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The 5:2 Diet or a Diet for Foodies

I have been fortunate enough to escape the need to diet for a considerable number of years.  I was blessed with a genetically slim figure in my early twenties, but was always told I’d get fat at 40 like the other female members of my family.  What no-one bargained for was that my love of cooking would bring that fearful date forward by ten years.

Having never had to worry about dieting, it wasn’t really on my radar and I had not developed the self control required for such things, but when my BMI finally tipped from the OK to the not so OK it was time to do something about it (I was by now more than 20kg heavier than the day I got married).

This realisation coincided with my husbands need to reduce his cholesterol, so now seemed to be the perfect time to give it a go, that and the fact I refused to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe.  In a bid to help, my mother sent through some information about a new diet that everyone is talking about in the UK, the 5:2 diet. The 5:2 diet claims to help you live longer, reduce your cholesterol and as an added bonus lose weight.  The idea being you eat whatever you want for 5 days of the week and to balance that out have two fast days a week. The fast days encourage your body to breakdown the fat and cholesterol that usually just hangs around, unless you are an exercise enthusiast, which I am not.

The initial sound of this was horrific, I could never go without eating! But in actual fact, when they say “fast” days they actually mean limit your calorie intake to 500 calories for women and 600 for men.  I investigated what this would look like in real terms, and it actually seemed achievable.  You can read more about the diet here.

So 6 weeks in I am feeling slimmer and healthier and I have lost a whopping 5.7 KG. I still have a few more kilos to go and I imagine it will become more difficult as I get closer to my target weight but for now I am as pleased as punch.  It suits me because I love to cook, eat and dine out, which in my eyes is not enjoyable if you are always watching what you eat.If I can eat what I want for most of the week, and control it on days I am working, it could be the answer to my prayers.  I pick the fast days according to what I have on in the week, there is no particular recommendation as to which day is better – too easy.

A typical fast days eating looks like this: a slice of toast for breakfast (100 calories), a bowl of soup for lunch (100 calories), a small piece of protein and veggies for dinner in the evening (300 calories), and only water to drink.  I thought I would be starving without snacking but I have learnt that feeling hungry is actually not so bad, especially when it is doing you good.  I don’t feel hungry all day and I never feel more hungry than I do on other days.

In order to not feel too hard done by I need to eat something three times a day even if it is something small.  I’m also not very good at eating the same thing too often, especially two days in a row (although fast days do not have to be consecutive days, but sometimes it works out like that).  I thought it would be difficult to find recipes that fit the bill and still make me feel like I’ve eaten but as this seems to be the diet for foodies there are a few fellow bloggers posting great recipes to get me started, like Karen at Lavender and Loveage and Fiona at London Unattached.

I cannot guarantee that you are able to eat exactly what you want and still lose weight, as I have dramatically reduced cheese, butter and cream for the rest of the week due to the low cholesterol side of things, but even in the week I ate roast goose (crispy skin included), chocolate and wine I still lost a small amount, so once I reach my goal I think it will work for maintenance, no holds barred.

As a food lover, I find it really important to have variety in my diet, so I am now on a mission to find a variety of low calorie meals for fasting days. Here is a recipe for my new favourite grain bourghal.  I am using the CalorieKing app to calculate my calories, so hopefully they are accurate.  Quantities can be increased for non-dieters or non-fasting days.

Bourghal, Tomato and Capsicum Salad with Griddled Chicken Breast 285 Calories (serves 1)

25g bourghal
1/2 small clove garlic
80g tomatoes
80g capsicum
15g spring onions, white part only
15g sliced, pitted black olives
10g mint leaves
10g parsley leaves
20ml  fresh lemon juice
100g chicken breast, skin and fat removed, about 1 cm thick
salt and pepper
olive oil spray

Put the bourghal in a large bowl and cover with plenty of boiling water and leave to stand for 45 minutes.

Finely chop the garlic, tomatoes, capsicum, spring onion and herbs and set aside.

Just before the bourghal is ready, heat a griddle pan to high.  Season the chicken breast and spray with a small amount of oil.  Cook the chicken for 8-10 minutes until cooked through, turning half way. Allow the chicken to rest while you assemble the rest of the dish.

Once the bourghal is tender (45 minutes soaking) drain to remove all excess water.  Return to the bowl and stir through the chopped garlic, vegetables and herbs.  Season to taste with the lemon juice, salt and pepper. If it is not a fast day it also tastes great with some extra virgin olive not, but that would tip this dish way over the magic 300 calories.  Serve with the chicken.

Calorie count is a guide, and worked out based on the quantities stated.



Comment from vegeTARAian
Time September 16, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Oh I love the idea of this, and you are proof that it works! Thanks for sharing, I must give it a try 😉

Comment from Christine @ Cooking Crusade
Time September 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I love this ! I’d be really interested to give it a try but I’m not sure if I could hack the fast days hehe. But definitely seems worth a try. Go you for losing 5.7 kgs in 6 weeks – that is amazing!!

Comment from nic
Time September 16, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Thanks! I’m not a fan of fads or diets but I have to say, I think this one actually works!

Comment from Karen
Time September 16, 2012 at 10:13 pm

A FABULOUS recipe thanks Nic and thanks for the mention too….I just posted a new main meal recipe today, and I have lost 5 kilos over 4 weeks, so not bad at all! I have bookmarked this recipe to make when I have run out of recipe ideas, as it looks REALLY LOVELY, and it’s nice to try someone else’s recipes for a change. Karen

Comment from Miss Piggy
Time September 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm

I’m liking the sound of “eat whatever you want for 5 days”…but I’m guessing they don’t really mean eat your way out of a vat of hot chips with cheese sauce for 5 days do they?

Comment from Lisa G
Time September 27, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Nic, this sounds like a do-able diet. THink I might just give it a try…thanks for sharing!

Comment from nic
Time September 27, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Thanks for stopping by Lisa. I thought it was quite achievable too, it’s working for me so far, although today’s lunch will be the real test!

Comment from fiona maclean
Time December 24, 2012 at 12:32 am

I’ve found the 5:2 diet very helpful and manageable. I’m also writing up the recipes as I follow the diet – and chicken breast features quite heavily!

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