Try the 5:2 Diet, she said. It will be a breeze, she said.
[Narrator: It was far from breezy.]
There’s been plenty written about the 5:2 diet of late. The evidence-based health benefits of intermittent fasting include everything from noticeable weight loss, to improved heart and brain health, a faster metabolism and a lowered risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes.
But, what is rarely discussed is just how freaking HARD the fasting part really is. Simply put, those 500 cal-days haunt my carb-deprived dreams.
I should preface this diet rant by divulging that I’m currently gearing up for my wedding at the end of the year. There’s nothing like a little bit of “wed shred” pressure to force a woman into making crazy sacrifices (like farewelling mid-week vinos and those after-dinner dips into the ice cream tub).
With the dress all purchased, the gym membership burning a hole in my pocket and the wedding day-clock ticking down, I figured it was now or never. I decided to give this much-talked about 5:2 diet a whack.
For those not so familiar with the 5:2 diet – raved about by the likes of J-Lo, Miranda Kerr, Nicole Kidman, even fantasy boyfriend Benedict Cumberbatch – it involves eating normally, but consciously and healthily five days a week. But on the remaining two days, you consume just 500 calories (600 for men), which is 25 per cent of the recommended daily calorie intake.
Two out of seven, seems easy enough, right? Wrong.
Here are five things to know about the 5:2 diet before you give it a whirl:
1. The biggest surprise for me when planning my fasting days was just how little wiggle room you have with 500 calories. It’s basically a black coffee and an apple for breakfast, a boiled egg and leafy greens for lunch, and a water-based soup for dinner. Some 5:2ers opt to skip breakfast entirely and spread their calories over two meals, but as an early riser I’ve never been a brekkie skipper. That said, a single banana is around 100 cals, so if you choose not to forgo your morning meal, you’ve got very little to play with at lunch and dinner. Who knew counting cals could be so exhausting? (And, side note: utterly monotonous for anyone not on your weight loss journey. No one gets excited by a conversation about calories).
2. As any 5:2 dieter will testify, you’ll be willing to sell your first born for a few extra calories on those fasting days. I’ve been guilty of eschewing all humans, all adult conversation, and any thought process that doesn’t involve food. Your one-track mind becomes obsessed with the following day when you can eat normally again.
3. It would be remiss of me not to mention the side effects. Of course, everyone’s experience on the 5:2 is different, but I’ve regularly woken up after a 500 cal day with severe hunger pains, lingering headaches, dehydration, and feeling light-headed and sleepier than usual throughout the day. Thank God there are barely any calories in black coffee.
4. Let’s talk about exercise. I’d read enough about the 5:2 diet to know that working out on a fasting day is a big no-no. Yet, some days I can’t resist squeezing in a Pilates class or at least a walk to keep my body moving. If you plan to exercise, grant yourself an extra 100 calories or so, because passing out on a yoga mat is in NO way worth it.
5. Don’t forget your loved ones. It’s amazing how quickly one transforms from sweet as pie to a food-starved maniac as soon as life’s great pleasures are stripped away. Never has the phrase “hangry” been more appropriate, or the word “unbearable” been thrown around more by my fiancé than during those bleak 500 cal days.
Bottom line: they’re not lying when they say the 5:2 diet works. I’ve dropped a few kilos and feel super fresh during my non-fasting days. Cutting back on alcohol, particularly during the week, and really paying attention to how much food (even if it’s the good stuff) is being put in my body has been a game changer. So I’ll stick with this 5:2 business, for now. But Christmas ham, I’m coming for you.
Make sure you read all the guidelines and check with your GP if this diet is in fact, for you.