Falling off the 5:2 diet wagon

5:2 dietA couple of months ago, the geekdaddy and I started the 5:2 diet, as made popular by the Horizon programme investigating the health benefits of intermittent fasting. We didn’t particularly start it in order to lose weight, rather for the health benefits in terms of decreased risks of cancer, heart disease and other nasties. But although we said it wasn’t about losing weight, we had been interested to read reports of other people losing weight whilst following this particular eating plan, and there’s no doubt both of us do need to lose weight.

Things started off going well. The fast days were difficult, but we managed them. We discovered that rather than just eating one single meal on a fast day, it helped to have a low calorie cup soup in the evenings to stave off the hunger pangs. Initially we did both lose a couple of pounds. But it was just a couple, and after the first two or three weeks the weight loss stopped completely.

Still we pressed on, reassuring ourselves that the health benefits alone were worth it. But it got harder. The health benefits are not visible, and it was really difficult to stick to an extreme eating plan without any visible benefit whatsoever. And after a while we just didn’t have the motivation to fast any more.

standing on scalesAnd so I find myself feeling lost once again. I know I need to lose weight, I know I’m overweight, and I know I will be more healthy if I lose weight. I think I need to lose about 3 stone, but I’m lost as to how to do it. Some people seem to drop weight very easily when they want to – my Mum for example has just lost four pounds by just changing her brand of margarine – but weight loss has never come easily to me. I enjoy food. I enjoy eating, and no matter how conscious I am of the effect of that doughnut on my waistline, I haven’t yet found a way to stop myself from eating it.

On the whole I think I eat healthily. I cook sensible meals for the family, I eat my fruit and veg, possibly not five a day, but usually three or four at least. I try to avoid nasty processed foods where possible. I know I have a dreadful weakness when it comes to cakes and chocolate, and I know on the whole I eat big portions of things. I also don’t do any exercise, which can’t help matters either. But whenever I’ve tried the age old “just eat less and exercise more” diet, I have failed to lose anything. I don’t believe I can be doing things so very wrong to have weight loss methods that work for so many other people not work for me.

I have lost weight in the past. I lost most weight following the Atkins diet, but had to stick to induction levels of carbohydrate to maintain my weight, which was practically impossible without planning meals at a microscopic level, and didn’t strike me as “healthy” long term. I lost almost 2 stone following the Slimming World diet after the geekson was born. But when my maternity leave ended I found it impossible to make eating choices at the work canteen that fitted the diet, and the weight came back again. I’m constantly trying to find a sustainable change that I can make to my eating habits that fits in with my lifestyle, and I haven’t yet found one.

So at the moment I have no plan. I refuse to stress about this stuff over Christmas because, let’s face it, there are plenty of other things to stress about over Christmas. But I suspect come the New Year I’ll be one of the millions of people making yet another New Year’s resolution to lose weight. I just hope in the next few weeks I can come up with an idea of how I might achieve that.

Scales image courtesy of chainat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. says

    I’ve lost 2 stone since August and it was a fortnight on Jenny Craig that kickstarted it for me. I’m lucky enough to have another month on it at the moment, hoping to lose a stone by the end of it. Jenny Craig is a funny old diet because it’s not a diet really, it’s an adjustment to the way of thinking about food; I am on 1700 calories a day and by and large I do stick to what they tell me to eat. It involves cereal and a banana for breakfast, a lunchpot (potato or pasta) and salad for lunch and a meal pouch for dinner which is usually pasta or a curry or something. In addition to this it tells you to have three snacks a day so a mid-morning snack is usually fruit and low-fat yoghurt, afternoon snack can be the same although they also give you a snack bar or crisps, and then evening can allow for 3 crispbreads and some cottage cheese. Throughout the day it also allows me one or two starches, proteins, fats and dairy products, so I have a pitta bread with my lunch and a quorn sausage chopped up in the salad, and tofu with dinner. In the Summer I found it weird to eat so often but it works by keeping your metabolism going throughout the day, so grazing keeps it at a better pace.

    I’m not advertising Jenny Craig or suggesting you buy in (it’s £280 a month!) BUT what I’m suggesting is that six small meals a day seem to have worked for me; a little and often.
    TheBoyandMe recently posted..Growing Beyond The Potty ListMy Profile

  2. says

    Have you tried using a food journal in the past? I’ve tried a few different app/website versions but prefer a simple text document on my iPhone (because I hate tracking calories and all the app ones usually have that built in). First, it makes me more mindful of what and how much I’m eating. Then once it becomes a habit, I usually try to bring things more into balance using the principle that it’s the every day things that define us. So I’m allowed an occasional treat, but try to keep my every day meals healthy. If I’m being mindful about it, it means I get to indulge in the really good stuff, but can keep myself from eating handfuls of chocolate chips every afternoon.

    Also, I usually find I’m most successful in eating healthy foods when I’m getting some regular exercise. It started out with just a 15 minute walk each day. But then felt so good that I had to do a bit more, and a bit more, etc. It didn’t make the bad stuff less tempting, but it made the healthy stuff taste better to me, so I’d start to feel cravings for more veggies and leaner protein. Having a kid and going back to work after my maternity leave has wrecked my schedule for exercise so I’m trying to get back to it.

  3. says

    Waiting until after Christmas before you even start to think about this is probably wise.

    As you know, Weight Watchers online with the iPhone app worked really well for me cos it actually changed the way I ate long term. I still eat cake and chocolate but less frequently and in smaller amounts.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do.
    nyssapod recently posted..Magpie Monday – Boden jacketMy Profile

  4. says

    The diet that did it for me where others failed was Cambridge. I love their plan with three shakes/soups(which I ate during the day while my family was at work/school nursery) then a low carb meal in the evening which I ate at table in front of everyone. My husband didn’t even know I was dieting until I had lost a stone and a half. I’m also loving listening to the Slimpods from Thinking Slimmer. At the moment I am listening to their free Christmas download planning to maintain my weight during December. But I will get on the wagon again in January.
    Debbie recently posted..Win a Slimpod and a new OutfitMy Profile

  5. Kelly says

    Have a look at Paleo. It’s basically more of a complete lifestyle over-haul, rather than a diet. As long as you like meat, you’ll be fine. I find it easy to do – even the rest of my family has started it now. Having lost nearly 7 stone calorie counting, I found I was always hungry. Paleo keeps me full and although it says ‘no dairy’, I must admit I do bend the rules sometimes for a little bit of milk or a fat-free Greek yoghurt. I’ve lost the remaining 1.5 stone since doing it within 3 months.

    Good luck!

  6. Kelly says

    I should also add, but you’re not supposed to have any form of potato on it, but I treat myself to a baked sweet potato a 1/2 times a week!

  7. says

    Ruth, I think we’re very much alike in this.

    I have found that losing weight on the standard “reduce calories and exercise more” is very difficult and so incredibly slow… I have done it, but as it’s counter to what I want to eat, it’s never going tchange the way I eat permanently, and it feels like a chore, the whole time. An endless, depressing drudge. And that makes it demoralising and hard to keep up.

    Atkins is not for me, simply because it doesn’t seem healthy long term and is clearly a short term solution. More than any other diet, the people I know who’ve lost a lot of weight on Atkins have been the ones that have put it back on (and then some) most quickly.

    I want to give 5:2 a better go. I did it for a couple of weeks before we went to Japan and didn’t find it hard to stick to actually, but didn’t lose any weight. I did have some blood tests shortly before, because of some health problems, so could do a comparison in the future, when I start it again. I didn’t do it in Japan, of course, and haven’t resumed it yet.

    But mum has lost over a stone on it, so I keep thinking it should work. BUT I suspect a lot of her success is that, unconsciously, she’s switched back to reduced calorie for the rest of the week too.

    What I want is a StarTrek transporter device, miniaturised, which I can impant into my oesophagus, and transport the naughty things I eat out of my body before they hit my digestive system, and only let through the low calorie and nutritious stuff! Yes, this is the kind if idiot fantasies I have.

    Signed, with kisses, Lardy Arse. x x
    Kavey recently posted..Kavey Eats Christmas Gift Ideas 2012My Profile

  8. says

    If only we loved exercise and just marginally liked food Ruth, life would be so much easier! I pray you find something that works for you in the new year. I’ll need tok get sorted too, it is that health thing like you, I know many of my aches woudl dissapear along with a few stone.

    I hope you have had a lovely Christmas.

    Mich x
    michelle twin mum recently posted..Take a nosey at our Christmas treesMy Profile

  9. PhilT says

    I wonder if you over-compensated on non-fast days and didn’t have a reduction in weekly calorie intake ?

    After a couple of years (coming up to 3) on an Atkins style eating regime my GP says I have the best weight loss and health of his patients, so I wouldn’t be concerned about health.

    But if you have no self control around food then your doomed to be fat and unhealthy, sorry.

  10. Chuck Currie says

    Here’s a research/reading list for you ICYMI:
    Mark Sisson – Mark’s Daily Apple
    Paul Jaminet – The Perfect Health Diet
    Jimmy Moore – Livin’ La Vida Low Carb
    Dr Jeff Volek & Dr Steve Phinney – The Art and Science of Low Carb Living (Nutritional Ketosis)
    Seth Roberts – The Shangri-La Diet
    Rob Wolff – The Paleo Solution
    Gary Taubes – Why We Get Fat and What to do About It
    Dr Peter Attia – The Eat Academy
    Dr John Biffra – Escape the Diet Trap
    Tom Naughton – Fat Head – The Movie
    Abel James – Fat Burning Man
    Dave Asprey – Bulletproof Executive – Bulletproof Diet
    Chris Masterjohn – The Daily Lipid

    This should keep you busy for a while. I have taken bits and pieces from all of them and I’m sure you will find a path to better health also.

    Be well.


  11. says

    Hi Ruth – found you through your comments about Google Reader to Bill and was interested to discover you’d blogged about 5:2. I knew you’d come off it from a conversation with John at curry night, but I’m wondering if it might be worth you (both) giving it another try?

    I started 5:2 last year (around 5 weeks behind you two mainly because it takes me that long to catch up with stuff we record) and, like you, did it for the health benefits with any possible weight loss as a nice side-effect. By Christmas I’d lost a stone at which point I took five weeks off to celebrate and promptly put 10 of those 14 pounds back on again. With another hiatus at the end of January when our freezer went on the fritz, forcing us to abandon fasting meal plans and eat up the stock of frozen (home-cooked) dinners, it’s taken me until now to re-achieve the pre-Christmas weight loss, but I think I’m now back on track.

    However my main reason for commenting is that I’ve read two other interesting snippets which may explain why some are more successful at this than others. The first: research published recently has suggested one of the most important aspects of fasting is the timing of meals, not just the calorific intake. Put simply: people who are spreading out their 5- or 600 calories throughout the day are NOT putting their metabolisms into “fasting mode.” In the research, one group of mice was given access to high-fat-content food 24×7, while another group got the same food but only for SIX TO EIGHT hours in every 24. The first group became obese (unsurprisingly), while the restricted group LOST weight, and blood tests revealed greatly reduced levels of IGF-1 (or whatever the mouse equivalent is) as mentioned in Moseley’s Horizon.

    Coincidentally, when fasting we eat lunch around noon and evening meal around 6.30, so we were unwittingly following the “restricted time” eating plan as well as keeping calories down.

    Secondly, further research has shown that people’s bodies flip into “fasting mode” at different rates. While some derive benefit immediately, it can take others up to 13 weeks to begin to see any change. This explains why it’s taken me so long to get back on track after Christmas, and I found it boosted my motivation to assume this explained the few weeks of no weight loss. Having been fasting now for an unbroken run of 7 weeks I’m starting to see the weight loss pick up again.

    I know I’ve written more about weight loss than the other health benefits, and that those are not and will never be visible, but personally I find eating less on Mondays and Tuesdays easy. Bacon and eggs for lunch and a small evening meal from one of the 8 (or so) 300-cal recipes we hunted down, all very tasty and popular, soon becomes a habit. But the absolute best thing about this diet, for me, is the fact that for the other 5 days I can eat what I like. Anything. I’m still snacking on nuts, biscuits, puddings on a weekend, meals out, and I don’t need to think about any of it, as long as it’s not a Monday or Tuesday. I know it doesn’t suit everyone but it’s great for me and I’ll be sticking with it for a while longer :)


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