeted him a simple message thanking him for the 5:2 diet and asking if I could set up a forum for my fellow 5:2 dieters. His response as you see above was simply a quoted reply with the words ‘DO PLEASE’ added. This can still be found on his Twitter timeline.

I immediately set about purchasing a suitable domain name and installing the forum software Рand thus The 5:2 Fast Diet Forum was born, so named to ensure both important keywords were covered and help us (hopefully!) be found by Google.

Members trickled in from the Facebook group and slowly but surely the forum grew. As I found myself with a bit of unexpected free time in the first couple of weeks of the forum’s existence, I decided to develop a ‘Weight Loss Progress Tracker’ to allow members to graph their 5:2 diet success and with the hope of learning a little more about the effectiveness of the diet. The system has seen much development since its launch, including forum-wide stats compiled on a regular basis which display graphically how different types of people are doing on The Fast Diet. The data can be filtered by things such as age group, starting BMI, gender, length of time on the diet and really does offer some interesting figures. New features such as graph trendlines and a¬†TDEE calculator are now much valued and well used features of the 5:2¬†Diet¬†Progress Tracker.

In the first 6 months the 5:2 diet forum gained over 8,000 registered users with up to 200 browsing at any one time. The forum became so busy that before long it needed a more professional look, extra pages of information and additional staffers. The server started to fall over, it was just too busy Рat which point a VPS was set up and the site moved to its new, better equipped home.

We are now getting close to the 10,000 members mark, with around half of the members logging their 5:2 diet results on the Progress Tracker! When interest in the 5:2 diet/The Fast Diet peaked we were gaining around 70-100 new members a day. Even now we still have over 30 newbies join us every day and around 400-500 new posts too. That’s more than ten times as many posts per day as the next most popular Fast Diet¬†forum ūüėČ

No doubt there will be more to add to this story as the forum continues to grow, but for now if you want to know more why not head over there yourself and take a look around? ūüôā

5:2 Fasting Diet Burger & Salad

For the last 10 months or so I’ve been saving all my fasting day calories for a nice big dinner of up to 500 calories. As you can imagine, you can have some pretty nice, big meals for 500kcal and this is one¬†I had last week and has been put on the menu again this week! It tastes like real summer BBQ food but lower cal, so filling and good enough to eat on a feed day too! Yes, I did that a few days later, but added a few homemade potato wedges as hubby dearest wanted some.

Fasting dinners don’t have to be complicated or time consuming to prepare. They don’t have to look like restaurant food to be tasty, filling and most importantly nutritious.

Fasting day burger for 5:2 diet
Tasty fasting day burger for 5:2 dieters

I found a pack of reduced Warburton’s Sandwich Thins at my local Co-op and decided they might come in handy for my fasting days at just 100kcal per sandwich thin. They’re available in white or brown, but my local shop only had white. Since having a burger in a sandwich thin I’ve decided they work much better than a typical burger bap or bun, not only in terms of calories but also to reduce bloating and allow you to enjoy the meat more. I for one will make sure these are always in my cupboard from now on!

 

Anyway, this is what the meal consisted of:

Fasting Day Burger (355kcal)

1 Warburtons Sandwich Thin (100kcal)

1 Grilled Tesco Tomato & Herb Beef Burger (205kcal)

10g Cheddar Cheese (approx. 40kcal)

10g Burger Relish (approx. 10kcal)

The cheese was delicious with the tomato¬†in the burger¬†(I probably didn’t even need the relish it was so tasty), I melted it on under the grill after giving the burger a good squeeze to reduce the fat. The sandwich thin was all the nicer for going under the grill for a short spell too, a slightly crispy burger bun, yum!

Of course with such a small amount of bread this wasn’t going to be very filling, hence…

 

Giant Low Calorie Fasting Day Salad  (139kcal)

I like a nice salad dressing, and with the basic vegetables being so low calorie I don’t see the harm in making them even tastier with a nice rich dressing! I also like to throw in a bit of extra protein to help fill me up. Oh, and also because¬†I love ham ūüôā

100g iceburg lettuce (15kcal)

100g cucumber (12kcal)

80g baby plum tomatoes (16kcal)

1.5tbsp Tesco garlic & herb salad dressing (57kcal)

3 slices Tesco Lean Sweetcure Pork Loin (39kcal)

Salt & pepper

What should I eat on my feed days? What is TDEE?

The fasting diet books would have us believe that we need only eat ‘as normal’ on our feed/feast days, however for many of us this doesn’t really say enough. A great deal of us have become overweight for the very reason that we have lost touch with what normal eating is.

So, what is a normal daily intake?

Nutrition labels would have us believe that a normal intake is around 2000 calories for a woman and 2500 calories for a man. That’s quite a broad generalisation though and is akin to taking a shoe and saying that it will fit anyone. In the case of calorific intake one size sadly does not fit all! If you live a mostly inactive lifestyle your needs may be considerably lower – although with a higher body mass you may find your needs are actually higher just to keep your body going at its current size.

If you were maintaining weight prior to starting the 5:2 diet then your daily intake was just right for your body’s daily needs and this is how you should continue to eat on your feed days.

If you were gaining weight or losing weight prior to starting the 5:2 diet then your daily intake was not ‘normal’, but was above or below your daily needs. You may need to calculate your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) to get an idea of how much you should be eating as a ‘normal daily intake’ for your body’s needs. TDEE varies based on your height, weight, gender, age and activity level so it’s important you calculate it based on your own figures & circumstances. There are various TDEE calculators available online which are simple to complete. Alternatively you an sign up for free to use the 5:2 Diet Progress Tracker at the forum and this will calculate your TDEE for you, with the added benefit of updating the figure as you lose weight (remember, the more weight you lose, the less calories your body needs to function). Wherever you calculate your TDEE, be sure to set the calculator to maintenance rather than a figure for weight loss – you need to eat to a maintenance level on your feed days as your weekly calorie deficit comes from your fasting days.

So, although the 5:2 method isn’t about calorie counting every single day, you may find in the early days you will need to keep track of your feed day intake as well as your fast days, to ensure you are not overeating compared with your body’s needs. Some of us have found that the weight loss is improved by mixing things up a bit on our feed days, for example rather than sticking strictly to our TDEE every feed day we have a couple of days over TDEE (for example, a slightly more indulgent weekend!) and stay similarly under TDEE on the other days. This seems to keep the metabolism guessing somewhat – as well as allowing us to have a bit of a foodie splurge from time to time.

As for the sorts of foods you can eat, well as has been previously covered, no foods are off limit. It’s all about eating a normal amount rather than cutting out entire food groups. Some 5:2ers choose to combine this way of eating with other methods such as Paleo or Low-carbing on their feed days. Some even mix in a bit of Atkins! But, that’s down to individual desires¬†and you certainly don’t need to do anything more than 5:2 to shift those pounds. Many of us Fast Dieters find ourselves making more healthy choices naturally as a result of this way of eating and even reducing portion sizes as we learn to listen to our bodies and realise just how much we used to eat unnecessarily. We don’t feel the same desperate urge to feed hunger the moment it strikes as we’ve learned we’re not going to die of starvation if we wait until the next meal. That’s not to say we don’t still have snacks and ‘treats’, but a more sensible relationship with food seems to be a natural progression from the 5:2 diet and many of those feelings of guilt we used to experience when eating so called ‘forbidden foods’ are no longer part of our lives, we can eat those things and not feel bad about it because it’s part of an overall more healthy way of eating.

 

What should/can I eat and drink on my fasting days?

Technically, the only restriction placed on your fasting days is that you should consume no more than 500 calories (if you’re a woman) or 600 calories (if you’re a man).

I’ve heard of some chaps who fast on a packet of crisps and a pint of beer and others who just eat chocolate or biscuits. This probably isn’t the most sensible of options in terms of filling you up and getting adequate nutrition but it still seemed to work for them!

If you prefer to take a more sensible approach to it and want to feel full and nourished on your fast days I suggest you stick to the mantra of Dr Mosley¬†& Mimi Spencer, which is “mostly plants and protein”. Protein will keep you feeling fuller for longer while the plants (non-starchy veg preferably) will bulk out your meal for very few calories and provide plenty of vitamins and all that sort of planty goodness!

It is recommended that you steer clear of carbohydrates, sugars and fats¬†on your fasting days or at least keep them to a minimum. That said, I haven’t cut out carbs from my fast days (the odd carb free meal here and there) and have still lost weight – and enjoyed my food! Sugars will tend to just make you more hungry so they are best avoided.¬†I love a nice big plate of vegetables with a piece of low calorie protein such as chicken, turkey or lean pork – even Quorn products are great for fasting – with a nice measured out amount of gravy. Sometimes I chuck on a couple of baby potatoes which I’ve boiled but finished off in the oven with a spray of Frylite low cal oil spray. Another good one is a giant salad, most salad veg are so low calorie you can still have your favourite tasty dressing and throw in some chicken, ham or egg for protein. Omelettes are great too as a filling meal and you can throw all sorts of things in or on them. Don’t be too heavy handed with the cheese though, you may be surprised by just how many calories are in a small portion!

In terms of drinks water is the go-to drink, refreshing and hydrating. I used to always drink squash before I started 5:2 but after a day of just water the squash tasted too sweet! Black coffee & black tea are next to no calories so drink as much of them as you like, but if you’re adding milk or sugar be sure to count the calories. There is much debate about diet or 0 calorie fizzy drinks and whether they are a good thing or a bad thing on a fasting day. While most of us can agree that the chemicals and substitutes used in these products aren’t especially desirable or indeed in any way beneficial to the body, if they help to get you through a fast day and it’s not the only thing you ever drink then I don’t see why you shouldn’t enjoy it. Some report that the fizz helps make them feel full – fizzy water could be a good alternative. Squashes and fruit teas are relatively low calorie and apparently Green Tea (an acquired taste, and one I myself have not taken to) is good for the metabolism so enjoyed by many Fast Dieters. When it comes to juices however be advised that these are usually very high in calories and the fruit sugars may just make you more hungry.

Savoury drinks are another option if you want to avoid sweetness on a fast day. Things like stock cubes, bouillon, Bovril and marmite can all be used as a low calorie alternative to the traditional cuppa-soup for a savoury hit which fills you up.

Finally, a real treat for a fast day is a low calorie hot chocolate drink – many report that it helps to get them to sleep at night and they save their calories for it. Cadbury’s Highlights are just 40kcal for a sachet and give you a sweet warm fix ideal for bedtime. Personally I like to use a teacup and just have a half portion for 20kcal. There are others such as Options which are similarly low calorie.

I should note having mentioned low calorie and diet products here that as a general rule of thumb these low fat or diet versions of foods are far from good for us and in some cases may even contribute to weight gain. There’s a fantastic TV documentary series about it which you can catch on YouTube, titled The Men Who Made Us Fat, it’s another eye-opener and I can tell you I’ll never eat margarine again!

How much weight can I expect to lose on the 5:2 diet/The Fast Diet?

Contrary to what The Fast Diet book might tell you about expecting to lose 1lb per fasting day, the reality according to the 5:2 weight loss statistics we have gathered at the 5:2 forum are somewhat different.

Indeed, as with any diet the early losses tend to be greater as much of this is simply water weight being lost.

On average it would seem that a stone (14lbs) can be lost in the first 5-8 weeks of eating the 5:2 way, depending on factors such as your starting size/BMI and activity level.

Following this initial loss our statistics show that the rate of weight loss slows down to a steady 1lb per week on average. Those with more weight to lose may find they can keep losing 1.5-2lbs a week for some time longer before slowing down and those with less to lose may well find it a struggle to even lose 1lb a week.

In no way is this diet a quick fix, but I find it to be a worthwhile trade off. Two days a week I eat less and I gradually lose weight while still enjoying my food. With some of the other popular diets or slimming clubs I would be expected to give up on certain foods or cut my intake every day of the week. For that level of sacrifice 1lb a week might seem meagre – but I’m not making that kind of sacrifice with 5:2, so this really feels like something sustainable for me. This is a sentiment echoed by many others at the forum.

To get a realistic idea of the sort of loss you could achieve you are welcome to register with the 5:2 Diet Progress Tracker at the forum which will then allow you to filter the statistics & charts by age, gender, starting BMI etc. By selecting the settings which most closely match your circumstances you can see the results others like you have achieved with intermittent fasting.