At a friend’s recommendation, I found this short little paperback on intermittent fasting called The 5:2 Diet Book which is written by Kate Harrison and not the original diet’s author – Dr Michael Mosley.
It’s basically more of a story of her experience with the diet and snippets from others who are on it, taken from their forum where they discuss ideas and experiences with it all. Quite entertaining.
When I first heard about this diet, I was quick to dismiss it without really knowing anything about it – jump to conclusions much? Smack on the hand. I thought I was a bit more open minded about things these days. Sheesh!
My resistance to the 5:2 Diet stemmed from my background of binging from lack of nutrients in real food and starving while trying to diet, to counteract the aforementioned binging. It was a continuous roller coaster of misery.
So when they said the basis of the diet is to ‘eat whatever you want on 5 days’ then ‘fast for 2 days’ of course I imagined lining up packets of my junk foods around me just going for it and then trying to drink water on the other two days, trying not to pass out from dizzy spells.
Feasting and intermittent fasting
Well they call them Feast Days and Fast Days, so what are you supposed to think?
In any case, by the time I picked up the 5:2 Diet book, all that previous bias had subsided and I read it with more of an open mind and this is what I found…
The Feast Days are actually supposed to be sensible, normal eating days, which are still calorie conscious based on your BMI but not restrictive – so that if you want that glass of wine with your dinner you have it, or if you want that piece of cake at a party you have that too.
But then the Fast Days are not really a true fast in the real sense of the word, they are just calorie reduced to 500 calories a day. So you still get to eat but just not as much.
Some of the benefits of this diet apart from the obvious weight loss goal are supposed to be increased energy, your body repairs itself faster, detoxes better, gives your digestive system a rest and more.
Well worth giving it a burl to see how it feels.
So I had a go at the ‘fasting’ day. One day… 500 calories.
Now as I don’t bother with calories these days, it took a bit of research to see what that looked like with what I eat. So it looked like this…
1 x homemade chocolate – 150 cal (guess)
2 x boiled eggs – 180 cal
1 x bowl of vege soup – 100 cal
1 x coconut milk & hot choc – 70 cal
3 x camomile tea & stevia – 0 cal
Lots of water – 0 cal
What happened during that day for me, and this was reflected in comments from others in the 5:2 Diet book as well, is that it enabled me to get back in touch with my true hunger.
Waiting until that gnawing in your stomach became a loud growl before you eat, rather than just reaching for something because you are bored or you think you might fancy it. The crazy part is that I thought I was doing all that, because that’s what I base Slim Birdy eating and weight loss on – being in touch with your body.
But even I, who knows the theory of all of this, slowly but surely veered off the path as life gets in the way and your focus is elsewhere. Not in a big way mind you, but it’s little things like shovelling down two Homemade Chocolates in a row when really, if I had been paying attention, probably one would have been enough. Immediately after eating dinner, I boil the kettle and have tea, where as really I am quite full and honestly could wait for an hour or two before the true desire for a nice cup of tea kicks in.
So limiting what is available to you for just one day at a time was really educational. It is a fantastic reminder to get back in touch with your body. Feel real hunger. Feel what its like to be full and satisfied and realise that a small plate of whatever is actually enough. Rather than the mountain sized portion I normally serve myself! (My past issues keep trying to sneaking back in.)
Others said it felt like a reset button to get you back on track. Some gladly stuck to the same 500 calorie menu each ‘fast’ day. Calling it a relief not to have to think and plan the food for just that one day. Most also loved the flexibility of the whole thing. They could move their ‘fast’ day to suit their lifestyle. No missing out on that dinner party or drinks night just because they were on a diet. They felt it was the true test of sustainability. You could actually still enjoy your life and lose weight at the same time.
Some of these points definitely have merit. However the entirety of the 5:2 diet plan wouldn’t work for me. Despite the tag of ‘feast’ day, they really don’t mean stuff yourself silly. Which is what I think would happen to me.
Intermittent Fasting – Reset Day
However this ‘fast’ day, which I hereby re-dub ‘reset’ day was a real eye opener. Anything like this that helps you get back in touch with your body, appreciate the food you are eating and gently detox, refresh and renew is certainly welcome. Some said they really looked forward to it as it made them feel fantastic and so virtuous! So depending on how much weight people needed to lose they were doing the ‘reset’ day 1 day in 7. If they needed to lose more they would do 3 reset and 4 normal days.
I was really impressed with the results of a minimal calorie day in terms of its effects on my mindfulness. So from now on, I will consider at least one ‘reset’ day a week added in to my plan. It may not be at 500 calories, even 1,000 would be low enough. We will see.
Update 2021: I have now completed my diet book the Zen Beach Diet which details the plan I am now following. It requires no fasting days or calories that low ever, and you can still lose weight for the long term. Available for immediate download worldwide, under AU$10.