Road Testing the Popular 5:2 Diet | Part Two

By Daniel Colasimone
4th Aug 2013

Check out Part One if you want to learn a little about the 5:2 diet and my lack of willpower.  

Fast Day, Attempt Two

'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.' -- Samuel Beckett

That first failed attempt at fasting was such a traumatic experience that it took weeks of introspection and boozing before I was ready for have another crack at it. 

To be honest, I hadn't planned my menu all that well once again, though I had gone to the trouble of bookmarking several pages on the internet with low-kilojoule meal suggestions. 

Without taking the time to check, I assumed a flat white and small porridge with skim milk in the morning wouldn't do too much damage to my daily count. Incorrect assumption. 

It seems milk packs a heavy load, so the coffee (872kj) and porridge (820kj) had taken up well over half my 2500kj allowance. Woe.

The bag of stir-fried veggies I had for lunch only took up 200 kilojoules and filled me up for a good 34 minutes, but at least I was into the afternoon with some spare kjs jingling in my back pocket.

Water, tea, and black coffee (no milk!) got me through until dinner time. Again, this time of day proved the most difficult and I was very close to pulling the plug for a second time and ordering some kind of lavish curry for dinner (by cruel twist of fate I happened to be writing an article on Brisbane's best curries that day, what torture), but I hung on this time and feasted on roast vegetables for dinner. 

It had been gruelling but I'd made it through a fast day, though doubts remained about whether I could pull this off twice a week and continue to function like a normal person. No champagne to celebrate though. Mineral water would have to suffice. I went to bed really looking forward to a bacon breakfast in the morning.

Which brings us to...

In Between Fast Days

'Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.' -- W. Somerset Maugham

For five days out of seven this diet allows you to eat whatever you want. This makes me wonder how effective it can be in the long term. I spend the majority of fast days fantasising about food so the next day tends to turn into a bit of a binge. And weekends, well . . .

My job as a sports journalist means I cover, on average, a couple of live games per weekend, and though the clubs are generous enough to give us hacks a feed, the grub only ever comes from the yellow food group; pies, sausage rolls, fish and chips, chicken strips and chips, and so forth. 

I can only imagine how difficult it must be for people with real jobs who have to pre-arrange their meals before work or succumb to the temptation of quick, easy, and probably unhealthy lunch-time menus.

I can't blame anyone else for what I eat and drink on my own time, however, and that ends up being just as unwholesome. A Saturday night out, for example, might involve a rich dinner somewhere and more than a few alcoholic beverages.

Big Saturday nights usually turn into lazy Sundays filled with takeaway Thai food or lavish home-made pizzas.

So perhaps I'm taking the whole 'eat whatever you like' on 'feeder days' (that term makes me feel like livestock) too far, but hey, they should have specified if they wanted self control.

That being said, the 5:2 forces nutritional ignoramuses (nutrignoramuses?) like me to develop an awareness of just how much of an energy punch different kinds of foods pack.

I do now find myself thinking twice about indulging in meals I know will contain more than the recommended daily kilojoule count for the entire population of Finland. 

And there are other habits you pick up on fast days that carry over to the rest of the week as well, such as using cups of tea to fill an empty belly between meals, and learning about interesting ways to cook veggies and other healthy foods to make them more desirable. 

The longer you keep it up, the more likely the 5:2 diet is to teach you good overall eating customs, and that can only be beneficial.

This gripping 5:2 saga will reach its conclusion next week, in Part Three: Getting the Hang of It (contains recipe ideas).

Image credit: Meanwhile in the 60s

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