The 5:2 Diet: Does it actually work?

‘Diets, like clothes, should be tailored to you’ – Joan Rivers

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Show me a woman who tells you she’s never dieted before and I will show you a liar. I personally have tried pretty much every diet out there, apart from the cabbage soup and the cayenne pepper one Beyoncé used to lose all that weight for Dreamgirls (I’d rather be fat than try either of those two).

Almost 10 years ago I was very unhappy with my weight and joined weight watchers where I successfully lost almost 3 stone and have managed to keep it off more or less. There’s this pesky 1 stone that I keep on fluctuating between though and it’s slowly making my weight creep up and up again. So I thought I’d try something new, the 5:2 diet.

For those who are unfamiliar the diet specifies a low-calorie consumption (600 calories for men, 500 for women) for two non consecutive days a week and ‘unmoderated’ eating the other five. The idea behind it being that fasting for only 2 days a week is easier than having to restrict you calories every day. It’s also reports other health benefits such as lowering risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer although these are unsupported by the NHS.

I’ll cut to the chase, does it work? I’ve been doing the diet for 6 weeks now and can say, for me, yes it does. I lost 1.75lbs in the first week, 1.25lbs in the second, gained 0.75lbs in the third, lost 2.5 in the fourth gained 2.5 in the fifth and lost 3.75 in the sixth. So I’ve lost an average of a pound a week, which I’m more than happy with!

Where did I go wrong on the weeks I gained? The first week I gained I completely over ate on non fast days, and I mean I went crazy! Non fast days don’t mean you can eat everything in the world, sadly. The second time I gained I was unwell, and although I did still manage to fast, I couldn’t get to the gym at all and was eating sugary Halls Soothers like they were m&ms!

So what did I eat on my fasting days?

I would have a breakfast bar (about 90 cals) for breakfast, a can of low cal soup for lunch (about 120 cals) and a ready meal for dinner (about 300 cals) and I tend not to exercise on fast days – there’s simply no gas in the tank for anything above a normal days at work on so few calories.

20150112_070220Breakfast and Lunch

20150126_172346Dinner

On my non fasting days I eat what I want. When I say that, I mean within reason, I don’t go out ordering take always and adding double cream to my coffee just because I’m not fasting. I still try to eat sensibly, and exercise on non fast days, but if I fancy a biscuit with my coffee or a pudding after dinner, I’ll have one. What fasting doesn’t mean is you’re allowed to eat like Henry VIII on your days off (something I found out in week 3!)

So what are the pros and cons I’ve found?

Pros

  • It’s works! The scales speak for themselves!
  • You don’t have to count calories every single day (basically you get more to eat more cake and chocolate!)
  • You can fit it around your social life; as long as the days aren’t consecutive, you can fast on the days that suit you and what you have going on that week
  • No matter how miserable fast days are, you only have to make it through one day, you can eat again tomorrow – yay!
  • Now you know what real, true hunger feels like, it makes you appreciate food more on non fast days, so you don’t actually pig out that much, you’re just pleased not to be eating soup!
  • You don’t feel guilty about having pudding when you go out for dinner

Cons

  • The fast days are hellish. I’m starving all day, which equals a very tired and cranky Helen come home time.
  • I find myself wanting to go to bed at 8pm on fast days just to get the day over with
  • When you only have 500 cals to play with, you have to get creative with your food intake, which I never have time for, so fast day meals are very bland
  • I find it very difficult if not impossible to get anything done on fast day evenings because I have so little energy
    and feel quite lethargic the day after a fast day, a result of eating so little the day before.
  • The guys may want to shut your ears for this one: if you fast when it’s that time of the month, which is inevitable if you do it long-term, be prepared to experience a whole new level of hatred for that monthly ovary assassin.

Diets, like exercise are all about finding something that works for you and there’s no point in doing something if it makes you truly miserable, so if you find that having such small amounts of food would make you feel poorly, or dizzy or upset then this probably isn’t the diet for you. But if like me you’re an all or nothing type of person (I’ve always said I’m the kind of person who eats no biscuits, or ALL the biscuits!) then I would definitely recommend giving this a try.

This BBC documentary from 2015 is worth a watch if you’d like to know more about which diet may suit you the best

Related blog posts:

1. A fine line between Genius and Insanity – A review of the Insanity exercise programme.

2. The Honeymoon Stone – How much weight can one girl gain on a month long holiday?!

3. 13 things they don’t tell you at Weight Watchers – a lighthearted look at the crazy world of slimming clubs

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