I must summarize the issues with my life first:
- I firmly believe in having an exercise regime for good health. But in practice, my exercise schedule follows a ruk-chal, ruk-chal rhythm worse than my Europe trip did. It has more ruk than chal.
- Even when I am doing well on my exercise routine, I can’t seem to follow something intense enough to help in weight loss. It keeps my body good and strong, but the weight doesn’t go anywhere.
- While I am no model for healthy eating, my eating-out frequency is not too high; the same goes for eating junk food. I could cut down a bit more on it, but I couldn’t sustain a salad and lentils diet for the long term. I need my carbs; I need my ice creams and cakes once in a while too.
- Any kind of diet, howsoever wholesome and healthy, doesn’t work in long-term. Watching what I am eating all the time makes me crave what I am not supposed to eat even more than usual. It is also just too much of an exercise of willpower. I can’t sustain it.
Then, purely by accident, I landed on this piece by Sidin Vadukut about 5:2 diet. His predicament with weight-loss struck a chord and 5:2 seemed doable. The idea is simple. There is no approved diet chart or anything. So, technically, it’s not even a diet. It’s simply a way of creating a calorie deficit – the holy grail of weight-loss – but not by watching your food every day. Instead, two non-consecutive days a week, you reduce your intake to one-fourth of the regular daily calorie needs. That is 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men. Now, you can eat whatever you want on these “fast” days, so long as you are within this calorie limit. But you will quickly realize that eating 500/600 calories of ice cream would not see you through the day. So, you do have to plan, but you can plan it to suit your dietary preferences. I won’t eat spinach no matter what! You can spread these 500/600 calories over the day, or take most of it later in the day, or stagger it any other way you want.
It may take some trial and error to figure it out. What I have mostly settled on now is
- A cup of cappuccino in the morning (no sugar)
- A filling meal with one bowl of dal and 2 medium or 3 small phulkas at night.
When the cook is absent, I sometimes pick up something from the calories-counted meals available from health-food restaurants on Swiggy. Before LivEat closed down, their hummus with veggie sticks and Buddha bowls were a lifesaver. Now, I typically pick something from PurpleBasil. But only if the cook is absent to make me my bowl of dal. Of course, you should eat only regularly on the other days and not compensate for these fast days by overeating, or over-indulging your sweet tooth.
Now, in an ideal scenario, you can lose 2 Kgs a month. But I have my ruk, chal rhythm to contend with here too. Between September last year and May this year I lost 8+ Kgs from my peak weight. Dushehra, Diwali, Christmas and New Year meant lots of sweets and desserts. Multiple work trip outside Bangalore meant eating out. Vacations meant suspending the diet for a week or two because – really – I am not spoiling my vacations by watching what I am eating. The suspension of the diet was also applicable while visiting parents – because – well you know! Vacations and visiting parents also usually result in indulgent eating compared to normal. And once in a while, you hit a plateau for no good reason at all. So, my average weight-loss was less than a kilo per month by May. Then the 2-week+ vacation in June meant a reversal, which I have been able to shed only now. I have had a couple of work-trips even after the vacation – so count all those setbacks.
I waited until now to write this post because these 8 Kgs were like an important milestone for me. I would like to lose another eight, but even if I don’t, the diet will at least help me in maintaining the current level, which is a happy-enough place for me.
I don’t think that the 5:2 diet is necessarily a universal solution. For one, people with diabetes and certain other health conditions may not be able to do it at all. Second, some people are just happy with healthy eating and an active lifestyle (my respects to you!). Third, some people have tried other methods of losing weight and it has worked for them. Finally, the idea of fasting seems to scare people.
I am not apprehensive of fasting, and hence it works for me. While I haven’t been into fasting for religious reasons, growing up I have seen most of the adults around me fast once or twice a week in the honor of some God or Goddess. Of course, propped up with sugary sherbets and lots of fruits and sweets, it didn’t help them with weight-loss. But fasting for a day or two a week is an idea that I am comfortable with. I have never seen anyone run into any complications because of that. In fact, unless a health condition makes it unsuitable for you, occasional fasting is supposed to have several health benefits – both according to popular belief and some medical research. What this diet did for me was to give a specific rule to follow during the fast which will achieve a specific purpose of weight-loss without starving the body. That leads to another reason why I like this technique. Unlike Keto or other very strict diets, I can actually see myself fasting one or two days a week over the long term (health permitting).
Sidin’s article has some more info and you can always check out the official site to get an answer to all your questions. I didn’t buy any books. The information on the Internet was sufficient for me. But you can, if you want to be even more careful. Some links from Amazon India here:
A final word of caution. 5:2 diet is a technique to produce calorie deficit and lose weight. It is neither a substitute for eating well nor for having an active life or some kind of exercise regime. I, personally, find that following a simple exercise regime is easier for me when I am on this diet because I no longer get disappointed with the exercise for not helping me lose weight. I can enjoy the other benefits it brings to me.
P. S. I don’t look particularly different in photos, so perhaps most people can’t figure out that I have lost this much by looking at me. I am assuming that most people didn’t notice that I was gaining weight when I had traveled this weight-road in the other direction too! But right now, I know that I feel better and lighter and the clothes fit a wee bit better too 🙂