A friend of mine who I see about 5 times a year says that every time she sees me I’ve either put on a stone or lost a stone, which is spot on. I’m either:
Cramming my face with gay abandon; picking the baked camenbert for my starter, glugging pinot grigio, ripping chicken from the leg with my teeth and generally living a lot like a medieval king.
Punishing myself; missing my Weight Watchers weigh-in for the third week running, googling ‘how to lose 6lb in an hour’ and surviving on nothing more than slim-a-soups, marlboro lights and satsumas (for vitamins).
I’ve never found that happy medium and I fear that 20 years after realising this, I may never achieve it.
Like most 30 year old women, I regard myself as somewhat of an amateur psychologist and am therefore sure I can find the cause of this all-too-familiar story. Here are the top three conclusions I (and most other people) jump to:
Assumption one: It’s my parents’ fault.
Reality: I was brought up with great home-cooked meals, very few snacks, no naughty food in the house and a healthy respect for vegetables and exercise.
Assumption two: Ok, well, it’s obviously in your genes.
Reality: No-one, actually, no-one in my family is overweight. I am the only person utterly obsessed with food.
Assumption three: Well, if it’s not the fault of a blood relative, it must be society’s fault. You must have really low self esteem, because of all these skinny models, glossy magazines and whatnot.
Reality: If I had low self esteem, do you think I’d be writing a blog about myself? (and I don’t read glossy magazines.)
I don’t even think it’s my fault, despite the fact that I would sell my own mother for a soft shell crab handroll in Yo Sushi.
Shall I tell you whose fault it is? It’s bloody food’s fault, that’s what! For being so bloody lovely and diverse and rich and sexy and alluring! The reason I fail at diets is because I will never fall out of love with food. And I don’t want to. (And I won’t.) (And I like big portions.) (And I eat my friends’ leftovers because I hate waste.)
Over the past year, I have put on weight. I got married and felt that I needed to fulfil certain societal expectations of a new wife. I needed to get fat, get greasy, shout constantly at my husband and buy a pair of sweat pants that I would always wear, yet never wash. But then one day, my husband unlocked my chains and allowed me to scuttle into the city for an hour. I went to Zara and realised I couldn’t fit into a large. It was then that knew I needed to lose some weight. I sprung into default reactionary mode and enrolled with Weight Watchers.
One of the defining moments of my life, which pretty much sums up everything I have written above, happened at my first meeting:
Leader: ‘So would you like to stay behind at the end and I can explain the Weight Watchers programme to you?’
Cassandra: ‘It’s OK thanks, this is my fifth time.’
It was great for the first month, I lost about 6 pounds, the meetings were motivational and it was pleasing to see my weight go down each week. However one day, I looked in my fridge and it was depressing. Everything was plastic, chemical, processed, tasteless. I had low fat cheese which didn’t melt on toast, reduced calorie coleslaw that tasted like milk bottle shavings in water and light bread with an ingredients list more at home in a weapons laboratory. I felt sad. I missed food. I needed a new way.
As if by magic, someone at work made me aware of a BBC documentary called ‘Eat, Fast and Live Longer’, which – at the time – was on the iplayer. The documentary was about a diet called the 5:2 diet. Around the same time, The Sunday Times Magazine ran a piece on the same thing. I watched it, read it, and had (for want of a better cliche) a lightbulb moment.
The concept is simple: 5 days a week, you eat what you want, 2 days a week, you fast. That’s why some people call it the 5:2 diet. It’s easy to remember and the rules are idiotproof. By ‘fasting’ what I mean is no more than 500 calories for a woman and 600 for a man. The picture above is what I had today (yes, I know I could have done something hilarious with the banana and the eggs. You dirty minded people, you.) I had:
- A banana for breakfast
- Half a tub of Waitrose Love Life soup and two Ryvita type things for lunch
- An omelette for dinner
This is roughly 500 calories. I also had a lot of green tea and black coffee.
Some schools of thought say you should eat all the calories in one go, others say you can spread it. I have to spread it. And it’s done me no harm. Since starting the 5:2 diet I have lost about 9 pounds and I’ve started eating real food again. It’s incredibly liberating to know that nothing is off limits on those 5 days. Nothing is off limits on the fasting days, you just can’t go over 500 calories.
So, how does it work? Well, I think the guy whose documentary brought it to my attention is better placed to tell you. I’ve put a link to an article he wrote about it at the bottom of this page.
What I can tell you though, is that I feel incredible. I eat less, I eat better and I feel (and am) lighter. I’m suddenly a lot more lucid and I think that this is down to the fact that I’m not sluggish with stodge. I feel alert and alive. And let me tell you, I haven’t felt like that in a while. None of the things I thought would happen have happened. I thought I’d be knackered on fast days, but I really haven’t been. I thought I’d be starving on my 5 ‘off’ days and desperately cramming in as much food as I could. But I haven’t, in fact my appetite has decreased massively. I assumed that I would dread my fast days, but I actually look forward to them.
Is it for everyone? I’m not sure. I find not eating much, just as easy as eating a lot. Many people I talk to say that they couldn’t do it… but change is good and I say, if you want to shift a bit of chunk, give it a whirl. And the best bit is, you don’t need to buy a book; no-one’s cashing in on your weight loss, setting you targets or waiting for you to fail. You’re not eating an unrealistic diet which you won’t be able to stick to as soon as you’ve hit ‘goal’. You do it for you; for the sake of your pleasure and your health.
It’s ruddy good.
I’ll be blogging about what I’ve had on my fast days on here. This week I’m actually doing it two days in a row (hardcore) as I have four solid days of Christmas fun lined up.
I would love to hear from anyone else who is doing the diet. Tell me how you’ve found it!