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 “FastDay Program“, along with the Ways of Eating team, which is a 4 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. By the end of the 4 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.

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 FastDay Program starts every other Thursday for new fasters and you can sign up on the Ways of Eating site here


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!



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 – it 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 🙂 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 – however 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 🙂 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 – after 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).

Will I feel hungry, weak, tired, cold, dizzy and get headaches from fasting?

Simply put: yes, maybe, maybe, maybe and maybe!

But, that’s just in the early days – your body needs time to adjust to fasting and you may well experience things which you are not accustomed to – we’re all so used to just having something to eat when we feel hungry, most of us have forgotten what true hunger feels like. Many are afraid of it, but there’s nothing to be scared about.

The vast majority of ‘fasting side effects’ will pass within a few fasts. Just stay determined and you’ll be fine!

If you feel hungry when fasting, it will pass. Hunger does not get progressively worse and worse – it will usually pass within a few minutes and can often be helped on its way by a nice glass of water.

If you feel weak or dizzy when fasting, it’s probably just your body complaining about a lack of food (in particular, sugar) when it’s been used to regular feeding. In the early days of fasting you may want to split your calories up throughout the day and allow yourself something to eat or drink if you feel weak.

If you feel tired when fasting, more often than not this is a sign of dehydration. Most of us don’t drink enough clear fluids in general, and this becomes more obvious on a fasting day. Make sure you drink plenty of water or low calorie liquids to keep yourself hydrated. It’s amazing what a difference a glass of water can make!

If you feel cold when fasting, this is quite normal especially for women (and all the worse during our menstrual cycles!). A salty drink will help to warm you up, perhaps a low calorie soup or better yet a stock cube/bouillon or marmite drink for a really low calorie alternative to do the trick.

If you get headaches when fasting, this can also be a sign of dehydration and can be remedied with a nice glass of water. You can take paracetamol if the headache persists (don’t have aspirin on an empty stomach) as well. Another possibility is that the headache is a withdrawal symptom from something you would usually consume such as caffeine. In this case, don’t cut the caffeine out of your fasting days, but find a way to enjoy it in a low calorie version, i.e. black coffee or black tea. If you’re going to add milk or sugar (maybe Stevia, although expensive it is calorie free) make sure you account for these as part of your calorie budget for your fasting day.

Before long you’ll be used to the feeling of hunger and won’t even notice it. Most days will be quite easy, although as with all things in life there will be exceptions – I still have an occasional fast which I find challenging. Once in a while I still get a headache and I certainly feel the cold more on my fasting days.

How does the 5:2 Diet work?

Essentially the 5:2 diet/The Fast Diet works by reducing your calorie intake across the week.

One pound (1lb) of fat is the equivalent of approximately 3,500 calories, therefore to lose 1lb of fat per week one must reduce one’s calorie intake by that amount or burn off that amount of calories through exercise.

Many of us who have been overweight love our food and struggle to cut back our calorie intake on a daily basis – we may achieve it in the short term through fad diets, slimming clubs etc however in the long term those of us who love our food tend to struggle to stick to these restrictive ways of eating and will fall off the diet wagon before too long. Once we go back to our old eating habits, the weight piles back on – often with re-enforcements and the yo-yo dieting begins anew!

With the 5:2 method we need only worry about cutting back our intake on two days a week. Yes, it’s a drastic cutback but this allows us to eat as normal on the other five days. It’s a part time diet, making it really easy to stick to and therefore more of a long term way of eating than a diet. In addition to helping us to lose weight the 5:2 diet seems to change our eating habits for the better. For one thing we find our appetites decrease, particularly the day after a fast when our tummies have shrunk and do not wish to be overloaded with food. We learn to listen to our bodies needs rather than just what we want and we start to make smarter food choices based on the knowledge we have gleaned from our fasting days and being so careful with a calorie budget!