Sick of taking other people's word for it, team goodtoknow decided there was only one way to find out for sure... do it ourselves. Lissa and Charlotte took up the 5:2 challenge and here's their guide to surviving the 500 calorie fast days.
Charlotte's 5:2 challenge
I've never really been one for dieting. I attempted The Cabbage Soup Diet once and lasted three days before my carb-withdrawal symptoms got the better of me, but a combination of a very long winter spent comfort eating and an impending summer holiday gave me the push I needed to give dieting another go.
I must say, The 5:2 Diet appealed to me. Apart from a defiant decision to become a vegetarian aged 10, I'm not exactly overrun with willpower. But I reckoned even the flakiest of dieters could get through one day, with a promise of a good feed the very next, surely?
So day one came and this is how I decided to spend my 500 calories.
Breakfast: I tend to not eat breakfast until I get to work, so today I just decided to plow on through till lunch (aside from a cuppa with skimmed milk).
1 tea with skimmed milk: 11 calories
Lunch: Lissa introduced me to Ryvita crackerbreads last week. They're only 19 calories each, so I topped each one with a thin spread of Philadelphia Lightest, a slice of Quorn ham, some watercress and sliced tomato. It was actually pretty tasty and I didn't feel hungry afterwards.
4 topped crackerbreads: 200 cals
Dinner: I knew I would be grumpy by dinner time so I opted for something quick and picked up a stir-fry veg pack from the supermarket. I cooked half with some soy sauce and a lot of extra frozen peas to pad it out (bulking anything out with peas is pretty depressing) and I also chucked in about 1/4 of a packet of Cauldron marinated tofu which I really love, even though it's not particularly low in fat or calories.
Speedy veg tofu stir-fry: 272 cals Evening snack: With my remaining measly 28 cals, I begrudgingly munched on another crackerbread.
Crackerbread: 19 cals
1 tea with semi-skimmed milk: 14 cals
Total day's calories: 505
I think I'll definitely keep this up for a while. Next week I'm on holiday, so it could be trickier to stick to, but I'm going to try and have a couple of days where I eat slightly less (even if I go over the 500) and I'll pick it up when I'm back home.
Charlotte's second fast dayQuite uninspiringly, I ate exactly the same for my second fast day as I did for my first! It was a good option as I didn't feel hungry and a rest day in between meant it didn't feel too samey.
So far, I'm definitely finding this diet do-able. The challenge is not to overeat on my 'feast' days, to overcompensate for hungry fast days.
Progress: After week one on the 5:2 diet I've lost 1lb. I was hoping for a little more, but if I keep losing a pound a week I'll be happy. Next week I'm off on holiday so I'm not sure how well I'll be able to stick to it while I'm away, but I'll give it my best shot!
Lissa's 5:2 challenge
Breakfast: My original plan was to wait until lunch to eat, but after doing an exercise class before work, I felt really hungry by the time I got into the office. I usually eat porridge for breakfast, but I cut my portion down to 30g instead of 50g. Porridge and water might not sound very appetising, but it's actually my usual breafast. You can always top it up with a splash of milk to make it a bit creamier. I sprinkled over some Truvia to sweeten it too.
30g porridge oats with water: 108
Lunch: What I like about Ryvita crackerbreads is that they're quite large, so even though there's only 19 calories in each, you feel like you're eating a decent amount of food. I topped mine with two Dairylea light triangles and 10 cherry tomatoes.
Extra Strong Mint: 10
5 topped crackerbreads: 176
Dinner: I made a slow-cooked vegetable stew the day before, so that I could heat it up when I got home from work. I used onions, celery, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, carrots, a couple of stock cubes and seasoning – I then whizzed it up to make it into a soup. I will admit it might not look that nice (especially when it's blended) but I promise that it was actually really tasty!)
Vegetable soup: 150
Evening snack: There was no way I going to give up my love for tea, no matter how many calories I was allowed! So I had three cups of tea throughout the day with skimmed milk and in the evening I even had enough calories left to treat myself to a Rich Tea biscuit!
3 x tea with skimmed milk: 33
Rich Tea biscuit: 23
Total day’s calories: 500
I’ll definitely continue with this for a few weeks and see if I lose any weight. Knowing that you’re going to have a normal day of eating the next day really helps get you through. The main tips that I would say to anyone thinking of trying the 5:2 diet, would be:
- Prepare your dinner the day before. I found having dinner ready for me to heat up when I got home really helped; it stopped me from snacking on other foods like I normally would whilst cooking.
- Drink water and lots of it (especially when you feel a hunger pang)
- Get some Extra Strong Mints. There are only 10 calories in each and when I felt like I was going to break and snack on something in the late afternoon, I had one of these and it deterred me from eating (you wouldn’t be able to taste anything you eat after having one of these anyway!)
- Try and save enough calories so you can have an after dinner treat – even if it is a rich tea that’s only 23 calories!
Lissa's second fasting day:
After my first day I was determined to see if, going forward, I could stick to the fast days. The excitement around the first day, I think, made it easier to be strict with myself; but, now I just had to get on with it and survive on 500 calories a day – so, would I be able to do it?
I started the day with a 4.5 mile run, which may not have been so wise. I obviously get hungrier on the days that I exercise, but it seemed pointless to me to stop exercising just because I was eating less. However, it did make me hungry…very hungry. Somehow I managed to stick to the 500 calories-ish – but, the hunger pangs did slightly put me off doing fast days again…
So, here’s what I ate on my second fasting day:
Breakfast: I stuck to the same plan that I did on my first day and had 30g of porridge with just water (the more you eat it, the better it gets – honest!)
30g of porridge and water: 108
Lunch: Again I stuck to what I’d had on my first day of fasting, it was tasty and filling and only 176 calories so it seemed like a really good option. I like to put it on a large dinner plate as it makes me feel like I’m having a really big meal!
5 topped crackerbreads: 176
Dinner: Admittedly, my dinner from my first fasting day didn’t look overly appetising. So, I was keen to prove that even with 200 calories you could have something nice – that looked tasty too! I always knew that prawns were really low calories – but, I was so surprised to learn that half a pack (100g) was only 59 calories – it was a really good serving. This meant that I could build up a meal around the prawns and I had 140 calories to play with – easy! I added some veg – celery, onion and peppers, some butterbeans to bulk it out a bit and mixed in curry paste and crème fraiche. Serve with a bit of salad on the side, and I reckon we’ve got a seriously impressive 200 calorie meal on our hands.
100g prawns: 59 calories
Veg: 45 calories
Curry paste: 40 calories
Tbsp of low fat crème fraiche: 15 calories
40g butterbeans: 40 calories
Evening: A cup of tea in the evening and I was done for the day!
Cup of tea with skimmed milk: 22
Total calories for the day: 505
Progress: I lost 1.5lb, so a good start! Just got to stick to it now…