5:2 Diet

5:2 Diet – Three Tips to make a Fast Day Easy!

2013 seems to be the year of the 5:2 Diet – have you tried it yet then? Of course it’s partly the time of year – many of us will be starting 2013 with a resolution to lose weight – and trying something like the 5:2 Diet with its associated fast days and a relatively normal lifestyle for the rest of the week.  The Horizon programme about the 5:2 diet Eat, Fast and Live longer was about research into the 5:2 diet and fasting, focused on general health improvements, not weight loss.  Now, weight loss or weight management appears to be a helpful side effect to the 5:2 diet and I suspect there are links between some of the health improvements that Michael Mosley experienced and the weight he lost (if he’d followed a conventional diet rather than the 5:2 diet he may have experienced some of the improvements in blood markers).  But, the whole subject is not fully researched at the moment.  So, all we know is that for various groups of monitored animals and humans it has produced significant improvements both in terms of blood markers and reaching an ideal weight. And, personally, I believe it is here to stay as a way of life simply because it is easy to do, if you follow my 5:2 diet tips.  These are basic tips for those starting out on the 5:2 diet and I know that there is plenty more to find out and plenty of questions you may have.  If you are looking for more information please do check out my recipes or contact me for more information about 5:2 diet support groups on facebook.

5-2 diet baked cod

Common sense suggests that if you don’t want or need to lose weight through the 5:2 diet you will need to eat more on your feast days.  And, that if your intention is to lose weight you shouldn’t gorge yourself on high calorie foods when you are not fasting.  My recommendation is to keep to a sensible diet on your feast days (which you can modify according to whether you are trying to lose weight or not).   The research suggested that people didn’t want to gorge themselves when they were not fasting and our personal experience reinforces that.  If you don’t eat very much for 24-36 hours, your appetite decreases and you don’t need to eat so much when you break your fast.  If you are really trying to lose weight quickly then consider three fast days each week so that you are doing a 4-3 diet rather than 5-2 diet.  The basis of the 5-2 diet is intermittent fasting where you follow an alternate day fast pattern, so this should help.

5-2 diet hot asian noodles

 

Secondly, don’t get too hung up on how many times a day you should eat.  It is better to have a sustainable eating pattern that works for you.  That’s exactly what Michael Mosley did – eating a relatively substantial breakfast and a light evening meal so that he could cope with his normal working life.  We are all different.  If you don’t normally eat breakfast, then your body may have adjusted itself so that it doesn’t expect food first thing in the morning.  Don’t change that for the sake of this diet…use it to your advantage and save the calories for later on.  Equally if you are used to eating three meals a day, then find a way to spread the calories out.  There are meal plans to suit those who can manage with just one meal during a fast day, those who like to eat twice and those who prefer breakfast, lunch and supper.

cauliflower + artichoke soup 5-2 diet

 

Thirdly:  although I like cooking  healthy diet recipes, you don’t have to cook to follow this diet. I am very aware that for some people, having to think about making a dish when they are fasting is actually quite hard.  And for those of you who prefer not to cook I am going to list some easy 5-2 diet options for you.

There are a few things to remember if you are following this eating plan.  You’ll need to make sure you don’t snack throughout the day or that if you do you really understand the calories in what you eat.  If you really want to snack try celery sticks or a tangerine.  In general though, with the 5-2 diet the fast diet  calorie allowance is so low that the odd handful of muesli or extra banana will result in overeating.   Even if you have a few calories left at the end of the day I don’t advise drinking alcohol for a number  of reasons.  Firstly it will affect you far more on an empty stomach.  Secondly, alcohol has ‘empty’ calories – it provides almost nothing in terms of nutrients but uses up a lot of calories.  Thirdly, drinking slows down your metabolic rate.  So, if you are trying to lose weight it will make it harder to do so.  Finally do exercise – on a 5-2 diet fast day this might just be a short walk or swim, but, doing something is important.  Don’t try to achieve a personal best, but if you can manage some light aerobics or weight training again, it will help in the fat burning process.  And, certainly make sure you exercise on the days you are not fasting.

Some Easy Low Calorie Ideas if you don’t want to cook on the 5-2 diet:

  • Miso soup (20-50 calories a bowl depending on brand)
  • Bovril (5 calories a cup)
  • Cooked Prawns
  • Ryvita Thins (37 calories a slice) topped with low fat cottage cheese or quark and cucumber or tomato
  • Zero fat greek yoghurt with fresh fruit and, if you like it, a teaspoon of honey
  • Boiled or Poached eggs
  • Green salad, tomatoes and cucumber – either use low calorie dressing or Hellman’s dijonnaise
  • A small jacket potato (120-150 cals) with Hellman’s dijonnaise (5 calories per teaspoon!)
  • An orange, satsuma or clementine.  Or, an apple.

So the 5-2 diet doesn’t have to be all about cooking.  There are plenty of other choices if you really don’t fancy spending time in the kitchen.  But, if you do want some 5-2 diet recipes, then I’m posting those I am making or adapting from old recipes in the 5-2 diet recipe section of London-Unattached.  Good luck – and do comment below if you have any feedback or ideas.

I believe the 5-2 diet is a lifestyle choice.  And, it’s something that seems to work well for me.  I’m pretty good at ignoring the ‘disbelievers’ mostly because I genuinely feel better after a 5:2 fast day – and so I will continue to use the diet throughout 2013 as as way to try to lose a bit more weight and to balance my eating (and drinking) habits.  I don’t advocate it as a solution for everyone.  But this diet seems to work for me and I’m happy that I seem to be gradually losing weight by following the 5:2 diet.

 

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Comments

  1. Me and a colleague are doing this diet and I wondered what days you are doing your fasting? We’ve started either doing a Tuesday and Thursday fast, or a Monday and Wednesday fast, depending on work and evening commitments. I wondered though if a Monday and Thursday fast might be better as you’re spreading the time between fasting out more. Have you played around with the interval between the fasts at all?

    • i havent, but i am being very unscientific and just doing it on days which work with my diary. I know there is a little study going on at th moment, I’ll try to find out more

      • Have you got an answer yet to the above question. I have only done the diet for 1 week and I fasted on Monday and Wednesday but I would like to know if it is possible to vary the fast date and if so how long can you leave between the fast days.

        • Personally I vary the fast days – I do them on days that work for my diary. And, I’ve recently skipped a whole 10 days (holiday). I don’t think there’s any robust research – and I do think that with a little common sense, doing what works for you is more likely to be successful than trying to follow something very prescriptive. Some people are doing two consecutive days, others like us are doing days during the week. If you want a support group and are on facebook, there’s a very useful and friendly group there https://www.facebook.com/groups/187492001383720/

    • Just saw this on another site One set of research on rats concluded that the optimal frequency of fasting was one day in three. And that this prolonged the lifespan of the rats by an average of 20%.

  2. Good advice.

  3. Hi Fiona
    Do you know if there is any documented advice on 5:2 dieting whilst regularly exercising? I’ve searched but can’t seem to find anything.
    The reason I ask is that I cycle 18 miles to work 4 days per week, burning approximately 750 calories each day. As I don’t want to fast on a weekend, I’m effectively forced to fast on a day when I cycle to work (the second fast day is on a day when I have a rest and travel by car).
    I’m worried that my calorie intake on my cycle/fast day is in negative figures and that this might be dangerous.
    I’m wondering if I should up my cycle/fast day calories to 1350 to compensate but wonder if this would cancel any benefits of the diet itself. Any thoughts?

    Ps. thanks for the recipes, they’ve really helped and are a welcome change from plain old veg!!

    • Hi

      I checked with my trainer when I started and was told to continue fasting keeping under the calorie level for women but not to push any exercise too hard on fast days. But, my sessions are definitely not in your league of calorie burning and I wouldn’t get to negative calories. I think the point of the fast day is partly to allow your vital organs to rest though, so I am not convinced eating more to compensate would work (e.g. you might lose weight but you’d be unlikely to get the other health benefits claimed)

      There’s a guy who specialises in the benefit of fasting as part of body-conditioning, so there may be some more information on his blog about cardio (there’s a lot about resistance work there). http://bradpilon.com

      Sorry not to be more help.

      • Ron Henderson says:

        Hi I am 61 years old, have generally kept active as I was a serving soldier for 40 years. I have never dieted in my life and my health is good. I retired in march and by August I was 232 lbs about 30lds over my ideal weight. I saw the horizon programme and on 6th Sep I started the 5-2 plan and in 5 weeks I have lost 18lbs and I feel very good and the plan was easy for me. It works and I will keep it going and I will pass it on.

  4. Halimah Collingwood says:

    I have been doing the 5:2 eating plan for 2 months. I really like it and have lost about 10 lbs but feel good with it. I usually fast 2 consecutive days a week though I have recently read to do it alternate days. Any suggestions?

    • I think it may be more effective on alternate days or with a gap, because that way your metabolism gets the feast/famine effect twice for a short period. Not long enough to slow down your fat burning…

      But I know all the research is quite new.

  5. I have a similar question regarding fast days. I started my 5:2 diet Monday and in my second day of fast day today. Yesterday i consumed in 778 calorie in food but exercised 180 a net of 598 still within the 600 allowance for fast day. and today I ate 908 and exercised 430 netting 478. Am I doing this correctly?

    Thank you.

    • you can’t add in calories for exercise. My understanding is that for the diet to work you need to stick to under 600 calories. Any exercise you do is just going to help you lose weight a bit faster or get a bit healthier.

  6. Angela O'Brien says:

    Having read an article in week end papers,(Telegraph or Times) one of the tips for fasting in a 24 hour period – fast from 2pm -2pm, that way you never go a whole day without food.

    • I actually think that’s misguided journalism. There seem to be a number of variations but the basic concept is to fast for at least a full day and the following night on just 500/600 cals (e.g. either one meal of 500/600 cals or smaller meals throughout that time. Effectively, over a 36 hour period you are eating no more than 500/600 cals. That seemed to be what Michael Mosley did originally.

      Of course it depends a bit on whether you are are trying to lose weight or improve your health. And there isn’t really any definitive research into this yet.

  7. rebecca pitchers says:

    Hi I am starting today I would love some simple suggestions for 500 cal quici foods please.

    • meals made with baked white fish or chicken bresst and veggies usually come in well under 500 cals. if oyou check the t 2 recipe section on here you should find plenty of ideas

  8. i am about 4 weeks into 5:2 diet and would like to know if i could fast between say, after sunday lunch (1pm) to monday teatime?? we have a big lunch on a sunday and since starting this diet i dont seem to be able to eat two big meals a day so thinking i could skip sunday tea n have under 500 cals shared between breakfast n lunch on mon and have a “normal tea” which we would usually eat around 7pm… any thoughts?… (my other fast day is weds which i would do normally)

    • I dont think that would work for me as a weight loss strategy. I think the idea is to do a night of nothing and then a full day (.g. from 7am to 7pm) with a total of 500 calories. BUT I do think the idea of 5:2 is to see what works for you…why not try and see if it does?

  9. Mel Murphy says:

    Hi

    I need help – im about to strat this 5:2 diet tomorrow and was hoping to fast on both WED and Thursday Continuosly. These days fit into my life stlye pefect. Is it a good idea to do 2 days together?

  10. Mel Murphy says:

    apologies about the spelling mistakes

  11. Well just finishe day 2 of continually fasting I found it surprisingly easy. I’m a very overweight person and thought I would be shaking etc but I’m really good. Copious amounts of green tea and diet coke, 2 satsumas, 2 egg whites, cuppa soup, 100g grilled white fish fillet, roasted red pepper, roasted onion and 20g uncooked past, 10ml skimmed milk and 1 sugar came to 487 cals in one day and did me well. Yes I’m on Facebook please add me to the group that would be great.

  12. John Paterson says:

    Hi

    I’m 63. I started the 5/2 after seeing the programme and I lost a stone in about 5 weeks. I was overwieght but not excessive. I find Monday and Tuesday really works for me. If you are drinking and eating more than you need at the weekend it is a great detox, good for morale and you are hopefully losing some weight.
    I do put a few pounds on during the rest of the week but I do try and eat more healthly generally and drink less. I swim and walk regularly. Added bonus. I can get into some shirts and trousers which I have thinking about taking down to Oxfam! I’ll give them a few quid instead.
    I think it is a great idea and pretty easy to stick to.

    • I love it too, it’s doable, which is what really matters. I tend to fast on one of the weekend days and then one weekday, really very much work dependent. And I definitely feel better the day after a fast day. Good luck!

  13. Lisa jones says:

    Hi there, want to start this diet but not sure of the rules! Please can you advise me and also please can you add me to Facebook at the email address I have given you. Thank you very much x

    • Hiya lisa, I can only add people who are my facebook friends, and I can’t find you at that address. But you should be able to find the group if you are logged into facebook yourself using this link. https://www.facebook.com/groups/187492001383720/

      There are lots of variations on how best to follow the 5:2 diet. The BASIC rules are quite simple. If you eat supper in the evening of day one and then count your ‘fast’ as starting after supper, you should only eat 500 calories in between then and waking on day three. Some people chose to eat their 500 calories as one big meal, others prefer two or three meals. Personally I tend to skip breakfast on a fast day and then have a low calorie home made soup or miso soup for lunch, leaving me with 400 calories for the evening meal. If I go to bed hungry I don’t sleep well! You do have to be careful on fast days. You really can’t drink alcohol and for most of the time I drink green tea (which I like) or black coffee (which I don’t really like) to save calories!

      Your second fast day in the week can be a consecutive day if you like or, you can do what I am doing and have a break. I tend to fast for one day of the weekend and for one week day (e.g. tuesdays and saturdays).

      For me, it works because it’s flexible and I only have to calorie count on days that suit me!

      The facebook group is very helpful because there are lots of people who are trying different things and what works best for one person doesn’t always work for another. Some are doing 3:4 (e.g. fasting on 3 days of the week).

  14. Julie Harris says:

    On the fasting days it’s recommended that women use 500 calories, how many calories should I have on normal feeding days.

    • in theory you can eat what you want (or so we heard on the Horizon programme). In reality, if you are trying to lose weight it seems to work best if you keep to no more than your daily calories recommended amount (which will depend on your age, your height and build and the amount of exercise you take). I’m not an expert, I’d recommend checking out Brad Pilon (who writes about intermittent fasting as a way of weight management) or simply doing what I do and trying to eat sensibly on non-fast days, using the fast days to give me the calorie deficit I need to lose weight. I honestly find I want to eat less after fast days…and I suspect for many of us, our weight management issues are simply that we’ve all got used to eating more than we need on a regular basis.

  15. Patricia Black says:

    After a disastrous year, stresswise,I have comfort eaten to being 2stone overweight, which I had lost with Weightwatchers, before. Really interested in this diet. so will have a go. Really interesting to see people’s comments. I am 71 years old, so wish me luck.

    • good luck to you Patricia. It work for me because I don’t have to try doing it 7 day a week…and I really hope you find it works for you too. The big plus for me is that I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life without feeling hard done by. Whereas, a lifetime of no wine, no chocolate and no meals out (which is how most diets seem to work) has no real appeal!

  16. Marylyn Chadwick says:

    I started the 5:2 diet after watching Dr. Mosely and have been so happy with the results. I am 63 and was just gaining pounds and dress sizes. Since the start I have now dropped a stone and a half weight and a dress size. I fast Mondays and Thursdays and just have one meal in the evening. I love food and wine so the fact I can eat and drink normally the other 5 days has proved a real winner for me. I will continue this diet for life. I buy Waitrose “Love Life” microwavible meals that are clearly calorie marked, or Weightwatchers. Green Salad or stir frys that are also clearly marked with the calories. Nothing to think about and quick to do.

    • I like those and the M&S equivalent. But I also really enjoy cooking and making my own meals means I can adapt what I am making to suit other people in the family who are not trying the diet, hence the recipes

  17. Great post! I’m planning on doing the 5:2 from next Monday. I know two people who’ve done it and they’ve totally changed shape. I think the older (wiser?) I’m getting the more i’m realising that fad and quick fixes just don’t work.

  18. Diet Tips To Lose Weight says:

    these are really nice tips for losing extra weight and extra calories. i appreciate your research. thanks for the wonderful tips.

  19. I’ve also watched the documentary and am keen to start the 5:2 diet. I’m not overweight but would like to loose a few pounds and generally feel healthier. I am however on the younger side of most trying this diet (25 years old). Is there any evidence to suggest the diet will be more or less effective dependant on your age? Are there any recommendations on the levels of exercise that should be incorporated in your routine? Finally, does it matter what food you eat on your fast days as long as it remains under the 500 calorie threshold? In other words would 500 calorie combination of Jaffa cakes and cuppa-soups have the same effects as 500 calories of steamed fish and veg?
    Thanks!

    • lol re: jaffa cakes and cuppa soups, I think you’d probably feel hungry, but my understanding is that if that is what works for you, then do it that way. In principle, foods like jaffa cakes which have a lot of sugar and no protein or ‘good’ carbs will fill you up in the very short term but won’t work to help you feel full throughout the day. I believe Michael Mosley recommends this diet for 25yrs and over – I suspect because until you are in your early 20s you can still be growing…but you might be better checking with your own doctor. There isn’t a great deal of research into the diet yet…

  20. Hi started this diet on Monday and tomorrow is my second fasting day hope it goes better than my first on Monday i was really grumpy. Just wondering if like the comment above if there is any recommendations on exercise per week as i didn’t see the programme.

    • The programme didn’t say too much about exercise, but consensus seems to be you should exercise in what ever way is advised for your health. My own personal trainer told me to exercise on fast days if it was part of my schedule and I felt I could, but to expect not to reach personal bests (not that I ever do that!). The theory is that in a semi fasting state you will burn fat faster. There are some useful facebook groups with a good mix of all sorts of people, some of whom do exercise quite hard. I’d suggest you try one of them https://www.facebook.com/groups/187492001383720/ – this is one I am in;)

  21. SALLY wickens says:

    Hi I usually do 5 days of 1000 calories a day would this diet work for me as my calorie intake is already quite low

    • I am not medically qualified but I suspect not. I know people who are doing a variation of 5:2 which involves eating a calorie controlled diet on non-fast days but they have more than your 1000 calories (the calculation is based on your current body weight and activity level to give you an overall calorie deficiency on a weekly basis at a level that won’t put your body into starvation mode). I suspect it might not be a good idea to fast on top of such a low calorie regular diet – I would check with your doctor. If you don’t want to do that, come and join one of the facebook groups where you’ll find people doing ADF as described above and who can explain it better to you than me.

  22. Elaine Charles says:

    When I reached 50 I vowed never to diet again and I continue to maintain that vow. My last attempt at dieting was Slimming world, I lost a whole 5llbs and never lost anything again.
    I started this plan the day after I saw the horizon programme. I only tried it because my daughter wanted to lose weight, and I said I’d support her and it wouldn’t harm to get fitter.
    I don’t have weighing scales so I don’t know how much weight I have lost, but I have dropped a whole dress size. I too cannot go overnight without food so I fast 11pm to 11pm and it works well for me. I can’t always stick to 500 calories and sometimes I only fast for 1 day, so I am not a serious 5:2er and its working for me.

  23. If you don’t have very much weight to lose (half or stone or so), will this work fasting just one day a week?

  24. Susan Black says:

    How many calories are there in most of your recipes. I can’t find the anywhere where they mentioned. I maybe being stupid and missing them.

    • Not all my recipes are for the 5:2 diet – those which are should have an approximate calorie count as I am not a qualified dietician, just someone doing the diet at home. I also think calorie counts can be very misleading (for example the calories in fillet steak are vastly different to those in ribeye – and how do you measure a ‘small’ chicken breast). The recipe programme I use formats ingredients and produces a nice layout for the recipe but doesn’t display the calories so you need to read the blog post itself to see my calorie estimate. Perhaps you are only reading the recipe? Let me know if there is one in particular where you can’t find the calories.

  25. Hi Fiona – just wondered if you’d like to come and join the new 5:2 diet forum community? The facebook groups are getting so big that many users felt it would be easier to use a forum system, so I set one up at http://www.52fastdiet.co.uk – it’s a little more organised than a facebook group and we’re a friendly bunch!

  26. Would this diet be compatible with trying for a baby? I assume it wouldn’t be good to do while pregnant but what about beforehand?

    • honestly I think you should check with your doctor. I am not medically trained, I *think* I’ve seen the originator of the diet saying that you shouldn’t do it if you are trying to conceive…

  27. I am starting this diet today but I can’t find any advice on fluid intake. Other diets I have tried suggest large amounts of water – can you advise me please? I would prefer hot drinks in this weather but need some guidance. Thankyou.

    • I’m not an expert, just someone doing the diet. I tend to drink green tea and herbal tea or, if I have enough calories, coffee and tea with a dash of milk (I usually allow 50 calories for half a pint of skimmed milk to drink through the day). I also drink miso soup (brands vary, but the one I have at the moment is 20cals for a large mugful) and I know some people love hot bovril. Hope that helps…I find the miso is good if I am feeling hungry and suspect bovril would work the same way

  28. Judith Brine says:

    Hi, this is my first day of fasting on 5:2. Id love to get some advice as im not good cooking. How to cheat a hungry belly ?
    Ive sent a request for the FB group.

    • I am not a breakfast person, which helps as you get extra calories at lunch and supper. If you are, try 0% greek yoghurt with fresh fruit (not banana) or a tiny bit of honey) or a boiled egg. Both seem to work.
      Soups do help keep you feeling full for longer. I generally make my own, but if you prefer not to, try the ‘glorious’ skinny soup range (all about 100calories a portion), or just check on the back of the packets.
      The easy beans ready meals I tried in the post are a great supper dish…the beans are low GI so really help to fill you up and keep you feeling that way. Again, about 200 calories a pot!

      Miso soup works well for me if I am feeling hungry (20 cals a mug for the sort I buy). Others find bovril works the same way (15 cals a mug).

      Other than that, most supermarkets do a ‘healthy’ range of ready meals which are full of beans/wholegrains etc. You should find they help a lot for the same reason I liked the easy beans ! It’s all about personal taste though.

  29. Stuart Phillips says:

    Hi. I’ve decided I’m going to start this diet next week. 2 years ago I lost 3 stone in 3 months but put a lot of it back on as I couldn’t stick to the strict diet. This sounds perfect to me as I crave snacks a lot and know I could fast for the two days knowing the next day I could have whatever I want! I e joj ed the Facebook page so will keep you updated! I started eating healthier last week and lost half a stone already! So hopefully It will carry on with the 5/2 diet.

  30. Gill Gregory says:

    Hi I decided to try the 5:2 diet as I believed it could get me to my ideal weight of 9st. i weighed in at 9.7 stone. I am 54 years old and 5′ 3″ so I am not grossly overweight. I like the science behind this diet and along with regular exercise a healthy lifestyle choice . The thought that I can eat ‘normally’ on feast days was a bonus. This is my second week on the diet and so far I have put on 2.5 lb! Today is my second fast day this week, I have had 175 calorie breakfast I plan to have miso soup for lunch and soup and veg for dinner. On feast days I have had soup and sandwich for lunch and perhaps a dessert which I wouldn’t normally do. At the weekend I did have a take away with friends and an Italian lunch. Normally I would find myself back at 9.7 stone at my weigh in on a Monday. This week on Monday I was 9.9 ! And feeling very frustrated. I immediately fasted on Monday and calorie counted to 1200 calories on Tuesday and Wednesday. Throughout this I have had a cough and felt under the weather. Please can you advise me if I am on the right track here as I thought I would see immediate results.

    Gill Gregory

    • I’m not a dietician, just someone doing the 5:2 diet (and eating out a lot!). My own weight goes up if I eat more than is ‘normal’ for me, during the week (e.g. having dessert or takeaway pizza, or as was the case yesterday lunch and dinner out!!). But, I find the diet helps to regulate things so I am not gaining a lot of weight. If I have a ‘sensible eating on feast days’ and 2 fast days I am GRADUALLY losing weight. But I am an inch shorter than you and was originally 72kg and also in my 50s. I am now around 65kg and I’ve taken a few months to lose that 7kg…I’d like to get my weight down to 9st too!

      Consensus in the facebook groups seems to be that you have to eat normally rather than ‘feast’ on ‘feast days’ unless you have a lot of weight to lose. For that I think people mean 1500-2000 calories a day for a woman.

      The other thing to remember is that your weight can easily fluctuate by 2-3lbs just because of fluid retention. I personally find that happens when I’ve been drinking…and I do lose it quite quickly if I don’t drink for a couple of days (fast days are good for that!)

      Have you joined any of the facebook groups? They are really supportive and helpful

  31. Hi Fiona ,How important is it to keep to exactly the 500/600 cals? It’s just that sometimes I might be about 50cals under or 50 cals over at the end of the day . I have never counted calories in my life so I am using a online calorie counter . I’m putting complete faith in this,is there a more accurate way of counting calories.
    Gary

    • honestly I don’t think it matters if you are a few calories over or under on fast days, so long as you are sensible about it and don’t gradually increase the calories you eat. I use an online calorie counter, I don’t know of a better way myself. why not join one of the facebook groups, then you can check what other people think too? I’m not an expert just someone else doing the diet – but I hope my own experience helps a bit

  32. i am totally confused abuot whether you fast for 24 hours or 36?? ie can i eat (normal, non fast) dinner at 7pm, then have 500 cal for breaky and lunch and at 705pm have normal (no fast) dinner the following da???

    • no, if you start your fast after dinner at 7pm on monday, then you have 500 calories to use up until you get up on Wednesday morning! Many of us eat a very light breakfast or none at all on a fast day, then soup or something similar for lunch – leaving 350 calories or so for Supper.

  33. Is it ok to drink diet coke or similiar low/non calorie drinks on fast days??

    • it won’t add calories, but you may find it makes you feel hungry because of the sugar substitute. It seems to give some people sugar cravings. I know I used diet coke when I first started though. Now I am drinking green tea and infusions, simply because I want a hot drink at this time of year.

      • Thank you. I’ve only started this week, and first day I drank diet coke (my favourite drink anyway!) but when referring back to the book it said jury out on whether this affected the fasting process, so today i’ve just had water, which was fine but not as nice!! Thanks for your information

  34. Hi There,

    I am starting the 3rd week of 5:2 today and appear to have lost 3 lbs so far in 2 weeks. Happy with this as I know my 5 days of non fasting are not that strict, I also walk for 40 mins to 90 mins most days so this helps too. I found the frist couple of weeks that I had a bit of a headache and some cravings for both savoury and sweet things, but these seem to have settled down a bit now and my appetite on non diet days has indeed decreased so I am just eating when I am hungryand smaller portions of healthier food. I make most of the food myself both fast and non fast days as I prefer this and I find that a new appreciationg of the taste of food has been rediscovered for me on this eating plan. Only negative really is (apparently) I get a bit of bad breath on fasting days, but I have heard this is to do with the ketosis and the release of acetone by the body, or it could just be that lots of recipies contain garlic (which I love)! Think I will join the FB page and forums to keep inspired and motivated. I am 10st 4.5 and 5ft 3″ and really want to be about 8 1/2 stone.

  35. I have just started my 5th week of the 5&2 “Life style change” (sorry I can’t bring myself to say the word diet) I was have lost 5kg’s ( about 11 pounds) so far. As I am now 50years old and 6ft tall and I have never had to worry about weight in my life as I have always weighed around the 84 kgs since I was 30YO . I found my weight starting to creep up in the last couple of years to about 89- 90kgs which was getting heavy for me and nothing I did was removing the weight gain or my muffin top . I am finding the 5&2 very easy to manage and I feel the best I have in 15 years.The first weeks of fast days , I was ready to eat my hand, but I’m finding it easy now . I have halved my appetite and have less craving for rubbish .Just one question ,My weight is now 84 kg’s and I would like to get to about 80 – 82 kgs Do I continue with the 5&2 when I get to my goal weight?

    • Dr Mosley changed to doing 6:1 when he reached his goal weight and I think I will do the same. Some of the facebook group are also doing that. It seems to work!!

  36. Ayesha Mehr says:

    Can you eat more than 500 calories and work out?

  37. Help! I’ve been trying the diet for two weeks, on a friend’s glowing recommendation. The first week I lost five pounds, but then put two back on. After my third fast day I lost no more weight, and then after two normal days I put two more pounds back on. I am being super-careful on the fast days, and very sensible on the feast days. What am I doing wrong? Oh, and I get loads of exercise! Would be so grateful for advice.

    • sometimes it’s just water retention etc. I’d keep going for a month and look for overall weight loss. Mine goes up every so often but then drops back down – it seem to be two steps forward one step back at times.

      • Thanks, Fiona. Just needed some encouragement, and to know this might be normal — practically no one reports this problem, although many say they seem to hit a plateau. I have tried eating slightly more than usual on feast days, and also normal/slightly less, so I don’t think that’s the cause (i.e. I’m not gorging!). I shall carry on.

  38. Charlene says:

    Can you drink diet sodas with 5:2?

  39. Dawn Duncan says:

    This is my 5th week I have not lost any weight I do Mondays and thursday I dont always have my 500 cals sometimes only 300 or so could that be it. I dont over eat on my other day either what can I do as I don’t want to give up yet. Can someone help me PLEASE.

    • I am not a dietician. But, you need to make sure that you do eat reasonably well on your non-fast days – you are not supposed to be dieting 7 days a week, just on the fast days. I’d suggest you make sure that you are eating at least 1200 calories on non-fast days. On fast days, check everything you eat and also what you drink. I personally avoid alcohol and all fizzy sweet drinks. You also don’t give your height and weight. If you are genuinely overweight and still find the programme doesn’t work for you then I would suggest you check with your doctor.

  40. Thankyou Fiona for such a helpful site!
    I have been following the 5:2 eating plan for 9 weeks and have dropped 8 lb. I hope to drop another few pounds before I go on a cruise mid June.
    I am 73 years old and apart from gardening, which is my passion!, do only a small amount of exercise.
    My husband and I eat out regularly, at least 3 and often 4, times a week so I have found other diets very difficult. We also enjoy wine and whisky, lol.
    I was overjoyed to discover the 5:2 diet and find it easy to follow.

  41. Valerie Feliciano says:

    Hi, I love your blog by the way! I found it after scouring the internet for suggestions on the 5:2 diet. I am anxious to try it, it sounds perfect for my lifestyle! I would love to try some of the delicious recipes that you and others have posted for fast days. My problem: I am American, and I am having a hard time finding recipe conversions for American measurements, and some of the ingredients you have we don’t have here (what is quark? :) I know – Google). I have been searching for days, but there is not much information here. I know I can’t be the only American wanting to try this. Do you happen to know if there is an American version of the book, or any other suggestions?

    • Quark is a bit like very low fat fromage frais or even greek yoghurt. I’ve successfully used 0% fat greek yoghurt when I haven’t had the quark, but the advantage of quark is that it doesn’t split so easily when cooked and is quite high protein, so keeps you feeling full for longer.

      Re: measures, I can’t help in terms of cups, but 500 ml is just over a pint, 15ml is a tablespoon and 5ml is a teaspoon. 100gram is about the same as 4oz. I’ll see if I can find a conversion chart though because I know they exist.

  42. David Nel says:

    Nothing really new to add here, but wanted to share my exoerience. Like quite a few people, I tend to fit fast days around my diary, obviously not going to the gym on fast days! I find it much easier psychologically to leave a couple of data between fasts. That way you can look forward to a couple of days of ‘normalcy’ before fasting again. I’ve also found doing it 6 pm – 6 pm, ie having a regular dinner at 6, which leaves me feeling quite full. Then a 200 cal porridge breakfast, snacking through the morning on celery and drinking black coffee and tea. Egg salad for lunch, similar snacking/ drinking in the pm, and back to normal with a ‘proper’ dinner at 6. Much easier than the midnight – midnight method, where I felt famished for most of the day!

    • I think it’s fine to do whatever works for you. Personally I lose weight more easily if I stop eating after supper on night one, then have my 500 calories through day two and don’t actually ‘break’ the fast till the next morning, which I think is 36 hours.

  43. Love our blog! I just started last week with the diet (4:3) here in the netherlands. Its a bit strange for me because I have diabetes and so am used to eating low carb meals. That means more proteine and fat as wel as carbs from vegetables. I want to try this though. Do you think I could vary 4 days of eating carbs and 3 days of eating low carb ans still lose weight?I saw the link to your FB group I want to join to and have already sent a request

    • well, I am in no way medically qualified to advise you. My understanding is that the diet works because you eat a ‘normal’ level of calories on 4 or 5 days of the week and a very low level on 2 or 3. But, you should probably check with your doctor! I know diabetes can be quite hard to manage

  44. Alexis cole says:

    Hi all,

    I am about to start this tomorrow after lots of reading over the weekend, I’m off on holiday in 5 weeks and want to shift a few pounds. My problem is that I eat carefully during the week but evenings an weekends are very hard. I am 45 and weigh 10.12 stone, dress size 12-14….. Tired of dieting like most women I probably started my first diet around 13 years old and never stopped!!!!! Hopefully this lifestyle change will work, I have read lots of positives about it.

  45. I lost 16 pounds in 6 weeks and went from 12’2 to 11st but the last three weeks I have not lost any weight. I am doing it 4:3, fasting Mon, Wed & Fri (500 calories). Why aren’t I losing any more weight? I play tennis 4 times a week too (for 4 years).

    • I’m not a doctor or dietician. There’s a nice fb group where we all encourage each other a little and I’ve found that some people (me included) do plateau for a while. It could be that you need to eat more on your normal days (!) or it could simply be that you’ve reached a good weight for your height.

  46. I have just started the 4-3 diet and I hope this is going to be positive, I have done every diet under the sun, I never had a weight problem till I gave up smoking and since then put on 3 stone. I have an all or nothing attitude so this diet should help me. I will keep you posted

  47. Ruth findley says:

    What are the five foods that one should avoid.

    • well, to be honest NOTHING is forbidden. For me personally I avoid 1. Alcohol (empty calories and slows down your metabolism 2. Refined Sugar (e.g. I use a little honey or agave if I want to sweeten something 3. Bread (I find it makes me bloat and is relatively high in calories for very little value 4. Butter – bad for cholesterol and also extremely high in calories 5. Chocolate (I like it too much and am not good at just having one square – it’s high fat, high sugar and high calorie, so I just avoid chocolate on a fast day

  48. Appreciate your blog. One post above (by PAT on April 10) referred to research he/she found on “another site” that in rats, the optimal frequency of fasting was one day in three. Where’s the best place to find such info — i.e., what are the best sites to read about the various scientific studies’ findings on this topic?

  49. I have just started this diet and am really excited about it. Is it ok to have the occasional dessert or wine on the feasting days?

    • I’m not an expert. I do have dessert and wine on feasting days and it still seems to work, but I avoid all alcohol on fast days (though I’ve been known to have the 10cal jellies with a little fat free greek yoghurt!)

      If you want to lose weight, then you need to make sure your overall weekly intake of calories is lower than the maintenance level for your height/weight/age. There’s a nice calculator here http://thefastdiet.co.uk/how-many-calories-on-a-non-fast-day/ If you work on the basis that you should try to never go OVER your TDEE, even on a feast day, you should lose weight. On fast days, obviously stick to 500/600 or, if you want to be more precise to 25% of your TDEE

  50. liz mccarthy says:

    I have now been on the fast diet for three months, fasting tuesdays (1 cup of coffee and water only all day) and thursdays (one coffee.one h.b. egg) in the am and a 400 cal. Dinner. I have lost ten pounds. (less than I expected), but am quite happy and look forward to my f asting days. My goal is to lose Eight mire pounds and hope to reach my goal by the end of january. Once I reach mu ideal weight I will fast one day a week.

  51. Hi.
    I have started about 3 weeks ago and lost 2.8kg so far which makes me smile and very happy! Now I am on the 2nd day of this week (1st one was on Tue), but my period started – feeling much hungrier and feel bit frastrated – how can I cope with this? Hope you can help…

    • I find the best way to cope with days that are not good fast days is to just do 6:1 and abandon the fast on the bad day. I know if you are feeling angsty, it’s not easy. Some of my friends use the facebook support groups too…there are always people to chat to there. Lots of liquid might help – try an oxo cube in water or bovril…or if you like it some miso soup.

      • Londongirl says:

        Thanks for your comment. In next month, I will try 6:1 for that week through.
        I love miso soup, so it should help me, too.

  52. David Rae says:

    Fiona:
    Thank you for ALL your helpful advice. You”ve made this as easy as
    it could possibly be..

  53. Hi Fiona,
    I’m reading Dr. Moseley’s book and he seems to be saying that as long as you are ‘good’ on your 2 fast days, you don’t have to worry too much about calorie counting on the feast days. Over time, you automatically start eating sensibly and healthily. Have I understood right? Or should I worry about not exceeding my TDEE on non-fast days too?

    • I’ve never worried about my TDEE and it’s worked fine for me. I HAVE accepted that my lifestyle means the weightloss will be slower than if I was meticulous about counting on normal days…but to be honest, I’d rather have a sustainable lifestyle than lose weight very quickly and end up giving up. So, I would say, have a go for a month or so, eat SENSIBLY on normal days (don’t order a pizza to make up for fasting the day before!) and see how it goes. If it doesn’t work then try counting. I found cutting down alcohol and increasing my exercise just a little made enough difference for me.

  54. Martina Williams says:

    Hi Fiona, I have just started the 5-2 diet and have so enjoyed reading all the previous emails – is this the end of your mailing? Do you intend continuing into 2014?

  55. I am not a scientist nor have I done research on the 5:2, however I have heard that the presence of food in the stomach is a trigger for a large number of the health benefits claimed by the 5:2. When the stomach is empty for over 8 hours the body goes into recycle mode, that is something is released that triggers repair,not replace cellswhich it would do if it had the resources ie. a full stomach of food and raw materials.
    Therefore to make this diet work for the extreme health benefits and anti aging claimed you need to have all the calories early in the day and not spread them out. The weight loss may still happen and the health benefits of losing weight will be gained if the 500/600 calories are spread out, and this is good,but the claimed anti aging process will only happen if the enzymes or hormones or whatever they are are triggered by an empty stomach from 8 hours on.

    • I think there’s quite a lot of evidence to show 5:2 works best if you have one or two meals during your fast day and have a complete fast for as long as possible. For me, that is stopping eating the night before, not eating breakfast and then having lunch around 2pm. That way I have a total fast for around 16 hours. But I’m doing the opposite to your suggestion and having my calories later in the day.

  56. I started today at 88.2kg, I’ll update my progress next week. Thanks for the information.

  57. Ive been on this now for 6 weeks and lost nearly 2 stone. I was nearly 20 stone and now 18 stone. My drive is my Daughter , no kid wants a fat dad and fat people know it. Big bones is a excuse as no bones in a beer belly.
    had to find something that fitted into a busy work life and a freind had start this and lost 3 stone in 5 months.

    I’m not sure if i am doing it to the book, as on fasting days I limit to 600 net calories but i do a minimum of 30 mins on a exercise bike that gives me another minimum of 300 calories so in total i can have 900 calories on fasting day.
    Start the day with Porridge and soya milk (210 cal) lunch just a apple (80-100 cal)
    and evening meal fish and rice or fish and veg (400 cal) and on a bottle of beer (80 cal)
    I am basically lazy on exercise but the bike and watching a half hour programme makes it easy. The bike bit is good for over weight people like me as does not put a load on the joints.
    For me this and running an app that you can easily keep on top of has made the difference set the app to 1700 cal a day and when i want treats i just do exercise that gives me credits. After 6 weeks i actually don’t use up the allowance now as i get full quicker.
    Without doubt this is the only thing that has ever worked and i find easy to stick to
    (helps as wife is also on it). Within this short time frame i also feel healthier and dropping clothes sizes. The beer belly is not flopping over jeans so much and stomoch feels tighter.
    The app side is fairly easy as most people are creatures of habit when eating and probably over a 2 week cycle only have a max of 20 different meals so easy to sort out calories. Without the app i think it would not be as easy to stick to.
    So not sure if the fast day is being done right but this works for me

  58. Hi I’m 27 and only 5ft 1 I’ve been doing this diet for a week as after three kids I’ve gone up to ten stone which for my height is too much.. Please tell me it actually works?

    • It does work, I’m 5’1 too and I’ve lost 13kg so far. It isn’t a super fast diet…and I’d recommend trying your best to eat healthy food on non-fast days. There are lots of good facebook groups if you want a little encouragement.

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