How to Make 5:2 Work
'Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.' -- Pablo Picasso.
With each fast day the ordeal becomes slightly less arduous. Basically, it's a case of practice makes perfect.
Through trial and error you discover which low-kilojoule foods satisfy hunger best (and which ones taste good), how to space out meals, and a whole bunch of other tricks to get through the day with minimum trauma.
My third go at a fast day was still tough, but I never felt I was going to fall off the wagon as I was very tempted to do on my second attempt, and did with a clatter the first time around.
By the fourth fast day, I was noticing the hunger much less, and even looking forward to the tasty specialist meals I had lined up.
Here are some hacks for getting through limited-kilojoule days:
- Space your meals around your body's natural food clock (Note: I don't know if that's really a thing). For example, I personally don't need to eat much in the mornings so can last fairly comfortably till lunch-time without eating. If you're one of those people who must eat breakfast to function, make that your most kilojoule-heavy meal and just have a snack at lunch or dinner.
- If you keep busy, you have less time to think about food.
- Mineral water fills you up more than still water.
- Plan your menu in advance. If your meals are already laid out for you, you'll be less tempted to stray.
- Tea and black coffee are your best friends. Seriously, I couldn't have survived a single fast day without them. Caffeine is an appetite suppressant so coffee kills those hunger pangs for a while, and cups of tea are a great way to break up the long wait between feeds.
- Vegetables are the answer. They are extremely low in kilojoules so you can eat relatively large quantities to fill yourself up. Roast veggies, salads, and stir fries are delicious and they won't do much damage to your energy count.
- Spicy, flavoursome foods make you feel fuller. Use heaps of garlic, chilli, and other herbs and spices when you cook for yourself.
And the following are some of the best recipes I've come across for fast days, some swiped from The Guardian, others from recipe sites.
Sweet spiced porridge (845kj)
40g porridge oats
Grating of nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
5g mixed peel
10g currants (I found dried cranberries even better)
Basically just cook the oats in water (not milk!) and add the other ingredients. You know how to make porridge.
Cauliflower bake (700kj)
Head of cauliflower
10g Parmesan cheese
Teaspoon of olive oil
Break up the cauliflower, sprinkle with olive oil, and roast for 20 mins in the oven. Top with the mixed Parmesan and breadcrumbs and cook for another 5 mins until the cheese has melted.
Roast vegetables (around 500kj)
Herbs of choice
Pinch of sea salt
OK this is not really a recipe, but, as mentioned above, it's an excellent way to fill yourself up and it's quick and easy to prepare if you're busy. Just cut the veggies into chunks, drop them into an oven tray, and sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and herbs. Roast. Eat.
Roasted broccoli, garlic, and chilli soup (837kj)
head of broccoli
2 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp chilli flakes
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 unwaxed lemon
10g grated parmesan
This is my absolute favourite of the low-kilojoule recipes I've tried. Tastes fantastic and fills you up as well. Break the broccoli into florets, add the chilli, oil, and some salt, and roast for 20 mins with the garlic (still in its skin), or until it begins to char. Set aside some of the florets, and throw the remainder into a food processor with the stock. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and add that as well. Blend until smooth-ish, then put it in a pan to reheat, adding the remaining florets, lemon zest, and a squeeze of lemon. Top with Parmesan to serve. Delicious.
So does the 5:2 diet work?
'To keep the body in good health is a duty . . . otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.' --The Buddha.
After a short trial period of two months, I can say that I do feel healthier. I've lost 3.8kg and have gone back to my default toned physique. I can see my eight pack again! Men's Health and GQ have called and asked me to do shirtless cover shoots.
Though most of that last paragraph is blatantly false, it is true that the intermittent dieting I undertook has had its benefits. Needless to say, the genuine effects would be more apparent over a longer period of time.
Will I keep it up? I haven't decided yet. Even if I don't strictly follow the rules of the diet, however, I will certainly stick to the policy of dedicating a couple of days a week to low-kilojoule, nutritious eating.
Aside from the boost to my overall health, it also makes me feel less guilty about my regular overindulgences.
Stopping at Harry's Fine Foods at 2am on Friday night to eat some kind of veal schnitzel injected with cheese is perfectly okay under the 5:2 diet, and that makes the 5:2 diet okay with me.