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.