Cooking Experiences

An achievable twist on the 5:2 diet

Caroline blogs about the many benefits of the 5:2 diet…

Last year my blood pressure decided to go haywire. The first lot of pills worked but depleted my potassium levels, the second lot didn’t work and also made my ankles swell up like sausages, the third lot had no nasty side effects but neither did they have any affect on my blood pressure!

My GP suggested that perhaps if I took more exercise my blood pressure would decrease. I explained that I went to the gym faithfully every day as it was, so that was a non starter. She then suggested I lose half a stone – easier said than done was my initial thought. I am not renowned for my will power and the thought of having to follow some dreary diet depressed me greatly!

My heart sank further when I heard the words 5:2 diet. I had had an unsuccessful encounter six months earlier with said diet and had failed miserably. I had read about it in the newspaper and was attracted to it since it did not seem to involve weighing everything out, calculating calorific values for everything that passed my lips and generally feeling deprived and hard done by 24/7. Being virtuous two days out of seven was surely within my capabilities!

Little did I know how hard it would be to stick to 500 calories per day. I started off full of enthusiasm and had a 90 calorie yoghurt for breakfast. So far, so good. By the time I had been to my class at the gym mid-morning I was pretty hungry and decided that perhaps I would be better off by having my main meal of the day at lunch time and just a bowl of soup in the evening.

I duly prepared my vegetable curry and small portion of rice and wolfed it down. This left me with 50 calories for the rest of the day. The curry had filled me up nicely and I started to feel rather pleased with myself.

Sadly by mid afternoon the hunger pangs started and I felt low on energy, generally grumpy and dismayed at the thought that all I had to look forward to was a bowl of soup. Surely I could have a low calorie snack said my husband. I found myself looking up the calorific value of a stick of celery (hadn’t I read somewhere that celery takes more energy to chew than it provides – a sort of negative calorie count). Sadly this did not appear to be the case and no, there was nothing I could have unless I wanted to sacrifice some of my soup.

By late afternoon I was ravenous and could think of nothing but my bowl of carrot soup. I stuck it out until 6 o’clock but could wait no longer. The soup barely took the edge off my hunger and it took great will power not to give up there and then. I decided that an early night was in order. If I was asleep I couldn’t be hungry and the way my day had gone I felt pretty tired anyway.

Getting to sleep hungry turned out to be easier said than done and, pathetic though it sounds, I have to confess that I made my poor husband get out of bed and bring me a biscuit. Of course I felt a miserable failure. I had barely had the energy to do anything all day. How, I wondered, did George Osborne manage to keep the country’s economy afloat whilst following this wretched diet? Or did this explain a lot about the state of the UK?

That was it for me, the 5:2 diet and I were not natural bedfellows and I had new-found respect for anyone that could crack it.

Anyway all of this was going round in my brain when my GP made her suggestion. Luckily she was suggesting a modified version of the torture which I have actually found relatively easy to stick to. My “day” runs from 2pm on Day 1 to 2pm on Day 2 (or if I am feeling particularly virtuous to 6 or 7pm on Day 2) and therein lies the secret. For some reason this is much easier to adhere to but is just as effective as the traditional method.

On Day 1 I eat 1100 calories at breakfast and lunch. I then have 500 calories between the start and end of my fast and then another 900 calories at dinner on Day 2.

Unlike the standard 5:2 diet, it’s not difficult to stick to this in the slightest. A lot of my usual meals such as curries (not the creamy based ones admittedly), stir fries, chilli, roast chicken, pasta etc fit the bill for lunch on Day 1 and dinner on Day 2.

The 500 calories for the fasting period allow me to have a couple of crackers in the evening of Day 1 (not always needed), a 90 calorie yoghurt for breakfast on Day 2 and then for lunch either a sandwich (Waitrose do a lovely Hoi Sin duck wrap), a big bowl of soup and plenty of bread, a Cook’s Pad Thai or even a fish finger sandwich (although Charlotte’s version is a bit too calorific!)

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I am pleased to say that in the first three months of the diet I lost a stone and although the rate has slowed down significantly I am sticking with it and still losing weight. The bad news is that this had no effect on my blood pressure but luckily the right pill has been found and it is doing the job nicely!

If anyone else has found the 5:2 diet too hard to follow, why not give the cheat’s version a try?

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