I have done the 5:2 diet a total of 3 times… well, more like 2 and a half but you’ll understand why I say that in a moment! The first time I did the 5:2 diet was when I was veggie and I had pretty good results which I’ll outline shortly. The second time I was vegan and I got results but not as good as first time round… and the third time which can only kind of be counted as a half attempt due to my lack of success entirely, also revealed some quite interesting things to me…
So lets go back to 2013 and my first foray into the dieting world phenomena that is 5:2…
We’d just moved house and I was unable to exercise due to a back injury. I was feeling quite down and decided to take action. I couldn’t exercise but I could do something about my weight. I wasn’t massively overweight – after getting to around 9.5 stone in 2010 for our wedding (I say ‘around’ because back then I never really needed to diet and so I didn’t weigh myself – oh the memories of being young and slim with minimal effort!) the weight had come back on year on year since; I’d tried the odd thing here and there to lose a bit of weight including vegetarian low carb, and I’d lose a bit then put it back on etc etc and so on and so forth! I’d got to near 11 stone and I knew I was happy at 10 stone and I’d be delighted at 9 anything. So one lovely sunny day in July 2013 I read a book on the 52 diet in a few short hours and embarked upon my first fast day without hesitation, and so July was my first month of 5:2ing… I found it really easy after the first week – and after just those first two days of ‘fast days’ the weight came off easily and quickly. I can’t remember now how much I lost initially but after 5 or 6 months I’d lost at least a stone – so I’d got to where I wanted and felt amazing. It felt as though I hadn’t even had to exert that much effort!
It was a busy summer too and 5:2 fitted into my life and worked around my plans and commitments – I could do 2 fast days a week then still go out on the weekend and drink a lot and eat take aways etc and still lose weight! Result! I’d read you still needed to eat sensibly on your non-fast days – feast days they were often called – and feast days they were for me! I honestly ate what I wanted and didn’t count a thing.
Even on busier weeks when I could only fit in 1 fast day instead of 2, and these would be the weeks that were even heavier on the ‘feasting’, I wouldn’t gain any weight but break even.
Work colleagues quickly said how they could see a difference in my appearance and I felt great too, fitting into clothes that had been hanging up with the labels still attached and being able to zip up dresses that had been gathering dust for too long! Yes I felt FAB! I thought 5:2 was the best thing ever and recommended it to everyone!
Roll on February 2014 and I stopped doing 5:2 and the weight just came straight back on. And then some!
It wasn’t until 2015 I decided to try and lose weight again and I immediately turned to the 52 diet. So starting around the 70kg mark again, I started up with 2 fast days a week again. It felt harder this time – good at first though – a feeling of relief and control – but it wasn’t long before the good feelings wore off and it was just harder in general to do…
I struggled to eat only the 500 calories you’re meant to on fast days. I didn’t remember it feeling this hard the first time? Was my body used to it? Had my body discovered my mean ways of shedding the fat and decided to hold onto every last bit of it?! That’s what it felt like. I was expecting it to be just like the last time with the simplicity and ease I’d experienced previously and the weight just falling off effortlessly. Nope, not at all. It was hard, much harder second time round. I’d average out around 800 calories 2 days a week instead of the 500, so I’d try and do an extra day fasting but it never really worked out, it just felt like my body wasn’t cooperating! But nevertheless, in a few short months I did manage to lose about half a stone which I was happy with, and again people were noticing I’d lost a bit of weight which I think is always a good indication of how you’re doing.
A couple of holidays later however and the weight was all back on again – and oh yes, and then some – again!
Early 2016 after the feasting of Chrimbo and I was back to my 52 ways… but this time it felt impossible… I really felt aware I was restricting my calories severely two days a week… I was starving. All the time. No amount of food ever felt enough. I’d start and then I really would struggle to stop. So then several fast days that started out with good intentions would crumble and turn into mega feast days in the hopes I would try again tomorrow or the next day… and then life just kept getting in the way and the fast days never happened. Till finally one day when I was particularly full of resolve that I wouldn’t cave and that I must not give in… I MUST NOT EAT! It had got to around midday (I was going as long as I possibly could without eating – in 52 land if you start it can be harder to stop so one method is to simply not start) and I happened to see a cute illustration with ‘Top 5 vegan pre-workout snacks’… I looked at the delicious drawings (yes, drawings of food, not even actual photographs had me beside myself!) of avocados, nuts, bread… oh my! I realised some things at this point.
I had these things in the cupboard…
I realised… how much better to eat a delicious, nutritious snack that really feeds your body, so that it can then go and do something amazing?!
I realised, I was sat attempting to exert as little energy as possible in order to try not to eat anything for as long as possible…
It didn’t seem right! (Yes I know there’s plenty research to suggest the multitude of health benefits associated with fasting, I’ve read a lot of this research).
If you look at food as fuel, as nourishing our little bodies that do so much for us, where is the sense in depriving it? Doing less so I need to eat less? …How about do more so you can eat more? Now that’s much more like it!
When you view food as nourishment it becomes less about punishment… you want to feed your body nourishing, health promoting foods! You don’t want to deny it any of these amazing foods our beautiful earth provides for us a minute longer!
I’m lucky to be able to say I’ve never had an eating disorder, not in the clinical sense but I certainly have a somewhat disordered relationship with food. I use it as comfort and reward. I’m a classic emotional eater. If I’m sad, I’ll console myself with food, if I’m happy, I’ll celebrate with food… I love to cook and I love to feed my loved ones too, my life pretty much revolves around food! Also as an ethical vegan, I’m not at all focused on my health, I love that eating a vegan diet is instantly a better way to eat and better for not only the animals but also our planet and our health… but those are just bonuses in my view. I do it for the animals and so I still don’t view food as being the main huge link to our health that it really is. I will always pick a junk food item (ie pizza, chips etc) over a couscous, quinoa salad. Don’t get me wrong I love cous cous and quinoa but they don’t get my taste buds going in the same way that a big plate of greasy, salty chips does! So I particularly hate these stereotypes that vegans are scrawny and/or particularly fit and svelte! I guess all body shaming and/or stereotyping is wrong regardless (there are images online suggesting that meat eaters are overweight and plantbased folk are lean and trim and also wonderfully muscly, how lovely! If only! So yeh that’s a gripe and I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent here. What I wanted to say was most of us have some level of disordered attitude towards eating, that’s why most of us are nearly always on a diet! (And unfortunately going vegan isn’t a magic wand that solves all your weight and food related issues in one fell swoop – though it’s pretty close ;-)… but if you’re an over eater, comfort eater, binge eater etc those things will still be there… and ‘cause VEGAN FOOD IS AWESOME! You can literally still eat anything you want in vegan form, jus’ sayin’…)
So bearing in mind that most of has have these sorts of relationships with food anyway, I’m afraid one of my other realisations was that the 52 diet was actually encouraging my disordered view and approach and relationship with food. I was in this nasty cycle of restricting then binging – punishment and reward.
I would restrict for the day or two as required and then binge uncontrollably on the days I was ‘allowed’ to… as soon as I made this realisation, I made a note of the Top 5 vegan pre-workout snacks, made some avocado on toast (which was quite possibly the most unreal and out of this world tasting avo-toast I’ve ever had) and went and worked out. I did not feel one iota of guilt. I felt great. I decided there and then I wouldn’t let the lure of the 52 diet suck me in again.
The following week I ate what I wanted and even had pizza twice in that one week.
And guess what – I lost more weight that week than I had in the previous weeks trying to lose weight so unbearably and painfully and disdainfully that I was becoming a mere shadow of myself! It sort of felt like I’d been in a dark, cloudy bubble and I’d broken free and I could see clearly again… (also an analogy I often use for going vegan!)
Things made sense again… Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full; your body knows what it needs and what to do. We are just always getting in the way! Silly humans!
So I’d love to say I have a wonderful, healthy, balanced relationship with food now but because I like oreos a bit too much, I’d still like to lose a bit of weight and let me tell you, once you 52 it’s hard to stop… in fact, I’d say in order to maintain, you need to continue to fast for one day a week, probably forever! But then no-one’s done it that long! So we don’t actually know for sure, maybe your body would get so used to that too that you’d need to increase your fasting periods in order to not put on weight over time… eek. It certainly has a strong hold of me and it’s hard to let that go, when you know you’ve had good results in the past… but I do think that our clever bodies are just that bit too clever – once you’ve done it and then go back to eating regularly (or without 52ing) and then attempt intermittent fasting again as a means for weightloss, your body has made a note of it somewhere and is less willing to let the weight shift so obligingly!
So, my overall consensus here is 52 diet is great for losing weight initially but you need to be willing to comit to it longterm to maintain any weightloss and/or other health benefits you feel it offers.
My advice based on my experience is to eat the avocado toast and savour every delicious mouthful then go do lots of fun stuff with all the wonderful energy that yummy nutritious food gave you.
Eat well and be happy 🙂
What’s your experience with 5:2 diet? Have you had a similar/ different experience to me? I’d love to hear from anyone who has!