The 5:2 Fasting Diet

Posted in Food.

I’m one of those awful people who has never dieted. For 23ish years, I relied on good genes and that mysterious ‘fast metabolism’ to keep me in burgers, crisps and chocolate. And it worked… until my mid-twenties loomed. Suddenly Topshop size 10s felt snug and I had a distinct hint of the double chins.

I was generally fine with it, though – I love food so much, that portion of chips was worth the extra dress size. And so it went for a few years. Until The Wedding.

Weddings do strange things to people. When I first started planning I was determined I wouldn’t be The Bride Who Slimmed Into Her Wedding Dress. I was also determined I’d be totally chilled out throughout the whole process and would never utter the words ‘peach taffeta’, but things change. Luckily not the peach taffeta (definitely none of that, don’t worry Team Bridesmaid), but once my wedding dress was ordered I did feel the need to lose those extra pounds (and I have raised my voice more than once in the planning process. Chilled, I ain’t).

A year ago I got back in the gym and started running again. Sadly I am hopelessly lazy so both these things fell by the wayside. I tried to eat healthily throughout the week but kept getting sidetracked by Nando’s and the pub and a trip to Barcelona. I bought a bike and happily have kept that up, but it was only after reading that losing weight is ‘70% diet, 30% exercise’ did I realise my eating habits needed to change if I wanted to see a real difference.

So I started the Fasting Diet.
5:2 fasting diet

I actually prefer to call it the 5:2 Eating Plan because I’m a pretentious a-hole, but in reality it is about fasting. Two days a week you ‘fast’ – consuming no more than 500 calories. The other five days you eat as normal.

The first week was hellish, but I soon slipped into a routine. There are lots of different ways of splitting calories throughout your fast days, but I tend to save mine for dinner. I drink lots of water throughout the day and have a 100-cal snack around 3pm – Graze boxes are great for this. Then I have 400 calories to play with for my evening meal, which goes much further than you’d think. Above are some of my favourite dishes – Chicken Noodle Soup, Haloumi Salad, Mushroom and Bacon Risotto and Smoky Mexican Bean Soup. All under 400 calories and all coming up on the Anti-Recipe soon!

Now I find my fast days pretty easy. I feel hungry but it’s never unmanageable. I’m not weak or dizzy or lacking concentration – fasting days are just like normal days apart from the odd stomach rumble. After 7 weeks, my stomach has shrunk so I need less food in general and I feel brighter, more alert and less sluggish. Oh, and I’ve lost 10lbs. Take that, wedding dress.

I know fasting isn’t for everyone. I would never recommend this to anyone with health problems, who is pregnant or prone to disordered eating. It’s not a long-term thing for me – as cliché as it is, on my honeymoon I’ll be hitting the restaurants of Santorini with considerable force. But I hope this way of eating has taught me enough about food to keep up some semblance of the plan – now I pay more attention to what’s actually in the food I eat, I’m constantly surprised at how bad seemingly healthy options can be.

For anyone looking for a reasonably quick and easy way to lose a moderate amount of weight, do some research on fasting and draw your own conclusions. I found the following resources really helpful:

Kate Harrison’s 5:2 Diet Book – great for newbies with lots of information about how the plan works
The 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Facebook group – request to join to see the content, very supportive group
Lavender and Lovage food blog – lots of amazing under-500-cal recipes on here, and beautiful photography

Are you interested in the 5:2 Diet? Would you ever try it?

Disclaimer: I am in no way qualified to give nutritional advice. This is a summary of my personal experience with fasting. Any diet should be taken on with care and those at risk should always seek professional advice before starting a reduced calorie eating plan. 

52 Comments

Rebecca

Great post hun! I’m doing the 5:2 diet as well.. good old intermittent fasting is the way forward! Glad to see someone post about it though 🙂 xxx

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Saffron Johnson

I bought the book, but I’m ashamed to say that’s as far as it went. But after reading your weight loss I’m definitely more than intrigued to give it a proper go! (She says with chips and chicken goujons in the oven). I’ve always worried that it’ll make me feel ill and weak, especially as I have a full time job where I’m on my feet all day, but I’ll never know unless I try! I’d definitely love to see an update on how you get on! xxx

Saffron Tinted Glasses

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Jen

I would be careful with this if your job involves a lot of rushing about, Saffron… I think one of the main reasons this works for me is because I sit at a desk all day and don’t really do much in terms of burning calories. I think if you’re on your feet all day, try allowing yourself a few more calories (maybe 800 rather than 500) and split them evenly through the day so you can have a proper lunch and a few snacks.

Good luck! x

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Lizzy

I have a fairly active job, on my feet all day and lots of walking around. My first fast day was yesterday, during work and I had no problems with feeling weak. I was mildly hungry at points during the day but nothing hideous. I felt mildly tired and headachy mid-afternoon but that went away with a can of diet coke! Keeping busy and active at work kept my mind off food, and it was only when I came home and watched TV with all the fast food adverts that I struggled!

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Saffron Johnson

I know what you mean! If I’m at work doing something else then I don’t have time to think about food and my fast days work out well, but if I’m at home then the urge to cheat and put it off til another day is huge!

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Say Yes!

OMG, I love food just as much as you! Chocolates, burgers, fries… oh lord. I have a friend’s wedding coming up, and I’m a lucky bridesmaid. Now I need to make sure to keep this size until the end of the year. Ha! I’ll definitely be trying the 5:2 diet. Thanks for sharing.

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Lizzy

This is perfect timing, I’m doing my first fast day tomorrow! I am both scared and excited, but i’ve packed a halloumi and strawberry salad for lunch (194 cals!) and having a small stir-fry for tea! Fingers crossed!

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Babes in Thriftland

Thanks for sharing this! I ordered the book online and I’m going to try this. I really need to shape up my diet too. My story sounds similar to yours! Now that I’m 30, I can’t eat whatever I want anymore which stinks. I’m looking forward to getting some recipes and giving this a whirl!

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MM

I wouldn’t try it, it is not normal to starve your body two days a week. I bet that 10lbs and more will go back on.

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janine

im on the brian butterfield diet… the results have been incredible http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NjTWvl8x-U

but seriously, can relate to post-23 sudden metabolism change (nothing to do with the fact i eat out more than i ever did and am much less healthy with my eating habits…it’s obviously all my metabolism’s fault). congrats on the weight loss! this diet actually sounds quite reasonable and realistic compared to some. on days off, especially when you are just lazing around the house, eating 500kcal is more than adequate.

good luck with wedding prep! ive heard nothing but adoration when it comes to santorini, very jealous!
xxx

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Anonymous

Yay I started this TODAY! Very inspirational thank you 🙂

I don’t think the idea is to ‘starve your body’ – just to reduce your calories twice a week.

Fingers crossed I have the same success x

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Caroline

It seems quite a popular eating choice, the 5:2.
I’ve only being doing it 4 days (1 fast day down!) after speaking to and seeing my neighbours do so well with it. I borrowed the books and was keen to try.
Like you say, I wouldn’t call it a diet, diets give out the wrong impression, as does the word Fast, as I’m always getting people saying to me ‘oh I couldn’t not eat for 2 days!’.
I’m working it alongside Slimming World meals, so this these and hitting the gym, I’m hoping I won’t turn into Bridezilla for my wedding next year! 😛
Good Luck! 🙂

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Becki Vieira

MM you’d be surprised, research shows its actually a very very effective way to loose weight and keep it off, I’ve done it for about a year and half. Once you’ve hit goal weight, you continue to eat less twice a week, but its just less dramatic. I’ve lost and maintained a 20 pound loss and have kept up with the plan which makes it very sustainable.

Enjoy your big day 🙂 sure you will look stunning x

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Rosie W

Well done on your weight loss 🙂 I ‘thought’ about trying this but it petrified me a little. I have lost half a stone in 8 weeks with Slimming World though (not that I’m massive, just gym-lazy and with a big holiday next March to think about) so I hope I can keep that progress up through to Christmas 🙂
Rosie x | Every Word Handwritten

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Beth

I tried the 5:2 diet a few months ago. At first I really liked it, my first fasting day wasn’t sa bad as I thought it would be and I feel much lighter the next day already. Then weirdly the fasting days kept getting tougher and I ended up being a bit miserable and very hungry throughout my days at work and I just gave up. This post has slightly inspired me to give it another go though! I was having more calories in the middle of the day, I think I need to try saving more for dinner and see how that works out. It might not just be for me!

Will definitely be checking out the links and would be interested to see your 400 cal recipes too 🙂 Well done on the 10lbs, and good luck for the wedding!

Beth // SansSouci

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Jen

Hi Beth,

The real key for me is to not eat during the day. I find as soon as I eat, I ‘wake my hunger monster’ (as they say in fasting circles! Haha!) and am then starving. But if I hold out ’til about 3pm and have a very small snack, I can manage the hunger until teatime and then enjoy a really filling meal.

Definitely give it another go and play around with how you break up the calories. Everyone’s different!

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Beth

I think that was my problem – I started eating around lunchtime or earlier. I know what you mean “waking the hunger monster” haha, it’s almost as though your stomach starts to stir and realises it is very hungry. I will give it another try with putting off eating til late afternoon. I will be drinking lots of water and green tea I think!

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Kelly

I think it’s okay for a short term diet fix, but I really believe it’s all about finding that balance of exercise and eating. I tend to treat myself to what I want, when I want, but then exercise regularly and realise it can’t all be eating the good stuff all the time.
I lost 3 stone by exercise, I still eat crisps, I still do takeaways, I just make sure I balance what I do with what I eat. 🙂
xx
p.s You are looking buff ting at the moment Jen. Gonna be a stunning bride!

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Jen

I totally agree, Kel… healthy eating and exercise is always the best way but for people who really struggle to keep up regular exercise (i.e. me!) this can be a great alternative.

Thank you for your kind words! Blushing over here 🙂 x

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Rachel, Cold Knees

I recognise myself here.. fast metabolism, taking it for granted that I can eat what I want.. Now I’m 27 and those Topshop size 10s are definitely straining!! I think I’m intrigued enough to give this a go, though I’m not sure I could manage until 3pm without any food.. I’m guessing you have no breakfast snack or any sort of food until that time? I’ll be checking out those links though.

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Jen

No, usually nothing until 3pm… I sometimes have an apple around 11am if I really need to but each week it gets easier to hold out ’til later. I know it sounds impossible but you really do get used to it quickly! 🙂

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Lou

Hi Jen!

I’m doing the fast diet in a bid to lose a bit of weight for my wedding too (oh, and I’ve also been a bit shouty in the planning process, haha!). Really looking forward to seeing your recipe ideas, they look great.

Is your wedding soon? Hope you have a fantastic day 🙂

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Alexandra Fouracre

What do you do about breakfast on the fasting days? I can’t imagine not having anything in the morning to keep me going! I keep seeing about this diet though and I am intrigued.

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Jen

I don’t usually have breakfast, no… and before this diet I was a big breakfast person but it really is easier to go as long as you can without food. That first meal will kickstart hunger pangs once its gone!

I sometimes have an apple around 11am if I really need to but each week it gets easier to hold out.

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Cosmic

Saw the Horizon doccumentary last year presented by Dr. Micheal Moseley it’s ethically-sound and thus it has proven health benefits, so would recommend to most individuals(got the book myself)!

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Marie

Nice to hear about the diet, but no more patronising ‘anti-recipes’ pleassssssseeeee xx

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Sarah @ Elettravelle

I’ve heard so many good things about this, but I’m prone to dizziness and shakes if I don’t keep my sugar levels up throughout the day so I’ve been really put off trying it. I’m just one of those people who needs a quick fix though – I just don’t have the motivation to carry on past a few weeks when weight falls off slowly. Hmm, maybe spreading out the calories might work.

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Jen

I find the Graze snacks so useful for managing crashes… if I start feeling weak or tired on a fast day I eat one of the dried fruit packs or a bag of popcorn (under 100 cals) and it sorts me right out. I get the boxes once every two weeks and just eat each snack as and when I need to… really worth a try!

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the blonde one

Hi Jen,
I am in exactly the same situation, wedding looming and definitely don’t want to look back and the pictures thinking that I didn’t look my best. I started this diet in June and lost half a stone straight away, over 4 weeks. I must admit that i went to IOW festival and a few other things meant I was off the wagon. BUT I now have a new job and back into some kind of routine so I want to get back into this. I have a beach holiday in 5 weeks so hopefully another half stone will come off. Fingers crossed.
Terri

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Hannindrome

I’ve been hearing a lot about this diet and have been intrigued and hoped you’d do a post – so thanks 🙂 I’m not really big but since leaving primary school (!) I haven’t been able to just eat whatever without putting on weight.
I have a gym membership and for the last 2 years have been really good with exercising 3-4 times a week with the odd breaks for holidays etc. I thought a solid routine with proper sweat-inducing workouts would make a difference and although people say I look different, weight wise I’m still the same and that flat stomach is still a dream.
Eating normally for 5 days is pretty appealing…
Hannah

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Ceri

I have never bothered with diets but over the years my weight has slowly crept up. I now feel like perhaps I should try a diet. This one sounds good to me. I do lots of excercise, the problem is that this doesn’t help with weight loss (more toning) as I always feel so hungry.

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Rosemary the Shopper

I have been doing my own version of the 5:2 diet. I call it the 1:6 (too lazy to go the full 2 days without food!) It suits me fine. I don’t have to talk about it, weigh food or count calories. I, too, like you, eat at night. I’m not terribly hungry during the day, and it isn’t any big deal. Yes, I’m a bit hungry. So what? I can eat the next day, although I wouldn’t say you can eat WHATEVER you want for the other days. I’ve been doing this for just over a year.

I fast on Tuesdays, unless I have something on that day, and then I switch the fast day to another weekday.

Cheers,
Rose of http://www.foreveronthecatwalkoflife.blogspot.com

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Jessica

Hello!

Was great to hear about the 5-2 diet from a real persons perspective. I’ve been browsing the books and ‘thinking’ about it for a while now as need a weight loss kick start just to get rid of a spare half a stone I seem to have been carrying around recently!

Thanks for sharing your experience – Jess x

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Olivia Bushnell

I’ve been 5:2ing for about 6 weeks now, maybe more actually. I lost a stone in the first 4 weeks and was over the moon.
I’m much the same in that I struggled the first week on the fasting days, I actually doubted whether I could do it, but now I find it much easier.
I have struggled to find days to fast recently as I’ve had guests staying and we’ve been eating out a lot, so back on the diet once all the guests are gone!

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Ellomennopee

Jen, have you checked out the documentary on BBC (iPlayer) at the moment: The Men Who Made Us Thin, all about the diet industry? Fascinating stuff!

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Talisha

Stumbled upon your blog by accident 🙂
Have never tried the 5:2 diet (but my other half’s dad lost 3 stone with it).

I swear by Slimming World, I can eat all day and night and maintain it for life 🙂 Good luck with your wedding and diet <3

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Ellomennopee

I’ve been thinking about this post for two days now and wanted to say: You appear to be healthy and from what you said you are lucky enough to be in the minority of women whose weight falls within the “normal” range, who has a healthy relationship with food, a good appetite and a normal metabolism. I wouldn’t risk messing with any of that by yo-yo dieting so you can look a certain way for the photographs taken on one day of your life. I wish there were more wonderful “awful” people in the world who never started dieting and instead focused on their health. So take care!

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