Tuesday, 15 July 2014

5:2 Fasting

I have employed many different tools to assist me with my weight loss.  Logging food, portion control, mindful eating (re-educating my mind in how I act around food), cooking low calorie and nutritional meals, exercise, support from other people.  But one of the most useful tools in terms of one that many others have found works is 5:2 Fasting.

You can learn more about how 5:2 fasting works on many other sites on the Web, but what drew most people’s attention to this method of weight loss and weight control was the BBC One’s Horizon programme screened in the Summer of 2012.  Called “Eat, Fast and Live Longer” the programme looked at the ancient idea of fasting and it’s health benefits.

Although I watched the programme at the time, I was already steadily losing weight just calorie counting and logging my food.

But suddenly here was another way to assist me in regulating my calorie intake!  By reducing my total calories to just 500 calories for two days a week, it enabled me to have slightly more calories on the remaining 5 days.

At that time, I wasn’t earning calories though exercise.  Fasting enabled me to “save” calories to assist me with those days where sticking to my calorie allowance was a little more tricky, such as eating out, parties, etc.  I also found that fasting was a great way to get straight back on track after a holiday or weekend away.

The basic rule of 5:2 fasting is this.  Five days of “normal” eating, with little thought to calorie control and a slice of pie for pudding if that’s what you want. Then, on the other two days, you just eat a quarter of your recommended daily calorie quota. That works out at 500 calories for women and 600 for men.

Simple.  Easy.  Fits around a busy life.  You don’t need to tell people that you are “dieting”.  You just ensure that your Fast days are completed when you don’t have any social engagements that involve food!

But of course, on my non-fasting days, I do count calories.  Strangely enough, it helps me to ensure that I am eating ENOUGH calories.

Some people like to spread their 500 calories over the course of a day.  My preference is to have one main meal at dinner time (5pm).  Ahead of that meal, I will only have fruit infusions, herbal or green tea and water.  If I feel light headed, I may have a Miso soup with a little dried seaweed sprinkled in it to keep me going, but that’s a rarity. 

The benefits of fasting are still the subject of much debate!  But here’s what I can say from my own experience.  I like the way that fasting give ME the control over my food rather than the FOOD having control over me.  I have being able to exercise my willpower to the max!  Fasting days make me aware of just how often eating food becomes a habit – something you do without even thinking about it (popping half a broken biscuit into your mouth, an extra strong mint when in the car…)

When I undertook my first fast, I really didn’t expect to be able to complete a whole day without eating.  To be honest, I didn’t think I’d even manage a few hours!  However, it became a battle of will.  Me versus food.  And I won! 

Thereafter, adopting this positive mental attitude has helped me to complete many successful fasts.

The only negative thing that I have to report about my first day of Fasting was a constant headache.  But I think this was probably withdrawal from caffeine, because I have never experienced it since.

My fast day meal is planned to perfection.  To maximise the amount of food I can enjoy in my one meal for as few calories as possible.  So aubergine, butternut squash, asparagus, fish, chicken, cauliflower rice, courgetti, spinach, mushrooms, tinned tomatoes, Quorn all feature regularly.  Very low calories foods and various combinations of these with a few other added ingredients can make for a very satisfying meal.  This meal has to ensure that you remain full for the remainder of the evening, as the total of 500 calories is important.  It’s not a case of eating a Fast day meal and then continuing to eat! 

On Fast days, far from feeling lethargic and weak I actually find that I feel more alert and have more energy.  In fact, I have even exercised on Fast days, burning over 1,500 calories.  This is exercise because I wanted to, not because I needed to earn more calories though.

We have all heard how breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  But where does that come from?  Fasting also teaches me to recognise “real” hunger and the difference between eating because you are hungry as opposed to eating because it’s a “mealtime”.  I do often have breakfast, but often I don’t.  I don’t eat it because I’m not hungry.  I’ll make up for it later during the day by consuming more at lunchtime or dinner time.  Particularly if I am going out to eat at lunchtime, I will skip my breakfast.

At a weekend, I’ll often enjoy a late “brunch” of egg, mushroom, tinned plum tomatoes, a slice of toast, coffee and sometimes bacon or sausage.  But that meal will often leave me feeling satisfied for the remainder of the day and I’ll enjoy just a small light meal during the evening.

I am sure we will hear a lot more about 5:2 fasting.  It wasn’t a passing “fad” and many, many people have used it to successfully lose weight and inches and then to maintain their goal weight by dropping to fasting on just one day a week.

I am fairly certain that Fasting will to play a part in ensuring that I continue to maintain my new weight too.

I regularly contribute to a 5:2 Fasting page on Facebook:


and have also shared my success with Fasting on a Fasting website:

as well as contributing my “cauliflower rice” recipe to a Fasting recipe book, the Mail Online