The 5:2 Diet Update

September 17, 2013

A while back I had promised to update you on how it was going with the 5:2 diet. If you’re not familiar with it, it is a way of eating where for two non-consecutive you almost fast.  (Women eat 500 calories, and Men, 600) That’s about a quarter of our normal caloric intake. Then for the other five days of the week you eat normally. This eating strategy has lots of health benefits, you can read more about it here.

Paul and I did the fast for about three months. When I went to the US for two weeks in July we both took a break, but resumed when I came home. Neither of us lost a substantial amount of weight, each about three pounds. We’ve since stopped the fast, although I do think we will do random fast days in the future.

What did we like about fasting? We both just felt better. We had more energy and enjoyed the challenge of mind over matter. We liked that it forced us to think about all the little things that go into our meals – like do we splash the olive oil in the pan or take a little more time to monitor how much we use? We got an iPad app (My Fitness Pal) to figure out the calorie counts of things and would plan out our fasting day meals before we’d go grocery shopping so we didn’t get caught with nothing appropriate to eat. Since we were doing it together it was fun for us to plan and cook together.

What didn’t we like? Paul would have continued on with fasting, but I got tired of it. My main complaints had to do with the way I cook and food being wasted. For example, if we went out to eat on Sunday and brought home leftovers, we wouldn’t be able to eat them on Monday (a fast day) and by Tuesday they wouldn’t be appetizing. Or sometimes I would make a big pot of beans, or sourdough bread, or if someone would give us a bag of bananas we couldn’t eat them. I had trouble planning to make sourdough bread because it takes two days. So if I start it on Monday (a fast day) and bake it on Tuesday we can eat it Tuesday and Wednesday but then Thursday was another fast day. Plus after a fast day it seemed we always wanted to eat out so then the bread might even sit until Wednesday…. Can you understand the problem?

Were we hungry? Sure. The first couple of times were hard. Once we got used to it, though, it wasn’t too bad. Around 3 pm we’d need a cup of tea to tide us over until we ate an early dinner.

What did we learn? We can be creative. At the top of this post is a picture of the zucchini “noodles” with pesto and veggies that we’d make at least every other week.  Vegetable soup is always a winner, as well as veggie stir-fry with brown rice, pictured below. You can eat a mountain of vegetables for very few calories.


My take away from this experiment is that it is easy to eat too many calories and that fasting can be a part of any food plan. If you’d like a book recommendation, here’s one I read and enjoyed that has a lot of recipes, too: The 5:2 Diet Book: Feast for 5 Days a Week and Fast for 2 to Lose Weight, Boost Your Brain and Transform Your Health.

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More about Nancy

I'm Nancy, a US expat living in San Antonio Tlayacapan, Jalisco after 11 years in Mazatlán, México.

    1. There was a similar diet in the 1980s called the Rotation Diet. I rather liked it. But, like you, my cooking habits do not match up with days of fasting. The pot of ban soup I made on Saturday is an example. I have only made my way half way through it. I am glad it worked out for the both of you.

      1. Steve, Enjoy your soup! Yum!

        Suzanne, I’m so glad it’s working for you, we did like it too, just couldn’t keep it up long term.

        Theresa, I sure wish I could give up grains, but at least I always use brown rice or home made whole wheat bread. Bulgur wheat. Quinoa. I know I’d lose more weight if I did, though.

        Contessa, That’s a good idea. I might do it.

        Kim, It’s weird but we never work up ravenous after a fast day. I like your plan of vegan at home and carnivore in restaurants, I wish more people would do it. Well, but not me as I am vegetarian all the time and vegan some of the time anyway. 😉

    1. I have been doing the 5:2 for about 6 weeks and have found it to be a lifestyle calorie reduction plan I can live with. I have lost about 1 pound a week since beginning. I do change up my fast days occasionally depending on what is going on, which gives me great flexibility. I have finally found a lifestyle eating plan that produces results and is healthy. Took 60 years, but hey, never to late to finally find it!

    1. Thanks for the update, it’s always interesting to see how eating plans work out.

      I have found that since I gave up grains I can miss a meal without noticing. It used to be that I’d have such horrible crashes and low blood sugar that any sort of fasting would have been impossible.

      Tracking what you eat is a really powerful tool for me. It stops my mindless grazing and helps with my awareness of what I am putting in my body. However, the 5/2 would be difficult for me to maintain. I do believe in occasional fasting.

      You can consume a lot of food for 500 calories if you plan it right. As you said, it’s the planning that’s key.


    1. We use to do one day juice fasts. For instance every Monday we would juice veggies and that was all we ate/drank. It was a great cleanse.

    1. In “Eat to Live,” Dr. Fuhrman points out that a vegan meal has very few calories compared to any kind of “standard” American fare. I’ve adopted many aspects of that diet in the last year, and am lighter and healthier for it.

      But I don’t think I can fast. In junior high school, I read a book about the benefits of fasting, so I tried it for a day. It was VERY hard to get through that day, and the next morning I woke up at 4:00AM, RAVENOUS. Food tasted great after a fast day, but I never repeated the experiment.


      Kim G
      Boston, MA
      Where we try to eat mostly vegan at home, but eat meat with friends and in restaurants.

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