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Lucky dip - how's my diet going?

"it may well be that our bodies just learn to cope better with a fast, in other words, you'd have to keep up the fasting routine forever just to remain weight stable, but should you stop fasting you risk gaining extra fat ready for the next fast that never comes" Dr Joanna McMillan - Women's Weekly

Oh so true. You probably remember that way back I went on the 5/2 diet and did indeed very satisfactorily lose weight at a moderate rate. Sufficient to boost morale anyway. And eventually - maybe in just over a year, I reached my target of 60kg.

Overall I think it's a fantastic way to lose weight, so much easier than counting every calorie you put in your mouth, and eating much less every day. I found it much easier to fast on 2 days and eat 'normally' on the others. Besides ' in this case, 'fast' is not a real fast of nothing at all, but 500 calories in total per day of fasting. 600 if you're a man.

Enthused by the whole idea I bought the above book when I saw it in the supermarket. Indeed I even made a couple of things from it. One I remember is this ham and egg pocket which was pretty easy and tasty. Fundamentally you line a muffin tin with a piece of ham, break an egg into it, top with cherry tomato and bake until the egg is cooked to your liking. Then serve with some rocket and lemon juice. I only did it once though because it's a bit of a pain to put the oven on for just this. After all you can only do one - the picture shows three to make it look tempting. What you are actually allowed to eat is just one - well this is breakfast and is only - they say 100 of your 500 calories. 400 left for you to indulge in. I had mine for dinner by the way.

Ditto for the Spinach and ricotta filo pies on the cover - you are only allowed one at 175 calories. Although I suppose you could have three and go slightly over your daily limit. But then you wouldn't be able to eat anything else all day.

The page I picked for my lucky dip had three different dinner recipes on it: Prawn, asparagus and broccolini stir-fry; Pork kebabs with apple salad; and Thai pumpkin, pea and pak choy soup

You won't find the recipes online, but here are a few comments. Note, by the way the multi-cultural nature of the dishes. The soup weighs in with the most calories - 204 - and I have to say it doesn't look much like a soup in this picture. If you look closely you can see a tiny dribble of light coconut milk in the bottom, boosted with a bit of vegetable stock. But to me it looks more like a vegetable bowl. Not much to say about the kebabs - 163 calories by the way. But then you haven't got a lot of meat there. Ditto for the stir-fry - 197 calories. They all look delicious and in slightly larger portions would probably be really good food to eat on a daily basis anyway. Very healthily balanced they all are.

The book is beautifully produced and photographed - one last example from the back cover, so obviously somebody decided that this was one of the most tempting looking dishes in the book. It's Grilled pineapple with yoghurt and chia. You can find that recipe online but overall there are only 16 online which you can find on this page - 16 recipes for the 5-2 diet. And I suppose that makes sense because, after all they do want you to buy the book.

But back to my position on all of this. David was not joining in for a start because he really does not need to lose weight. He might have done when he was much younger, but not for years now. So this was just me and I am really, really bad at cooking for one. On the days that I was fasting, David, on the other hand was happy to just have a salad. I suppose I could have cooked any of these things, and given him larger portions, whilst I stuck to the recommended one. But honestly in the end I just ate tiny bits of this and that - some fruit, maybe a biscuit and a small amount of cheese, without the butter, a tomato or two. And this is what I do to this day, because I find I still need to fast at least once a week. Often two.

Because I have sort of plateaued. I don't know that I could continue to lose weight if I continued with the full 5/2 thing. Thankfully I don't think I really need to. I weighed less than this for most of my life, but I was underweight, and actually found it difficult to put on. Until I hit menopause and just puffed up. Like my mother and grandmother before me.

These days I do try to keep it to just one day of fasting per week, but I have to say that this only works intermittently. Indeed, appallingly, I have occasionally found that I have put on a bit of weight - maybe just under half a kilo - even after a day of fasting. Which is very depressing. So on my fasting days I eat very little at all. Which is fine. I don't think it affects me too much as to side effects, like tiredness or irritation. I mean I get those anyway on and off. How do you ever know when you are more or less irritable than usual if you have a tendency to irritation anyway?

I think the answer is to try and do more exercise and I have been trying on that front, although I have been a bit thwarted of late by high temperatures. It does help though. What all of this has taught me however, is how impossible it must be to lose weight if you are hugely overweight. The weight-loss plateau is a well-known phenomenon and if I hit it after losing just 15 kg how hard must it be if you need to lose 100? My heart goes out to them.

I will continue though with at least one day of fasting per week, because I do think that it has other benefits too. And the, admittedly minimal, research seems to suggest this.

"What we certainly know from animal studies is that eating fewer kilojoules lengthens an animal's lifespan and lowers their risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer and there is pretty good evidence that this also occurs in humans. It's just more difficult to test, since getting people to survive on lower kilojoule intakes is not easy." Dr Joanna McMillan - Women's Weekly

Books like this one should help though. Maybe I should give it another try.


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