Introduction: Please don't worry, I have not gone mad!
I will begin this post with the relevant disclosures. I am not saying I am fat. So anyone who knows me and is concerned that I am saying I am going on a diet, don't worry, I am not going to start becoming obsessive about my weight. The fact is, I don't even possess a weighing machine. I have to go to the supermarket or doctor's surgery to get weighed!
The honest truth is that I am straining at the limit of my dress size. I have had to throw out many clothes in my size which are slightly fitted. I have recently returned 4 pairs of skinny jeans supposedly in my size, some of which I could not even get my bottom into! I have a choice: continue as I am, and move into the next dress size up, or do something now.
At my age, I could simply choose to move to the next dress size up. But it would involve buying new clothes and getting rid of a collection I have proudly curated most of my adult life (since I have been in full time work and been able to buy nice clothes). It would mean replacing that collection (some of which I convince myself will come back into fashion given time) with a whole new array of clothes which I can ill afford right now. What also troubles me is that if I acquiesce so easily to this next size up, will I do the same for the next? And when will this end if I start down this path?
I am only 5'1" tall, about 151cm. Not tall. In fact, I am blooming short! So any additional weight looks even more pronounced in its effect. If I am brutally honest, which for some unknown reason, I am prepared to be on this blog (I pretend that nobody I know reads it!), then I will admit I am a pear. I have a pear-shaped body. Small on top (damn!) and chunky at the bottom. All of my weight goes on my bottom and below. It is not with delight that I admit to having "thunder thighs". It is in the interests of honesty. I never leave the house without them being properly covered in either trousers or very, very thick tights. Thick tights cover all the orange peel wobble action!
But, I love my food. And I also love wine. I don't intend to give them up. I don't want to be on a permanent diet where I have to turn away the food I love. A permanent programme of self denial doesn't seem much fun for me. I don't think ANY pair of skinny jeans is worth that.
Him Indoors knew that I was mulling over going on the 5:2 diet after watching Dr Michael Mosley's BBC Horizon programme 'Eat, Fast and Live Longer'. He too, as a result of our love of food and wine, has piled on the pounds. When he was slim, Him Indoors was cuddle-able (for those of you who don't know him, he's a lovely, lovely man), but now he was also cuddly. At first he wasn't keen to go on on any kind of diet programme, we've tried low fat cooking before and it was not fun, but he changed his mind and decided he's go for it too. So I now had fresh resolve and a diet buddy!
Here is Dr Michael Mosley talking about the diet on Radio 2:
Why we chose the 5:2 Diet
I investigated the two diets which are getting a lot of publicity right now: "The 2 Day Diet" and "The 5:2 Diet". I will say more about these two approaches in a future post. I have been reading the books about these diets and they make informative interesting reading and I would advise people thinking about these approaches to read both books before deciding which approach suits them better. I did think about the DODO diet (day-on, day-off) but going without every other day seemed excessive and a bit too onerous. I don't want to be severely restricting what I eat 7 days out of 14.
We decided to think about these methods rather than a traditional diet because we like our food and could not possibly go for several months of eating low fat and low calorie foods. We also know that traditional diets often lead to the dieter putting the weight back on once the diet has finished. We thought that these newer methods would lead to a permanent lifestyle change and help us keep off the weight.
But one very persuasive factor were the non-weight loss benefits: anti-cancer, anti-type 2 diabetes, cholesterol lowering, insulin response recalibration, stopping your body from storing so much fat, anti-Alzheimers and anti-ageing. "Wow!" we thought, that's a big set of benefits for just 2 days a week hardship!
Whichever plan you choose, you are looking at a restricted calorie intake of on your "fast days". That means very little food, and no alcohol at all. For many of us, this is quite a restriction and sacrifice. We began to be filled with trepidation and doubt. We felt convinced this would be really difficult and a test of our willpower that we might, embarrassingly, not be able to meet.
For a variety of reasons Him Indoors and I decided to go for the 5:2 diet with its 2 non-consecutive calorie restricted "fast days" rather than the 2 Day diet with 2 consecutive days of restriction. Achievability, simplicity and the ease with which we could fit it into workaday life were important factors. Men are permitted 600 calories on a fast day, women 500. Whether you have one big meal or several small ones is up to you. You can have whatever drinks you like, but have to count the calories towards your limit.
We then had to decide on the days to be our "fast days". We decided that we wanted to keep weekends sacrosanct. They have to be days for rest, relaxation and indulgence. What's the point of working hard all week only to be unable to enjoy food and drink on days off?
So we've opted for Tuesday and Friday. We thought about Tuesday and Thursday, but they were no good owing to pressure of work for Him Indoors. We knew that our ability to succeed in sticking to this diet depended on us both participating, so Tuesday and Friday were the best choices for both of us.
We thought about having a breakfast and a dinner. But honestly, trying to split my measly 500 calories into anything approaching two 'meals' was tough. Really tough. So we took the decision to have one big meal a day, at dinnertime. That way we could prepare it together and eat it together. And we would be able to stick to the calorie limit because we had selected the dish and eaten it together. What's the bet if I had a little breakfast on my own I'd be tempted to add a little something extra?
We then had to decide on D Day: when we would begin our dieting adventure! We chose Monday 8 April. Not real reason other than we might as well just get started. No need to wait for a new month or a new season.
Our First Week
We started our very first 'fast' day with trepidation. We're so used to eating what we want, when we want, that the idea of going most of the day without food filled us with fear. Him Indoors particularly thought he would find getting through a working day extremely difficult. I'd read about the need to drink a lot of water or tea, so I followed that advice and had lots of drinks through the day. I won't lie, I had moments of feeling very hungry and my resolve did wobble. However, the pangs of hunger do fade. The feeling of being empty comes and goes. Him Indoors found he survived the day, and that it was mentally difficult more than physically tough.
For our supper we made "5-2 Diet Smoked Haddock and Pearl Barley Casserole" by Fiona MacLean who writes the London Unattached website/blog. The recipe can be found here http://bit.ly/ZEKTur
Him Indoors was very sceptical about this recipe. I selected it because he usually likes haddock, so I was a little miffed to say the least! I also chose it because I thought the pearl barley would be broken down slowly, resulting in slow energy release. In the end, Him Indoors was very pleasantly surprised. The dish is easy to make and very tasty. We will be making this dish on another fast day, for sure. It's a real winner.
We found that the second fast day was easier, mainly because we now knew that we could handle the waves of hunger before dinnertime. We were both relieved when I got home a little early and we could start on dinner as we had gone for a long enough time without food.
We made another of Fiona MacLean's recipes, this time "5:2 Diet Asian Chicken Wraps", which you can find here: http://bit.ly/W0ugXv This dish needed much more preparation, since many of the ingredients were diced, but was well worth it. It was actually hard to believe that such a flavoursome dish was as low in calories as it was! The sauce coats the chicken beautifully, and the garlic, ginger and chilli makes it taste like a real Asian dish.
From our experience this week, I would definitely recommend 5:2 dieters to check out Fiona's recipes and give them a go; she has a talent for making low fat and low calorie food taste amazing.
Our Second Week
My third fast day was particularly difficult for me. This was because my hay fever had kicked in, as a result of flowering Plane Trees near my work. My face had swollen up, my skin and eyes were red and stinging. I felt I had no energy. It was so bad, I was told to go home by my timetabling officer! Not eating and having the waves of hunger just added to my general feeling of miserableness.
Our meal for the day was Tiger Prawn Curry with Basmati Rice, a recipe we found online here:
The curry paste was easy to make and gave the dish a good amount of kick. We used one scotch bonnet chilli instead of 2 red chillies (since that was what we had in the house). The curry was no less spicy for the lack of 2 chillies! Him Indoors liked this dish more than I did, but my mood was so low, that perhaps I wasn't in the best frame of mind to eat it and assess it objectively. I had a hot bath after dinner and went straight to bed, stuffed to the gills with antihistamines. A genuinely tough day.
My fourth fast day was fairly easy until I got to the afternoon. A drink of water at what would have been my lunchtime didn't assuage the feelings of having an empty belly, so I had to follow it with a cup of herbal tea. All was well until the inevitable need to go to the loo! I didn't feel hungry again until I got home. Then it really hit. Preparing and cooking the dinner, having to wait for it to be ready and not being able to snack in the meantime did make me feel a little miffed at what should have been the start of the weekend. I am sure that as we progress with diet this will become easier. However, Him Indoors, who had the greatest reservations about the diet, took it in his stride!
Our supper was Squash & chorizo stew, a quick to make stew with a tomato base. Despite only having only 5 ingredients, it is quite flavourful, and has some interesting differences of texture between the chewy chorizo and yielding just-cooked butternut squash. And cooking the chorizo until its internal oils were released meant no extra fat.
Our impressions at the end of Week 2
Him Indoors is surprised how easily he has taken to the fast days. He finds it fairly simple to get through the fast days with some cups of Jasmine Tea with sweetener in to make it through to dinner. He says 'considering I don't have the greatest willpower in the world, I am surprised I'm finding it quite easy'. He finds it is a relief that some of the low calorie meals are 'actually very tasty'. He had fears, after I brought home a low fat cookbook in the past whose recipes were bland and boring, that this would be the same thing.
I am finding that when I get home from work, I feel very peckish and tempted to snack. Some of you will think this fairly disgusting, but big jars of pickled gherkins have been my saviour. Crunchy, filling and only 7 calories per 100g, they are keeping me away from biscuits, flatbreads and the other sort of thing I usually graze at whilst preparing and cooking dinner. Maybe as I get used to the fast days, I will be able to phase them out, but they are getting me through the evenings.
I am relieved to be at the end of week 2 with a weekend of feasting ahead of me, that's for sure!
Oddly, it is the stress relieving glass of wine in the evening on our fast days that both of us miss the most. Taking 2 'dry' days a week will do us the power of good, both in terms of calorie intake and as a rest for our livers. So whilst we are living with it, it still feels like a bit of a sacrifice.
I have had a hidden source of support on this challenge; the people of twitter. I have received some wonderful messages of support, as well as advice. There are loads of people willing to cheer you on, particularly on your fast days. So I'd like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all of the people who have helped me via their tweets. You're all fabulous!
Are any of you thinking about either the 5:2 Diet, the 2 Day Diet or the DODO Diet? What are your thoughts on these new plans for weight loss? Are you currently on any of these? Do you have any advice or tips to share? Please get in touch, I'd love to hear from you!