Thursday 8 November 2012

Five tips for the 5:2 diet

I've never been a great dieter. I've tried a few of the popular ones in my time, like the no-carbs Atkins, but the only one that ever has truly worked on me in the 'Less food, more exercise' one, which is the hardest one to do. ;-)

But in the last year or so, with my bad back and frozen shoulder, I've not been able to exercise as much as I'd like to (dog walking not withstanding) and it's been really difficult to keep my weight down. Besides, it seems that as soon as I start to do regular sessions in the gym, my appetite shoots up and I lose no weight whatsoever.

So when, after seeing a BBC programme on it, the Englishman suggested we should try the 5:2 diet, I was game. When I was younger and living in Helsinki I did a few complete fasting sessions with my father. This fast would last five days and you were only allowed to drink fruit juices on the first and last days. So I thought I knew what I was getting into to.

But the 5:2 diet, which basically means you eat less on two days per week, is much easier. You're allowed 500 calories (600 for men - so unfair!), which when you think about it isn't that bad. And unlike on the fasts of my youth on this one you're allowed to drink coffee! (Coffee is the one thing I cannot give up these days…)

As well as weight loss, this diet is supposed to be good for your brain cells (cancelling out the damage done by wine), lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. It seems us humans need to feel a bit of hunger now and then. (I always knew this, really.)

I've been doing the 5:2 fasting for about three months now, and have lost 5 kilos. I feel so much better on it, not only because of the weight loss, but because I seem to have more energy and control over my eating. Not that I was ever out of control exactly. (Honest, Gov.)

And that's exactly how this 5:2 diet works. After the initial shock to the system, your stomach actually contracts and you feel less hungry, more aware of how much you eat on any given day, whether it is one of the 2 or one of the 5 days of the week.

So here are my 5 tips to successfully do this diet:

1. Do not do consecutive days - it's too hard and I at least find the second day in a row gruelling. And don't do weekends - we tried a Friday and nearly killed each other.

2. Get busy - the more you have to think about something else other than food, the easier it is. I work from home half of the week, so I try to fast when I'm in the office. And don't watch Nigella on TV while fasting. She's like a Domestic Devil to a me on one of my 2 days.

3. Get yourself an app. I use MyFitnessPal which is a simple tool to count the calories. And that is all you need it for, really, so any other means to do that (a notepad) is equally good. But for those of you, like me, who love apps, this one also records the foods you've used, the exercise you take and the weight you are losing (and predicts what you would lose in 5 weeks if each day was like the one you've just recorded). You can scan the packets to get the correct calorie amount, or you can make up your own meals, or just enter calories.

4. Don't be too hard on yourself. I have missed a couple of fasting days during the past three months. Just because you do that, there's no need to throw in the towel. There's always tomorrow, or next week!

5. Don't go alone. Doing this with some-one is so much easier. Some weeks because of schedules the Englishman and I've had to do different days, and it just doesn't work. Plus it makes TV viewing harder (see Nigella above).

So give it a go…but obviously if you suffer from a medical condition you have to see your doc first.

Happy fasting…!


Britt_W said...

Hi Helena,

I have done exactly the same thing since that BBC programme was on andI have also lost 5kgs. My partner also started at the same time – I agree it helps a lot if you both do it! We both feel great.

We do Tuesdays and Wednesdays and we actually prefer to have two consecutive days. Come the third day, you almost continue just for the hell of it. Or at least, you eat less than a 'full' day.
I didn't do my two days when I was in Sweden and also when I was travelling around for work the week after that. So I gained a few kilos then... But as you say, that can be sorted later! I have since done three days a week so I am now back to where I was before I started to 'misbehave'.

I am in touch with Michael Mosley and I know he is keen to hear from people how they are coping long term with this, so if you want to, email him on !

Good luck to us! :)

Unknown said...

Thanks, Britt! I am really glad to hear you are enjoying the diet too, and I guess if we'd carried on doing two days in a row, we would have got used to it. Might try that again because I did lose a lot in that first week ;-) I will email Michael now. xx

fashuvo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Make Do Style said...

I'm in! It sounds just the ticket. I already have my fitness pal app and I think I would have to do 2 days in a row to focus! I could do with losing 5 kilos!

fiona maclean said...

I'm following the 5:2 diet and blogging the recipes I'm using. I actually enjoy having a low calorie creative food well for me

Mrs Murphy said...

I have just finished my second week on the 5:2 diet. I don't mind the fast days at all and am eating less on the in between days. Very disappointed to have put on weight. Any suggestions?

Unknown said...

I don't totally agree with the 2 consecutive days. I have been doing that since day 1.

I think the benefits are even greater. After a while it is easier, and only once did I have a terrible day 2, where I could not sleep etc.

I have lost 10kg in 4.5 Months.

After 2 consecutive days, you feel amazing, and totally cleared out.

I also use myfitnesspal, the food diary feature is brilliant.

This diet has changed my life all for the better.

Jerry Betteridge said...

Hi I've been doing this for about 5 months and have lost over 7 kilos. I swim every morning as well so have been adding 250 calories to the allowance (giving myself 850) although I don't always use it. I think I read that it's ok to do that somewhere

Unknown said...

It's really interesting to hear various experiences on this diet. I too find that it has changed my life but can still not do 2 consequent days, Ken!

I took a break for six weeks (!) over Christmas, but I didn't put on any more weight, which is amazing. I think this is a testament to how the fasting changes your eating habits.

After a couple of weeks back on the 5:2, I've lost a further two kilos, and I'm very happy. I was really afraid I might find it difficult going back again, but it was very easy to eat 500 calories.

Happy days!

Healthy Tips said...

nice article, thanks very much

Anonymous said...

The Indicating Easter

Feel free to surf to my blog post - legal leads
Stop by my blog post :: lawyer search engine optimization

Anonymous said...

Do you have to eat 500 Cals on the Fast days? I prefer to have nothing but water/green tea/black tea/coffee. Does it matter if you DONT eat at all for 24 hours? Also the exercise - when is it more beneficial to do it? Whilst fasting (when I have heaps of energy) or just keep on with exercise everyday, fasting or feasting? I need some advice please.

sue@yujuUK said...

I'm on the 2nd week of this diet and it seems to be working for me. I think I can probably stick with it as it doesn't seem anti social only having to restrict calories for 2 days a week. Lost 4 lbs so far and 8 weeks to before my hols ... I'll keep you posted :-)

Anonymous said...

So I've been doing this for 2 months. some weeks only fasting one day, others 2. I've also changed days around ie some weeks Monday and Thursday whilst others Monday and Saturday for example. However I haven't lost any weight. I'm really confused about why this isn't working for me. Im due to travel around South East Asia for a month next week and really want to keep going with it so I know I've given it a good chance. Given that I'll be staying at hotels without a kitchen to cook, does anyone have ant advise on what I should eat on my fast days - eating out will make calories counting impossible.

Alexanda Wanliss said...

Having that app sounds like an effective weight management tool. Thank you for sharing great tips for the 5:2 diet.

Unknown said...

Hi, it's great to find more people doing the 5:2 diet! I recently set up a dedicated forum for this new way of eating and members are starting to track their weight loss progress so we can get a better idea of how well this diet works for different types of people. It would be great if some of you who've lost weight with this method would sign up and add your data to our 5:2 Diet Progress Tracker at the forums.

Unknown said...

Hi all! It's great to see yet more folks having such success on the 5:2 diet. I've lost over 38lbs since August when Horizon aired! A couple of months ago I started some online forums dedicated to the topic and we're now collecting user weight loss data together to better understand how 5:2 works for different kinds of people. We've got some really interesting charts together and it would be great if some of you would like to sign up and add your data to our 5:2 diet progress tracker at the forums! Thanks :)

ed m said...

This is my first diet, third week. All is good so far, except I wake up hungry around 2:30. I'm planning to extend my fast days by 6 hours or so, so next day I will not eat till lunch time. The logic is that second day the body has no glucose to burn, so it has to burn fat. 6 hours extra should be no problem.

liz said...

Dear Helena,

Thank you again and again and again...for introducing me to the 5:2 diet and the myfitness pal app, I think this is the only diet known to man that has worked for me long term, have lost 7 kgs since april and hopefully will still be going strong for another 5 to 7 kilos.

Good luck with your writing, I know what you mean about the "chameleon" effect, I do that when I speak to people with an Australian or American accent, after a little while I can' help answering back with a definite twang of my own!!

best regards
liz from Paris

Unknown said...


I feel off the 5:2 wagon, but am back on it now, and I agree it's the only thing that works!

If you wish to get news of my writing, you can always sign up for updates and news from me on the right hand side! ;-)