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
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.
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).
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.
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 – 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!
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.
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.
This is a common misconception about the 5:2 diet. It is not an excuse to enter a cycle of binging and starving, which is of course not healthy or advisable.
You can eat whatever you want on your feed days in the sense that no foods are forbidden. This doesn’t mean that you can eat as much as you want. If you over eat you will of course undo the calorie reduction obtained through your fasting days.
While the books, TV documentary etc tell you to eat ‘as normal’ on your feed days, it’s clear that many of us who have (or have had) weight problems do not really know what ‘normal’ is when it comes to eating. That’s probably what gave many of us these weight problems in the first place! Those of us who are out of touch with what a normal food intake is may need to count calories or at least be a bit more aware of what we are eating on our feed days. But the issue of daily calorie requirements is another topic altogether, you can read more about it here.
Yes, it does! I’ve been doing it for almost a year now, have lost over 3 stone and I still love this way of eating.
Don’t just take my word for it though. We’ve a whole community of thousands 5:2ers/Fast Dieters at The 5:2 Fast Diet Forum the vast majority of whom have had great success with this way of eating – even those with type 2 diabetes or thyroid problems.
Above all else (although there are other factors of course), weight loss is about calories in versus calories out. By drastically cutting back on your calorie intake two days a week you will create a calorie deficit over the week, resulting in weight loss.
The 5:2 diet isn’t a quick fix, after the initial higher losses (which one experiences with almost any diet) the loss tends to slow to a more manageable 1lb per week. This may not sound like much but bear in mind that you’re not having to cut out entire food groups from your diet nor are you denying yourself each and every day of the week. It’s sustainable, and that’s where other diets often fall down.
Most of us following the 5:2 plan don’t like to think of it as a diet. It’s not a diet, it’s a sustainable way of eating for life.
On the rare occasions that users complain the diet isn’t working it tends to be either a case of vast overeating on their feed days (thus negating any calorie deficit from the fasting days), miscalculation of calorie intake (try keeping a food diary to work out what you’re actually consuming) or an undiagnosed medical condition such as a problem with the thyroid or metabolism.
The vast majority seem happy to stick with this way of eating and report that they have had greater success with this method than with other plans or slimming clubs. What’s especially appealing is that this method is totally free! There are no membership fees to pay, no fancy foods to buy – you don’t even need to buy the book. All the info you need is available online. It’s a simple, effective method for weight loss.
The 5:2 Diet also known as The Fast Diet is a form of intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting has been around for a long time, predominantly in the form of ‘ADF’ – Alternate Day Fasting, where ADFers fast every other day.
This particular variation of intermittent fasting was made popular and brought to the attention of the media by Dr Michael Mosley with his BBC Horizon documentary, Eat, Fast and Live Longer.The documentary aired in early August of 2012 and sparked various books including Kate Harrison’s 5:2 Diet Book and Dr Mosley’s own The Fast Dietbook (co-authored with Mimi Spencer) along with a plethora of others and subsequent recipe books.