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 😉 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.


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!



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:

» Hooray! I’m off the Plateau!

» Finally!!! 7 Week Plateau Blown Away

» Off that loooooong 7-week plateau!!

» Plateau broken….hopefully

» 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?



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.



Why have I gained/maintained weight doing The Fast Diet/5:2 diet?

During the first month of 5:2 intermittent fasting your body will go through a period of adjustment. Water weight is lost in the early stages, followed by fat loss – but some water is also regained.

For this reason many new Fast Dieters find that their weight can yo-yo somewhat during the first month of this way of eating. They lose a lot of water weight, then find the scales stay the same for a week or two as fat is lost but water is regained. Sometimes they’ll find the scales go up a little before going back down. This is perfectly normal. Although most fasters find that they will have a significant loss in the first week, others who were not retaining so much water will find that the loss comes along in week 2-3, with no initial loss at all.

The key to it is perseverance and gaining a better understanding of how your body weight fluctuates naturally.

If you were to weigh yourself every day (even if it is at the same time of day) you would find that the numbers can vary by several lbs (or even more, depending on your size). This is for all sorts of reasons, including what you’ve had to eat recently (some foods cause increased water retention), whether there is still food in your gut, hormones at different times of the month and any number of other mysterious reasons.

Bearing this natural weight variation in mind then it is easy to see how one might be deceived by the scales as a weigh in might indicate no loss or even a small gain – but this could very well be down to your natural weight changes. It is often only over the longer term that we can see the bigger picture and really notice the downward trend of the numbers on the scales. The moral of the story? Don’t put all your trust in the scales – try a measuring tape too as this will tend to be more honest with you! At the end of the day, what’s really more important? The number on the scales or the shape and size of your body?

If you are quite active or are exercising in addition to fasting then you also need to remember that muscle weighs more than fat, so even though you’re losing fat if you are gaining muscle too then your weight may very well go up – but your body shape will be changing for the better!

Unfortunately the above is not the only explanation for weight gain or maintain on the 5:2 diet…

There is the possibility that you are overeating on your feed days and therefore negating the calorie deficit from your fasting days. Many users at the forum report having gone through a phase of overeating in the early stages of intermittent fasting, but happily find that within a couple of weeks the novelty of no foods being forbidden soon wears off and normal eating resumes. It may not even be something as obvious as overeating – beware the calories that sneak in through drinks such as fancy coffees, fruit juices and smoothies! A single piece of cake or muffin can contain as many as 600 calories, so choose sensibly or have it instead of your breakfast or lunch (obviously don’t do this every day, that wouldn’t be healthy – but surely better to eat the cake instead of lunch rather than in addition to it?) If you think you may be eating too much on your feed days please see the post about TDEE for more information. Something interesting I picked up from The Men Who Made Us Fat is that most people don’t try to balance their eating – so for example if they have eaten an entire ‘sharing bag’ of crisps to themselves one would expect them to cut back on the following meal as they have already had plenty of calories. This is sadly not the case and most people will eat extra without trying to balance it out over the course of the week. There is no harm in skipping or reducing the size of an occasional breakfast or lunch to balance out your intake. Indeed, there is some debate as to whether breakfast as important as it has been made out to be over the years. I for one do not feel hungry on waking up but for many years have eaten breakfast because it’s what we’re told to do. These days I try not to eat unless I’m hungry (or if I really, really, really want something – not just fancy it) as I’ve learned to listen to my body more. If I don’t wake up hungry I don’t eat until I feel hungry – often this is midmorning or nearer lunchtime, by which point I find I don’t need such a large lunch later on as I’m still full from breakfast.

But I digress!

Another possibility, believe it or not, is that your are under-eating on your feed days. It may seem contrary but in some cases if you are calorie restricting on your feed days as well as fasting it can be detrimental to your metabolism. Although there is debate as to whether ‘starvation mode’ really exists, it does seem that if you don’t eat enough your body will try its best not to lose weight. In all fairness under-eating is not often the cause and if you are in any doubt about your intake please do check your TDEE and consider keeping a food diary at least in the short term to assess your intake vs your body’s calorific needs.

The final possibility (well, there may be others but this is the final one I’m listing) is that you have an undiagnosed medical condition such as a problem with your thyroid, metabolism or diabetes. If you are concerned that you are not losing weight (please do give it at least a month of no loss first) with this method and are not under or overeating then do consult your doctor.

There’s a really informative topic over at the forum which you might find useful too:

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