Good Food road-test: The 5:2 Diet or The Fast Diet

Lunch! The 5:2 diet works on the premise of calorie restriction for two days a week.
Lunch! The 5:2 diet works on the premise of calorie restriction for two days a week. Photo:

The premise: A diet that involves calorie restriction for two (non-consecutive) days a week and unrestricted (!) eating the other five days.

The results: Not only would I be slimmer but also more intelligent and younger looking with a decreased risk of getting cancer. Sign me up, I thought as I watched the BBC documentary Eat, Fast and Live Longer presented by Michael Mosley mid-last year. His beguiling claims (which made the diet a worldwide trend), plus the fact that it just seemed like a good idea to give my body regular respite from the bombardment of food and wine I subject it to, convinced me to embark on the 5:2 Diet with my husband.

Twice a week we fasted, usually on a Tuesday and a Thursday, though fasting (which conjures up visions of water and boiled lollies) is a bit of a misnomer. According to the rules of the diet, men are allowed to eat 600 calories a day, women 500.

We usually ate a poached egg on a wee bit of toast for breakfast, chopped carrots for lunch and steamed vegetables for dinner. It seemed like a perfectly fine amount of food and forced us to not drink wine for at least two night a week; a huge bonus.

For a few weeks it was great. Maybe not great; 4pm on the fasting days was horrible. My body craved sugar and something to get it through its circadian slump in energy. By dinner we were ravenous and still hungry going to sleep, but the morning brought with it the joys of a new unrestricted eating day.

A month into the diet we would guiltily look at each other on the evening of the second fasting day, then reach into the fridge for a bottle of riesling and a pork loin.

So, the 5:2 Diet became the 5.5:1.5 Diet, then the 6:1 Diet.

It is perhaps lack of discipline on our part that we lost no weight, did not appear more youthful and did not notice an upsurge in intelligence.

Meals are something that mark our day with pleasure and conviviality and making them as boring as those fasting days was too hard for us. We stuck to it for three months (properly for only one month).

Sadly now, I am on the 7:0 diet.

The pros: Unrestricted eating days.

The cons: Fasting days are soooo boring.

Dish discovery: Any food you have on the fasting day, you love.

Dish disaster: The boredom of just vegies for dinner.

Top three pantry staples: Carrots, green veg and herbal tea

How hard is it to eat out? On fasting days, don't even try.

Did it work? I did not lose weight or look younger but I like the concept of giving the digestive system a break (and staying away from alcohol) for two days a week.

What will you keep? I would like to continue doing one fasting day a week. But I have been saying this for three months and it hasn't happened.