human behavior

The Fast Diet: Beware

Posted in Health & Medicine by humanb on March 13, 2013

fastdietMaybe I should’ve read the book instead of skimming it.

I started the The Fast Diet, also known as the 5:2 Diet, exactly one week ago. (See my two earlier posts.) The principle of the diet is simple: calorie restriction leads to weight loss. The method is novel: calorie restrict for two non-consecutive days a week, say Mondays and Thursdays, then eat as you normally do for the remaining five days.

Well I did that.

My first ‘fast’ day was last Thursday, and I did alright restricting my calories to a paltry 500 a day. It wasn’t fun, but I didn’t suffer physically beyond a headache. I was off work that day, so I didn’t do much that didn’t involve my sofa and my computer.

My second ‘fast’ day was last Monday, and I had to go to work – a ten-hour shift on my feet in the ER. Because I was busy, it was remarkably easy. I felt hungry all day, but I didn’t have time to think about food. Physically, I had enough energy from my 200-calorie breakfast to get through the day. I ate my 300-calorie dinner when I got home after midnight, and felt thoroughly satisfied. No junk food munchies at all. Unfortunately, I did have a craving for a night-cap.

Alcohol is awesome (in moderation), but it’s empty calories. So really, I should’ve resisted. But it was one a.m., and I had technically been ‘fasting’ for more than 24 hours. Sod it, I said to myself. This won’t ruin anything. So I had a double Scotch. I was falling asleep before I’d finished the drink, so I crawled into bed and looked forward to a proper feed the next day.

Well the next day came early.

For three hours I tossed and turned in bed with a strange discomfort. My whole body ached and I was sweaty and irritable. At four a.m. I finally got out of bed and could barely stand on my legs. I was trembling. I felt faint. Hot. And weak.

Food. Must have. Now.

So I struggled on wobbly legs to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I ate that. Then drank two tall glasses of milk.

Not enough.

So I ate some cut cantaloupe.

I didn’t feel right for another thirty minutes, and then went back to bed.

Well that was odd.

It was the Scotch, I told myself. I’d felt fine all day and after dinner. I decided I’d try the fast again, sans Scotch, and see how I went.

So Wednesday morning I got up for another evening shift, and went to the kitchen to make myself a proper pre-work meal. We were out of everything. No milk. No fruit. No yoghurt. No bread.


Fine. So I decided to fast a day early. That would make three whole days of fasting before my next weigh-in on Thursday morning. Yesterday’s fast went even better than Monday’s. Work was busy, I felt physically fine, and I never thought about food. I waited until I got home at midnight to have dinner, and resisted the bowl of pasta with pork my husband had left out for me – opting instead for a packaged soup with fewer than 200 calories + two pieces of dry toast + 6 peanuts. (I counted them. Peanuts are calorie-dense!). I completely ignored the Scotch, by the way, and went to bed soon afterwards.

And then the same thing happened again. At around five a.m., after tossing and turning in the sheets, I got out of bed and stood on wobbly feet. Again, I felt faint. Hot. And weak.

Pasta with pork. Must have. Now.

It was well and truly the next day, albeit early morning, so I wasn’t cheating the diet at all. I ate my pasta, and stayed awake for a good hour afterwards until I felt normal again, then went back to bed.

This morning I woke up looking for my reward – a precipitous drop in the kilo count on my bathroom scale.


Starting Weight: 58 kilos (128 lbs)

Today’s Weight (1 week later after 3 fast days): 59 kilos (130 lbs)



What went wrong?

Theory #1: Overeating on Normal Days

The Fast Diet dictates that you should eat as you normally do on non-fast days – not more, not less. I thought I’d done that. Sure, I had a fair bit of ice cream, some potato chips, some hearty meals. But that’s normal for me. I don’t eat ice cream often, and I did have it on two days last week, but at another time, I might have had chocolate instead. I even thought my meal portions were smaller for the week because my appetite wasn’t as large. So I’m not buying that I over-ate on my normal days. If I did, not by much. But I didn’t!

Theory #2: Insufficient Diet Period

I’ve only been fasting for one week, and energy metabolism in the human body is a complex thing. People always claim to understand the mechanisms of how the body responds to feeds and fasting. I don’t claim that. While some people do lose weight after only one week on a modified diet, perhaps I need to look at a longer time frame on this one – especially since I don’t have much weight to lose.

Theory #3: Insufficient Energy Expenditure

Weight loss occurs when calories consumed are less than calories burnt. Most of my exercise is incidental these days, in the form of being on my feet for most of a ten-hour shift. The only intentional exercise I get at the moment is through water aerobics once a week (twice, if I’m a good girl). Well I didn’t get to the water aerobics at all over the past week. That didn’t help.

Theory #4: I Followed the Diet Incorrectly

“You never read instructions!” complains my husband. Well, he’s right. Perhaps there is some crucial element to this diet that I missed, since – you know – I didn’t read the book beyond the introductory chapter. Why do you need a whole bloody book to say “Eat 500 calories on two non-consecutive days a week, then otherwise eat as normal”?

Theory #5: The Fast Diet is a Crock of Sh*t

Calorie restriction does work. But maybe the 5:2 Diet is the wrong way to go about it. If I had just cut out the double Scotches, the chocolate, the ice cream and the potato chips last week, I reckon I’d have lost one kilo, not gained one. I’d bet money on that, in fact.

So what does that tell you?

That we all know how to lose weight, really. We just keep hoping that the latest diet book will tell us how to magically do it, without having to give up food.


4 Responses

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  1. Anonymous said, on March 14, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Yes, sorry to hear there are no shortcuts. The diet must need to be consistent. For example, 2000 calories a day, each day with only one day each week exceeding. Good luck!

    • humanb said, on March 14, 2013 at 10:37 am

      Thanks! I thought the genius of this diet would be that you only have to count calories twice a week. Maybe you really do need to count all the time after all. I really need to read the rest of that book…

  2. Puddin said, on March 14, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    But this blog post was wonderful. On the plus side, you made me smile and that burned my calories 🙂

    • humanb said, on March 14, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      Thanks, Puddin. I *do* like to make you smile. 😉

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